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Acupuncturist applying to PA schools seeks personal statement critique

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Hello, I am an acupuncturist applying to PA schools and would love feedback/critique/advice regarding my draft personal statement, in particular, where to cut, as I know I need to get it below 2 pages. Thank you in advance! :smile: Here it is:


"I am seeking to become a Physician Assistant to expand and enhance my existing clinical skills to better serve the health-care needs of a greater diversity of people in my community. I eagerly foresee practicing in community or public health clinics; in surgery or the emergency room; or in physical rehabilitation, pain, and integrative medicine settings where I already have experience as a Licensed Acupuncturist, but feel the limitations of my current education and training.

During three childhood years in Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia while my father taught at Mekere and Haile Selassie universities, I saw at close hand poverty, disease, malnutrition and human suffering, but also the vibrancy and diversity of human culture. These early experiences inspired a life-long orientation towards health and human service to disadvantaged and diverse communities, which has lead me to the practice of medicine.

After completing undergraduate studies in History, I began work (first volunteer, then paid) as a community organizer in a diverse community of homeless and low-income individuals and social and public health workers at the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, a non-profit in the Tenderloin that provided direct social services and advocated for policy change to re-dress inequity. Through my early thirties, I continued paid and volunteer organizing with community and public health agencies, including the Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinics.

I found great fulfillment in the leadership roles and working relationships I developed in multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary teams devoted to addressing social problems. Yet as experience tempered my idealism about the ability of policy alone to facilitate happiness, I came to appreciate the value and rewards of working one-on-one with individuals. I also found myself wanting to emulate professionals whom I worked with who had developed specialized skills and knowledge, which they then placed in service of their communities and the public.

During this same time, a series of cycling, soccer, and basketball injuries as well as a chronic digestive disorder drew my attention towards my own health. My work provided little income and no health benefits, and I sought care at community and public health clinics. Being a low-income patient was stressful, and deepened my appreciation for the situations of those without access to care, and for the hard work and devotion of community health workers.

My inadequate access to care also oriented me towards self-healing. My work had brought me into contact with San Francisco’s Chinese community, and I began practicing taiji/qigong exercise and meditation techniques; and sought out acupuncture and Chinese herbs. As my interest in health-care grew, I began side-line work as a massage therapist, took health sciences classes at San Francisco State University, and pored over Chinese medical texts at night.

My initial choice in 1998 of acupuncture as a health-care profession was motivated by a desire to better understand and extend to others my experiences of healing from this ancient medical modality. I was also motivated by a perception—which experience has since undercut—that I could continue my serve diverse and disadvantaged communities without having to seek out-of-pocket compensation through the coverage of acupuncture that was provided in the 1990s through California’s Medi-Cal and Workers’ Compensation systems.

In the course of a four-year Masters Degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine, at the Five Branches University (FBU), I worked part-time as a physical therapy aide,gaining first-hand experience in sub-acute rehabilitation. I also found myself inspired by FBU’s Western Medicine courses taught by an excellent team of physicians lead by Dr. David Anzaldua, ABFP. My appreciation for the training provided by these physicians grew after licensure as I began to undertake the responsibilities of an independent, primary health-care professional--which, quite frankly, I didn’t understand was the status of California-licensed acupuncturists when I committed to the MTCM program! The instruction of the these physicians, while of great value, was inherently limited by the scope and facilities of the educational program, and yet served to orient my clinical practice towards integrative, patient- rather than modality-, centered care, and to.whet my appetite for more training in standard medicine.

Licensed as an Acupuncturist since 2003, I have divided my time between private practice, and since 2005, supervising clinical training at FBU. I also completed a board specialization in Acupuncture Orthopedics in 2006 (through which I enjoyed shadowing physicians and PAs at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) for more than the required 40 hours in orthopedics, physiatry, radiology, urgent care and surgery). I have also cared for a variety of patients’ physical, psychiatric and internal medicine complaints.

I greatly enjoy getting to know individual patients and their stories, being able to relieve and re-assure patients in acute anxiety, pain and distress; working collaboratively to provide both therapeutic support and take responsibility for medical decision-making; teaching self-care skills and motivating behavioral changes; and seeing patients’ transformations when they recover and evolve. I feel I have also grown from the necessity of both maintaining inner peace and staying sensitive to the suffering of patients with intractable pain, incurable disease, or other conditions where I have not (and sometimes no-one has) been able to help. And I have particularly enjoyed using my admittedly limited medical Spanish and Chinese to provide care to monolingual speakers of those languages and find common ground across cultural divides.

I have served as a specialist provider of acupuncture in the offices of a physiatrist and of a pain medicine physician, and within the PAMF HMO. I enjoy developing collegial relationships with physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and physical/occupational therapists.Yet I frequently encounter the limitations of my training, diagnostic and treatment abilities, and feel isolated from larger currents in medicine and health-care. In addition to my desire to provide a broader array of medical modalities myself, my desire to more directly and regularly participate in health-care teams has now lead me to seek PA certification and practice.

In 2006 I first began exploring physician assistanceship as a next step in my professional development, and by 2009 completed evening/weekend classes in medical science pre-requisites, while maintaining a full-time clinic and teaching schedule. I have since been encouraged by PAs whom I have shadowed, whom I have encountered as my own patients, and who have provided care to me. I have also been inspired by four acupuncturist colleagues who have gone on to become PAs, all of whom speak with love and satisfaction regarding what they now do. I have been further encouraged by physicians whom I have shadowed, worked with, and consulted regarding my vocational interests and goals.

My specific long-term goals include:

  1. To practice medicine, autonomously and collaboratively in physician-lead teams. I am drawn both to building on my experience in my areas of integrative family, physical rehabilitation and pain medicine; and to exploring emergency medicine and surgery.
  2. To continue emphasizing preventative care, health education, and lifestyle modification to address rising levels of obesity, sedentarianism, and preventable disease.
  3. To continue serving diverse and disadvantaged people in my community in Santa Cruz County.
  4. To teach and serve as a clinical preceptor for future generations.
  5. In my retirement, to return to East Africa to provide relief work and medical training with organizations such as Doctors Without Borders.


In sum, I believe that I have life and clinical experience, an intrinsic motivation to provide medical care, and goal-oriented yet flexible perspective that will make me a valuable addition to the PA profession and to medical care in my community. I am eager for the opportunity serve as a provider of more diverse medical services to our diverse communities of need.

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