At first glance, it might appear as though I am applying to the wrong program. After all, a degree in music is not typically recommended as preparation for a career in medicine. While some students have always known that they wanted to be doctors, my story is different. I was terrified of doctors as a child, and although my path has not been traditional, I am now sure of my desire to study medicine. My reason is very simple: medicine combines all of my interests and strengths.
Born in Anchorage, Alaska, I have strong ties to the state. My family has lived here since my great-grandfather sold sundries from a tent when the city was founded in 1915. In college I was a student of electrical engineering and then physics before I graduated with a degree in music. I am a classically trained singer and composer, and my studies have taught me that practice is the key to excellence.
Richard Feynman, winner of the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics, is my hero. Like him, I believe that the scientific method is the most powerful tool that we have to understand the natural world, and I cherish opportunities to make meaningful connections with other people. Above all the machinery of life, and the many ways that it can both fail and be fixed, fascinates me.
Each piece of my history contributes in its own way to my desire to be a physician, but my musical background is especially important. Music and medicine both require extraordinary dedication, commitment, and passion. Communication and careful listening are critical to both disciplines. Physicians and musicians both work with their hands and undertake extensive preparation in order to successfully execute technically difficult procedures within severe time constraints. Thus my musical training has, unexpectedly, prepared me for many aspects of the medical profession.
These parallels between music and medicine were unknown to me before I witnessed the practice of medicine firsthand. I had enough of an interest in medicine to seek out a physician to shadow, but I never expected to find the career that I had been looking for my entire life. Watching physicians actively engaged in the clinic was so inspiring that I committed myself to apply to medical school. What struck me was the way that the practice of medicine integrates the intellectual, the interpersonal, and the technical.
One example, from my time shadowing an emergency physician, is especially memorable. An older gentleman, on vacation with his wife, presented to the emergency department with right-sided weakness, awkward gait, a drooping smile, and most noticeably, expressive aphasia. The patient was immensely frustrated and confused by his inability to communicate. The physician responded with patience and sympathy, but grew serious as we left the patient's room. "He needs imaging done as soon as possible to see if he is eligible for tPA. His condition appears to be stable at the moment, but we have a short window."
When the MRI came back, we walked through the images together. "Here you can see a lesion in Broca's area, and another in the primary motor cortex. And these multiple small disruptions suggest a shower of emboli. This is an acute ischemic stroke." It was amazing to see the cause of the aphasia unmasked even as my heart went out to the patient, suffering in the room across the hall.
The patient's neurological symptoms improved enough that the physician, in consultation with the patient and the admitting neurologist, decided against infusion of a thrombolytic. By the time the patient left the emergency department he was again able to speak in short sentences. His wife thanked the physician for treating them with compassion throughout their stay.
This brief example illustrates the many roles that physicians play: investigator, counselor, manager, teacher and healer are but a few. Throughout my life I have explored each role in turn. My education and experiences have provided me with a strong foundation to build upon as I take them on.
While it took me a long time to discover medicine, I consider myself lucky to have found a calling. I feel fortunate to have done well academically, and that my wife, a registered nurse, is supportive of my decision even as we are soon to be blessed with our first child. I am the first in the four generations of my Alaskan family to show an interest in medicine. Finding it on my own, without any early role models, has only strengthened my commitment to become a physician.
Medicine is, to me, the direct application of science to the frailties of the human condition. It acknowledges the mystery of the human experience but is not intimidated by it. In my eyes, the opportunity to help alleviate the suffering of individuals, and in turn the suffering of a community, is a privilege. I hope to become a physician who is sharp of mind and kind of heart, who can call upon both his technical knowledge and compassion in order to meet the needs of his patients. Although I am sure that it will be a challenging path, I am equally sure that it is the right one.
ABAI 38th Annual Convention Poster Presentation
I presented the preliminary results of my Honors College research project, "Hedonic Scaling in the Rat," and a project I coauthored, "Schedule Induced Behavior in P. campbelli Dwarf Hamsters," at the ABAI 38th Annual Convention. The presentations afforded me valuable opportunites to speak with other scientists working in the same areas, and to discuss the potential long-term applications of my research in particular to the treatment of nonverbal children with developmental disorders. I was able to see the passion that drives the research of human disease and the development of effective therapies, and the convention demonstrated the importance of keeping up-to-date with the latest research.
An Evening with the Honors College
I was selected by the UAA Honors College to attend a fundraising event to discuss my research with significant donors to the Honors College. I attended the event with my mentor, Dr. Eric S. Murphy, Associate Professor of Psychology and chair of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. I was invited to this event to demonstrate the value of access to undergraduate research opportunities at UAA. The event raised over $20,000 for the Honors College.
Undergraduate Research Grant
I was awarded research funds and a stipend for my research proposal entitled "Hedonic Scaling in the Rat: Towards an Absolute Scale of Reinforcer Value." I personally researched and wrote the proposal, including the IACUC protocol for the project. My research is designed to test the effectiveness of a quantitative model, the generalized matching law, which describes the behavior of animals provided with the opportunity to choose between multiple rewards. My goal is to develop a psychometric scale of reinforcer value with a true zero, much like the Kelvin scale. Data collection is projected to be complete by the fall, after which I intend to prepare a mansucript for publication.
I first became interested in the matching law while working as a research assistant during an independent study on learning. When I came to my advisor, Dr. Eric S. Murphy, with questions about the applicability of the matching law to situations involving qualitatively different rewards, he gave me a stack of journal articles to read and encouraged me to apply for an undergraduate research grant in order to investigate the problem myself. Designing the study was intellectually challenging, but also extremely rewarding. I have always been interested in the philosophical problem of measurement, and I was excited by the opportunity to contribute a novel method of scaling preferences to the research community. In conducting my study, I have learned two things of lasting value. First, no matter how carefully a study is designed, there will always be unforeseen complications and/or confounding variables. The important thing is to document the process meticulously and revise the method as appropriate--even if doing so requires starting the study over, which I had to do twice. Second, positive, negative and null findings are equally valuable. The purpose of scientific research is not to be correct, but to find things out. Thus a neutral attitude towards one's findings is of paramount importance.
Emergency Department Volunteer
I have devoted over two-hundred and fifty hours to volunteering in the Alaska Regional Hospital Emergency Department over the last year and a half. My primary responsibilities have been to facilitate and expedite patient care by healthcare professionals and to provide comfort and companionship to patients in need. Having had a very negative experience as an ED patient in the past, I have made it my mission to make the patients who came to the ED as physically and emotionally comfortable as possible. The ED has been an excellent window into many different medical specialties because of the wide variety of patients and specialists on call.
I have always believed that kindness brings out the best in people. Nowhere is this effect so apparent as in the emergency department. Perhaps it is so dramatic because patients in the ED are usually experiencing a crisis. One patient came in with her husband following a syncopal episode. Triage revealed that she had a history of pulmonary emboli. She was processed immediately but was put in a regular rather than a cardiac bed. Her husband was terrified that she was dying and livid that nobody appeared to be very concerned about her. What he did not know was that his wife's normal blood oxygen saturation on room air made a pulmonary embolism unlikely. Noticing that he was upset, I entered the room and asked about his concerns. I assured him that the if the physician thought it was necessary, he would have requested his wife to be put in a cardiac bed. This communication calmed him somewhat, but it was clear that he did not understand the nature of his wife's condition. In my position, it would have been unethical and irresponsible for me to discuss diagnosis or treatment, so I brought a nurse into the room. The nurse assuaged his fears. By the time I brought him a coffee he seemed transformed. It was rewarding to hear him say, "What a nice young man," as I left the room to check on another patient
Animal Colony Manager
The UAA Psychology Lab maintains a colony of approximately fifty Wistar rats and sixty dwarf hamsters for behavioral research. As Animal Colony Manager I was responsible for the tracking and documentation of the animals' health, the maintenance and implementation of sanitary and ethical standards of animal care, and the general cleanliness of the lab. My daily duties included feeding and watering the animals and a cursory survey of their health. My weekly duties included sanitization of the cages, water bottles and operant conditioning apparatus. I took special care during my tenure to update laboratory protocols to ensure adherence to USDA requirements.
In the behaviorist tradition of B.F. Skinner, the UAA Psychology Lab conducts basic research into the principles underlying behavior. I assist in collecting and analyzing data for Gwen Lupfer-Johnson, Ph.D, who studies the behavioral differences between the dwarf hamster and other model organisms, and Eric Murphy, Ph.D, who studies alcohol abuse and schedules of reinforcement in the rat. I have coauthored two posters and two presentations since joining the lab, and I have been the first author on one poster and one presentation. The lab's emphasis on basic behavioral principles has given me a unique perspective on the relationship between psychology and medicine.
Having the opportunity to shadow physicians provided confirmation of my desire to be one. While I was fascinated by the academic side of medicine prior to shadowing, I felt that it was important to learn what it is that physicians really do every day before committing to the long road towards medical school. The first day that I shadowed my family physician, Dr. Moll, was a turning point. Here was a man who had mastered both the intellectual demands of diagnosis and the interpersonal skills necessary for a good physician-patient relationship. Dr. Moll's conversations with patients were true dialogues, with patient and physician each contributing equally. The trust necessary to maintain those dialogues drew upon his empathy and professionalism as well as the ability to communicate and think critically. I found that I was drawn as strongly to the clinical, humanitarian aspects of medicine as I was to the academics. My observations in the emergency department affirmed what I had seen in the family clinic. I am thrilled by the patient interview, and it is immensely satisfying to see patients improve with appropriate treatment.
For my first job after graduating from college, I taught nearly every grade level from K-12, and as a new substitute I was forced to take the jobs that none of the senior substitutes wanted. The responsibility of substitute teaching rapidly matured me; it taught me how to stay calm, stay positive and maintain control in the face of disrespect, disobedience and disorder. Although I discovered that I much prefer to work with individuals and small groups than classrooms of thirty students, in order to survive as a sub I had to learn crowd-control skills that will serve me well for the rest of my life.
Case Western Judaic Studies eJournal Publication
The midterm paper, "Stereotypes of Traditional Jewish Humor," that I wrote for ANTH 233, Intro to Jewish Folklore, was recognized for its excellence and published in the biannual Case Western Reserve University Judaic Studies e-Journal. Dr. Neulander repeatedly emphasized how impressed she was with my ability to communicate scholarly research findings as an undergraduate. Mintz, J. (2009, December). Stereotypes of traditional Jewish humor. Case Western Reserve University JDST e-Journal, 2(2). Retrieved from http://www.case.edu/artsc i/jdst/menus/documents/Fa ll2009JDSTeJournal.pdf
Church Choir Section Leader
I attended weekly rehearsals and Sunday services in order to sing with and lead my section in the volunteer choir. My primary responsibilities were to learn the music that we performed each week and assist in teaching it to the choir members. I also performed solos as requested by the music director. Having grown up Jewish, it was a new experience for me to immerse myself in the music and practices of another faith. My time at the church gave me an appreciation for the value of cultural and religious diversity. In particular the experience showed me that community depends more on shared values and active participation than common history or geographic origin.
I tutored all levels of undergraduate music theory. I was responsible for independently designing and implementing remedial and accelerated music theory curricula. Tutoring music theory was probably my single favorite activity during my undergraduate years. Undergraduate music theory is exceptionally broad, requiring students to learn written and keyboard harmony, sightsinging, and dictation, or the ability to listen to music and write down the notes. While shadowing my family physician I realized in many ways how similar tutor-student interactions are to physician-patient interactions, and I look forward to applying what I learned in this setting to the practice of medicine.
Dean's High Honors
Case Western Reserve University Spring 2006 - Dean's Honor List Fall 2006 - Dean's Honor List Fall 2007 - Dean's High Honors Spring 2008 - Dean's High Honors Spring 2009 - Dean's High Honors Fall 2009 - Dean's High Honors
University of Alaska Anchorage Spring 2011 - Chancellor's List
I was awarded a merit-based scholarship for half of my tuition throughout four years of my undergraduate education at Case Western Reserve University.
Composing music has been my primary creative outlet for much of my life. Following are few examples of my compositions: in 2010, I composed and performed a choral setting of Emily Dickenson's "Will there really be a morning?" for the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland's "Music Sunday"; in 2009, I composed and performed a song cycle for voice and piano to the text of Wallace Stevens' "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"; in 2008, I composed, performed, and directed a choral setting of Baudelaire's "Au lecteur"; and in 2007, I composed a three-minute piece for full orchestra that was performed by the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra.
have been a singing since I was a toddler, and beyond the technical skills I acquired, studying music has taught me the value of listening and sticking with something until you master it. Following is a short list of my most proud accomplishments: in 2009, I performed Schumann's "Dichterliebe" for my senior recital; in 2008, I attended the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria, to study art song; in 2008 I played the role of Tobias Ragg in the CWRU Footlighters' production of Sweeney Todd; and in 2005 I produced, performed and recorded an album with my band, Conversing with Zookeepers.
Disclaimer: For the love of all that is holy, do not plagiarize any portion of my personal statement, activities, or application in general.
// Applications //
Application Cycle One: 2012
Undergraduate college: Case Western Reserve University
Undergraduate Area of study: Fine Arts/Architecture