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Compose an essay of 500 words or more, describing a person or persons who had inspired them to enter the medical profession.

Cameron Waites

Cameron Waites

2010 Winner

My decision to join the army and become a medic was an essential and life-changing one. Prior to that moment, I’d amassed a tarnished academic record after spending more time involved in a fraternity than in my textbooks. Wanting to put my ambitions to the test and turn my life around, I became a medic in order to recommit my focus to duty in something larger than myself. Importantly, it was during my time in the army, and subsequent time in the desert, that I discovered my true calling to become an M.D., Ph.D. and advance the understanding of science and medicine.

During the course of my deployment in Iraq, I befriended three Iraqi interpreters. I learned some of their language and communicated with my friends and other Iraqis in Arabic, even while conducting physical exams. During those conversations with my Iraqi friends, I would teach them what I knew about health and medicine, to which they would always respond with the question “Why?”

In part, their lines of questioning reminded me of the natural curiosity I’d always had. At that moment, I realized the frustrations I’d experienced with treatments of family members’ diseases stemmed from my inability to improve their condition by advancing our understanding of the disorders. I felt uncomfortable and limited. Importantly, I wish to pursue an M.D., Ph.D. degree because I wish to not only learn the science of medicine but also how to advance the cause in order to bring greater care and innovation to those who need it. I feel there is no better way of doing that personally than to become a physician-scientist.

I am particularly interested in conducting research as an M.D., Ph.D. in areas that concern neurological and psychiatric disorders (i.e. traumatic brain injury and social behavior, PTSD, substance abuse, and more), as well as cardiovascular diseases, health disparities, and the social factors that impinge upon each. While members of my family, fellow veterans, and friends have each been affected profoundly by some of these conditions, a sense of urgency and devout curiosity has been reawakened in me to learn how to address them productively. I am compelled to seek a career as an M.D., Ph.D. to learn more about these areas and the art of research so that I can help break new ground and address the questions I now have with a rigorous application of scientific study.

As a veteran who has seen the combined effects of certain mental illness, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, addiction, and other negative behaviors due to stress and illness, I am very interested in learning how to conduct research to create better courses of treatment for their respective populations. Also, with the proportion of the U.S. population of those aged 65 and older projected to increase greatly by 2020, and greater still for those 80 and older beyond that, I feel there are several areas of biomedical, behavioral, and social science research in which I could thrive, given the opportunity for training and education.


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