Sample Essay: Harvard Medical Essay 2

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Worked on Grandfather's Farm in Hungary; Orderly/ Surgery Assistant in Former U.S.S.R.; Organized Financing for First Private Hospital in Estonia and Mission for Bosnian Refugees

In communist Hungary in 1986 ownership of property meant certain things. It meant that you were envyed by your neighbors. It meant that you were mistrusted by the state. It meant that you were prohibited by a government which feared the reemergence of a landed aristocracy from purchasing machinery or hiring laborers. Above all it meant you held on to your land for all you were worth and cherished it as your most precious family heirloom.

In 1986 and in the following summer, my parents sent my sister and I to Hungary to work on my Grandparent's farm as they were getting old and unable to manage it any longer on their own, particularly in light of the communist restrictions on private landowners. I woke up at five, harvested hay by hand, tended the cows, and spread manure. I used the same tools my great-grandfather used and on the same land that he had tended a century ago. A fifteen year old boy with little sense of responsibility or of himself, the experience hit me with the force of a cyclone.

In 1993 I was awarded a fellowship to work in the health sector of the former Estonian Republic of the U.S.S.R. I was employed as an orderly in the operating theater of what was once the elite Communist Party hospital. I assisted in surgery, performed twenty-four hour shifts, distributed humanitarian aid, and wrote reports for the Ministry of Health that went from my hands to the directors of the World Bank and U.N. World Health Organization. The experience cemented my plans for becoming a physician and also convinced me that I wanted a career with policy- and theory-shaping responsibilities beyond those of the ordinary doctor.

In addition to being entrusted with work no twenty-one year old in America would be allowed to perform. I saw history being written before my eyes. I got a sense of the degree to which an individual, with enough motivation and a few good ideas, can be an effective force for positive change. I understood the responsibility and the capacity we all have to work for the good of society. The experience was tremendously empowering as it gave me the perspective and self confidence to attempt to seize the future and the ambition to attempt to change the world to the degree I can. With two other Columbia students and a group of Estonian doctors I organized an attempt to finance the first private hospital in Estonia which indirectly contributed to the first Estonian laws on health care privatization and reform. Since my return I have with another Columbia student organized a mission to travel to the N. camp in southern Hungary to distribute clothing and medical supplies to the Bosnian refugees. My role has been in the obtaining of funds and in acting as an intermediary between our group of 10 Columbia University students, two of whom spent this past summer working in the camp, and Hungarian officials here and in Hungary.

I became an adult during my first summer in Hungary. The same changes that have allowed my grandfather to hold onto his land allowed me to first test in Estonia the wings I had developed years earlier. I hope to use those wings make an impact on medical science. Genetics and biochemistry represent the future of medicine and the area in which someone with ambition, a desire to work for the public good, and the necessary technical background could make the most significant contribution. Motivation, independence, maturity, precisely those qualities my experiences in Eastern Europe instilled, will be essential to a fruitful career. I can imagine none potentially more fulfilling, nor a more worthy aim for my life's work, than connecting the worlds of medical science and international public health.

Note: This essay appears unedited for instructional purposes. Essays edited by EssayEdge are substantially improved.