Advice on Writing USMLE and Fellowship Personal Statements: Gabriel Bosslet, Program Director at Indiana University

Dr. Gabriel Bosslet, Program Director of the Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Department at Indian University, recently wrote a Twitter thread where he details his views on what constitutes a good Personal Statement for Fellowship applicants. While there was resounding disagreements, several of his arguments were quite valid, and are likely to be reflected in many PDs, across Fellowship and USMLE Residency programs. This is a brief reflection on his twitter thread.

Gabriel Bosslet is the Program Director for Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the Indiana University. He recently came up with a long thread on Twitter on how to write an egaging personal statement. It is the fellowship application season and he is, expectedly, under a massive deluge of applications. He threshes out some of his personal insights on what he considers a good personal statement. Although this thread has been met with mixed reactions from the Twitterverse, it is worth reading. I am trying to embed the thread below, and am hoping it will stick!


In case the embed does not work, here is a badly curated PDF of the tweets, just for record and reference!

Hopefully one of the three modes I employed have worked and now you can see the thread above.

What is interesting is that there has been quite a mixed response to his stance, which perhaps reflects the divisive nature of this tool for evaluating potential applicants to various programs. One ex-Program Director comes up with a quite powerful counter-point:


One of the consistent and common complaints is that to be an effective and efficient doctor, one does not need the writing chops of an Oliver Sacks. Although it would definitely be beneficial for patient and doctor alike, if there were more physician authors like Sacks, or Gawande, such narrative skills are an added perk, and not one the lack of which should be penalized.

One of the strongest comments that Bosslet does make, and one that I tend to agree with, is that it is boring to read hundred upon hundreds of statements which are formulaic and run-of-the-mill. It is perhaps his in his reading fatigue that he complains about this, not considering the very real risks of a PS that goes off the rails and into uncharted territories just in an effort to stand out. While such a style could hit a home run with Bosslet, it is equally likely to irritate many other PDs. So, hitting the safe middle ground is an alternative that most students prefer. And whilst that helps them avoid transgressions, that bores the brains out of the PDs.

Skeptic Oslerphile. PhD Student in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Past: 1) Public Health Scientist and Program Manager, Translational Global Health Policy Research Cell, Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. 2) Scientist, Indian Council of Medical Research, National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases; 3) Senior Research Associate, Public Health Foundation of India. Interests include: Emerging Infections, Public Health, Antimicrobial Resistance, One Health and Zoonoses, Diarrheal Diseases, Medical Education, Medical History, Open Access, Healthcare Social Media and Health2.0. Opinions are my own!

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