Sorry forgot to include "Why An MBA?"
The company I work for has made some pretty impressive improvements in terms of the increase in quality of care that our physicians/hopsitals deliver. I want to continue working in a provider organization similar to the one I work for now. Ideally, I would like to run a provider organization one day. These companies have very progressive mission statements and with the healthcare crisis our country is going through, there are a lot of challenges. But there are so many amazing programs that these companies develop and implement. It sounds corny, but really to affect that kind of change is immensely rewarding, so I would love to work for a company like Kaiser Permanente.
One more question: I think the best path for me would be to get into healthcare consulting for a few years after b-school. As a consultant I would get to see how different organizations handle similar problems, and see which ones work and which don't. It would give me true expertise. From there I could then move back to a provider organization. But I also realize that the "consulting after b-school plan" sounds very generic. Should I not mention that in my positioning and just focus on my plans working in a provider organization?
Your interesting profile (career, outside writing, goals) and high GMAT make you competitive at Stern, MIT, and Yale. I could see 2 of them coming through for you if you execute your essays well--i.e., take full advantage of your positives to compensate for your negatives. However, your lack of strong leadership and community service makes Harvard a long shot for you. Boston College is a safety for you.
If you have specific reasons for the GPA, i.e., circumstances out of your control, then that may worth discussing in an optional essay. If it was just the standard maturity or focus stuff, then it's probably not worth talking about. A 2.9 is not bad and your GMAT certainly does some damage control for you. Mixed essays that talk about totally different things (GPA, then hobbies) aren't usually very compelling. For HBS 1, however, you should cover both grades and extracurriculars in the same essay.
It's not pretentious to talk about your travel but it can fail to add value if you don't draw some lessons learned from the travel. If you were just a tourist in these places then its value is negligible.
Yes, consulting after the MBA is pretty common, but schools certainly understand why people do that (school debt) and it does seem to tie into your goals, so no harm in offering that. It may actually help to show that you are being realistic about your unusual goals.
You may want to read Accepted.com's advice on low GPA