I published this article on my LinkedIn profile on the same day, asking should I go to medical school. Since this my first post after a long time on my own website, I thought I’d link these together.
Should I go to medical school? Should I become a doctor? Common questions and rather big questions for those who are drawn to the healthcare field.
The medical field is intimidating because we think of doctors as hard-working and brilliant individuals. Then we look at ourselves and see all our flaws and think, no way, I can’t do that.
The reality is that you have to be committed, manage your time, study, and be organized. But you don’t have to be brilliant and you don’t have to have exceptional human qualities in any of these aspects in order to make it.
Medicine is fascinating because you get respect, you help patients, you earn a good living, and you have job security. I know, the respect part sounds a bit cheesy but it’s one less hurdle you’ll have to overcome.
If you enjoy the sciences then you also get to learn a lot of microbiology, chemistry, biochemistry, statistics, and biology. If you like social sciences then you’ll learn a lot about how diseases were discovered and how public health impacts humans.
Many physicians also become core individuals in their community. They volunteer, financially support their neighbors, support their extended family, and help fuel the economy around them.
Impact on Human Health
But if you’re looking for an impact on human health you don’t have to go into medicine. You don’t have to get an MD or a DO degree. You don’t have to become a PA or an NP.
The medical field requires support from all sorts of fields in order for it to have a positive impact on human lives. If all of those who are talented, passionate, hardworking, and dedicated become physicians then the field can’t grow.
I look back on my own career and I didn’t know much about medicine. I never was a medical assistant before considering medicine. I never worked in a doctor’s office and never worked in a pharmacy as a tech to get the feel for the flow of healthcare services.
Human health can be affected through peripheral health support, patient access, patient empowerment, and technological innovation. The majority of these are currently being addressed by large insurance groups and pharmaceutical companies which only seem to have an allegiance to their investors.
- Physical therapist
- Cardiac rahabilitator
- Personal trainer
- Patient advocate
- Mental health practitioner
- Meditation expert
- Lifestyle coach
- Data scientist
- Marketing consultant
You don’t need to go into medicine in order to heal or help those who suffer from health issues.
What about the prestige?
If you went into medicine for the prestige it’ll get old quickly and you’ll find yourself within 5 years of your career not caring too much about that. Within 10 years after becoming a full-fledged attending you’ll have developed so many other personal strengths that medicine won’t provide much personal identity for you.
I’m 42 now and maybe it’s because I’m a doctor, I don’t care much about prestige. I care that I have good interpersonal relationships and I enjoy my romantic relationship with my partner. Trying to impress others and revel in admiration just doesn’t do it for me anymore because I’ve developed other strengths, which I didn’t have before.
I made $400,000 as an urgent care doctor in 2014 and have made over $100,000 working just a few hours a week ever since. The income is quite high for a US citizen and it’s in the elite level when compared to income all over the world.
But what will $400,000 get you in 2021? Public health, internet infrastructure, safety, public libraries, clean air & water, cheap food – all of these are the basics of living in many countries these days. $400k will get you a bigger house, a bigger car, and a bigger savings account.
You can have an unbelievable quality of life on far less than $400k and I’ll even say on far less than $100k, in the US.
This isn’t a topic about what’s wrong with medicine – there are things I love, love, love about medicine and things which drain me to no end.
Being a physician is generally a full-time job. You’ll be employed and you’ll be highly regulated by multiple governing bodies. If you have an MD degree then you must adhere to the practices of western medicine. If you have a Rheumatology board certification you must adhere to its tenets.
The career which you loved one year might become the reason for your burnout in another. And you can’t jump from being a family medicine doctor to being a trauma surgeon or from a gastroenterologist to a psychiatrist.
Experience All of Healthcare
There is so much pressure on a premed to take the MCATs, fill out the applications, and start medical school. Why? Where’s the fire? Chances are you are going to be able to work well into your 70’s, if you choose to do so. That’s a 40-year career in medicine.
Spend your 20’s instead learning about human beings, healthcare, medicine, alternative medicine, public health, sociology, psychology, computer technology, and so many other wonderful topics which will make you an incredible asset to medicine.
My guess is that once you’ve acquired all this experience you won’t be itching to be in school for 11+ years for that MD or DO degree. But if you do, you won’t have any doubts if you should go to medical school now or hold off a while longer.