High School students considering a career in Medicine.

Medicine is a way of life (so are most other demanding professions). You need to figure out if that life is for you.

Your training will be 1/4 or 1/3rd of your career, the rest of it will be spent “being” a doctor. People find the idea of being a doctor enticing (money, respect, expert status, living up to other’s expectations) but find that few years in, they can’t wait to do anything other than medicine. Anecdotally, about half of the practicing doctors would choose another profession if they could go back (supported by the data on Medscape about Physician satisfaction). This differs by specialty and or location. Most of the dissatisfaction stems from unrealistic or misplaced expectations. Most of us like to think that if we work hard for a few years, we should be able to enjoy life in the later years. That’s not true for most doctors. Training is undoubtedly harder with longer hours, but as a attending, you have much more responsibility. You can also never get away from working long or odd hours in most specialties.

The doctors who are happy with their decision to pursue medicine are usually the ones that understood the life of a physician, the hours they work and the sacrifices they would have to make. They still choose to practice medicine in spite of these obstacles because they are driven by whatever it is that makes them tick (this is very much subjective). You have to first understand what your life is going to be like and figure out if you have the drive/ motivation to live that life. You are still quite young to figure these things out. More life experience will definitely help with making this decision. I agree with others in that you need to talk to doctors, shadow a few, work in a doctor’s office etc. Also, don’t restrict yourself to any one profession. College might be a good time to diversify. As long as you take the required courses for pre-med, try different things. Talk to lawyers, bankers, engineers, artists, etc. Its not just about whether medicine is right for you. It’s also about whether you like something else more than medicine.

Don’t pick a profession for anyone else but yourself. It only matters what you think about it. Anyone who is disappointed with your choices will eventually come around when they see how happy you are doing what you choose. to do. Also, don’t just listen to people that are unhappy with their career. These generally tend to be younger professionals who are under a lot of pressures apart from their professions and may likely project their discontent as being solely based on their job. Talk to folks who are in their field of expertise for atleast 10–15 years. They can give you a more objective opinion about their field.

If and when you decide to become a physician, I’m sure there are a lot of resources out there to help you get into a medical school. Pick one with good training and student satisfaction. These are not always the top institutes. At the “top” or expensive universities, you often pay for the name and nothing else. The name matters if you want to be a researcher (to get grants) or if you want to lead organizations (improves your market value). For all other reasons, pick a school where the students are happy with their professors or have great class camaraderie. Those are way more important than the big name.

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