I know that you are in your junior year in college.
I know that you’ve picked an unsustainable, or unrealistic. major. For instance, I know that at this very moment in time you have (finally) made the revelation involving your slim-to-none chances of owning the Jets by means of your pending Sports Management degree.
I know that you are now in the throes of career-choice turmoil.
I understand that the only council you have is the flock of physician family members sitting at the edge of their seats, waiting to recruit you, to call you their own.
I know, because I’ve been. I am. And now I am at your service for the next 800 words to let you know exactly what you are getting yourself into by joining the rank and file.
1. You will never have it as bad as they did. Throughout medical school and residency, you will be very tired. You will likely pull hours intended only for chronic insomniacs. At times you will be super stressed to the point where you may or may not punch holes in your ‘affordable’ dry-walled shanty that some might call an apartment. But according to your elders, you will never have it as bad as they did during their medical training.
During your five hundred-hour emergency department night shift did you have to take out an appendix with one bare hand while simultaneously rocking your first-born son to sleep in the cradle of your free arm? Didn’t think so.
Did you have only thirty minutes to prepare for a two-hour impromptu lecture on aemobiasis in Slavic countries that you were required to give to your hospital’s esteemed department of infectious disease? Well then. That makes one of us.
Point is, if you’re becoming a doctor only to prove to your family that you have an impeccable work ethic and superior dedication to your career, you might as well stop here before making the $200,000 dollar decision to enroll into medical school. You will always have it easier than those who came before you, whether you like it or not.
2. You get to divvy pro bono advice to the extended family. Lucky you! You have selflessly and quite unknowingly signed up to be your extended family’s physician the moment you received your acceptance letter into medical school. Planning on being a pathologist? Too bad – you will still be practicing general medicine as long as your distant aunts and twice-removed cousins exist.
Thankfully, you have managed to be birthed into a family of doctors. Here, you will be faithfully sharing the burden of 2am emergency phone calls regarding your sister’s feverish kid or your teenage cousin’s latest alcohol binge.
(Of note: At first you will feel empowered by these cries for free healthcare – yes, you do matter in the big scheme of things! However, you will soon appreciate unloading these calls to the youngest doc in the pride so you can enjoy being a human after long hours in the hospital.)
3. You will get an unsolicited view of medicine over the past several generations. Whether you plan on having an intense historical perspective of healthcare or not, be prepared to have your ear blasted with tales of medicine during the times of world wars and presidential assassinations by your very own Grandpa, MD.
You will soon understand two things during these prolific listening sessions: physicians back in these yesteryears were the real doctors, and yes, you will never have it as bad as they did (see lesson 1).
Despite this, if you stay strong and have the constitution and patience to actually take in these endless and often recurring monologues, you will soon appreciate how far medicine has come with respect to the advancements of patient care and the improved lifestyles of practicing physicians.
4. You will be on top of your game at every level of training. Becoming the most junior doctor in your family is not all that bad. It does have its perks.
No, you won’t be one of the many “holiday heroes” in your future medical school class. That is, you won’t be the one flying home every Thanksgiving to family members cooing and fussing over your self-sacrifice, your continual martyrdom for the sake of curing disease and advancing medical research (although with your ego, this is probably for the better).
What you will have that many of your colleagues will not is the immediate and never-ending support of your family of physicians throughout each step of your medical training.
How can you be so sure? you might ask. Brother, MD will be busy in fellowship and your Aunt, DO is constantly neck-deep in grant writing.
As one of the many doctors across this country who teaches medical students in the midst of postgraduate medical training, I’ll tell you a little-known secret about physicians: we love to bestow advice on those starting out in the medical career, especially if they happen to be one of the family.
You will find that, solicited or not, you will be receiving calls at odd hours of the evening from your doctor relatives, just to check up on you and make sure you know exactly what to expect on the next licensing exam or clinical rotation. You will be comforted in times of grief by sharing similar heart-wrenching experiences of lost patients. You will learn early on that it is okay to not know every answer to every problem.
I don’t even need to ask if you intend to pursue medicine. You will. And you will succeed.
And one day, you will take your place at the edge of your seat, waiting patiently for your equinophobic daughter to question her Horse Studies major and ask you what it’s really like to be a doctor.
And when she does, you may kindly refer her to this article.