What is holding you back from pursuing a career in medicine? What keeps you from going in 100 percent? Have doubts crept into your life and destroyed your premed dream? Is there someone whispering in your ear that you are not good enough or this is the wrong career option for you?
There are many misconceptions about doctors and often times these are perpetuated by individuals who have never walked in a doctor’s shoes. Let’s address some of these.
1. I am not smart enough. If you can successfully make it through college then you are capable of succeeding in medical school. As much as society places doctors on an intellectual pedestal, many if not most physicians at one point or another also questioned if they were smart enough to become a doctor. Even upon entering medical school, it is very common for new medical students to feel inadequate as though they were somehow selected by mistake. Physicians are regular folks but what tends to separate them is their dedication and hard work ethic. Don’t let this hold you back.
2. My scores aren’t good enough. This doubt cannot and should not be sugar coated. Getting into medical school is very tough, and scores do matter. MCAT and GPA scores are extremely important, but they are not the be all and end all for matriculation. We love to root for the underdog who may not have had a great score but came out on top of his or her class. There are plenty of stories like this. If medicine is what you want to do for the rest of your life, then you must proactively find a way to get there even if you must take a couple of detours. Consider a post-baccalaureate program, graduate school, or repeating your MCAT. If medicine is your ultimate goal then the extra time and effort it will take you should be well worth it.
3. I can’t afford medical school. Medical school can be pricey but do not let this discourage you. As a physician, if you are able to work and do not live beyond your means, you will be okay financially should be able to repay your loans. There are scholarships, grants, and loans available to assist you with costs. Be proactive and seek out these opportunities. There are also opportunities for free education through MD/PhD programs. You may also investigate loan repayment programs through the military, federal programs, or practicing medicine in underserved areas. When you finally do begin to practice, a huge chunk of your loan may be paid off through a stipend or bonus if negotiated well in your contract.
4. Doctors work too hard. You do need to know what you are getting into. It is true that as a physician you will most likely work very hard during your training as well as during practice, but the same can be said about many other professions that offer less job satisfaction and pay much less. You also need to understand that this is dependent on the specialty you chose to enter. Some physicians take call while other don’t. Some will arrive to work very early in the morning for rounds and leave late in the evening while others work a 40-hour week. More and more, doctors are getting bombarded with paperwork and nonclinical duties, but there still remain many pluses that still make this a great profession at the end of the day.
5. It’s too late. Currently, the average age for entering medical students is 24. However, more and more students are entering medical school at later stages in their lives. This may actually be beneficial to them since many programs appreciate students with diverse backgrounds and years of “real world” experience. The wisdom, experience, and resilience you bring as a mature applicant can carry you a long way. It is never too late to get started.
“Dr. Daniel” is an endocrinologist who blogs at PreMed StAR.
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