The good-reason-to-be-a-doctor police

From Insider’s Pre-Med Guidebook: Advice from admissions faculty at America’s top medical schools:

Every year, hundreds of thousands of students pursue premedical studies at four-year universities across the United States and the world, and they, too, want to become physicians for a myriad of reasons. Many will find their reasons to be mature and well-reasoned. These students will find the motivation and strength to succeed as pre-med students, medical students, and physicians, and they will live happy and productive lives. Others will pursue medicine for reasons that are immature, underdeveloped, or untested. For these students, there are two major possibilities: they will struggle through their pre-medical studies and drop out, or they will end up dissatisfied with their life-long careers as doctors.

Before you pursue medicine as a career, you must be sure medicine is a good fit for you. If your motivations are poor or false, you will not have the drive to succeed during the long and difficult road ahead. You will lose time, money, and the opportunity to pursue whatever your passion truly is. If your motivations are genuine and well-developed, you will find this path to be easier and infinitely more rewarding. Not only that, but your passion will shine through the activities you pursue. Medicine is a pursuit that is simply too long, too difficult, too costly, and too important to pursue for the wrong reasons.

I would like to call bullshit on these bland truisms.

Someone show me some data.

I think there are plenty of folks who choose medicine for the “right” reasons and then get burned and churned through the medical training gauntlet. It’s hard, and the difficulty varies for different people for different reasons. It’s specious to argue that unhappiness with a medical career stems from flawed motivation as opposed to, say, a toxic training paradigm or a flawed healthcare system.

And, I think there are lots of folks who choose medicine because it’s a challenging well-compensated job where you generally have a meaningful positive impact on other humans on a daily basis.

Your pure soul can be exclusively motivated by humanistic altruism but actually have zero idea what it’s actually like to be a doctor day in and day out. Because shadowing isn’t the same as doing it for years.

You can be passionate about “medicine as a career” for all the “right” reasons even though the “career” you’ve chosen is actually a broad umbrella under which there lies a huge variety of professions from diagnostic radiology to general surgery to psychiatry?

I’ve never been convinced by the idea that good successful doctors are mostly a bunch of 18-year-olds who have a singular understanding of their lifelong “passion” let alone a meaningful understanding of medicine.

I’ve known wonderful failed pre-meds who would’ve made excellent physicians but didn’t make it through the gauntlet, and I’ve met plenty of self-satisfied doctors who got through but probably shouldn’t have.

Show me some data that the process selects for the right reasons and not just the right boxes checked.



Ephraim Mandel 04.11.21 Reply

Powerful far reaching comment that pierces and deflates the facetious arrogance of the quote.

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