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Do I Really Want To Do This?

Originally posted on The Differential on July 1, 2008

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Throughout the year, one question loomed over me, haunting me like a bad dream: “Do I really want to go through all of this to become a doctor?” It’s a question I think is harder to answer now than when I was in college, especially now that I’ve started to see what I am getting myself into.

One day while I was in high school, I was sitting on the couch in front of the television. I’m not sure what I was watching. I do remember my mom calling me away from the tv set. She called me into the living room because she wanted to talk. I found it rather odd; it seemed totally out of the blue. But, I suppose, this shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Conversations with mom sometimes seem, at least to me, to come right out of left field. That evening my mom defied the stereotype that all Asian parents want their children to become a doctor or a lawyer. She sat me down to tell me she didn’t want me to become a doctor. That conversation was in high school.

The thing is, I was never the child who grew up with dreams of becoming a doctor. When my mom found out she was pregnant, she decided that in order to stay at home with me she would have to start her own business. She started a data entry business. As a result, I grew up around computers and decided that one day I wanted a career that involved computers.

But here I am, now a medical student. Although I have only completed the first year, I’m on my way towards earning the right to add the initials M.D. behind my name. Not that I need any more letters; my last name is long enough.
It’s scary, though. I have put myself on a path towards becoming a physician -– a path that is long and quite expensive. Should I continue down this path, I know I will find myself in a very rewarding career with enough money to keep a roof over my head and food on the table.

It’s a frustrating journey. There’s a ton of information that is force-fed during the pre-clinical years. At times it’s a challenge to see how some of it is even relevant to patient care. More than once during my first year, I wondered if I really want to do this. It was almost a monthly cycle; it coincided with exams that came about every five weeks. I hated exam weeks. Actually, I still do. But those were the times when I wondered, considered, and longed for being somewhere else. I enviously think about friends who have finished school and are earning a good paycheck. Then I take a look at the numbers on the statements I receive from my lender. It is always a little shocking to see how quickly those numbers grow. Sadly, the balance of my checking account has the opposite trend.

Yet there are times where I am truly grateful for the chance to be where I am. And there are many more times where I am excited about the possibilities of where I’m headed. Because medicine -– being invited into the depths of patients’ lives –- is exciting. I wouldn’t blog about medical school if I thought it was boring, depressing, and monotonous. On second thought, I probably would. But if you’re reading this site, you probably wouldn’t be my target audience.

Sure, it can be hard and time-consuming. Obviously it can be very frustrating. But after having spent six weeks in the wards with attendings, residents, and medical students (2 at the beginning of the school year and 4 after), I think I have found a source of inspiration and motivation. It’s not about the prestige; I don’t think all the training is worth what prestige is left in the profession. It’s not about the money; there are easier and shorter paths to earning a decent living. It’s not about being your own boss; the current medical system has made that terribly difficult. It’s all about the patients.

And now I think I’ve found the answer to that looming question. I just hope my answer doesn’t get lost in the deluge that will come in the form of my second year…

  • You’re not alone, I often question why am I doing medicine, even in med school!

    If anything, getting into medical seems like the first step. Understanding our decision takes a lifetime.

  • You’re not alone, I often question why am I doing medicine, even in med school!

    If anything, getting into medical seems like the first step. Understanding our decision takes a lifetime.

  • Very true.

    I’ve often heard that getting into medical school is the toughest part… I don’t know about that anymore…

  • Very true.

    I’ve often heard that getting into medical school is the toughest part… I don’t know about that anymore…

  • Deep, thoughtful thinking… I am only doing my undergraduate and I even find myself stressing and going in a continuous cycle of questioning as to what I should do in the future… however, you are blessed so much to be where you are (I dream of being in LLU one day)… I wish you the best of luck in your studies as well as your journey of self-seeking… take care!

  • Deep, thoughtful thinking… I am only doing my undergraduate and I even find myself stressing and going in a continuous cycle of questioning as to what I should do in the future… however, you are blessed so much to be where you are (I dream of being in LLU one day)… I wish you the best of luck in your studies as well as your journey of self-seeking… take care!

  • Vanessa

    I just recently completed my training to become an RN. I know that’s a far cry from where you are but, I long to become a physician. Seeing as though I am 33 years old I’ve decided the farthest I’ll probably go is Nurse Practitioner. I feel you should continue on. It seems that you are in it for the best reason and that’s for the patients. That alone says a lot about you

  • Vanessa

    I just recently completed my training to become an RN. I know that’s a far cry from where you are but, I long to become a physician. Seeing as though I am 33 years old I’ve decided the farthest I’ll probably go is Nurse Practitioner. I feel you should continue on. It seems that you are in it for the best reason and that’s for the patients. That alone says a lot about you