Why you should not go to medical school — a gleefully biased rant

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In the few years since I’ve graduated from medical school, there has been enough time to go back to medical practice in some form, but I haven’t and don’t intend to, so quit yer askin’, dammit.  But of course, people keep on asking.  Their comments range from the curious — “Why don’t you practice?” — to the idealistic — “But medicine is such a wonderful profession!” — to the almost hostile — “Don’t you like helping people, you heartless ogre you?”

Since it’s certain that folks will continue to pose me this question for the rest of my natural existence, I figured that instead of launching into my 15-minute polemic on the State of Medicine each time and interrupting the flow of my Hefeweizen on a fine Friday eve, I could just write it up and give them the URL.  So that’s what I did.

Now, unfettered by my prior obligations as an unbiased pre-med advisor, here are the myriad reasons why you should not enter the medical profession and the one (count ‘em — one) reason you should.  I have assiduously gone through these arguments and expunged any hint of evenhandedness, saving time for all of you who are hunting for balance.  And here are the reasons:

1) You will lose all the friends you had before medicine.
You think I’m kidding here.  No, I’m not: I mean it in the most literal sense possible. I had a friend in UCLA Med School who lived 12min away, and I saw her once — in three years (UPDATE: twice in 4 years). I saw her more often when she lived in Boston and I was in LA, no foolin’.

Here’s the deal: you’ll be so caught up with taking classes, studying for exams, doing ward rotations, taking care of too many patients as a resident, trying to squeeze in a meal or an extra hour of sleep, that your entire life pre-medicine will be relegated to some nether, dust-gathering corner of your mind.  Docs and med students don’t make it to their college reunions because who can take a whole weekend off?  Unthinkable.

And so those old friends will simply drift away because of said temporal and physical restrictions, to be replaced by your medical compadres, whom you have no choice but to see every day.  Which brings us to…

2) You will have difficulty sustaining a relationship and will probably break up with or divorce your current significant other during training.

For the same reasons enumerated above, you just won’t have time for quality time, kid.  Any time you do have will be spent catching up on that microbiology lecture, cramming for the Boards, getting some sleep after overnight call and just doing the basic housekeeping of keeping a Homo medicus upright and functioning.  When it’s a choice between having a meal or getting some sleep after being up for 36 hrs vs. spending quality time with your sig-o, which one wins, buddy?  I know he/she’s great and all, but a relationship is a luxury that your pared-down, elemental, bottom-of-the-Maslow-pyramid existence won’t be able to afford.  Unless you’ve found some total saint who’s willing to care for your burned-out carapace every day for 6-8 years without complaint or expectation of immediate reward (and yes, these people do exist, and yes, they will feel massively entitled after the 8 years because of the enormous sacrifice they’ve put in, etc etc).

3) You will spend the best years of your life as a sleep-deprived, underpaid slave.
I will state here without proof that the years between 22 and 35, being a time of good health, taut skin, generally idealistic worldview, firm buttocks, trim physique, ability to legally acquire intoxicating substances, having the income to acquire such substances, high liver capacity for processing said substances, and optimal sexual function, are the Best Years of Your Life.  And if you enter the medical profession during this golden interval, you will run around like a headless chicken trying to appease various superiors in the guise of professor, intern, resident, chief resident, attending, and department head, depending on your phase of devolution — all the while skipping sleep every fourth day or so and getting paid about minimum wage ($35k-$45k/yr for 80-100 hrs/wk of work) or paying through the nose (med school costing about $40-80k/yr).  Granted, any job these days involves hierarchy and superiors, but none of them keep you in such penury for so long. Speaking of penury…

4) You will get yourself a job of dubious remuneration.
For the amount of training you put in and the amount of blood, sweat and tears medicine extracts from you (I’m not being metaphorical here), you should be getting paid an absurd amount of money as soon as you finish residency.  And by ‘absurd’, I mean ‘at least a third of what a soulless investment banker makes, who saves no lives, produces nothing of social worth, and is basically a federally-subsidized gambler’ (but that’s a whole different rant, ahem).

I mean, you’re in your mid-thirties. You put in 4 years of med school, and at least 4 years of residency (up to 8 if you’re a surgeon). You even did a fellowship and got paid a pittance while doing that.  And for all the good you’re doing humanity — you are healing people, for godssakes — you should get paid more than some spreadsheet jockey shifting around numbers, some lawyer defending tobacco companies or some consultant maximizing a client’s shareholder value, whatever the hell that means.

Right?  Wrong. For the same time spent out of college, your I-banking, lawyering and consulting buddies are making 2-5 times as much as you are.  At my tenth college reunion, friends who had gone into finance were near retirement and talking about their 10-acre parcel in Aspen, while 80% of my doctor classmates were still in residency, with an average debt of $100,000 and a salary of $40,000.

5) You will have a job of exceptionally high liability exposure.

But wait, it gets better.  Who amongst these professionals has to insure himself against the potential wrath of his own clients?  The investment banker’s not playing with his own money.  And even if he screws up to the tune of, oh, hundreds of billions of dollars, Uncle Sam’s there to bail him out (see: World History, 2008-2009).

The lawyers?  They’re doing the suing, not being sued.  But the doctors?  Ah.  Average annual liability premiums these days are around $30,000.  That goes up to $80,000 for an obstetrician-gynecologist (who remains liable for any baby s/he delivers until said infant turns 18) and into the six-digit realm for neurosurgeons.   Atul Gawande wrote a dynamite article about docs’ compensation in the 4 May 2005 issue of The New Yorker entitled Piecework — check it out.

6) You will endanger your health and long-term well-being.
The medical profession is bad for you.  Just ask any current doctor or med student.  You will eat irregularly, eat poorly when you do get the irregular meal (and sayonara to the now-outlawed drug-company sponsored meals — god bless their generous hearts and bottomless pockets), have way too much cortisol circulating in your system from all the stress you experience, have a compromised immune system because of all the cortisol in your blood, get sick more often because of the compromised immune system (and the perpetual exposure to disease – it’s a hospital where everybody’s sick, duh), and be perennially sleep-deprived.  If your residency is four years long, on average you will spend one of those years without any sleep.  A whole year of no sleep. Do you get that?  This is as bad for you as it is for patients — you’ve heard of Libby’s Law, right? Groggy doctors can kill patients when they don’t mean to.

Groggy docs can also hurt themselves.  One friend stuck herself with a needle as she was drawing blood from an HIV patient.  She’s fine now, but that was a good 9 months of panic (PS: she has since quit clinical medicine).  My good friend and college classmate James — a serious contender for the title of Nicest Guy on Earth – had a severe car accident one morning on the way to the hospital because he fell asleep behind the wheel.  Luckily, his airbag deployed and he didn’t suffer long-term injuries.  Everyone seems to know already that medical care can kill patients (haven’t read The House of God by Samuel Shem yet?  Go get it now – brilliant and the second funniest book I’ve ever read, after Catch -22), but it’s usually news that it can kill the docs, too.

7) You will not have time to care for patients as well as you want to.
This is how the math works: Many patients, few of you — usually one, unless your name is United States of Tara (and no, multiple-personality disorder ain’t the same as schizophrenia — I learned something from med school).  So you have to take care of many patients.  And if they’re in the hospital, that means they’re really sick, otherwise they’d still be at home.

So you are scurrying around trying to take care of all of them at once, which means that each individual patient can only get a little bit of your time.  Which means that you won’t have a chance to sit at the bedside of that sweet old vet and hear his stories of Iwo Jima.  Or get to the bottom of why that LOL (little old lady — medical slang’s been around way longer than internet slang, buddy) can’t get her daughter to come visit.  Or to do any of that idealistic stuff that you cooked up in your adolescent brain about really connecting with patients.

Get a grip!  This is about action, about taking care of business, about getting shit done, about making that note look sharp because the attending is coming to round in an hour and he’s a hardass, and that’s the difference between getting recommended for honors and just passing, so get on it already and quit yakking with the gomer (which is an older patient with so many problems you should have never let him/her get admitted in the first place — stands for get out of my ER, and I didn’t make it up the acronym, so direct your righteously indignant wrath elsewhere, thank you very much). It’s about CYA — cover your ass.  For better or for worse, you just start to treat patients as problems and illness-bearing entities for the sake of mental efficiency (“55yo WM s/p rad prostatectomy c hx CHF & COPD”), which does not do much for your empathetic abilities.  Which brings us to…

8) You will start to dislike patients — and by extension, people in general.
Okay, so now you’re overworked, underpaid, underfed, and sleep-deprived.  Whose fault is that?  Well, it’s not really the hospital’s fault — it’s just drawn that way.  And it’s not your boss’s fault, because somebody has to take care of patients, and he can’t do it because he’s the boss, duh.

So whom to blame?  Ah yes — patients.  It’s the patients’ fault!  They’re the ones creating all the work! The ones who get in the way of your nap, your catching your favorite TV show, having an uninterrupted meal, getting together with your sig-o for some therapeutic nookie.  How dare the gomer in 345E have an MI while you’re watching CSI?  Does she have any consideration, letting her blood pressure tank to 40 over palp at 3.30am, while you’re making out with Elle MacPherson on the shores of Bora Bora (assuming you’re lucky enough to be actually asleep)?  The logic may be twisted — patients, on the whole, don’t get sick voluntarily just to spite you – but it is deeply ingrained in medical culture.  Heck, there’s even a slang term for it: a hit.  As in, “We got four hits on our admitting shift at the ER today.”  Hit — the same way you would be struck by a mortar, bullet, shell, or bomb.  Getting hit is a Bad Thing.

Patients aren’t people, you see — they are potentially lethal disasters that can explode all over the place and ruin your whole day. “We got hit again” — one more patient to take care of, says the resident.

But really, is that resident blameless?  Or how about Dr Hardass the attending and his intransigent ways?  Hell, they’re at fault, too!

Soon the circle of blame expands to the outer reaches of the cosmos, and every potentially accountable organism from amoeba to blue whale will be personally responsible for your misery.  But lest you think we’ve forgotten you, patients, remember — it’s all still your fault.

9) People who do not even know you will start to dislike you.
Once upon a day, in a time somewhere between the Cretaceous and Triassic eras, physicians were held in awe and respect by the general public.  Their seeming omniscience was revered, and TV shows like Marcus Welby MD glorified their empathetic sangfroid and high-minded grace.  Heck, they were even considered sexy or something.

I only noticed in recent years that this ain’t the case no more, and doctors rank on the contempt scale somewhere above meter maids and at or below divorce lawyers (but still much higher than I-bankers and other invertebrates).  The average Joe and Janet are tired of the ever-rising cost of medical care, tired of all the stories of malpractice, tired of the perceived greed of the pharmaceutical firms, tired of the heartless profit-focussed practices of insurance companies.

But where do they pin their frustration?  To whom can they direct their ire?  Insurance and drug companies are nameless, faceless entities, as are hospitals.  We need a person to blame, like a nurse or a doc.  Nurses are overworked and massively underpaid, so it doesn’t really make sense to get mad at them.  But doctors — those darn Mercedes-driving, Armani-wearing, private-school using, golf-playing arriviste docs!  By being the most visible symbol of the medical profession, the doctor will have the dubious distinction of being the scapegoat for all its maladies.  Fair?  Hell no — we already told you docs are overworked, underpaid, and often railing at the same injustices Joe and Janet are.  Most of them don’t even play golf!  (They don’t have time.  Except for dermatologists and radiologists).  But such it is.  Hey, I’m just letting you know which direction the rotten tomatoes are flying so you can consciously choose to stand at the ‘toss’ or ‘splat’ end of the trajectory.

10) You’re not helping people nearly as much as you think.

So by now I may have managed to inspire your righteous indignation with some of the things I’ve said about the medical profession.  But maybe in the back of your head, you were still thinking, “Well, even though it sounds like a bunch of bitter black bile, he does kinda sorta have a point.”  In which case, I’ve almost certainly lost you on this one: “Whaddya mean you’re not helping people?  Isn’t that what medicine is all about?”

Well, actually, yes and no.  Sure, there is the immediate gratification of delivering a baby, fixing someone’s eyesight with LASIK, catching a melanoma before it causes trouble, or prescribing some thermonuclear antibiotics to kick a nasty bronchitis before it becomes lethal pneumonia.

But, depending on the field you choose, most of the time you’re not doing that.  You’re treating chronic conditions that are self-inflicted: emphysema, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes.  Moreover, patients tend to be non-compliant — they basically don’t do what you tell ‘em to do. In fact, you too are probably one of those non-compliant patients who doesn’t exercise more, eat healthier, and take pills as they’re prescribed.  Anecdotally, 50%+ of prescribed medications are taken incorrectly or never.

So there you are, like Cuchulain the legendary Celtic warrior, wading into the ocean and, in your rage, trying to fight the invulnerable tide and improve the health of your patients.  You pour all your earnestness, good intentions and expertise into it, and — not a whole lot happens.  Your efforts bear no fruit.  So you suck it down and move on, sustained by the occasional kid who does get better, that eyesight that does improve, that bronchitis that doesn’t turn into pneumonia.  Win some, lose many more.

AND THE ONE AND ONLY REASON WHY YOU SHOULD GO INTO MEDICINE:

You have only ever envisioned yourself as a doctor and can only derive professional fulfillment in life by taking care of sick people.*

There’s really no other reason, and lord knows the world needs docs.  Prestige, money, job security, making mom happy, proving something, can’t think of anything else to do, better than being a lawyer, etc are all incredibly bad reasons for becoming a doc.

You should become a doc because you always wanted to work for Médecins Sans Frontières and your life will be half-lived without that.  You should become a doc because you want to be the psychiatrist who makes a breakthrough in schizophrenia treatment.  You should become a doc because you love making sick kids feel better and being the one to reassure the parents that it’ll all be OK, and nothing else in the world measures up to that.  Or as my general surgery resident put it, you should become a doc because “my dad was an ass surgeon, my big brother’s an ass surgeon, and by god I’m going to become an ass surgeon.”

But woe betide you if there’s anything else, anything at all, that would also give you that fulfillment.  Because pursuit of medicine would preclude chasing down that other dream and a whole lot more – a dream that could be much bigger, much more spectacular, much more enriching for yourself and humanity than being a physician.  Just ask John Keats, Walker Percy, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Giorgio Armani, or Michael Crichton (some of these guys being more alive than others these days).  Or you can just ask me a few years down the road, by which time I should have a blog entry for that question, too.

*Also acceptable: You want to get into academic medicine. Pretty much need an MD or MD/PhD as prerequisite.

Update 1: To those who are wondering what I’ve been up to since the writing of this article — that’s a long story. Most recently, I’ve been writing books, including the #1 rated dating book on Amazon, The Tao of Dating: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Being Absolutely Irresistible. Check out also the very popular dating ebook for men and my other blog for more articles, as well as my HuffPost archive.

Update 2: As of 9/24/2011, there’s a Hacker News thread on this piece, with hundreds of intelligent comments from people with firsthand experience about the medical lifestyle. Check it out.

Update 3: In September 2012, a survey by The Physicians Foundation found that 6 out of 10 physicians would quit today if they could. Click on link to find what’s driving the trend.

Update 4:  In Oct 2012, Jake Seliger of the excellent blog The Story’s Story wrote a magisterial article on why becoming a doctor is a bad idea, with many angles that I hadn’t even considered. The whole antitrust suit against the Match and how it’s basically an illegal trust and how the AMA bought off Congress to head off lawsuits was particularly sobering.

Update 5: I recently had the opportunity to speak to the daughter of the lady who was the dean of of my med school. She told me that her mom specifically forbid her from going into medicine. Did you get that? THE DEAN OF MY MED SCHOOL FORBID HER DAUGHTER FROM GOING TO MED SCHOOL. I don’t think there’s anything else that could validate my decision more. This means I win.

Comment rules: There have been a lot of comments on this article over the years, so if you wish to comment, here are the rules: if you have an intelligent contribution to make, I’ll approve it. I’m not anonymous, so you shouldn’t be either. There’s no room for hate, spite or derision on this blog, so comments containing them won’t see the light of day.

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385 Comments »

  1. JayD

    June 15, 2007 @ 11:30 pm

    1

    Wow, you hit the nail on the head. I hated my first 2 years of med school, but told myself “everyone hates these 2 years. Just wait until 3rd and 4th year.” Those years came and it was disappointment after disalusionment. I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do so I signed up for a prelim IM. I got 7 months into it and still didn’t have a clue. I said to hell with it and started thinking about what I really wanted to do with my time and my life.

    That being said, everything above is completely true. I can add some more as well. How about getting sick of self inflicted diseases, ignored advice, backtalking alcoholics, drug abusing pregnant mothers, etc etc, all of who tell the doc to F off cause they’ll do as they please? Or the way the fields been relegated to cook book and cookie cutter practice in a lot of ways. Follow the guidelines or else, and nevermind that the patient is an individual because it’s in a study so it applys to all patients of this age group. Being a physician, or a surgeon especially, is more akin to working both as an auto repair mechanic and a complaint desk simultaneously for 90 hrs/wk. Then there is the fun in discovering that the treatment you’ve been prescribing for the past several years because the studies said it was the correct thing to do, well no the studies say it’s doing more harm and it’s no longer correct. The script farming drug seekers should be mentioned. They’re fun to deal with (sarcasm). One of my personal pet peeves is when the 94 y/o patient, demented and barely alive due to a ton of other medical problems , comes in and the surgeon thinks a total colectomy is needed. Can’t let the poor guy die in peace, we have to put him through surgery and let him die in recovery. Nice.

    Malpractice was mentioned, but health insurance in general is a nightmare. In what other business does someone else tell you what you will accept as payement. The doc thinks the surgery is worth $300 due to time, overhead, etc, but insurance comes in and says “NO, you get $150 or nothing.” That is why your face time with the doc is barely 10 minutes. If they don’t rush though the patients they lose money for the day. Too many days of that and no more practice. Then there’s insurance directing patient care in the form of “you can’t prescribe that until you’ve tried this for 5 months,” or “you have to get an ultrasound before we’ll pay of the CT.” Nevermind the patient’s comorbidities or current ICU condition that make the insurance company’s demands completely foolish, irrelevent and a waste of both time and money. You’ll do it because they demand it. If insurance is bad enough as it is I won’t even get into the nightmare of red tape and dictated services that will be government paid universal health care. I believe our litigious society was mentioned above.

    I could go on and on, but this was your rant, not mine. I went to med school for all the wrong reasons anyway. First, both my parents are docs and one was pushing for it, but what’s funny is that the other warned me and told me to run as far away as I could. Second, I went for a biology degree because I put no thought into where I was going and by my third year I realized that it was either med school or work in a molecular bio lab (I hate lab work). Third, I was naieve and believed I could work hard in school for a job that would allow me to put in less hours and still make very good money. Wrong. It sets you up to work longer hours under more stressful conditions. You don’t get a break until you’re the 65 y/o senior partner with residents and junior partners to do all the heavy lifting. Even still, I had a 64 y/o surgery attending putting in 96 hrs/wk and hating life because the bills (home and office) needed to be paid. No thanks. Finally, I wanted to be part of a noble profession that helped people and made a difference, and I did to an extent. There are still the few patients I remember that I know I helped, but they were so few and far between it just didn’t cut the mustard.

    So now the field has one less doc, and I’ll leave with this. A surprisingly high number of the physicians that I explain my situation to agree and are looking to retire early, wished they would have gotten out when I did, or better yet not have gone to med school in the first place.

  2. Jenny

    October 29, 2007 @ 10:38 pm

    2

    I appreciate this article and comments. I am currenlty a medical student and am starting to have serious doubts. I do not want to invest any more time and money into this profession and need to make a choice soon. I have been looking at the various specialities and just can’t find one that seems worthwhile. I have an interest in Psychiatry, but am having doubts over this profession. I would appreciate any advice. Thank you.

  3. Sarah

    January 4, 2008 @ 4:55 pm

    3

    oh my god…
    this was brilliant.
    i just finished four years at one of the toughest universities
    in north america and i have lost all my dreams.
    at first i had all these ambitions and dreams about helping
    kids in africa and doctors without borders and all that
    wonderful stuff, and now i haev a heart of stone and it
    feels like all i want to do is add stuff to my resume.

    you are persian i assume from the name,
    and so am i, and it’s as if it’s in our blood to have to become
    doctors. before i start applying, i really want to konw if it’s for me
    and the more time goes by the more it feels like it is NOT for me.
    but i’m SO scared because i did so well in undergrad and i know i
    CAN get in, i just don’t know if i WANT to get in.
    i’m more confused than i’ve ever been…
    i would appreciate it if you could email me or something
    or give out some more advice.

    i really appreciate this blog,
    thanks.

  4. dr ajon

    April 17, 2009 @ 5:11 pm

    4

    wow. this is an eye opener. i thought undergrad was bad preparing for med school and thought once i get into med school it will all be better and i will have more time. i think i am in for a rude awakening…

  5. billybob

    April 17, 2009 @ 6:33 pm

    5

    While I find this article entertaining, and mostly correct, we must keep in mind that a positive attitude and outlook are essential qualities to any successful professional. No matter what job you choose, there are plusses and minuses. Medicine truly is a profession unlike any other in which your trials and struggles eventually end in potential to help others. People who cannot help themselves. Let us not forget that medicine, despite its difficulties and the way that it can harden an otherwise empathetic and sensitive individual, is a profession that will in the end be more rewarding than any other thing you do in this life. That is, of course, assuming you have a love and passion for it.

  6. Jen

    April 17, 2009 @ 9:37 pm

    6

    Thanks for the article. The main reason I went into orthopaedic surgery is because late in med school I realized that I hated sick people. Not the patients themselves, but the fact that you could work and work and work and at the end of the day you just hoped they were healthy enough to drag themselves out the front door (and come back in on someone else’s call). At least in ortho, I admit fully I’m an over-trained mechanic, but dammit, my patients leave at some reasonable time.
    Last note, what bullshit is it that your plumber can charge whatever he wants to unclog your drain, but if I replace both knees the insurance companies automatically take 50% off the second. What am I, fucking Payless?

  7. Boyan Pavlov

    April 18, 2009 @ 3:20 pm

    7

    Let me tell you something. After reading the article I was little shocked of course nevertheless I do believe that if you are one of the many people who chose medicine and then realized that it was not the right path to follow, and now you are poutring your anger towards medicine. It’s all in our heads, and for all the pre-meds and med students, I would like to tell them something, you can have relationship, have friends, old and new ones, and still manage school if you have the MENTAL attidute. “You can do it, if you believe you can” !!!!!!!!!

  8. medaholic

    April 18, 2009 @ 4:53 pm

    8

    You write realistically about large problems and difficulties in the medical profession. However, for everyone who has read this, realize that there are just as many positive reasons why you should go to medical school and become a doctor.

    There are pros and cons to every decision, and the grass always seems greener on the other side, but at the end of the day, you have to realize your own personal values and priorities and choose according to them. For some people, medicine presents a unique set of challenges that has personally and financially rewarding aspects. Others, were meant to do other great things.

    Thanks again for the refreshingly honest post.

  9. Anna

    April 19, 2009 @ 2:27 am

    9

    This is so well-written. Humourous but sadly realistic.

  10. ixne

    April 19, 2009 @ 9:34 pm

    10

    $100,000 in debt…seems so quaint by today’s standards. Barring the filthy rich, $175,000-300,000 is becoming the norm, and the government just decided that residents don’t deserve deferment on their 6-figure loans. So every year we’re slaving away at minimum wage, we get to pay 4-5 figures in interest.

  11. Pathetic

    April 20, 2009 @ 12:40 am

    11

    My God – I think many of us have never known what its like to put in a hard days work (12-15 hours) on a slave farm on some centrale. My parents came from rough conditions in Cuba working as essentially slaves until we were able to leave. I think rather than compare life to your Harvard buddies in Aspen – take the silver spoon out of your ass and know that if you were a practicing physician – your life is already in the top 1% of people who have ever existed.

    People who dont appreciate life but always look at the bad side of everything.

    I am not saying you are wrong (as I don’t think medicine is not this mythical profession – thus I am not in it) – and of course you are entitled to your opinion – but always try to remember – there are people much much much worse off than you – when something is shitty just think, “Worse things have happened to better people.”

  12. Jameson

    April 21, 2009 @ 8:54 pm

    12

    Wow, absolutely hilarious. But I do think everyone should take this with a large grain of salt. I am about to start PA school this summer. I know I will avoid some of the headaches of the modern Doc by doing this, but may be trading them for others (ie dealing with the burnt out Doc!). Ultimately, I think people should go into medicine because they want to help people. If they truly don’t, but still go into medicine for other reasons (money, social status, family pressures), they will most likely find themselves unhappy.

  13. MN

    April 22, 2009 @ 4:27 pm

    13

    You’ve helped me great. I was expecting to read this and find myself in disbelief and completely uncertain about my future. But after reading this… I still feel I need to head in that direction. Many thanks. And kudos on this entry. VERY entertaining.

  14. Dan

    April 23, 2009 @ 12:59 pm

    14

    haha, this article is exactly why I became a PT. $80k salary, no stress, no on-call, 40 hr work week, no malpractice insurance, weekends off…I spent my 20s enjoying life thank you very much!

  15. jk

    April 29, 2009 @ 8:47 pm

    15

    oh shit I applied to med school!!!!!!

  16. jk

    April 29, 2009 @ 8:49 pm

    16

    atleast I’m not in it yet.. Should’ve done. Dental like my bro

  17. Julie

    May 2, 2009 @ 1:25 pm

    17

    Although I can’t say my experience of medical school has been quite like yours (I actually really enjoy it), it’s true that I’ve only been through the first 2 yrs, so who knows what awaits me.

    I must say that I’m puzzled by many people’s perception that wanting to help people is a good enough reason, in itself, to become a doctor and something that sets the profession appart from others. Although I think it can be a factor that makes the career attractive, I hardly think the profession’s unique in being helpful! Nurses, psychologists, social workers, teachers, and countless other professionals are, to me, just as helpful & important as doctors. Being a doctor is just one way to be helpful to others and many other things (money, prestige and pleasing parents don’t count, of course!) should motivate someone to choose such a demanding career if they are to have any chance at being happy while doing it.

    In my opinion, one should consider the job as a whole and think that even while sleep deprived, even when everyone seems to only be able to talk about all that’s wrong with doctors, even when the attending is yelling at you and you’ve never felt less competent, even when a patient dies and maybe you could have prevented it but didn’t, and even when you have to miss a good friend’s wedding and your parent’s anniversary or your child’s birthday because you’re scheduled to work, even then that’s what you want to be doing with your life. If not, you probably won’t enjoy it, because all these things are bound to happen. I think the main motivation should just be that it’s the career that seems to be the most interesting to you in spite of all that’s wrong with it.

    Maybe I’ll end up regretting going to medical school one day, but I went because I knew that if I didn’t, I’d regret not trying it.

  18. Alan

    May 3, 2009 @ 1:32 am

    18

    I just finished an undergrad for Neuroscience and I’ve had my sights on getting a PhD and doing research as well as becoming a prof. I have considered medical school in the past, but I was well aware of the sheer amount of stress that all pre-med individuals have to go through, and that’s just pre-med!

    This article was definitely an awakener for me. I am much more appreciative of the amount of work and stress medical doctors have to go through, and wish all those who persist despite these limitations the best of luck and health. I am surprised the government has refused to cut any slack on med students whatsoever, its almost punishing to becoming a doctor. It angers me how the world works.

  19. rose, rn

    July 15, 2009 @ 12:13 am

    19

    Sounds like nursing, you end up with a heart of stone. Lots of work and stress and no appreciation.

  20. Susie

    September 23, 2009 @ 11:37 am

    20

    My hubby is a pharmacist – working 50-60 hours per week and is earning close to 200k – no liability (his insurance is $200 per year) and he comes home to no worries. He deals with Assisted Living so no contact with patients which is nice. He has 3-4 weeks vacation plus all holidays and paternity leave of 3 months off. Most family docs, internists, peds docs, etc.. make less than that and have to go thru a much harder life.

    Our quality of life is great! Always vacationing or with family n friends.

  21. Navid

    September 24, 2009 @ 8:44 am

    21

    Wow, you totally did NOT hit it on the head… Good thing you choose not to practice as you surely would have been unhappy. Your analysis may have certain components of truth to it, however, your assessment is, in my opinion, unfair and highly subjective.

    Yes, it is difficult, time-consuming, draining, hectic, and one is “poorly compensated” (still making more >95% of the rest of americans). But the things that make it so difficult for you, are the same things others find so appealing. You see some of us enjoy the challenge. Some of us enjoy having to manage extremely delicate ICU patients, performing complicated surgical procedures, etc.

    And for those who choose to endure, it’s about accomplishment. It’s about moving up on Maslow’s heirachy of needs: attempting to reach self-actualization.

    These supposed reasons one should not go to medical school; they are your reasons. It’s important to draw that distinction.

  22. DC

    September 24, 2009 @ 2:28 pm

    22

    Be the Doctor of the Future. Become a Doctor of Chiropractic!

  23. MCAT Guy

    October 21, 2009 @ 5:06 pm

    23

    As someone who gave up applying to medical school in the nineties with a 38 MCAT to pursue educational work for premeds, I have to say your post awoke a lot of conflicting thoughts for me. I’ve kept up with a lot of students I helped in the nineties, and on the whole they seem to be doing okay now that they are doctors. They seem happy. I’m actually thinking about applying to MD PhD next year at 42. I have 3 kids and a good marriage, though.

  24. Cat deLeo

    October 27, 2009 @ 12:05 pm

    24

    I just want to thank you from the depths of my being and the bottom of my heart for this post! As a returning adult student (not old at 26, but returning) at The University of Texas at Austin and a former pre-med student, I am in classes with a lot of seniors going to medical school next year and who are starting to do their interviews. While part of me feels a jealous longing to be doing the same, I also have a passion for teaching and education, and have decided the right path for me is to become a professor of Microbiology, rather than a doctor. It was therapeutic to realize that my choice seems right, that the pressures and nightmares accompanying med school and the medical profession are as real as I had heard from indirect sources. I’ll stop wishing I were interviewing for med schools now, and start feeling sorry for my classmates that are!

  25. katie

    November 5, 2009 @ 2:28 pm

    25

    I think the scary thing about your article is that it is very honest and for the most part true….medical school takes someone with endless energy, money to spend(or money to borrow to spend for most of us), patience, dedication and most importantly someone who would not give up no matter how hard it may become in the future.but let’s think abput it for a aminute: you study 12 years, give or take, and then start to earn a good income.even then when you’re fresh out of med school no one might come to you since you are what they call an unexperienced doctor compared to others that have years and years of experience and diagnosing people.
    so, at the end you might ask yourself it is worth it?………..
    in my opinion you just have to make sure that it is what you really want vs what others put into your head(that is my peoblems anyway!)

  26. slu

    December 2, 2009 @ 9:39 pm

    26

    loved this blog! very funny…i am a physician…and get up every morning and face these obstacles and laugh…it is a great profession…in spite of it all…

  27. Josh

    February 7, 2010 @ 2:03 pm

    27

    So basically, the only viable reason left to go into medicine is a big ego with a guilt complex. I had this feeling when I dropped out of interviews and went to get an MBA.

  28. JayD

    February 25, 2010 @ 6:04 am

    28

    I had a post above from 2007 and thought it would be fun to post a follow up and some response to other posters. Looking back on that now my previous post reads harshly, but I still agree with most all of it. Most all docs I’ve worked with then and talked to since have said they wouldn’t do it again or recommend it to their kids. Despite that I do remember 3 or 4 who truely loved what they did. I suspect they knew this before entering medical school and did not apply for prestige, income, authority, respect, etc. So yes, those people are out there. However, the sacrifices all of them make are very real and reflected in the original article and my post above, albiet in a harsh and bitter tone. I’d suggest looking up alcohol/drug abuse, divorce and suicide rates among physicians compared to other professions simply to point out comparative stress levels. An OB/GYN relative of mine had two attempts herself.

    As for myself since the post above, I’ve moved on to an ancillary health profession similar to posters above doing PT and Pharm. I have a 40hr week, a very nice paycheck, no malpractice, no insurance hassle, lots of time with the wife and kids, ability to relocate almost anywhere, in very high demand, and I still help people. I’ve set up a life for myself that I couldn’t have begun to have in medicine, nor can my engineer brother or attorney sister-in-law. For me it is a much improved lifestyle and I wouldn’t go back for anything. I’m glad there are those few who truely enjoy it because it’s certainly a noble and needed profession. I just feel sad for those who are unhappy doing it but are stuck from debt, mortgage, kids, as well as those who simply do it for their own ego. In older times it was respected. Today nobody cares that you’re a doc except family members and other docs.

    Clearly different people are fulfilled by different means and some will love medicine for it’s challenge, responsibility, and impact on patients lives. So for anyone reading this, maybe medicine is your place and you know you’ll love it. However, even then the sacrifices are still very real, so do your research, shadow several docs and ask the hard uncomfortable questions before applying. For anyone else applying because parents expect it (as was my case) or income, ego, status or whatever other reason I highly recommend against it and predict deep disappointment. There are other options that provide more personal time, money, status or whatever else it is you’re looking for that don’t put patient’s lives at risk while you figure it out. That’s one other reason I left. I knew that my discontented attitude was inherently leading to a disservice to my patients despite really wanting to do my best for them. My heart simply wasn’t in it.

    Good luck.

  29. arun

    March 19, 2010 @ 2:20 pm

    29

    I think everyone is agreeing with this because they are all med students hoping to knock other med students out. So quit it you cutthroat faggots.

  30. Steph

    March 25, 2010 @ 3:22 pm

    30

    I just cancelled my registration for the MCAT, not kidding. I am so done with this pre med path that leads to a self made hell. Thank you for writing this. I am going to apply to PA school and have a much more enjoyable life.

  31. Nick

    March 28, 2010 @ 5:10 pm

    31

    Steph go take your test. Stop reading opinion blogs.

  32. Chris Rosson

    March 29, 2010 @ 5:03 pm

    32

    Well I am a 4th year undergraduate and for the first three years of my college career, I had made up my mind that I wanted to go into medicine and I did everything that I had to to get in. But in my last year, I began having some serious doubts as to whether committing another 4 years of my life, 3-7 years of residency, and being close to $200,000 in debt would be worth it in the end..not to mention the lifestyle I might have as a practicing physician. What really hit me was when a few residents told me that if they could go back, they’d probably go into another profession. So now I’m freaking out, talking to different physicians, and am also looking into alternatives such as PA or Dentistry. The two options I’m weighing are: Would I regret going to PA or Dentistry feeling that I could have made it through MD school and that I underachieved/doubted myself or would I regret it more if I did go to MD school and it wasn’t what I expected. I would appreciate if you could email me your thoughts. Thanks!

  33. Tania

    April 17, 2010 @ 5:12 am

    33

    LMAO at Nick’s comment

  34. Mark Price

    May 1, 2010 @ 11:13 am

    34

    Well, it seems all areas of the medical profession are undergoing some type calamity of sorts. I am a pharmacist and our salaries are expected to decline soon(over the next 10 years). Why? Because the major pharmacies are beginning to import pharmacists from overseas. Why hire a retail pharmacists for 85K-100K when you can get one for 65K or less. That is hard core reality many pharmacist are in denial about. But, pharmacies are businesses and it always about the bottom line.

    I know that medical school is 10x harder than pharmacy school, but its all so much work and a real damn shame.

  35. Claudia

    June 7, 2010 @ 4:33 pm

    35

    Thank you so much for this. I have been really pondering this for the past few months. This article was the NO BS that I was looking for. Although my choice was to become a PA. My thinking is that it all applies, just 15% less or something. If you have any comments on this I would greatly appreciate it. Your blog was thoughtful, funny, heartwarming and eye opening.

    I am interviewing a PA on Friday, and hope that he can shed some light on the reality as well. I’m not afraid, I just don’t want to lie to myself or others.

    Thank you again.

  36. ppp

    July 15, 2010 @ 11:24 am

    36

    Why can insurance companies bargain with doctors and patients cannot?
    I’ve naively wondered if we could take the middle man out of the picture, pay the doctors a decent amount higher than what the insurers pay, but lower that what the absurd hospital bills tend to be.

    I finished the MD and went into research. Most of my days are 9 to 5, but I love lab, I don’t have to deal with enormous amounts of people (patients, bosses, other arrogant doctors…so many big egoes) and I have hobbies! Make little money, but I have no debt as of now.

    My wife is a doc, and she does it because she can only see herself caring for patients. She did it for the right reason. I did it to feel important, it was stupid, thank god I found research. Pays little, but I bike to the rock climbing site.

  37. Jasie

    July 21, 2010 @ 8:30 pm

    37

    Just 2-3 weeks ago, I thought about going back to Med School. I earned my masters degree in a research field and been working in IT field with $120k per year. Totally different job, nothing related to what I studied for. I did it because the pay was good, needed to help my parents and pay tuition fees for my sibling who has just graduated from med school.

    I think it’s my turn to follow my dream. But I am doubting myself now. I am 28 thinking about having a kid, not sure if 2 years (pre-med) + 4 years (med) + 4 (residency) is the right thing for me?

  38. Jo

    August 1, 2010 @ 9:08 pm

    38

    It applies to not only your career path, but also in any decision making process you should always consider the pros v. cons. To those of you that only focus on the negative, I agree that this isn’t your purpose in life.

    Not to mention, I know plenty of people who maintain good relationships with friends and significant others while in medical school. Those who are weeded out by the hardship of medical school and a career in medicine simply aren’t the type of people I would call friend. Either that or it’s easier to use the excuse of medical school to end a relationship.

  39. LM

    August 18, 2010 @ 10:22 am

    39

    i love u.

  40. Victoria

    August 30, 2010 @ 3:18 pm

    40

    This was interesting blog and I agree. I’m a premed student who just graduated with my B.A and B.S in Biomed and Spanish and I think that although your blog is correct about the downfalls about medicine it should also indicate the highlights of the field. When you think about it physicians are analogous to God’s ombudsmen, they can turn someone’s fate around or they can ensure that someone continues on the correct path, and let’s not fool ourselves that’s powerful. Yes, in the process you injure your livelihood and put yourself at risk but at the end of the day wouldn’t you have done that already even if you weren’t apart of the medical profession. If you are a premed student or a prospective applicant and are easily deterred by this blog, maybe you should reconsider your choice of professions, because this is a profession where you will be doubted, discouraged and underestimated. This blog only reinforced what I already and even reinforced my decision to go into the field. The reason why is because my desire to become a physician supersedes me. Its bigger than me. What I hope to do for the community that I serve is a mission that is larger than myself, and that is the reason why I’ve chosen the profession. If you had the ability to do something well and did not wouldn’t that be cowardice? You would never fully be able to live to your full potential because you would never be able to use all of our natural talents.

    Medicine is a major responsibility and is not for the weak spirited. I think that being average and having an “average” life is tempting because you have “average” responsibilities and average duties. Being someone exceptional takes work and disappointment with great responsibilities, but you have made a much grander effect on the world. Its really up to you to decide.

  41. Tom

    September 30, 2010 @ 9:09 pm

    41

    I’m a 50 year old orthopedic surgeon. I’m busy, successful, and like going to work.

    I believe that most of the points made by Dr Binazir are absolutely correct, though. For those that have commented that he is overly cynical, and perhaps not cut out to be a physician, I would disagree. It’s unusual that an individual gets through that much education without ‘drinking the koolaid’. I know of only one or two others that chose not to do a residency.

    Sleep, relationships and ‘normal life’ are lost during training. Debt accumulates. It’s not that friends abandon young physicians, it’s just that they are never seen. Oddly, many physicians are not aware of what their future practices will be like, and feel underpaid and unloved by their patients.

    While it was a good career path for me, it has been difficult in a way I hadn’t imagined when I started. There are many interesting and satisfying professions that don’t demand your soul in the way that medicine must. I haven’t encouraged my children to attend medical school.

  42. abinazir

    November 29, 2010 @ 10:11 pm

    42

    Thanks for all the comments, guys! In the end, it comes down to love. If you love what you do, you’ll overcome any obstacle and keep doing it — the work is its own reward. If not, you are incurring the opportunity cost of not being able to do the thing that really does fire you up.

  43. Cristy Iffert

    December 7, 2010 @ 12:08 pm

    43

    You are unquestionably the real thing!

  44. MDR

    December 16, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

    44

    I am a physician in practice in Internal meidicine for about 10 years. though I spend the vast majority of my day complaining about how much medicine sucks I will try to give a balanced and reasoned opinion in case anyone who is considering going into it is reading

    first the good news, It is a pretty stable field. despite probably some changes coming up I was never in fear of losing my job pretty much no matter what the economy did. In general, you can practice just about anywhere in the country from rural to city to suburb though certain subspecialties may only be practical at major urban medical centers. while the prestige is definitely not what it sued to be I think most people are still impressed by physicians and they are still generally respected. While the compensation is not what it should be relative to some other fields and most physicians could make more doing something else with the time and years of training they put into it, you can still make a very comfortable living. Also there are a handful of patients I have grown very close to and really enjoy seeing and know they truly appreciate my efforts for them.

    the downside, while I do not think you deifnitely lose friends it is hard to maintain the smae relationship you ahd with friends and family before. I can’t describe the sadness, and loneliness I felt as a resident driving in to work on Christmas morning at 6:00Am seeing no one else on the roads and knowing i was going to be there for at least 36 staright hours (Please note there have been a lot of changes in work hours for residents) Also You rarely help people. the vast majority of my day is spent seeing people with colds, minor aches and pains and things that really do not need to see a doctor. While I have helped some people and maybe even “saved a life or two” that is exceedingly rare and probably outnumbered by times I have made a mistake ( this is not meant to be an indictment of my own skills as a physician or be falsely humble, i think the majority of honest physicians would tell you the same thing.) most of the time I am treating chronic medical problems like diabetes or High blood pressure that probably help the patient in the long run but the immediate satisfaction is not there. and for every appreciative nice patient it seems like there are 5 others who are opiate addicted, have unrealistic expectations and overly demanding

    Soory this is a lot longer than I intended but hope this may help.

  45. Straight doing it,

    December 27, 2010 @ 7:58 pm

    45

    I am a diagnostic radiologist. Med school was tough but it was not the end of the world. i had fun in med school with a positive attitude. got laid all the time, made great friends, My attitude is what helped me be successful in my goals. Now i make around $440,000 a year, take a lot of vacations, malpractice is a pain but its not terrible. My only regret is being away from family for so long. other than that, i am straight doing it right now.

  46. abinazir

    December 29, 2010 @ 3:18 pm

    46

    For those of you who read Samuel Shem’s immortal classic ‘The House of God’, you’re aware that some specialities do not suck. In the book, they are called ‘NPC specialties’ — no patient care. And they are ‘six and only six’: Rays (radiology), Gas (anesthesiology), Path (pathology), Ophthalmology and Psychiatry. Of those six, Derm, Ophtho and Rays are a cut above. Med students have caught on — hence, the stringent requirements for scoring a residency in one of those specialities. I also like Peds, just because.

  47. ambivalent

    January 5, 2011 @ 12:48 pm

    47

    i’m an engineer in a relationship with a doc. let me tell you, i was pretty ignorant of what doctors make. it’s usually described as a “comfortable living.” i only recently discovered that here, “comfortable” equates to a starting salary of around $140k. which is, y’know, a lot. more than the vast majority – myself included – can ever hope to attain in their lives.

    so let me add another stress that wasn’t expressed in the relationship section, and this one applies only to women: in addition to losing your prime years, you’re also going to come out the gate out-earning essentially any guy who crosses your path, barring other doctors. while i’d like to pretend that i’m above such pettiness, i am forced to admit that it’s tough, as a man, to accept that your partner is worth twice as much per hour to society as you are. i frankly doubt that i’ll be able to keep this bitter pill down.

  48. health career confusion

    January 18, 2011 @ 5:11 am

    48

    Thank you for posting an honest account of your experience in medical school. I’m an undergrad majoring in exercise science, and was preparing for a career in physical therapy until recently, when I discovered in my experience volunteering and learning about the field, I don’t really want to learn more. I also only have outpatient experience, which could be the reason why I feel this way. So I was considering other fields, including MD/DO, PA, or nurse anesthetist because the operating room interests me and I would like to assist in surgeries. Thank you for showing revealing the truth about the MD path. You hear about how rewarding a career it is, but no one shares the downsides. And there seems to be many downsides.

  49. t

    February 11, 2011 @ 8:03 pm

    49

    this was a very interesting blog for me to read. I recently was contacted by someone asking about going to medical school. Like me, this person was a nurse and thinking about going back to school
    I went to medical school after being a nurse for 8 years. I had always wanted to be a doctor and really couldn’t see myself not doing it.
    So here is the up side to all of this: I LOVE MY JOB. I love everything about it. I love the patients, I love the people I work with.
    Here is more upside: I have been married for over 20 years (and I still love my husband) I have SIX kids, and so far they seem okay…..
    I have friends and a life. I like to swim, run, play tennis, play golf and watch my kids activities.
    More good stuff: I make a really good living. I make more money than I ever expected to make.
    Better: My student loans weren’t so bad because I went to a state school for medical school. I had three kids when I started school and had another in med school, another during residency and then my last one when I was an attending.
    More: I was a CHIEF resident with five kids…..and I LOVED it.
    So for all you nay sayers: If you really, really, really want to be a doctor, Go for it. Not a day goes by that I regret my decision. You can have relationships and a life…you just have to remember all the people who helped you get to where you are….my husband was my biggest fan….and I will never ever be able to thank him enough for encouraging me to go to school….he never once said don’t do it..
    P.S. My oldest daughter is considering medical school…I told her “good for you!”

  50. pensive student

    February 18, 2011 @ 11:56 pm

    50

    Sweet blog, I think it’s cool that it’s still garnering comments 5+ years after publishing. I’m just about ready to hop on the admissions circuit myself, and actually came across this article when googling “what to do when visiting a medical school” (or something similar) ironically, it was the first result too :D
    I’ve been giving this thing a lot of thought myself, and am still kind of hopping the fence between engineering and medicine (graduating with a BSE in computer science engineering next spring).
    But to be honest, I think any career is pretty much what you make of it. I think the intrigue of being in an environment of higher learning in general is the fact that you are surrounded by imaginative individuals, and that kind of rubs off on you. I don’t know what I’ll be doing in the future, but in all honesty, I don’t feel like I’ll be stuck in some rut of a career which I hate. As a doctor, or engineer, or any other trained professional, one would hope to gain a broad perspective during education, so that when falling into a situation in life which is less-than-ideal, they wouldn’t box themselves in and simply rest on their laurels in hopes of a different tomorrow. No, I think the benefits of having an academic professional education is that you are essentially trained to be resourceful and to look in occasionally nontraditional sources for answers, and as a result, I would like to think people would apply it to their own lives too.
    Yeah med school sucks, then again a lot of other things suck too, it depends on the individual what factors add to their personal level of suckage, and how they deal with it.
    Overall interesting article, I like the dialog that it has generated in the comments.

  51. abinazir

    March 5, 2011 @ 2:50 pm

    51

    Thanks for the note! As I said in the article, the only reason to go into medicine is — because you love to practice medicine! And if you do, lord knows that the world needs you. Kudos to you — you are doing an immeasurable service to humanity. And good luck to your daughter!

  52. dontmatter

    March 19, 2011 @ 2:20 am

    52

    First of all, it doesn’t matter anymore. The world’s going to end soon.
    Second of all, my first of all is the only comment that matters.
    Third of all, if you have read the previous comments, and you do not believe me, read on.
    Doing what you love is not easy in the world we live, but pursuing that goal should not be simply shut off. Chances are, you are currently either a premed, a medical student, or a physician having a bad day if you are reading this article.
    If you are a medical student and you are unhappy, you need to really take a break when you find one, think about what the problem is, and actively look around you for the advice you need to achieve your goal of personal joy. The doctors are around you, and they are only a breath away from providing you with the advice based on true experience.
    If you are a physician and you are reading it in serious unhappiness, you need to analyze your current situation. Look at where your life was, think about what your state of mind was when you started your journey, and actively look at the options you have for improving your life style. You may be agreeing with this article based on your own experience, however, you shouldn’t fill your mind with only the negativity of the profession. Talk with other physicians in your field who you can seriously pour your thoughts to without thinking of your ego, and discuss what the profession offers in terms of happiness. If the joy is unattainable, and you know you will never attain it based on good reasoning, then you need to weigh your options, or suffer the reality.
    Finally, for the premeds out there who are just unsure:
    You are about to embark on a costly journey on many levels. It will take a mental toll, a financial toll, a social toll, and a physical toll. Do not think that you can make yourself immune to the trainings of a profession that warrants all these issues. Talk about them with the doctors you shadow. Evaluate your life, and ask yourself if you can take the journey. Don’t go into it because you are “gifted” or “smart.” Don’t go into it for the money. Don’t go into it because you have the stats. Don’t go into it because everyone wants you to. Don’t go into it because it will make you look good. Don’t go into it because it gives you prestige. Don’t go into it because you didn’t think of anything else to do with your life.
    Go into it because you need every aspect of it in order to be happy. Go into it because your life feeds on extreme mental challenge. Go into it because the feeling you get from studying the hell out of organic chemistry releases an extreme amount of endorphins. Go into it because you’re ok with that physics class taking over your life, and the pain and stress that other people talk about does not exist with you because you love to learn. What they call pain, you call feeding your lifestyle the joy and happiness it craves. Go into it because the medical world fascinates you. Go into it because you have wieghed your options well, and you know that medicine is the only thing that can satiate your hunger.

  53. abinazir

    April 5, 2011 @ 4:20 am

    53

    Great comment! Agree with very nearly everything that you say, except for one: “Go into it because your life feeds on extreme mental challenge.” Medicine ain’t exactly theoretical physics — it’s mostly glorified plumbing. The extreme mental challenge arises when you still have to make good decisions with 99% of your neurons shut down from sleep deprivation.

  54. Likes people to take responsibility for themselves

    April 19, 2011 @ 1:29 am

    54

    Re: #54 ambivalent

    You think “out-earning every guy you come across” (in the medical profession you don’t think “every guy” might comprise any number of male doctors??) is a reason not to go to medical school??

    What kind of dusty old patriarch are you? You may not like be out-earned by a woman, and that’s fair. But you’re sure as hell the only person who’d better fix this problem – by themselves. Don’t drag anyone but the party at fault into this – the prejudices you’ve inherited. And maybe ease up on exert social pressure to keep women out of medical school. Stop acting like sexist oppression is an a priori fact (read: the fault of those upon whom it is perpetrated) and take responsibility for your own antiquated assumptions.

    [snarky comment deleted]

  55. Nose Job Recovery

    April 25, 2011 @ 2:13 am

    55

    Thank you for posting an honest account of your experience in medical school. I’m an undergrad majoring in exercise science, and was preparing for a career in physical therapy until recently, when I discovered in my experience volunteering and learning about the field, I don’t really want to learn more. I also only have outpatient experience, which could be the reason why I feel this way. So I was considering other fields, including MD/DO, PA, or nurse anesthetist because the operating room interests me and I would like to assist in surgeries. Thank you for showing revealing the truth about the MD path. You hear about how rewarding a career it is, but no one shares the downsides. And there seems to be many downsides.

  56. wants to be a doctor

    May 4, 2011 @ 9:29 pm

    56

    This is a great blog, and timely for me, because I am very seriously considering medical school after having worked as a teacher. I have occasionally questioned whether I should really be a teacher. I KNOW for a fact that I would be a much better doctor than teacher. I love medicine and healthcare, and most of all, I love people. And, I know that there is nothing else, no other profession that would make me happy. I feel as though I have to do it. The problem? I’m in my early fifties, and although I am willing to make the time and financial commitment, I wonder now if it will be worth it, since I’ll likely be finishing when I’m in my sixties, obviously. But even with that, I know I’ll deeply regret it if I don’t pursue it.

  57. miis

    May 17, 2011 @ 12:24 am

    57

    thanks for the gleeful rant, ali. nicely written and good down-to-earth advice. and lightly humorous, to boot!

    personally, i grew up in a hospital and with docs in the family and i know i want to go into some kind of healthcare field, but i’m just not sold on which yet. i know that the devil on my shoulder wants that MD for the approval and prestige (and, yeah, the $$). we’ll see. but there’s also the pure little child in me that still goes starry eyed every time she sees a doctor because they were my heroes when i was little. and i think… well, i think we all need to grow up and become the hero we dreamed of, don’t we? on one hand, i wonder if i’ll actually like the work. i’m more into social sciences and working with people and motivating people than natural sciences and biology. but at the same time, i’m worried that if i don’t pursue medicine, i’ll never become my own hero.

    i’ll do my best to remember to report back here in a year or a few, once i’ve got things sorted out.

    @wants – dude, go for it. you know you want it. that’s fucking awesome that you want to pursue it in your 50s. i hope you kick ass in med school and love it all.

    @ambivalent – honestly i wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with a man who beats himself up over not making more money than me!

    @t – thank you for the counteropinion. it’s really inspiring.

    @pensive student – “Yeah med school sucks, then again a lot of other things suck too, it depends on the individual what factors add to their personal level of suckage, and how they deal with it.”

    haha exactly!

    @OP – “Medicine ain’t exactly theoretical physics — it’s mostly glorified plumbing.”

    @ambivalent – honestly i wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with a man who beats himself up over not making more money than me!

    @t – thank you for the counteropinion. it’s really inspiring.

  58. Kevin

    June 5, 2011 @ 12:32 am

    58

    This is what happens when you enter medicine for the wrong reasons. You start a blog to bitch and whine about how miserable your life is. Try growing up in a country where having a dream is not even feasible.

  59. Too Late « hope MD

    June 5, 2011 @ 10:00 am

    59

    [...] just read this blog entry entitled “Why You Should Not Go to Medical School: A Gleefully Biased Rant.” He brings up some interesting points, 10 reasons to not go and only one reason to [...]

  60. Ben

    June 20, 2011 @ 10:32 pm

    60

    Just finished my first year of med school, still love every minute of it. Yea I’ve come to realize that medicine isn’t exactly what I thought it would be. There are plenty of pitfalls but what job is perfect? I may still be the slightly naive optimist but I would encourage anyone reading this not to let it dissuade you from seriously considering the medical profession. Not all attendings are assholes, not all practicing physicians are jaded.

  61. Kurt from best muscle building program

    July 9, 2011 @ 9:24 pm

    61

    This is a good read. Hilarious. My girlfriend is a nurse and she wants to go into Medicine for the reason that–one of the points above–she starts disliking up-front care for patients. She still wants to be in the medical field though and she said being a doctor you see less of your patients than being a nurse. Better pass this blog for her to read.

  62. Dave

    August 25, 2011 @ 1:32 am

    62

    I’m a 4th year medical student applying for residency positions. I definitely would not reapply to medical school knowing what I do now. My limited free time is spent searching for ways to pay off my loan debt without pursuing a residency and clinical practice. If someone were to give me $196,000 today I would walk away and never look back.

  63. Florentino

    September 22, 2011 @ 2:56 am

    63

    Ali, what do you say about my friend? She wants to go to MD school and be a dermatologist because she had a skin disorder when she was a child. But we are both from the same cultural background and I know better, especially since her brother is a lawyer and her sister is an engineer. She did have the disease, but I think she was culturally and family influenced to take this career path. But I ask because of this. My friend, I don’t think, really has the personality to be a doctor. She has some serious psychological complexes stemming from both her skin disorder and her authoritarian family, and these issues give her a remarkable lack of empathy. She is hypersensitive to any sort of criticism or even perceived (such as if I talk to a friend for a moment and then bring conversation back to her, she gets angry visibly as if I rejected her) abandonment, but also very quick to judge and condemn other people, and also is very close-minded. She is also self-centered and can be extremely callous. Everything else is okay- she’s a better memorizer and studies hard, but her personality is absolutely not okay for someone who wants to be a doctor, maybe an accountant or lawyer, but not a doctor. I tried to tell her that dermatological researching is a great idea, and it can help people on a much larger scale. She hasn’t thought of other career options and her GPA is around mine like 3.3-3.4.

  64. geoff

    September 24, 2011 @ 12:39 am

    64

    I totally disagree. Finished medical school (Md/PhD) in 2003, residency/fellowship in 2008, and in practice in academia for 3 years now, and none of what he wrote is true, or at least, universally true. Medical school wasn’t that bad, I met my wife during that time, and had a lot of fun. Hours were bad periodically, but only on certain rotations, and I now have a job with regular hours, and I don’t have any debt. The secret? I’m a pathologist, and the federal government paid for medical school through the medical scientist training program (i.e. I got paid to go to medical school). The path to neurosurgery is similar to what he wrote, but all of medicine does not equal neurosurgery. There are plenty of routes through the training that don’t require one to kill one’s self, and it’s not fair to say so.

    And….I might have to amend one thing. He’s pretty close about the money thing. You are not payed nearly enough in academia for spending your 20s in school and working up. No one starves in medicine, but you may not get payed enough to save effectively for sending kids to college if you stay in academics. Private practice gets you several FOLD more money, not just a percentage more.

  65. Phillip

    September 24, 2011 @ 4:17 am

    65

    Just stumbled upon this gem.
    I’m an Australian doctor married to a doctor with an eldest daughter a doctor who was not persuaded by us to do something else.

    After raising and educating our 6 children while a perpetual renter in the big city (paid too little to save deposit and buy large enough house) we moved to a remote rural community and took sole charge of the health of 2 town, loads of farms surrounding and a little rural hospital all in the second poorest postcode area in our state. Only charge the fee set by the universal “insurer” Medicare Australia, no out-of-pocket expense to any patient.

    Ali Binazir has highlighted a lot of the downside of medical working conditions in the first world with intelligence and wit. He has flushed out some obnoxious people in the process as he knew he would and nothing anyone says to them will change their point of view so wisely stays silent.

    While society refuses to pay full fare for health care and expects other people to sacrifice wealth, health and relationships in ways only expected by kids of their parents, practitioners of medicine can justly echo his words. Make the lifestyle of the doctors humane and caring and there will be many more of them, they will make fewer mistakes and make few complaints.

    While people vote for tax cuts for themselves, higher wages for themselves and refuse their governments the power to subsidise the health care of the poor and disadvantaged then the moral fault lies with them I noticed with dismay and disgust the public outcry against your President just recently and he was thwarted in doing the best and fairest outcome

  66. burning out

    September 24, 2011 @ 6:01 am

    66

    Well said, funny but sadly true. i’m an MD nearly out of residency and it’s been tough living the reality of each of these truths. I did not choose medicine for the “[one good reason]” stated above.In my case, there were some hefty family obligations involved, the academic attainability of the position, encouragement of non-medical people around me, and the promise of a stable well-paying job (don’t judge).

    Here were some thoughts i had at the time that i now know were warning signs of future disgruntlement to come:
    “i should do it because it’s honorable helping people, contributing to the community, which are good things to do with your life, right?”
    “i like learning, and any knowledge learned is good”
    “it’s a job just like any other job, obviously you won’t love every part of it”

    If you find yourself abstracting/ idealizing the profession to justify going into it, don’t do it, for your own good. a few of the posters above seem to do this, ex. Victoria, pensive student, navid (maslow’s hierarchy, for real??). apologies if i’m completely off-base– hopefully everyone is happy with their decisions.

    When it comes down to it, it’s not about abstract ideals but instead being able to live with daily reality, which includes constant, high volume interaction with lots of people both pleasant and extremely unpleasant (do you enjoy customer service? a lot of it?), responsibilities where the consequence of a mistake is death or bodily harm, very high patient expectations, overtime as the rule, and lack of partition between your personal life and work.

    There’s no judgement upon your character if you don’t agree with living like this. i’d advise you to pick something else though, or risk being unhappy.

    It’s interesting how you can discern which commentators actually went through the training process from those who didn’t. I don’t think those who didn’t go through it have a place in characterizing those that tried and were dissatisfied as lazy or ungrateful. this article’s not about being unwilling to work.

  67. stefan

    September 24, 2011 @ 8:14 am

    67

    Most of the negatives listed in this article come from not having control over your practice. When you have a high school grad looking at your ‘productivity’ telling you what your overhead should be, how hard you need to work, etc. it is a fundamental disconnect. Dont think that by working as an employee physician you are liberated from the ‘business’ of medicine. The transactions of life cannot be adequately/fairly outsourced. Best to learn how manage your OWN time. If you must be an employee, you should write the contract that gives you the freedom you need. There is a reason that doctors used to have the day off Wednesdays-it was the only way to stay sane, to have a family and to maintain the relationships that are important.

  68. Jack Rabbit

    September 24, 2011 @ 12:06 pm

    68

    This was sad to read. Do what you love and take time to figure out what that is. There are lots of ways to make money. Fewer (but easier) ways to be happy.

  69. lukas

    September 24, 2011 @ 12:39 pm

    69

    hi ali,

    that’s been a great and honest post, although i only partially agree. i went through med school myself but never really practiced as a physician because of the aforementioned reasons.

    a friend of mine, who is a professor of cardiology, and I have started a blog, adressed to physicians looking for alternative careers and basically “how to hack medicine”.

    happy if you have look at http://www.medrcrunch.net

    best
    -L

  70. abinazir

    September 24, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

    70

    Geoff — There are lacunae in medicine that can make it a winning proposition. The six ‘NPC specialties’, as outlined by the Fat Man in Samuel Shem’s immortal classic The House of God (get it, like, now if you haven’t yet — second funniest book I’ve ever read) have a humane lifestyle with a decent income: pathology, dermatology, anesthesiology, ophthalmology, radiology and psychiatry. Combine that with an MSTP full-ride grant, and even though you’re extending your training by another 4-7 years — hey, who cares, it’s fun! For the record, I was offered an MSTP grant which I turned down ’cause I realized it wasn’t for me. Also, you may have noticed the title of the article was ‘a gleefully biased rant.’ Happy to deliver exactly what I promised.

  71. abinazir

    September 24, 2011 @ 1:52 pm

    71

    Florentino — Hate to break it to ya, but most doctors are more like her than Mother Theresa. And then the harshness of the training drums the compassion out of the kind folks anyway, so there’s no point fighting it. Most important is whether she’ll be a competent doc and exercise sound judgment. In the meantime, her reason for getting into medicine is terrible.There’s only one good reason, and self-absorption ain’t it.

  72. Alida

    September 24, 2011 @ 2:36 pm

    72

    I wrote a similar four-part series in August. For those of you from the outside looking in saying it’s merely privileged whining, or that the only reason he’s unhappy is because he went in for the wrong reasons, I’d encourage you to take a look at my piece on this, which is more thorough in some aspects, and uncovers a common intellectual trap that leads people to mistakenly go into medicine: “I can, so I should.”

    And to further clarify, I had hippies for parents who were actually *discouraging* me from going into medicine. Don’t be so quick to write-off Ali’s account.

    My series (“Why I Walked Away From a $250,000/Year Salary”): https://plus.google.com/103765013042311928518/posts/RHDEgaA4Yrs

    Hope it helps shed more light on this subject.

    Thanks for this, Alida! — AB

  73. John

    September 24, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

    73

    Having passed all of my pre-clinical exams at Cambridge, I decided for almost these exact same reasons that I didn’t want to continue down the career path. What’s nice to know is that I wasn’t alone in having these opinions – I felt like I was the only one for quite some time!

  74. David

    September 24, 2011 @ 6:42 pm

    74

    After four years of med school prep, I decided not to go and instead to engineer software. I stumbled on exactly the same revelations you’ve outlined and decided it wasn’t worth the effort. What’s your take on all this, having gone through the med school process: Will it change?

  75. Dr.Meeks

    September 24, 2011 @ 7:51 pm

    75

    Good article- enlightening for some. Many comments unfortunately true- but I would not change my profession- I enjoy my work so much. I work in pediatrics so do not have the terrible side of self-inflicted conditions like tobacco/obesity/lack of exercise (or should I say- not as much!).

    If this article turns you away from medicine- you probably should not go through it. I would do this job for half the pay.

  76. Miller

    September 24, 2011 @ 8:58 pm

    76

    Fer cryin’ out loud.

    When guys like me become old and infirm, we don’t see doctors anymore. We’re chronic with some damn thing or the other all the time and we’re shuffled into the room with Mrs. Perfect, PA, at every visit.

    She’s the doll face who has no idea who you are even though you are forced to go see her four times a year for the plenitude of meds she’d prescribed for you in addition to the blood tests that seem to be a very, very important secret (as in NSA breed of secret) because you just might go to WebMD to see how normal or abnormal you might be just because you think one’s own opinion ought to count as a 2nd in the presence of information. (And I know that just irritates the hell out you, doesn’t it?)

    I never saw the inside of a hospital room until I was 50. Did I get any appreciation for that? Hell, no. I was treated that same as any LOL might be, though my plumbing was never so complicated down there as her’s might be. I can’t get a medical professional to even look me in the eye. They all act like my file is the heaviest damn thing on the face of the planet and that the words, “Tsk, tsk, tsk” can be found in a chapter by themselves in most med school texts.

    So, doc, stop your pissing and moaning unless there is some sort of biological reason behind it. I don’t want to be in your office or ER any more than you don’t want me to be there. Absolutely some of my illness is self-inflicted. Be a grown up and haul my ashes over it then shake my hand and tell me you’ll see me next time. That’s what professionals do. They tell people things they’d prefer not to hear.

  77. Pete Flick

    September 25, 2011 @ 1:56 am

    77

    Indeed, THE HOUSE OF GOD – like no other book – tells the true horrors that must be suffered in the journey from civilian to physician. At one point while on the verge of a breakdown, our protagonist proclaims, “They are trying to kill me!” The inevitable and constant medical complications that can happen at any moment without warning and completely take over your life for untold hours to come: spike a fever, throw a blood cut, infect a medport, fall and break a hip or bang out a subdural hematoma. It does REALLY & TRULY feel like you are under assault by your patients, that little by little your patients are trying to destroy you.

    But to go back to an earlier point, a very REAL fact about what happens to you when you put on that white coat the first day of medical school. At the ceremony of the hippocratic oath, a senior physician warned us that we were entering a new community and that over time the same experiences that would bind us to our colleagues would begin to alienate us from our old communities – friends, families, lovers, etc. Of course, I dismissed this as hyperbole even as I enjoyed the romantic fantasies of radical transformation it evoked. And yet one day years later I woke up to the sudden realization – IT WAS ALL TRUE!

    Dr. Binazir’s point that the doctors-in-training would gradualy lose all of their friends from before medical school is no exaggeration or metaphor. One-by-one, little by little, those tight bonds begin to loosen. Phone calls, letters, emails get slow or no responses. Invitations are repeatedly declined due to a test (in 2 weeks…) and like the phone calls gradually diminish. They KNOW they are not going to reach you on the phone, they KNOW you are not going to be available to have a drink or go to a party and that when you do make it you are only half there either because you are exhausted or too preoccupied with classes or patients. It stops. Not out of any vindictiveness or anger or punishment but rather out of resignation and acceptance. It stops occurring to them to call or to invite you along. You have stopped being relevant. Your relationship has become something from the past…a fossil…because it stopped growing, it shrank and became ossified.

    Medicine takes over your life, your body, mind and spirit. All of those interests, passions, hobbies, dreams of your youth..they get pushed aside, placed on the shelf…waiting for things to calm down or some semblance of a life to come back to you. There will be moments of longing, pangs of regret, belief in a future that will be different. But Medicine never, ever stops. You have given up for good the possibility of not being responsible, too many people depend on you to ever feel free. And those dreams, those other parts of yourself that were so valuable and so deeply valued, they grow old and brittle and rusted by neglect. Only the strongest and most disciplined among us can ever achieve that holy grail of balance.

    You cannot possibly comprehend beforehand what Medicine is going to do to you. You will never ever be the same again. You gain this incredible power & priviledg

  78. Pete Flick

    September 25, 2011 @ 2:07 am

    78

    (cont’d) You gain this power and privilege, you gain the deep satisfaction of meaningful work and a life’s purpose, but you LOSE so much of yourself, you are left as a kind of half person rattling around inside this ROLE, this FUNCTION for others. I can’t imagine giving it up or giving up having the journey of becoming a doctor, but I also feel that I have been damaged by it, by medicine, medical school, residency, daily medical practice, etc. Perhaps beyond repair.

  79. Phindi

    September 25, 2011 @ 10:33 am

    79

    I hear you, and yet here I still am doing what I have come to loath. Why? Well what else can I do now
    Ive already invested so much in this
    My brain is fried from med school, I cannot even spell anymore
    Wow cant believe now that I was so disillusioned.

  80. DU

    September 25, 2011 @ 11:37 am

    80

    I totally agree with your evaluation of medical school experience. I feel that it completely raped my soul, to the point that I have lost who I was. Since then, I have recovered, as my residency was great and now that I am working, I am my own boss and can decide how much or little I want to work. The quarter million dollar student debt does suck, but I am slowly paying it off.
    Prior to going into medical school, I was a teacher and found that job much more difficult than being a doctor. It wasn’t the teaching, but the bureaucracy was deadly. Now as a family doctor, I have control over my time and work, because I am my own boss. I also have the ability to change my job over time, if I feel I am getting bored. Right now, I deliver babies, follow my own inpatients in the hospital (I live in a small city where family doctors have admitting privileges in hospitals), do surgical assists. If I feel I need a new challenge, I can get additional training in palliative care, GP oncology, geriatrics, or anything else that is required in my community and challenge myself that way. It is a fabulous job! Yes, medical school sucks, but in hindsight, it was worth it for me.

  81. Denis

    September 25, 2011 @ 12:08 pm

    81

    dropped out of medical school 1 month ago for these exact same reasons! finished my first year with an average GPA of 3.0 (B). Was doing well except of course for ALL the aforementioned reasons. Well done and i congratulate anyone who has went through a similar experience. I think most people going into medicine are really quite naive. Social standards of ” Oh shit hes a doctor” are much to greater than realistic life. Its not all its cut out to be. Now im 47k in debt but i got out in time…What am i doing now? going for nurse practitioner.. NP’s are the future of medicine. Not much malpractice, insurance pays more percentage of procedures and about 100% the same scope of practice as a family medicine doc. Dont be fooled, find out what youre going for before you make this life changing decision– ITS NOT WORTH IT.

  82. Luigi

    September 25, 2011 @ 1:36 pm

    82

    fourth year med student here to offer some counter arguments to each of the points mentioned above:

    1) You will lose all the friends you had before medicine:
    I agree that you will loose many of your “acquaintances” before medicine, but not your “friends.” If anything my journey through med school has allowed me to strengthen my true friendships by sharing my stories, hard times, good times, interesting cases, etc. etc. with friends and I now have a better grip on who my true friends before med school were….and they are still plenty. not to mention, you do develop some great friendships during medschool itself, just like any people who go through a challenging time together.

    2) You will have difficulty sustaining a relationship and will
    probably break up with or divorce your current significant other during training:
    this I absolutely agree with, though for me it is not necessarily a bad thing.I enjoy short term relationships and find girls my age (mid twenties) play with their hair every time they hear I’m in medschool. to each their own I guess.

    3) You will spend the best years of your life as a sleep-deprived, underpaid slave: you will be sleep deprived, and you will be underpaid. but money really does not sum up what “payment” means. there’s something to be said for that feeling you get when you intubate someone and have take over their respiratory system, there’s something to be said for being elbow deep in someone’s abdomen during a trauma case, there’s something to be said for being the first person in the world to touch a baby, and while all these can def get old after a while, I’d prefer these rewards over a 20000 bonus any day. b/c lets face it, you’re never going to be hungry, you’ll definitely have a middle to upper middle class lifestyle, and your job security is second to none.
    oh and don’t forget, when you walk in to the hospital cafeteria at 5:30 a.m before rounds to get your coffee/tea, there’s someone on the other side of the counter also there at that god forsaken early hour, except they’re making 7.25/hr and everyone looks right through them.

  83. Luigi

    September 25, 2011 @ 1:47 pm

    83

    4) You will get yourself a job of dubious remuneration:
    if money is #1 or #2 or your list of life goals, then I agree……do not go in to medicine.
    remember, even if you make seven digits in medicine and buy that mansion, your neighbor down the road will be in the same neighborhood, his/her kids will go to the same school as your kids, except he/she owns 4 gas stations and 3 pizza places……I’m Iranian, my people are the prototype of the above millionaire.

    5) You will have a job of exceptionally high liability exposure.
    I do not practice and am not really qualified to talk about this, but I will say that these days as more and more docs work for HMOs or academic centers, your malpractice is covered by the organization, but again I don’t know much about this issue. not a deal maker or breaker to me anyway.

    6) You will endanger your health and long-term well-being:
    some of the most athletic ppl I’ve met in my life have been in medschool. about 20 ppl in my class run marathons, the rest regularly work out. I myself have lost weight since starting school (admittingly b/c of a lack of time to eat, but that’s ok, as humans we were not meant to eat this much anyway). to argue that not having time to eat is frustrating and decreases your quality of life is one thing, but to say it actually makes your unhealthy is another. although one can’t deny the sleep deprivation and its effects on the immune system.

    7) You will not have time to care for patients as well as you want to:
    for most fields in medicine this rings true. though fields like pathology, radiology, anesthesiology, derm, and a few others do fine.
    if you can’t take care of patients as well as you want to, I think to some extent you have to change your expectations. just because one enters med school with the naive view that one can save everyone and listen to them fully, doesn’t mean you have to keep this view. time is limited for everyone, you divide it best you can, and as long as there’s no regrets it’s all good to me.

  84. Luigi

    September 25, 2011 @ 1:52 pm

    84

    8) You will start to dislike patients — and by extension, people in general: this I have felt. though after a while I mostly feel sorry for them. regardless, if you are able to have a fulfilling life outside the hospital I think all this becomes more bearable. when I know I have to go home and masturbate instead of having sex, then yeah I get frustrated more easily. but though medicine I’ve actually become much more comfortable talking to people, reading their body language, and articulating my points.

    9) People who do not even know you will start to dislike you:
    end of they day they need you and they know it. they wouldn’t come to your office/hospital if it was otherwise.

    10) You’re not helping people nearly as much as you think:
    I’m no messiah, and I don’t think any of you are either. I’m also no beauty queen. you do what you can. don’t take yourself so seriously and think you have to save the world. people are free to f-up their bodies and minds if they want to.

    anyway, I’m mostly posting this in case any pre-meds are reading the blog just so they can read another perspective.

  85. Mark Fitzgerald, Architect | LEED AP

    September 25, 2011 @ 10:38 pm

    85

    OH HOW I FEEL YOUR PAIN! Just substitute the words, “Licensed Architect” wherever you find the words, “Doctor,” “Physician,” or “medical personnel” and you will feel my pain for having to endure a similar trial by fire just in order for me to design a building. And for all the training and hours of schooling that I have had to take so I can call myself an “Architect,” I now have to fight off the intrusion of non-licensed workers whenever I am searching for employment because there are IT workers out there who call themselves “Network Architects” or “Java Architects” or “Enterprise Architects” etc., etc., etc. In some State, I cannot even call myself an “Architect” if I am not licensed to practive architecture in that State. OH THE INHUMANITY OF IT ALL!

  86. Yeah Right

    September 26, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

    86

    “I am a diagnostic radiologist. Med school was tough but it was not the end of the world. i had fun in med school with a positive attitude. got laid all the time, made great friends, My attitude is what helped me be successful in my goals. Now i make around $440,000 a year, take a lot of vacations, malpractice is a pain but its not terrible. My only regret is being away from family for so long. other than that, i am straight doing it right now.”

    Got laid all the time? Whatever!

  87. cowtowncoder

    September 26, 2011 @ 4:07 pm

    87

    One thing I would like to add (which is sort of mentioned in another comment) is that one big health hazard is suicide: doctors have very high suicide rates not just in US (my father is an MD in another country, we have discussed this a few times).
    Base rate of attempts is bad enough in itself, but unfortunately doctors are also very able (due to training etc) to “succeed” in attempts.

  88. DON'T TAKE SAID ADVICE

    September 26, 2011 @ 10:21 pm

    88

    Why would anyone take advice from someone about being a physician when they are not a physician?

    I studied engineering before going to medical school, but it would be absurd for me to tell people why they shouldn’t become an engineer. It was just a degree.

    That’s all the author has — just a degree. If you haven’t dedicated your life to working as a physician then you shouldn’t being giving out advice.

    This article is entertaining, but please don’t let it dissuade you from becoming a physician if that’s your goal. Talk to physicians who actually practice medicine, shadow them, volunteer at local community clinics.

    It’s a very challenging field but has many rewards.

  89. Luigi

    September 27, 2011 @ 9:15 am

    89

    Dennis, going into medicine is not naive. going into medicine to acheive certain “social starndards” is, but if you go in it for the right reasons not only are you not naive, but in fact you will experience an aspect of the human condition that will humble you and familiarize you with the reality of what life for a large population is like.
    NPs are, too be quite frank, a joke my friend. I have seen the most ridiculous mistakes made by midlevels. don’t get me wrong, mid levels definitly have a role to play in healthcare, but their level of knowledge is extremeley limited, and their work ethic (Which is a huge part of being a successful, observant, dedicated physician) is extremeley poor. I have “pimped” NPs and CRNAs under the disguise of “I’m just a med student, I don’t know how X and X work, can you explain it to me?” and I have gotten the most BS responses. I know their answers were BS because I actuall did know how X and X work, but just wanted to get a grasp of their knowledge.
    go to NP school if you like it man, go to NP school if that is your passion and that is where you see yourself. do not got to NP school because you couldn’t handle the rough and tough of med school. this will only leave you with a sore spot later in life.

  90. Informatica

    October 1, 2011 @ 11:34 am

    90

    I landed here via Hacker News. I was surprised to reach the end of the text! I can’t believe I read all the comments too!

  91. Another Opinion

    October 1, 2011 @ 11:41 am

    91

    The decision to pursue medicine, like all important decisions, is a personal one. The author enumerates many of the well-known and thoroughly-discussed arguments against pursuing an MD. The opportunity cost of pre-medical training, 4 years of medical school, 3-7+ years of residency and/or fellowship, are obviously large. Too large for him. Other individuals who choose this path find the benefits of treating and comforting the sick, of obtaining their trust and rarely, of curing illness are much greater than what he grants. My experience has been different. I am four years into an neurosurgery residency with 3 left (and possibly a year or two of fellowship thereafter). However, although there are drawbacks and downsides, I enjoy my job. It is challenging, rewarding and unique. Occasionally, I can make a profound difference in someone’s life. For me, the chance to write a best-selling dating book in lieu of this does not engender regret. Each individual must decide for himself.

  92. Ali B

    October 1, 2011 @ 12:45 pm

    92

    Great perspective, Daniel! Right on point. Thanks for sharing.

  93. Leslie

    October 2, 2011 @ 11:18 pm

    93

    Thanks for this post. I was in my 4th year of surgical residency when my body just gave out. I had already been turned into a horrid wench by years and years of abuse and exhaustion. I was suicidal at the time, just hadn’t had the courage to go through with the act of killing myself quite yet. While at the time I was devastated–I’d wanted to be a doctor since I was a little girl–I am now so very very grateful.

    Interestingly, I had dinner with a former fellow resident a few months ago. She was taking her oral boards, had been practicing in a rural community for a year, had a house, etc. I was floored when she said that she was jealous of me. She already feels trapped and miserable but sees no way out.

    I have since switched my practice to acupuncture and medicinal herbs (with a little primary care here and there). My income is no where near what it would be as a surgeon, but I have my life back. I am not angry at the world anymore. I am a whole person again. I am grateful that I sustained the injuries that drove me out of surgical residency. I don’t hate people anymore and can take my time in CAM that I NEVER could in medical school or residency.

    Although I agree with the comments above that knowledge is never wasted and that there are wonderful reasons to go into medicine, I have to say I wouldn’t wish the things that happened to me on any other human being. It was a cruel, cruel process and slowly bludgeons every ounce of humanity out of you. If you are considering applying to medical school, please consider very very carefully and weigh the risks because the benefits are not, in my opinion, worth the costs.

  94. Ali B

    October 3, 2011 @ 12:54 pm

    94

    Finally, the voice of reason. I don’t bring up the abject humiliation that you must endure working at the bottom of a hierarchy of sleep-deprived misanthropes, but there it is. I now do hypnotherapy, where I have a full hour (or more) to spend with every client each session. Healing is effected through the human bond between healer and patient, and much of medicine nowadays seems to believe that it can bypass that and still cure people.

  95. EK

    October 3, 2011 @ 1:53 pm

    95

    Interesting rant and comments. Obviously there is some truth to the blog or it wouldn’t have hit such a nerve. There are good and bad with medicine, as in all professions. However, there are a couple of things that make medicine a bit different from most. Besides the obvious, dealing with patients and sometimes life/death issues, there is the long time-frame and hours required for training, with relatively little pay. The cost of medicial school, as well, limits the pool to hard-working but entitled students, or to less affluent folks who then are more or less forced to go into medicine, whether they like it or not. It is not unusual to come out of 7-12 years of training with a negative worth of minus 6 figures, which, by the way, is not forgivable by bankruptcy.
    I have some issue with the posts by the “pathetic” crowd above. Yes, many medical students and applicants are whiny and self-entitled, but that doesn’t mean that one can’t complain about the medical school system; otherwise it will never change. I’m sure there is a ‘gulag’ blog spot and one for political prisoners, investment bankers, etc. This blog happens to be about medicine. The oldest canard in the book is that one shouldn’t complain about things because there are people worse off than yourself, a common tactic used by oligarchies (such as the US, and yes, Cuba) to instill class complacency.

  96. Dr. Kim

    October 4, 2011 @ 8:38 pm

    96

    There’s no such thing as having it all. Everyone makes sacrifices, and you just have to pick which ones are worth making. I actually started out in the pharmaceutical industry, and otherwise probably would not have gone to medical school. It just wasn’t enough. But if I hadn’t, I would probably be a VP by now, and miserable.

    Med school was a great time, and I miss those friends terribly. Almost as much as my college friends. Most friendships do fade, and you can’t make those reunions like you want to. But you pick those one or two special ones and dedicate your energy to those. Here’s the thing… that happens to everyone as we get sucked into “real life”. You think that Mr. IBanker at Goldman working 70 hours a week with two kids, wife, and house in the Hamptons is out partying it up with his college buddies? Theres’ no such thing as having it all.

    Residency was the second best time of my life. Nothing beats college. Ever. But those people mean more to me than almost anyone outside of my family. Because we became family. We helped each other through everything – dying patients, unruly attendings, OR mishaps, 15 gunshots in one night. And we laughed together like I never thought possible. Residency graduation was the hardest thing ever.

    I had a child in the middle of surgical residency. The timing was as right as I thought it could be. But he was four when I graduated, and I’m not quite sure how that happened. I hope I haven’t caused too much damage. But now, in breast fellowship, I’m doing my best to make it up to him. It’s been a long, exhausting road, but my life is actually getting back to “normal” now. I think he’s in shock that I’m home every night and we have breakfast together most mornings. He’s getting to know his mommy again.

    We all have pain, medicine or not. You can’t have it all. But I’m well on the way to getting most of it back.

  97. JR

    October 5, 2011 @ 12:33 am

    97

    I’m so glad you wrote this. I just finished residency a little over a year ago. I do love my life now, but I don’t practice traditional hours. I work a couple of part time jobs so that I finally can have a life again. I’ve tried to dissuade so many potential pre-med students from going that route with no success. They believe “it’ll be different for me”. Heck, I believed that for the first year. They all come back later and tell me they should have listened. But hindsight is 20/20.

    While I love my life now, I still say and firmly believe that if I were just finishing college and could do it over, I wouldn’t do it. The only reason to do it is as stated… it is your life goal and you can’t imagine doing anything else. Those are the only people who don’t seem bothered by the rest of the crap. Because it is all they want to do with their life. Everybody else, find something else. Life is too short (something you learn in medicine if you didn’t already know it).

  98. A surgeon

    October 5, 2011 @ 6:22 pm

    98

    Bang on.

    The key point being one should not go into medicine except if there is no other possible thing in life that would provide you the satisfaction you would get doing this job. To do that you will sacrifice the best years or your life, your health, your family, and friends. To an extent you would not fathom before hand, and that no one else except those that have been thru it might understand.

    The other points though are ALL valid.

    I did 9 years of training including general surgery and fellowship training. Most of that was prior to certain work hour changes. Mostly working 80-130 hours a week. Missing all holidays.

    The relationships you had with friends……gone….you only come in contact with folks from work.

    I can count the times I have seen members of my family over that period on one hand.

    I have 300k in debt don’t own a house, have a very old car, and no retirement savings.post training I make barely enough to pay for the loans that I have.

    That being said in my field I see the direct result of the acts that I do. I can physically make a difference in someones life. I practice trauma surgery and critical care medicine…..and without the direct intervention of myself or my colleauges the majority of my patients would have died or have been crippled for life.

    I have an MBA in finance….and most of my business school classmates will retire before I make a slight dent in my educational loans. To each his own.

  99. Ryan Darius Partovi

    October 6, 2011 @ 8:31 pm

    99

    I’m honestly surprised that I’m the first to mention this, but here goes! Toward the end of my second year of med school, I came to many of the same realizations that you have in your post. OK, to be honest, I realized them before I started, but I had the illusion that once I got in, I could change the system for the better from within. Fat chance of that! What I realized after those 2 years was that no only was there considerable inertia against any positive change in the system, the momentum behind so many of the negative realities that you and everyone else has detailed is far too great. The system as it stands currently can’t last. Fundamental changes are needed, but from where can they come when to change the system would destroy so many of the vested interests of that system?

    So, I started looking for another way, and I found it in naturopathic medical school. “NaturoWHAT medical school?!” you might ask. Naturopathic medicine is a school of medicine that is focused on guiding patients toward optimum health, not simply the absence of disease. Health is defined as “freedom from limitations.” We are only as healthy as the environment in which we live: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. It is our job as physicians to assist individuals in removing the limitations from their health. We are health coaches, mentors, and guides on each person’s journey to optimizing health.

    The naturopathic practice of medicine is based on six key principles:

    1. Promote the healing power of nature.
    2. First, do no harm. We choose therapies with the intent to keep harmful side effects to a minimum and not to suppress symptoms.
    3. Treat the whole person. We recognize that a person’s health is affected by many different types of factors, including physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, and social; and we consider all of these factors when choosing therapies and tailor treatment to each patient.
    4. Treat the cause. We always seek to identify and treat the causes of a disease or condition, rather than its symptoms. We believe that symptoms are signs that the body is trying to fight disease, adapt to it, or recover from it.
    5. Prevention is the best cure. We teach ways of living that have been shown to be most healthy and most likely to prevent illness.
    6. The physician is a teacher. We consider it important to educate our patients in taking responsibility for their own health.

    Just as important as having all of these principles though (which I’m sure most of you share), we believe in the importance of getting the education and taking the time with patients that’s needed to adhere to them. In the realm of education, there are currently 7 accredited naturopathic medical programs in North America, with a new campus opening up next fall in San Diego. For more information, I would encourage you to check out the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges at http://www.aanmc.org/ and keep the faith! Change is coming, and it is possible to be the kind of physician that you’d always imagined that you could be. I’m living proof! :-)

  100. Ali B

    October 7, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

    100

    “Breast fellowship”? Maybe I miscalculated after all.

  101. The emergency department is my favorite place in the world. | Because the World is Round…

    October 11, 2011 @ 1:32 am

    101

    [...] last week a link was passed around my medical school class on Facebook entitled “Why You Should Not Go To Medical School” written by a guy who graduated from medical school, evidently decided medicine wasn’t [...]

  102. young medical student

    October 11, 2011 @ 7:01 am

    102

    as the title suggests, this IS a biased rant.

    i guess i am lucky to be studying an undergraduate med degree in my country. countries that adopt the graduate med system probably want students to have very strong foundations first, and probably think that older students will have the capacity as well as maturity for med sch. well, that’s the country’s view i guess.

    knowing WHY u wanna be a doctor is very important because that will sustain u throughout your entire med journey. medical expertise and help is needed in MANY PARTS of the world, including ur own country.

    i guess those that get discouraged by this post are really those people who were sitting on the fence about doing med, and you really may be better off doing something else. however, once u do med, u really shouldn’t be thinking of all these UNLESS u really are sure med isn’t what you’d like to do with your life.

    i’m only year 1 in my undergrad med course, and my clinical sessions with my pediatrician tutor has already inspired me so much.

    in med, there really is a lot of TEAMWORK involved. you are never alone. so no matter who it is in your team at any point in time, you will have people who stick around you. i really think this social problem/separation/wreckage of relationships is soo exaggerated. you really need one another so much in the medical profession, so how will this fragment you from your colleagues? (unless there’re politics, but that’s a different story i guess)

    i guess choosing med means one is already prepared to step out of his/her comfort zones… med is really an adventure… a roller-coaster ride… we are learning new things, experiencing new things, gaining new insights/perspectives everyday. it really is a very rewarding journey if one is willing to take the paths less taken instead of staying in the comforts of one’s own home(country/city etc).

    learn medicine with the big picture and big objective in mind.

    do keep in mind this blog post is really a biased rant.

  103. Ali B

    October 11, 2011 @ 3:06 pm

    103

    Dear Young Medical Student — if you are doing your degree in a country where you don’t have do pre-med as an undergrad first (and accumulate $100k-$200k of debt) and then pay for medical school (another $100-$300k of debt), then the article does not really apply to you, and your experience of free medical education does not apply to Americans. Also, if you’re a first year, you don’t quite know what you’re getting yourself into yet. I rather enjoyed my first two years of med school, and it wasn’t representative of the rest of the experience. Come back here in 3-4 years, like some of the other commenters on this blog post have, and then let us know what you think.

  104. Independant obsever with many medic friends before they dumped me for their job

    October 14, 2011 @ 12:44 pm

    104

    Ali B, the only “front-line” medical profession I would ever recommend is GP or PCP (for US citizens). Hours are good, hourly rate is great. But every medic going through the system I talk to claims it is boring.

  105. mind

    October 15, 2011 @ 4:30 am

    105

    I think this article really helped me put things into perspective. I know I can get into medical school, probably graduate, and hopefully do a decent job as a doctor, but I don’t think I would enjoy it as much as being an engineer, or a teacher, or a start-up entrepreneur, or starting a non-profit. I had been trying to convince myself that I would enjoy it, trying to look past all the negative things. As a premed student, no one really ever tells you the things they don’t like about being a doctor. Everyone just seems to talk about how fabulous it is, saving lives, being the first person to hold a human, etc. All the die-hard premeds also seem to be so sure of themselves, but i’m glad, well not glad, but somehow comforted in knowing that people can, and do, sometimes regret their decision to become doctors. Everyone seems so sure of it, but I don’t know if I would ever be at that same level. I could do it, but I think I’d be just as happy, if not happier, and perhaps better at doing a few other things. Also, if all I needed was this post to be the last nail in that coffin, I probably wasn’t going to gain any satisfaction from a medical career anyway.

    Thanks for the original post, and all the comments. I read all of them, and they have been 10x more helpful/insightful/honest than any other premed b.s. i’ve been subject to these past few year.

  106. Gabrielle

    October 17, 2011 @ 6:46 am

    106

    I was a medical student back in the UK (went to high school in the US), and I agree with the original post completely. I must say to the “Young medical student” that (s)he is still a happy, dreamy fellow who hasn’t seen what I’ve seen.

    I decided that I wanted to become a doctor when I was three. I am twenty-two now. For 15 long years, all I did was toil for med school. I forewent prom, graduation, school dances, all those “fun things” people do in high school… just for medical school. And I got in. Yey for me.

    Then med school started.

    Mind you, I wanted to go into research. Still do. Medicine – as a scholarly endeavour – is fascinating. But unfortunately, people just don’t see the truth until they’re knee-deep in the mire called medical school, and by that time, you’ve invested too much of your life, money, energy, and your entire being to run away.

    What was so depressing is this: I wasn’t even helping people. In fact, most of the time people died anyway. I saw three patients die during one year, and what was even more terrifying, I stopped feeling anything. My grandmother passed away a few days ago, and while I had only met her when I was a toddler, my first reaction to being awoken and hearing the news was, “aw dang it, couldn’t you leave me alone?! I was going to sleep in”. People ceased to look like people; pain was just another symptom that needed to be examined. I could not be there when my boyfriend had a mental breakdown and attempted suicide; I was far too tired, far too worn out. Knowing that my cadaver had a son, a wife, and grandchildren, we mercilessly tore him apart without much feeling, shredded him into bits to the point that he was indistinguishable from the hunk of beef sitting in a fridge.

    Teamwork? What teamwork? At my medical school people were so cut-throat they’d rip out pages of textbooks so others could not use them (and since our medical school gave you a list of “suggested textbooks” that was over 40 textbooks, no way was I buying them all).. Attendings use nurses like toilet paper (from what I’ve seen), nurses treat interns like carpet and medical students are just pesky nuisances. Teamwork does not imply being with someone; it just implies you do the best you can do, or otherwise you’ll have someone else VERY pissed at you for having to wipe after your mess. You think the assistant surgeon is “there to help” the main surgeon? No! The assistant is too busy minding his own job to care about anything else. Everybody’s walking a tightrope.

    So don’t write about “being there” and all that twinkle-eyed hoopla, please. I was there for three years, and by the end of it, my hair (naturally raven) had turned auburn from just not sleeping or eating. My weight had yo-yoed between dramatically underweight and regular weight. My ulcer worsened, my migraine came in waves everyday, I became photosensitive and my depression worsened. I was on a cocktail of pills. Caffeine no longer worked and I was seriously considering adderall. My boyfriend (bless him for all his patience) could just watch me spiral down into a chaotic mess. Half my friends hated me (I either didn’t have any time, or when they complained of any pain I just didn’t feel for them), half my friends pitied me. I was broke (those books are expensive). I was stressed, and that showed – clearly – in my attitude. I kept getting sick. My menstrual cycle stopped. My brain felt as if it was full of unconnected factoids about medicine (which is an indictment to British medical education. Pressure DOES NOT move, and giving me a list of “what to do when diabetes hits you” won’t help me if I get a patient with an MI AND diabetes). I read and read, and nothing seemed to make sense anymore. I guessed on my exams on histology and I aced it. I studied my rear end off for biochemistry and I barely passed. Nothing seemed to make any sense.

    I am now an undergraduate at an American university, studying Physics. I am reapplying to medical school, not because I want to, but I have realised that I am not a full person unless I have those two letters after my name, a license to practise, and consigning myself to torture for the rest of my life (At least I am trying to do research, not practise!). I learn better, study better, in an orchestra; if I could change my path, I would, but I do not want to live the rest of my life seeing people in white coats and thinking “I could have been one of them”.

    Medicine is not a career that “makes people survive”. It is a career in which you will see most people die (compared to any other career). I don’t know anyone who said, “I care about my patients, each and every one of them”. I have seen many say, “they’re starting to look like bags of excrement and organs”. I hate people in general; how can I, when I took pains to explain EXACTLY how to take the pills, then the patient comes back three days later, evidently not having listened to what I’ve said then screeching at me (yes, this happened in my third year. She broke my last straw)?! My health advisor told me that perhaps “I shouldn’t consider a career in medicine if you don’t like people”; unfortunately he’s a biologist, and he was never exposed to The House of God/Mount Misery type of situation.

    So here are my two cents: if you are dreamy-eyed and thinking of “helping people” and saving starving children in Africa and all that, then don’t do this. You will probably see more children die than anyone else you know, and by the end of it you won’t even feel anything. The people you are trying to help will hate you and will probably try to sue you for some nonsense. You’d be lucky to see your child once a day and your spouse will find someone who cares and leave (happened to my high school friend’s parents).

    If you are indeed like House, and can do NOTHING but practise medicine (I mean, he’s a mess. No social life, no social skills, no personal life, no family, no happiness), then become a doctor. There is nothing else you can do. If you’re in your twenties and spent more than half your life on this career path, you might as well as go with it and see it through because otherwise half your life would have meant nothing career-wise.

    What of me? I am slowly recovering. I am still subject to hysterical outbursts, violent mood swings, insomnia, DSPS. Thankfully my boyfriend seems happy being left alone (he’s in a rigorous physics graduate program), and just as medicine is my first priority physics is his, so we suit each other well. My parents have been the most supportive; they scolded me, encouraged me, told me to live when I left med school (suicide attempt #3 and #4). I can laugh now, enjoy classes.

    I remember on my white coat ceremony, the person who gave me the white coat and a pager jokingly told us that God gives all the doctors and doctors-to-be pagers and when the pagers break, we die. We all laughed then. I cannot laugh now.

    Want an insight to what it’s like to be in med school? Try reading “Ah, yes, medical school”. This was a blog written by a Geffen med school students a few years ago. He writes humorously, but what he says is the same as what a lot of people said here: medicine is not a career. It becomes your life.

    Do you want your job as your life?

  107. Ali B

    October 17, 2011 @ 3:56 pm

    107

    I am speechless. A brilliant cry out of the dark. Thanks for your contribution. The bit about the dehumanization of patients is particularly a propos and poignant.

  108. MK

    October 19, 2011 @ 4:57 pm

    108

    I thought the original blog post was perfect – it absolutely captured everything I’ve ever thought about medicine over the past few years. This is certainly not what I thought it would be like to be a doctor. But unfortunately I’m one of those people that could never see myself doing anything else.

    I have to respond to Gabrielle’s enormously bitter comments. Sorry, but for Gabrielle to go back to medical school sounds like a horrible idea (suicide attempts and you want to go back? Seriously?). I’m more jaded than most of my peers (having been snookered into the MD/PhD Bad Deal), but I have never felt what she describes. I’ve worked the 80 hour work weeks, I’ve treated the starving babies in Africa, and I’ve watched them die like flies. I have times where I hate my life and I hate my patients, but I have never stopped caring.

    Medicine is for sure not for everyone. I’m not 100% certain it’s for me either, but it most definitely is not for people like Gabrielle.

  109. Ali B

    October 19, 2011 @ 5:29 pm

    109

    Thanks for your cogent contribution, MK! Good to hear from the MD/PhDs too every once in a while, since their path, with more training but less debt (none, actually — the MSTP grant gives them a stipend), is a little different from the norm.

  110. Dolphin

    October 23, 2011 @ 8:34 pm

    110

    If only the system could take better care of those who set out to care for others. That would be a true success in health care.

  111. Jeff

    October 25, 2011 @ 1:45 am

    111

    I am currently a senior at a university and have been see-sawing for years on whether or not to go to medical school, or stick with my Finance degree and move up the ranks in pharma. Shadowing in a hospital 60 hours a week for 8 weeks was pretty great, but the educational path required to get there, not quite. I went through this list and cried a few times, and I think I have my choice now. Cheers!

  112. Baffled Pre-Med

    October 25, 2011 @ 2:58 am

    112

    Dr. Ali,
    This was enlightening, entertaining, and somewhat eye-opening. I’ve been trying to reason through all of the negative side effects of getting to the title of “doctor”, all as a means to an end, but like you said, there are so many other ways to be able to “help” others. Thanks for your article, I look forward to reading more!

  113. Luigi

    October 27, 2011 @ 7:58 am

    113

    To all the premeds reading this, please do NOT get jaded by the original post and some/most of the comments that followed it.
    PLEASE read my post on sept 25 that tries to shed some light on the flip side of each of the 10 points mentioned.

    Medicine is definitely not for everyone, but it is one of, if not the, most unique path you can choose in your life. you will learn things about yourself you never knew before, this includes strengths and weaknesses.

    I’ll try to touch briefly on the points brought up by Gabrielle here too:
    -disclosure, Gabrielle I am truly sorry you had to go through all those difficult experiences, and nothing I say in this post is meant to be personal in any way. Again, I do this only for the premeds who are reading this so they can make the right decision in their life.

    1) if anyone knows they want to be a doctor from the age of 3 there’s something wrong with their thought process TO BEGIN WITH. you are either not being honest with yourself, or you’re under the influence of the people around you. what 3 year old knows what a doctor really does?

    2) you forwent “fun things.” if you do not find studying chemistry/physics/ethics fun, don’t go into medicine. don’t get me wrong, I too think dances, bars, etc etc are fun, but so is studying medicine and if you don’t agree with that then the decision to go into medicine for you is an easy one.

    3)you say “most of the time people died anyway” and that’s why you weren’t helping them. medicine does not try to just “save” lives, but also to “improve” lives. there’s a whole field called “palliative care” fyi. to take away someone pain from metastatic cancer, is just as noble as taking out that medullary thyroid carcinoma. so don’t let people dying depress you, we will all die. rather, think of the privilege you have to be by there side, take care of their pain, be a source of solace to them and their family. I can go on and on about this……

    4)people are not so cut throat in ALL medical schools. the students at my school are AWESOME. a helpful group of ppl that sticks together during hard times and gives nothing but support to each other. pre-meds take note.

    5)everybody is indeed walking a tight rope. the stakes are very high. I’ve never seen anyone treated like toilet paper.

    6)if you have migraines, ulcers, and depression before starting medical school/residency, take some more time to think about it. successfully getting through medical training is no walk in the park and you HAVE to have some level of physical or moral stamina to get your ass up at 4 a.m and sleep at 9 p.m the night before. when they say medicine is not for the weak, they’re not kidding.

    7) “I am not a full person unless I have those two letters after my name.” this I’m sorry to say is the zenith of your mistakes.
    we are all “full” people whether we have the MD behind our name or not. DO NOT go into this field if you’re trying to satisfy some ego. you’ll see nurses and midlevels that have literally 6 or 7 letter titles after their name and put in a FRACTION of your input. Gabrielle, seriously think twice about medicine. you don’t seem to be doing it for the right reasons, and after trying it once already you had photosensitivety and amenorrhea, do YOU really want to put yourself through that again? for the spot you’ll be taking in a medical school class LITERALLY thousands of people would be rejected who would LOVE to be there…..be nice.

    I can really go on and on about everything else you said, but don’t want to make this post into an essay.
    pre-meds: medicine is VERY difficult, medicine is not for the WEAK (both physically and emotionally), through medicine you will see things you never saw before including a lot of death (which can be beautiful if looked at from the right angle, but that’s a whole different topic), medicine will make you very humble, medicine will make you very tired, medicine will pay all your bills if you’re content with an upper middle class lifestyle.
    you live once, make it worth it…..what ever that means to YOU.

  114. Filip

    October 27, 2011 @ 9:08 pm

    114

    I started off in Fine Arts school in NY in 2005, graduated in 2009 with a BS Finance, got my insurance licenses in NY, series 7, 63 blah blah blah, and wasn’t really into finance. Worked my ass off for a year in a restaurant to save and think about a good investment. I really wanted to believe in education and give it another shot. Went back into a post bacc program in spring 2011, and i’ll be done with all the pre reqs in may and take the mcat right after that. My issue is that I feel like I had to bury a part of my personality (the fun happy go lucky social part) in the backyard to get this done. I have nothing to take about with people, the only things I’ve said when I’ve been asked “whats new?” or “what have you been doing?” is studying and studying. I can’t sleep some days because of the stress of a long school day. I already have a degree and I feel like school just might not be the answer for me. I miss social interactions, dating, cooking, making and saving money and pursuing my interests that define me as a person. Im a really hard worker and live within my means and the truth is, I am going into medicine for the money. I am doing it because I am desperate, because I hate that I went to college for 4 years and than I can make more waiting tables with my personality and looks than at an entry level finance job or any entry level job for that matter. I feel a lot of the pain from other comment’s on how non-med friends encourage you as well as family but they don’t understand how it can hinder character development. I don’t think that this lifestyle is healthy for me because like I said earlier, it is…limiting my growth. I’ve just spent the last 15 months studying chem, organic chem, calculus, biology after never even taking a chem class in my life. I aced them all through hard work and determination, not because I am that intelligent. I think intelligence can often be a side effect of hard work. But In these 15 months, I don’t remember being happy very much except when I caught sleep in between semesters, or scrambled down to florida for a vacation, but even then I was studying on the plane…and couldn’t enjoy a beer on a rooftop pool in west palm beach without a biology book in my lap. I have no pleasant memories of the last 15 months, and I while everyone is proud of me for sticking it out I’ve been doubtful about whether I want this to continue. I know I said I got into medicine for the money, but let’s be honest, I’m sure there are a lot of people who have done the same. Should I quit while I’m ahead and consider finding this post a blessing?

  115. Ali B

    October 28, 2011 @ 7:18 pm

    115

    Since you asked: quit while you’re ahead. You’re in it for the wrong reasons (=dough), and you’re already suffering from being deprived of a life that’s meaningful to you even though you haven’t even really started and it’s about to get 12 times worse. Better 15 months down the wrong track than 150, bro. You may end up being good at something that’s not fun for you, but you’ll never be great at it.

  116. Felix

    November 6, 2011 @ 12:22 am

    116

    I’m a NP that is thinking about going to Med School. Oh,let me change that. I’m a NP that WAS thinking about going to med school. I’m making 85,0000.00 per year. I work for a hospice company part-time seeing patients in there homes making 125.00 per visit. I’m staying right where I am. I’m so glad I came across the site. The comment about a NP not knowing anything about X. If a resident is asking a NP a question. I’m sure the NP wouldn’t tell them the right answer, because the resident should know it

  117. Steve

    November 9, 2011 @ 10:27 am

    117

    Im a house parent for a Doc. with six kids, 2 w/ handicaps. The general public dosent have a clue. The men especially. I dont have any of the toys most men think they need, staying home without a job is just having it made, and I don’t fit in any where in conversations with men or women. I’m now an empty nester and bored with the simple life. Living on Grace and adrenalin for so many years makes normal life to easy.

    I have material for a book that I’ll never write and if I did no one would read because who wants thier own life to be made out as simple and easy and thier struggles as childlike complaints.

    But the flip side is the memories of changed lives. I have more than power possessions or selfish pleasure. I feel usefull beyond gaining things for myself or others. Plus satisfaction and peace that most seek through thier vices or entertainment. Life isn’t to servive but to serve.

    Every life has hurt and struggle, your choice is to what end? When you are done what do you have to show for it?

    Over the years students have asked us about whether or not to go to med. school. The best answer we have found is that if we could talk you out of it we would, but if you are called nothing will stop you. I’m 55 yrs. old, cronicly depressed, emotionally scared, still in debt, and yes it’s worth it.

  118. Luigi

    November 12, 2011 @ 1:23 pm

    118

    Thanks Felix! To the pre-meds reading the blog. If what Felix NP wrote two posts above rings true to you, or you think you can identify with that mindset of defining your happiness with income and “price per house visit,” then DO NOT go into medicine. Felix your post is one of the best yet, as it is the perfect example of the outlook that would be utterly disappointed with the privilege of practicing as a medical doctor.

  119. Ahsan

    November 23, 2011 @ 3:23 am

    119

    Wow Ali, this was an enlightening read. I’m Pakistani so I don’t know if you’re familiar with the expectations us Paki kids have to live up to; with my family at least, it’s pretty much doctor or bust. Obviously that presents some problems: I’m a recent college graduate with a Biology degree and have busted my ass with respects to MCAT and extracurriculars, etc. But I always find myself saying, yeah I want to do it for the prestige, the money, the job security. That isn’t to say I hate people; the feeling that you get when you help the people that genuinely need it is second to none, especially when you see how much they appreciate. However, as I have a job as a scribe in the local hospital as well, a very small percentage of patients seem like they genuinely care that you took the time from your life to save theirs, and there’s an even smaller percentage that I consider “genuinely needs the help.” Alcoholics, drug addicts, people who don’t take care of their bodies, etc etc. come to mind.

    I’ve read through the whole slew of comments above, and the consensus seems that I’m in it for the wrong reasons. But I’m at a crossroads; I feel like if I give up on this career, not only will I let down my family (my father is a trauma surgeon, and mother has been pushing me down this path all my life) but I’ll also be confused as to where to go from there. The first point I believe is short-term; if I find a successful career, parents worries should be nullified. However, the second is more daunting. Any suggestions?

    Once again, thank you so much for this article.

  120. Ali B

    November 23, 2011 @ 3:48 pm

    120

    Ahsan — appreciate your clear-headed look at the situation. It’s true that the deeper you get into medicine, the more spurious the ‘helping people’ argument tends to become. It’s testimony to your insight that you can see it so early in the game. Now, the issue with achievement-oriented Asian parents is real. At the same time, it’s your life, not theirs. And it sounds like you’re smart enough to do anything. Just remember that good is the enemy of great. And the list of people who would not have achieved greatness had they stayed in medicine is long. As long as you’re happy and successful, your parents will be cool. So go forth and find your calling. Build something people need. Nobody ever went wrong doing that.

  121. Clifford

    December 1, 2011 @ 1:08 am

    121

    Great post to think about…. Sort of like the movie Fight Club… If you aren’t willing to stand on the porch for a couple of days, you don’t belong… I’m a general surgeon in my mid 40′s (married to a pediatrician, two kids) My daughter asked me the other night: “Daddy, what is your dream job?” I replied..”I have my dream job”. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I believe I make a difference in peoples’ lives every day. I was an Army Officer before going to medical school, so I even enjoyed classes, ward rotations etc. Even the sleep deprivation wasn’t too bad. I wasn’t shot at once. Residency was challenging, but just ask anyone else today working two or three jobs about that.

    It’s all a matter of perspective. I recently read “Mao’s Last Dancer” Amazing amount of hard work, sacrifice and ultimately some lucky breaks to become successful. Everyone today seems to expect success without hard work and sacrifice. Yes, some I-bankers make ridiculous money. I don’t think this is the norm. (some earlier referred to this syndrome… the Grass is Always Greener…) Is this a generational or cultural thing that we expect everything to be handed to us on a silver platter. Physicians may not have it great, but they have it pretty good. And it could be a whole lot worse. (and may soon be) Perhaps our national affluence is too much of a hurdle to overcome.

    I agree with a previous post that someone who doesn’t and hasn’t practiced medicine should have limited influence on those interested in medicine. (note the armchair bravery of the non-combatant) Don’t get me wrong, it’s well written and has some kernels of truth, but distorts the big picture. Better advice: spend time with a community physician, or better yet… several community physicians. Most medical schools now require this. For the past two years, I have mentored undergraduate pre-meds doing rotations to satisfy this requirement. While some students come from medical families, none really has any idea about what we do on a day to day basis. Most (not all) are enthralled with the experience.

    In closing, I do agree with Ali’s closing comment. If you can see yourself doing something else besides medicine, you should probably do that. Medicine is a demanding mistress with few exit points once you get started.

  122. Ali B

    December 1, 2011 @ 5:07 am

    122

    Thanks for the substantive contribution and real-life data points, Clifford. Good to hear it from the horse’s mouth.

  123. Freelance MD

    December 6, 2011 @ 7:11 pm

    123

    Ah, as the character Swedgin says in the HBO series Deadwood, “That has the f**king ring of truth”.

    Unfortunately there are many medical professionals who are looking at either leaving clinical practice, or at least building something of their own on the side that can result in a rewarding lifestyle. Besides http://FreelanceMD.com where we have such a physician community with docs from Harvard, Hopkins and the like… In fact, it’s been so popular that we’ve just started http://UncommonStudentMD.com for medical schools students and residents who want to learn how to leverage a medical degree ‘outside’ of what has traditionally been a straight path. It’s possible, but to do it you have to take action outside of the main road.

  124. Priscilla

    December 7, 2011 @ 11:34 pm

    124

    I’m really happy I found this blog. I’ve been debating between becoming a Physician or a Physician’s Assistant for a while and after reading this I think I’m definitely going for PA. I know for a fact that I can’t see myself not doing Medicine. I am a typical girl who wants a loving husband, beautiful baby, and a gorgeous house; however, I am not going to wait til I’m 30-somethin years old for my life to be stable enough to even start considering that. I want to enjoy my prime years and not waste away with my eyes glued to a book or working double overtime…

  125. Sarah

    December 9, 2011 @ 1:42 am

    125

    I stumbled across this post while taking a small study break AKA procrastinating. Brilliant.

    I’m a second year medical student and this really hits home. How many times can you tell yourself that the next year will get better. First you have to just get past gross anatomy, then everything is down hill. Oh wait, then there is the STEP1 (no pressure there, only going to determine the rest of your life), thennnn its all down hill. Oh waittt…third year is pretty terrible too. But at least you don’t have to study all the time right? Surely by 4th year its all down hill, besides stressing about interviews and matching and getting a good residency program. And then only 4-8 years of working your ass off, losing all your friends, relationships, and youth.

    Since the first week of school I wondered if I was doing the right thing. Before starting med school, I focused so much on GETTING IN that I never actually thought about what it was going to be like once I WAS in!! No matter how many people told me how miserable it was, I always made excuses…”oh, it can’t be THAT BAD!!”. IT IS. I have already witnessed multiple relationships fail, including my own. Oh, that just means it wasn’t meant to be right? Hell no, that means that med school is ruining your life! I’m 24 years old and in the best shape and the best looking I’ll probably ever be. But that doesn’t matter because I don’t have time to go anywhere or meet anyone so I might as well be fat and ugly for all it matters. And by the time I will have time to go anywhere and meet anyone, I probably will be fat and ugly.

    Well I figure I might as well finish the 2 1/2 more years and get in as much debt as possible. Then I can do whatever I want. Nothing wrong with being a housewife with an MD, right?? :)

  126. Ali B

    December 12, 2011 @ 1:29 pm

    126

    Thanks for pointing people to those resources!

  127. Lindsey

    December 14, 2011 @ 3:46 am

    127

    Hello All,

    I must say this was one of the most emotional and truthful posts about medical schools I have ever read. I am currently a junior in college and I am so confused about what the heck I want to do with my life. It seems like every other day I am going back and forth about whether or not I want to go to medical school.
    I hate sciences I really find no enjoyment in chemisty,biology or physics, I always thougth it will be better when I get to medical school, the subjects will be more interesting and relavent. But apparently, from this long list of comment and the orgiginal post, this is just not the case. I also find myself worrying thinking about the financial aspect of being a doctor (as far as earning potental) but of course this isn’t a good reason.
    I have never been pushed by my parents, or anyone else to be a doctor but I always thought that was what I wanted to do. But from some of these horror stories I just dont know anymore. I know anything worth doing is not going to be easy, but I really dont know if the sacrifice it takes to being a doctor would be worth it for me.
    I love helping people and I know I want a profession where I can do that regularly. I just feel like I would be going into medical school for all the wrong reasons. Money, prestige, feeling of and failures if im not a MD. But I also see me loving what I would be doing as a doctor (minus the sciences.
    I will say this blog has shown the good and bad of chosing to go into medicine. I just wish it helped me more with my definitive decision. But I know that is ultimately up to me. Any advice to my specific situation will be greatly appreciated, I am just confused and wondering if this path is for me.
    Is it realistic for me if I dont like the sciences?
    Thanks to the person who wrote the original post and all the commentors. This has been so insightful to me.

  128. jSLU

    December 24, 2011 @ 6:03 am

    128

    This has been the most insightful/truthful account of medical schools that I have ever read. I am currently a sophomore in one of those guaranteed med programs (Med scholars at Saint Louis University) that require to maintain a 3.5 gpa which allows for a pretty high matriculation rate into the SLUmed. I am doing fine gpa wise but after reading all these comments on the harsh realities and living in literally a constant state of stress and expectation of high performance drives people to lose their ability to be human – or themselves. I already finding myself isolating myself from friends, family, and my activities in order to put my grades above all else. This fucking sucks – I have above a 3.8 though I guess.
    I am also realizing that from all the aforementioned reasons, I want to be a doctor due to: my parents, the status, the money, the job security, and to want to help people (but seeing you begin to just view people as piles of meat and organs just destroys my hopes). And with this universal health care coming around – the money is going to be gone too. So honestly what left else is there? Lawsuits, stress, inability to cultivate yourself into who you want to be? Maybe I’m just being too negative…

  129. Ali B

    December 24, 2011 @ 3:55 pm

    129

    How do you feel about the fact that effectively NOTHING in the classes that you’re busting ass to keep that 3.8 GPA in is going to be applied in your career as a physician? Zero of organic chemistry, one concept from general chemistry (pH), zero of basic physics (unless you go into radiology or ophthalmology, in which case you have to learn real physics), and about 5% of basic biology and biochemistry (but they repeat the parts that matter in preclinical anyway). Surely there’s something better we can do with our lives than mindlessly jump though hoops like dolphins.

  130. Alex from Medical School Success

    December 26, 2011 @ 11:48 am

    130

    I am in my second year of medical school (so I’m still only in the classroom) and I have already witnessed some of the disadvantages of medical school that you have listed. People have broken up with their significant other; some even got divorced. It is hard to see many of my friends. Some of my classmates are already sleep deprived. You wrote this article in 2005 and mentioned the average debt after graduation to be $100,000. According to AAMC, the median debt for 2011 is now $162,000. So the newer doctors are going to stay broke for a longer time than before. If you are considering of applying to medical school, think about it real carefully. On the plus side, as a doctor, you’ll pretty much always have a job.

  131. What I Go To School For « Oras at Medisina

    December 27, 2011 @ 3:42 pm

    131

    [...] Why you should not go to medical school  blogs.law.harvard.edu) [...]

  132. Martin

    January 3, 2012 @ 1:12 am

    132

    I read your rant. There was nothing in it that I haven’t heard before from literally dozens..approaching a hundred doctors. I have worked with and around doctors for over 15 years now and I was even married to one for over 12 years. There is ONE element that separates the doctors that seem to not be able to see the forest for the trees and the ones that can peer through and see the light and NOT be crushed by the stress that seems to come from all sides from their perspective. That singular element is emotional maturity – that emotional element born ONLY from life experience and perspective. Greater than 90% of the people that become doctors follow a very structured existence from childhood all the way to “doctorhood”. They go from elementary, junior/senior high school and on to college then immediately (or nearly so) into medical school without ever being an actual “adult” in this world. They are always living under some umbrella or safety net. While they may have had a job or two in a grocery store or working at Best Buy, they never had to make sure that all the bills were paid or their kids were fed (they WERE the kid). My point – they (the >90%) never bore the ultimate responsibility for even their own existence – how are they expected to be able to look that kind of responsibility directly in the eye for someone else’s? The ability to handle the kind of pressures that these doctors lament is only developed from life experience..and they actually possess the least of all the people in the room. Common sense is also a casualty of the all too common life course to becoming a physician so how are they going to be able to put it all into perspective?
    There is one very small segment of physicians that seem to handle all that the profession throws at them and march on unscathed. They are the few that luckily squirm their way into medical school (usually D.O. school because M.D. schools won’t even look at them) AFTER having gained some life experience and real work experience. They DIDN’T major in biochemistry or some other equally useless degree pursuit (useless unless they’re headed for a career in research in that area) and they held real jobs and dealt with the real consequences of life. They were accountants, firemen, teachers and they had already put in some serious time away from their families and friends in order to get their meagerly remunerated careers going. They had to go back to school and add or retake some sciences, etc. and try to raise their GPA’s and achieve well enough on an MCAT to be considered, even if just barely. They are probably some of the finest physicians in their fields.
    And, by the way, “paid slave” is an oxymoron. I know doctors practically live at the hospital during residency but I’ve never seen any other advanced training that paid so well (other training – not at all) even DURING that training and so firmly and permanently planted the brass ring in the “trainee’s” hand than medicine.
    Basically, the entire essence of my “rant” is – You send a kid into a pressure cooker, s/he’s going to get crushed.

  133. Ali B

    January 3, 2012 @ 2:43 pm

    133

    That is just brilliant. Thanks for a great addition to the discussion. I’ll be speaking to some bright-eyed and bushy-tailed students in a couple of weeks, and this will inform my talks.

  134. Eve

    January 3, 2012 @ 11:29 pm

    134

    Martin is spot on!

  135. Agree to disagree

    January 5, 2012 @ 7:03 pm

    135

    RE: post #132, boy did you hit the nail right on the head. I’m a 4th year DO student applying to residencies and I’m turning 30 in a month. Yes, for all of you who believe your “prime years” are in your 20′s run and hide from this profession. I spent 4 years after graduating with a BS in Psychology finding myself. I traveled to different parts of the world after saving money working at a hedge fund for 1.5 years. Did I mention I was an administrative assistant in HR, working 14 hr days but making more than either of my blue collar parents. Had a condo in wealthy SE Connecticut and bought a car in that short time? I was making BANK, planning company parties without a limited budget and met some wonderful, brilliant people at my job… but it wasn’t my calling. I did some part time classes to fulfill my premed requirements and applied to med school. The DO schools looked much more favorably upon students who were a little bit seasoned with life experiences. The happiest classmates are those who are in their 30s, 40s and even 50s. We have a wonderful “team & family” approach and the majority are never cut-throat like some of the previous posts mentioned. Perhaps you should’ve explored the programs before jumping into “Prestige University” to get your MD or DO degree.
    I would have never appreciated my struggles if I didn’t experience other things. For ex: after spending 3 months in a 3rd world country (Brazil) at a rural clinic where insurance doesn’t exist (for patients or doctors), no one should be complaining about how much we don’t get paid. I did do the make tons of money and buy nice things and party with my friends. If it’s your calling, no one, especially a blog, will pursuade you otherwise. Yes, most of the things Ali lists above are true for the majority since the majority have only experienced college and never lived it up before diving into the most challenging experience of their lives. I met my boyfriend (current intern hating his life) in med school. We keep each other afloat and find the humor in our humble lives. He is going into anesthesiology and will ultimately be happy with his life since he’s generally an optimistic person.

    I’m going into Physical medicne and Rehabilitation. It’s fulfilling for me to improve the lives of young veterans with traumatic brain injuries and people with spinal cord injuries. They are the most appreciative patients and they even find the humor in life.

    Take some time to do other things and explore other avenues. If you are meant to practice medicine, you’ll suck it up and make the most of the blessings people tend to overlook.

  136. Ty

    January 8, 2012 @ 1:47 am

    136

    i’m in my last year of residency. in fact, i’m the chief resident. i love medicine. no, i love the idea of medicine and my 12 yo old imagination of how i would save the world as a doctor.

    but here i am. frozen. stuck 5 months from graduation, the finish line. while all of my colleagues are readily signing job contracts for the next year, 2 years, 10 years… i am nervously spanning the horizon, looking for a detour, an off-ramp, a pothole. anything but the expected finish and outcome.

    and while i may not know yet what i’m going to do next… i am enjoying all the confused looks people get when they ask where i’ll be working next year, and i tell them, i’m thinking about becoming a flight attendant.

  137. Gavin

    January 8, 2012 @ 4:05 am

    137

    I went to medical school straight out of college, bringing with me a love of learning and a broad set of knowledge. I wanted to earn a MD/MPH and do something BIG.

    What followed was years of depression, anxiety and anger. Instead of something BIG, I ran straight into the memorization olympics. Most of my classmates were professional memorizers (and expert whiners) who didn’t really care about science or medicine. This was an expensive, private school and most everyone were there for the career – the high paying specialties. It was hard to make friends.

    After banging my head against the wall for three years, I quit the MD program. It’s been six months and I’m slowly re-integrating with society, getting my strength back, becoming my old self again. I went back to my old passion (long since thrown away) and now study science journalism at a big, broad university. Crazy that I used to think med school was a place for science lovers.

    Once a week, I stop by my old med school so I can complete the MPH. I should hate the place, but I feel good when I go back, because I remember how happy I was (early on) and how I dreamed of doing something great as a physician. I also know, without a doubt, that I never want that life again.

    I don’t regret going and I don’t regret leaving. I just wish I had the courage to leave sooner. Harder at 22 than at 25, I suppose. Now I have the freedom to put my ambition someplace real.

  138. Ali B

    January 8, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

    138

    Gavin — thanks for sharing. I think an MPH is one of the noblest degrees out there. You have no choice but to improve public health, and you’re doing it on a scale much larger than the one-on-one interactions of a physician. If I were to go back to school, that’s the degree I’d get.
    As for thinking that physicians are interested in science — hah! There’s a small subset, like the valedictorian at my Harvard class or the MD/PhDs, who are hardcore scientists and end up doing ophthalmology or research or something. But most med students are the ones who went pre-med — in other words, they grudgingly completed the science coursework because they had to, not because they loved it.

  139. Ali B

    January 8, 2012 @ 3:02 pm

    139

    Wow. Thanks for sharing your poignant story, Ty. Just can’t imagine what that’s like — may it all work out for the best.

  140. Mark

    January 9, 2012 @ 12:08 am

    140

    I have spent the better part of the evening reading through this post and all the replies and appreciate the wide variety of perspectives and questions raised.

    I went into medicine a bit late, having worked as a musician for 17 years prior to starting medical school in my late 30′s. Interestingly, I was not the elder statesman – - – there were 5 people older than me in my graduating class.

    Medical school was a drain but a very rewarding experience. Relationships I made have continued to this day and I still carry fond memories of the rigors and challenges we faced individually and together. It doesn’t bother me that many of the things I needed to learn aren’t used in my day-to-day practice; while this could and should be examined and changed, I guess I was always able to keep my eye on the prize of seeing patients and building a career in medicine.

    Residency, as well, was rewarding – - – more so, because we focused on the things we’d be doing in our careers. Sleep deprivation and pushing, pushing, pushing to get through the mountains of “to do’s” were the norm, but it was also thrilling to dig down deep and do the best I could.

    I chose primary care because it was the best fit for me and for my personality. I truly love seeing patients . . . not *every* patient, to be sure, but I really look forward to building relationships and to being there in the way that a doctor should. We see people when they are most vulnerable, most frightened, most angry, most elated. We often share these experiences on a level which is deeper and more intimate that many family members would share with a patient.

    But, medicine isn’t for everyone, that is for sure. And, medicine won’t help people find happiness. In fact, it will work against that goal. If you can do the personal work to find happiness within, then medicine can be very rewarding.

    I often tell prospective physicians as well as colleagues who are struggling that they had better plan to spend as much time and energy finding life balance as they spent learning the Krebs cycle, renal physiology or keeping up with what meds are now on formulary. If doctors don’t work to find a way to balance their career, family, relationships, hobbies, etc., then medicine will be very demanding and unrelenting, and finding satisfaction will be nearly impossible.

    Finally, as to the worries about being unable to see the good you’re doing or make a difference in a patient’s life, (especially as it relates to chronic disease states in the self-harming patients described in numerous earlier posts), I would counter by saying that looking for this immediate confirmation of the worth of your interaction is the wrong goal. We shouldn’t counsel patients about the dangers of hypertension with the expectation that they will do whatever we want and will agree with our recommendations without question. Furthermore, we shouldn’t look for improved outcomes as an measurement of our effectiveness (although, we should always be hoping for good outcomes, of course.)

    Rather, we should measure our success by the effort we put forth, because that is really the ONLY thing we have any control over.

    I remember one of my mentors in medical school, a pediatric gastroenterologist, asking me once how I would know if I had done a “good job.” I replied that I would make sure my patients liked me and that they all “did well.”

    His response was amazingly curt (and it remains some of the best advice I’ve ever received): “Don’t fall into the trap of measuring you worth as a physican to a patient’s opinion of you or whether or not they get better. Instead, ask yourself, ‘did I do the very best today that I could?’. If you can answer, ‘yes’, then it has been a good day, and THAT HAS TO BE ENOUGH.”

    Words to live by, not just in medicine.

  141. unknown MD

    January 9, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

    141

    Medicine is all about service….nothing left for yourself.

  142. Ali B

    January 9, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

    142

    Unless a physician takes care of herself first, she’s not in a position to take care of others. Martyrs have notoriously short careers.

  143. Ali B

    January 9, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

    143

    As Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, you are entitled to your labors, but not the fruit of your labors. Thanks for sharing the story of your unconventional career path, Mark.

  144. Bsmalls

    January 9, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

    144

    Interesting how the grass is green until someone pops on it. I think that anyone can have a bad experience with basically any endeavor you do. I can make just the same amount of arguements of friends in their thirties and older trying to figure out what the hell they are doing in life and why can’t they find greener grass. My guess is the author never had his heart into it, probably saw the big rewards without the effort. I think that life in Med School as confirmed from friends currently in Med school gives you more structure. As a full time student, full time employee and full time father…Full time med school seems like a better alternative than the current situation. I like to think, what is a good thing worth if you aren’t willing to sacrafice to get it.

    Hard work, long hours, rewarding career, good salary, all part of the equation. As for PA, if you think that being a PA will eliminate your worries….I have known more PA’s who wish they would have gone to Med School instead. Long hours with a cieling salary and at the Physicians demand. You think PA’s dont take on-call, you need to check your sources. DO SHADOWING instead or read silly forums :)

  145. Bsmalls

    January 9, 2012 @ 6:57 pm

    145

    That said, I appreciate the truthful opinions of the author, truth is, not everyone will have a good experience. I am not living today for the enjoyments of my life alone, but to secure for my children and future. With the right perspective, anything you do that is hard can be accomplished. I am applying this coming June and in no way did this article sway my opinion. Bring it on.

  146. Pat

    January 16, 2012 @ 1:39 am

    146

    A well-written and thought-out piece! Medical school is a major commitment, perhaps the biggest commitment one today could make…….as such, one must exhaustively research the downside of the profession to make an intelligent decision that will not have dire punishments ahead for a wrong one made. Why are so many senior physicians today going back to school for MBA’s? Why do so few doctor’s kids go to med school anymore? Why are so many American residency positions filling with foreign med school grads?

    Research first! Good luck.

  147. Haleigh

    January 17, 2012 @ 1:55 am

    147

    I am surprised that no one has mentioned pharmacy. My biggest fear in life is that I always wanted to become a Doctor and I am not following through with my “dream”.

    I have an aunt that is a radiation oncologist. She LOVES her job. But she says this with such a sigh, and follows with, “life is just too short”. She is happy where she is NOW. But she sacrificed so much, and still sacrifices at the expense of her family etc. She is on call and has to go in, she is always thinking about her patients outside of work, etc. etc.

    Pharmacy has changed and is continuing to change dramatically. The pharmacists are taking over what many doctors used to do and are having more patient contact. They are constantly called by the Doctors and Nurses for medication advice, and also round with the Doctors. They are needed. Of course, I am talking of hospital pharmacy, not Retail. I especially enjoy PEDS and the NICU.

    I always wanted to become a pediatrician. I have the grades, I have the service/volunteering, and I have the motivation and capability to become a Doctor. Sometimes I hate the doctors that tell me “don’t do it” or “avoid it like the plague” or “it is not as glorious as people make it out to be”. If it weren’t for all I know about what might be to COME if I choose this route, I would probably be doing it.

    But maybe it is a good thing that I have come to understand what a LIFE as a doctor (life literally, not just a job) is like… where med school is just the very start of it all (actually pre-med really is) and at this point you have only dipped your toe in a bucket.

    I hope pharmacy fulfills my ambitions. I truly love to learn, however, I want a family, and I want to be a Doctor, but I don’t want it to take over who I am and be my life. I am going to look into the San Diego naturopathic medical program posted above and see what that entails as well.

    Thanks everyone. Not really an eye opener, I have heard the rants first hand from doctors I have shadowed as well as family members in medicine. But how sad is it that choosing a career has to have all of these implications. One last thing I want to add, I like what someone said earlier about “worse things happen to better people”. Who are we to complain– it is not like the alternative is working at a fast food chain (assuming that the people posting here are qualified to become medical doctors, I doubt this is even an option).

  148. Ana

    January 17, 2012 @ 7:01 pm

    148

    I got accepted to medical school on two different years, and both years I said “no,” mostly because I already have 2 small children and I do not want them to grow up without having a mother. Also, my husband was not very supportive of me becoming a doctor, for all the reasons mentioned by Ali.

    It’s been half a year since I rejected my second acceptance, I have been thinking that I may have made the wrong choice and gone into medical school. But reading posts like these help me realize just how difficult it would have been, and make me feel calmer about my decision.

    What’s next – decide what to study! It’s too bad that the only thing that really, truly seems to interest me is medicine. I have been thinking about lots of alternatives – dentistry, chiropractic, NP, PA, psychologist… And have no idea. Any one else been in my shoes? Suddenly needing to decide what to do next after being accepted and not going, or quitting medicine? What did you decide and how did it turn out for you?

  149. ambivalent

    January 19, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

    149

    i have no intention of being a dick with what i’m about to say. i’m just trying to relate some truth, from the distinct vantage point of my own noggin. it might be infuriating, but as a dude with sisters, i am sympathetic to the female condition, so i feel like i have to get this out there. pardon the anonymity, but frankly, i feel like the following could get my lynched.

    so i broke up with the doc i was dating. we’re both 30 now. she has a few years before “advanced maternal age” sets in. and she’s not as hot as she was in her twenties. there’s no getting around the fact that this limits the pool of guys who see her as serious relationship material. worse still, it seems like women don’t like dating younger men, or men who earn less, so the pool of men _she_ sees as serious relationship material is also greatly diminished.

    somehow this ex and i have managed to keep in touch without acrimony. she’s been single since the breakup. she actually got a cat, and told me in so many words that it was because she was lonely. i feel for her. i thought i was gonna be in that situation – single at 30, FFS – but things have actually gone in a different direction for me.

    since breaking up, i got a promotion, and i now have a low six figure salary. it’s not doctor money, but i’m debt free, and it’s more than sufficient. i work a stress free 40 hour week with tons of flexibility. this leaves me with plenty of cash and time to chase girls – and man, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. i’m having more success with 20 year old coeds than i did when i was 20! apparently, now that i’m educated, traveled, and in a promising career, i’m more attractive than when i sat around smoking pot and playing halo all day.

    with the benefit of distance, i can see that while i was a little miffed at being out-earned by my ex, what really did us in was that i noticed my stock was rising the dating market, and i couldn’t resist the temptation. (yeah, these girls aren’t very accomplished. i’ve come to realize that professional accomplishment has NOTHING AT ALL to do with relationship satisfaction.) on top of that, i know i want a lot of kids one day (5, specifically) and, well, bottom line, it’s easier to make healthy babies with a girl in her twenties than in her thirties.

    here’s the real kicker: all of my ex’s female colleagues are in a similar boat. not a one is in a successful marriage or serious relationship, and several are divorced. meanwhile, all of my friends (“bros”, yeah, i’ll cop to that) who failed to get married by 30 are having this startling realization: our dating lives are actually majorly improved over what they used to be.

    the moral of the story is that medicine, as a career choice, may be disproportionately damaging to the romantic prospects for women. as ali pointed out, medical training destroys relationships. so basically, any woman who aspires to medicine has an outsized chance of being a single thirty-something. and that’s a much worse spot for women than for men (it’s actually, at least by my anecdotal experience, a pretty chill spot for guys).

    i’ve proofed this comment like five times now. i still expect a digital lynch mob, but keep in mind that i’m just trying to say something that i think young women should hear, because nobody else is gonna say it. ultimately, it just corroborates ali’s main point: don’t do medicine unless you _can’t_ imagine _not_ doing it. otherwise, it just ain’t worth it.

  150. Russ

    January 20, 2012 @ 7:04 pm

    150

    Talk to some doctors who went to medical school before the 80-hour maximum work week was put into effect back in 2002. Some have told me they would be up to 80 hours by Friday.

  151. HC

    January 21, 2012 @ 6:13 am

    151

    There are so many different things wrong with this.
    Granted, I understand that you are trying to be helpful to pre-medical students, but telling people that they should not pursue medicine just because it is a difficult/stressful occupation like telling them that they should just not care for someone in need if it is too costly to themselves. It is like telling a person that he should simply ignore the half-dead person on the side of the road because it is too time-consuming, risky, and expensive to help someone who is obviously in need.
    If you had an awful time in medical school, then I’m sorry to hear that medicine didn’t work out for you. However, the fact that you are now trying to discourage students from attending medical school shows that you probably didn’t go into medicine for the right reasons. At the end of the day, you don’t go into medicine because you want a high salary, flexible hours, popularity, or financial security. You go into medicine because you have a genuine heart to serve people who need it.
    Imagine if all the pre-medical students in the United States took your advice and decided that being a doctor was simply too difficult. Imagine that all these students decided instead to pursue other occupations simply because they were more “comfortable.”
    To say medical school is tough is one thing. To discourage students from pursuing medical school merely because it is tough is another.

  152. Ali B

    January 22, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

    152

    Thanks for the comment, HC. If you were to use your analogy correctly, what I’m saying is that there’s a half-dead person on the side of the road, and he’s lying down on a mine that will explode if you move him. A medical career isn’t merely inconvenient or challenging. It can ruin your life if you’re not cut out for it. Read the comments from the actual doctors.
    And, from your statement, I’m going to guess that you have no experience in medical training, which doesn’t really qualify you to comment. Idealism is one thing; reality is another.

  153. Haleigh

    January 23, 2012 @ 2:05 am

    153

    Any woman doctor out there, how difficult is it REALLY trying to balance your life? And would you do it all over again?

    Deep down it is everything I want (I think I am one of the “can’t see myself doing anything else” type of people) but I am terrified because of people who say “when you’re in you can’t get out” and also say they would never do it again. I am also a shoo-in to pharmacy school. (I could care less about my salary… pharm makes as much as a pediatrician in many cases.. LOOK IT UP IT’S TRUE. Especially with a pharmD, MBA. I just want to be happy).

    No one can predict the future. I just don’t want to look back with regret that I didn’t follow my dream especially if it is just the crabby overworked doctors out there who went into it for the wrong reasons that are complaining and making me change my mind.

    Also, “ambivalent” … you are right that it took some guts to say just about everything you said. And shame on you. I’m sure you will find yourself a hot 20 year old who will fall in love with your success and can spit out a few babies for you. Good luck.

  154. HC

    January 23, 2012 @ 3:51 am

    154

    I appreciate your frankness, Ali. Perhaps you should change the title of this blog post to something along the lines of, “Why I hate medical school,” rather than “Why you should not go to medical school.” Provide the facts (opinions?), and allow people to decide for themselves based on a variety of experiences and correspondences whether or not they would like to go to medical school.

  155. Big Al

    January 23, 2012 @ 7:53 pm

    155

    In reply to Ana

    I am now retired and some 55 years out of medical school. So, my view of things may be somewhat “dated” but not unrelated to a variety of medical experiences.

    But first, I’d like to say a word about Dr. Binazir’s essay which I read not long after he first published it. At that time I had had some of the same ideas and was trying to see if others had like thoughts. His was the only thing I found then and since I have found nothing of like value. I say ‘value’ because I strongly believe it is the type of thinking that anyone going into medicine (especially for a M.D.) ought to do. This is a matter of doing what the world of business and law requires — “DUE DILIGENCE”. Before entering into a contract-like situation an individual or company should thoroughly investigate the people, companies, associations, reputations, nature of the business, etc with whom you will be associating! Such a serious and in-depth investigation is needed to be sure that what you first thought was a “good deal” is indeed a “GOOD DEAL FOR YOU – THE ONE WHO WILL HAVE TO LIVE WITH THE DEAL”. At the present time the “it’s good to go to medical school” people have near-to-exclusive access to the podium.

    Dr. Binazir’s essay is his view and I generally agree with him. He is generous and is to be thanked for maintaining this page. I have some additional thoughts along this line and could elaborate if I get some indication that there is interest. I’m not interested in discussing whether or not someone ‘ought’ to go to medical school, the problems of ‘getting into medical school’, which classes to take to get in, etc. I am too, too dated for that! However, I am convinced there is a dearth of information about the negative side (past, present, and future) of a life in medicine which should be considered by an 18 year person before committing to 4 years of ‘pre-med,’ 4 years of medical school, and 4-? years of residency before “really going to work”. This may apply even to some who have close associations with family and friends in medicine. The more information, both pro and con, the better equipped to make decisions about what YOU ‘OUGHT’ or WANT TO DO. I suspect that most people entering medical school even today really do not have the foggiest idea of what life in medicine will be like.

    Ana,
    I don’t think of myself as an ‘adviser’ because I don’t know your current situation, desires, etc. If you have been twice accepted to medical school the odds are high that you could do the work without difficulty. You mentioned that you have two small children and that your husband was not too supportive of your returning to school. To me this sounds as if you might have your ‘plate full’. Maybe the children need you more than you need medical school. [My daughter-in-law is a speech therapist who enjoys her work but had not worked since having a children 9 and 5 years ago. Not long ago she started doing part-time relief work and has found that between home, church, children, the children’s school and some social life she fully occupied!]

    The occupations you mentioned as alternates to an M.D. would possibly require a rather rigid and long education before you could work in your area and would be more of an impediment to a well balanced home life. One thing that came to mind was a two year RN program from a Junior College if such is available in your area. Since you have qualifications that are OK for two Medical Schools, you probably have many of the required courses and would the Nursing Diploma easily. This might allow to you to really get hands-on experience (either as full-time or part-time) while your children are young and let you better know if you are really want to go for the higher degrees.

  156. Brad S

    January 24, 2012 @ 12:26 pm

    156

    As a pre-med half way through undergrad, after numerous conversations and reading these, I’m starting to feel like med school isn’t right for me. I’m majoring in biology and I’ve taken a lot of the core classes for med school, spending the time to ensure a solid gpa (3.9) however, my career goals consist of mostly making money and having time for family and relationships. I originally thought I would be able to do this going to med school, my dad is a doctor and owns a private practice with plenty of free time. However he doesn’t make as much money as he should in my opinion. But he doesn’t try to persuade me against medicine.
    So now I’m on course to get a degree in biology, still unsure about applying to med school. Does anyone have advice on possible alternate paths to make good money and have time for relationships/family? I was considering graduating with a biology degree then possibly going for an MBA, however I know a lot of MBA schools want work experience or PHd. Would it be worth it to try with just a BS in Biology? Not interested in working in labs or research, so what other choices does that leave for me?
    thanks so much for the advice

  157. Carmen Gutierrez, MD in 2013!

    January 27, 2012 @ 1:35 am

    157

    This is a great post and I feel it is important for people to read!

    I belonged to a pre-medical school sorority, where we all joined because we wanted to support each other in becoming doctors. While we were all stressed, some of us were completely miserable and for some, the pressure got to be too much. They struggled for a long time with the decision to quit the med school path. Once some of them made that simple choice, I was completely amazed at the sense of relief and peace that they exuded immediately afterward. This was the most positive and happiest I had ever known them to be! It was obviously a great choice for them and I am happy that they figured out what they wanted in time!

    Today, I have classmates that are seriously questioning their decision. They have such disdain for the whole process, but they owe $125,000+ so they don’t see a way out but to graduate. I hear them say this all the time and I would hate to have them treat me, or anyone I knew! It would have been great for them to read this post so that they would know earlier what they were getting into. Many of them are really young, come to med school with credit problems, no idea of what responsibility, or what work ethic really means, and are sorely disappointed with what they find.

    Some friends I have, knew what they wanted, were going for it, would be great doctors, accumulated a lot of debt in the process, but weren’t allowed to finish med school.

    I think all of us in med school question our decision from time-to-time (depending on the week), but I feel for some of us, there is absolutely nothing else we can imagine doing in life when it comes down to it. There are few things in life that are as wonderful as walking into a room and seeing a family have their child back. The moment when we forget–just for a moment–all the chaos and suffering in the world. When we instead feel overwhelmed with joy at seeing one little positive thing that is finally smiling and giggling back at us after being so seriously sick! Yes there are some people who aren’t the best parents, but they are being the best person they know how to be. Some of them have a longer way to go than others, but I feel up to the challenge to try and help when I can! This profession is the icing on the cake for me and I am loving every minute of it!

    I am $310,000+ debt solely due to my education, still have 1.5 more years of med school (at the tune of $80,000/year) plus 3 more years of my pediatrics residency (I think we start at 45k and have to start paying back loans), but I feel so lucky to get to “do” medicine everyday. I recognize I am a slave for the rest of my life (paying back the loans until I die), but luckily I have my partner who pays off the home we share, so that I can focus on learning and then later volunteering my medical knowledge (part-time-40 hours) to the communities that need me. The other part of my life that I will enjoy is being with my partner, watching our children grow, having us travel to help out under-developed nations and maybe even vacation somewhere nice sometime. I am living the life I have always dreamed of. I wish I had more of a social life, but the good news is that although I don’t have many friends anymore, the ones I do have are the ones I know are truly there for me–no matter what!

    I wish those people who aren’t sure what they want would please take the time to consider what kind of opportunities they are taking from someone else who really wants and deserves to be here! There are some really good future doctors out there and our communities could sure use them!

    Good luck in finding your path!

  158. Triton

    February 5, 2012 @ 6:49 pm

    158

    You may have a different take on it after you finish residency and actually start practicing medicine.

  159. Amanda

    February 8, 2012 @ 8:14 pm

    159

    I am assuming that was negatively directed towards medicine… you didn’t elaborate why you have that opinion though.

  160. Janice

    February 12, 2012 @ 3:27 pm

    160

    What you write is mostly true, but the medical profession is incredibly rewarding. I have a degree in Bachelor’s and Masters in Biology. After I finished my masters I wanted to go into Medical School but then decided that for me 34 years old is a bit to old so instead I’m staying with my masters and perhaps follow up with Public Health.

  161. High School Student

    February 17, 2012 @ 12:08 am

    161

    Wow this has really pulled me back and forth. Some comments agreeing some did not. I’m really confused and indecisive of being a psychiatrist. The human mind is amazing to me, even the “dark side,” and I love helping people. But I want to have a good life in my golden years…

  162. Lala

    February 17, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

    162

    Ever since I’ve been reading blogs like this by medical students, I’ve started to wonder if I really wanted to go into the medical field afterall.
    I guess I’m what you’d call a premed, though my interest is really in the MD/PhD program. I chose medicine because it was my childhood dream. I honestly, honestly could not think of anything else I’d rather do. I’ve researched becoming a nurse, a PT or OT, or even a journalist or elementary school teacher; I even worked in those fields to get a feel for the setting, and I couldn’t, for the life of me, find anything that could replace being a doctor.
    Then I volunteered in a hospital and got further suckered into it by the patients I helped to take care of.
    But to be honest, I suck at the sciences and have no numerical talent. All the A’s I’ve pulled in those courses up to this point has been a result of my blood, sweat, and tears. I’ve learned an incredible amount of information and honed in on so many of my strengths and weaknesses in order to better prepare myself for graduate school’s rigor.
    But it’s hard. I work my ass off; it’s not fun and games for me, and I’m not even a med student yet. I struggle, I cry, and sometimes, I break down and wallow. Right now, I pretty much hate this calc based physics course I’m taking; I’m pretty sure I’ve been reading the same chapters at least four times just to familiarize myself with the material. Times like this, I really have to stop and wonder what the point of all this struggling is, and most importantly, if I should go into a field where I may, in fact, end up struggling my whole life.
    But at the end of the day, if I can outdo my expectations, I feel the most rewarding experience; it is something I cannot get from the arts (my natural forte), a type of thrill or exhiliration that cannot be found in social interactions or what normal people would call “fun.”
    I can only imagine what saving a life, or bringing one into this world, might feel like. I bet it’s terrifying. Haha.
    I still want to pursue medical school. I know it’s hard and that it may suck; the hours are long and the risks that are entailed in so many aspects of this career are really high, but I want to do my best, I want to try, and I will see where that’ll take me.

  163. Ali B

    February 22, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

    163

    Lala – So you’re saying it’s a struggle, not fun and games, potentially terrifying, and it makes you cry, break down and wallow, and you’re still thinking about doing it? And there’s something that’s your natural forte (art), and you’re neglecting that? It’s a bit like saying you’re with a guy whom you don’t like very much, scares you, beats you up, but you’re going to stay with him even though there’s a perfectly nice guy whom you love and loves you back. Courage, woman! Unless you’re a glutton for punishment and that secretly makes you happy, let go of the torture and go for real fulfillment and joy instead. ‘Cause one thing’s for sure: this road’s not going to get any easier. Quit while you’re behind.

  164. Emily

    February 24, 2012 @ 4:51 am

    164

    Anyone have a take on pharmacy? Less fulfilling… to the point where I will look back and say “I should have just done it” but instead chose pharm? I am a people person. I want to see people and help people. I jsut don’t know what to do.

  165. UpTooLate

    February 26, 2012 @ 3:03 am

    165

    Ali, thank you for the thoughtful and thought provoking rant.

    As 50-year-old physician it was great to read and brought many smiles to my face. There is very little in it that can be denied and yet being an MD can still be a wonderful life. I totally identified with the ‘Lost Decade’ feeling. The 1 in 3 call induced haze that was my 20s still feels like an amazing loss to me and yet there were many rewards along the way. I can even still remember some of them! Sleep deprivation is a bitch when it comes to long-term memory consolidation. I write this at 0130h the night after being awake 26 hours straight and coming home to sleep from 9am-3pm before heading off to see my 14-year-old daughter’s hockey playoff game, having missed my son’s game due to the call the night before.

    I have been lucky to have been married to an MD classmate for 20 years and have 4 wonderful children. Certainly, physician relationships can survive, in my med school class, 9 couples formed and married. 8 of the marriages are still intact 25 years on. In my office practice group there are 9 physicians, all still married to their original spouses. Pretty impressive and probably aberrant but shows that it can be done. Truly though it is hard, I spent a few hours with a classmate who went into anaesthesia last week who I have only seen 3 times in 20 years after being great friends in both undergrad and med school even though he lives only 20 minutes away! Was a wonderful visit! Hopefully they will occur more frequently.

    I have been lucky enough to work and teach all over the world and I still greatly enjoy patients and the interactions I have with them. I enjoy the practice of medicine and surgery. What I don’t enjoy is the politics and intrigue of dealing with hospital administrators and others in positions of power. But such is life, it is not all roses. At the end of the day, it will have been a wonderful life. Yes, it could have been much different, perhaps better, but it could definitely have been much worse and spent in much less useful ways.

    Prior to my night on call last night, I spent 3 hours tutoring a group of first year medical students. I will share your post with them. I am sure that they have considered the points you have made, and to their credit have decided to give medicine a try anyway. As far as my own children, they will make their own decisions as to whether they have the drive and desire to pursue a career in medicine. I will not be disappointed if they don’t follow in their parents’ footsteps but I know that they will have missed something special.

    Thanks again for writing the rant. Great stuff. Cheers.

  166. Ali B

    February 27, 2012 @ 5:13 pm

    166

    Thanks for your contribution, UpTooLate. This is about as real as it gets. I commend you on your courage and heart.

  167. Ben Telemon

    February 29, 2012 @ 11:24 am

    167

    I’ll agree in part, disagree in part. In my fairly affluent neighborhood, my kids friends whose dads are physicians all live in nice, expensive homes with expensive cars in the driveways. I don’t think they are hurting. But I completely agree that people in the financial sector are obscenely overpaid. Physicians mostly are doing a great service to society, while wall street types simply don’t.

  168. Elgin

    March 8, 2012 @ 9:54 pm

    168

    I completely agree with this. My time as a neurosurgeon has worn me down. My health was suffering and the stress of this profession has made me realize it is not worth it. The patients see you as an enemy somehow instead of someone on their side. They are hoping to find some fault with you in order that they may profit. I am not encouraging my children to go into medicine. If you have the desire to help people, that’s fine, but I would do it through the peace corp, not by being a doctor. I have wasted the best years of my life studying as hard as I can to master an unbelievable volume of knowledge and even more studying to stay current, and for what? I don’t even care that we don’t make as much money as we did in the past. I just want to get away from the hostility and predatory behavior of the patients and their families. My plan is to become a college professor. It is the only thing I can think of with this otherwise useless education. If you love life and you want a family life, don’t go into medicine.

  169. Screamers aren’t just a bedroom phenomenon | Doctor At Dusk

    March 19, 2012 @ 8:12 pm

    169

    [...] doctor is teaching the new generation that the best thing they can do for themselves is run the hell away from this profession as fast as their sedentary little legs will carry them, so they can ignore you and say things like [...]

  170. David

    March 22, 2012 @ 3:52 pm

    170

    After reading these albeit intersting responses it is painfully apparent of the “generational ideals” that are present. To think any profession is a bed of roses is ridiculous. Medicine is no different. Quality of life for firefighters, politicians, doctors, contractors, students, and any other walk of life is difficult if not impossible. Our Hollywooed infused, greedy, material obsessed culture wants it both ways. Don’t buy the hype. Life is hard and medicine is not a “job”. Why would you go through twelve years of school just for a “job”. That’s ignorant. Any job dealing with people is impossible-hence the need for God! I am a public school teacher and by doing my job I have been sued 3X’s. That’s just part of the job. Do I think a teacher’s job is idealistic? Haha. No, it’s about survivial. A good of dose of reality I think is what this web page is about. If reality scares you, maybe you should start a weed farm and zone out like millions do everyday. It’s like marriage, it’s a commitment. Think of like this: When you’re about to die and leave this world forever, what do you want to remember about your life? In the words of Staff Sergent Webber of the USMC, “Pain is temporary, pride is forever.”

  171. Sarah

    March 25, 2012 @ 11:31 pm

    171

    I truthfully do not think you went into medicine for the right reasons . I read this article when I was premed and you terrified me. But I knew I wanted to medicine for the patient relationships. I am an OGBYN so I know all about malpractice and how bad insurance sucks and sleep deprivation I am queen of. However, I have plenty of time for family and friends. Residency was rough but Med School was okay. I now also teach at NYU and I love it. It made it all worth it. Sometimes I wonder if I should’ve skipped med school and just did PhD for free and taught. However, I do like my patient relationships, besides the ones that sue me my patients love me and treat me with respect. I do not resent humans as you said. I appreciate them and life more by being a doctor. I think being a doctor alone is stressful, I think we are underpaid. I think OBAMA IS AN IDIOT and ruining healthcare. However, once I added teaching, I had more time and pleasure for everything in my life. Med school loans can easily be paid off. Honestly everyone in my old practice takes ski trip and europe trips every year. My only regret is that I feel like I wasted my prime. Wouldve preferred med school not to eat up my 20s. Also I would suggest going to Med School in a place you love. I attended NYU and it made med school more pleasant , however it did add significantly to my debt (which I paid off in 7 years) but it was stressful during med school. Perhaps wait until residency to move to NY if you are considering.

  172. Rebecca

    April 6, 2012 @ 6:57 pm

    172

    In the trenches of surgical residency (arguably the most intense part of one’s medical career) and living it. Every day is unpredictable and challenging and high stakes, but every day I learn something new and that constant stimulation is something I don’t think I would get in any other field. Someone had a comment about seeing the forest through the trees and that is the key to survival in medicine. You have to see the whole patient but you also have to picture your future jobas an attending – which is nothing like medical school or residency.

    Not only did I make more friends in these past 7 years of school and training (both in and outside of medicine), but I developed some very deep lasting relationships. With the Internet and FaceTime its easier to keep in touch than ever.

    It is a marathon, and it’s not for everyone, but if you persevere you can accomplish something pretty amazing.

  173. Michigan Orthopedic Surgery

    April 10, 2012 @ 4:34 am

    173

    Long ago there was a story i read in which the doctor would live in a remote area and help people because there was nobody about who could do so. I think you need to take a break and clear your head. you already have enumerated why you think the medical profession is so lame but that is the case with most professions if you look closely. So I say do what you want to and as much you want to leave the rest. Cheers!

  174. Indian Girl

    April 26, 2012 @ 12:42 pm

    174

    I have never been more confused in my life. And then I stumbled on this article. I have resorted to countless prayers, discussing with those far and near, specialized and generalist alike.

    I want prestige, financial security, fulfillment but also be able to help humanity. I love too many things – I enjoy science, I enjoy law, I enjoy the idea of running a corporation.. I am not a young chicken, I have graduated with a health degree from college over two years ago. I am currently working but not specialized in anything.

    I want to have that gut feeling that says, “this is it” and just DO it. But when I move to wetting my feet, something holds me back. My strongest traits are persuasion, writing, debate, logic, creativity and compassion. You give me the remote I will immediately tune it to Discovery. You give me a stance and I will defend it. You give me a problem and I will make you see it in a way you didn’t. Give me an idea and I will present it to you in a completely new way. But I want to make sure that I help people. And medicine.. is the epitome of that isn’t it? I don’t know where that places me? I am an Indian and my family deserves to be proud of me and naturally they want a doctor. I want so bad to have the title, but from what I read that is certainly not a good reason. I am not worried about long hours or stress because I WANT to be married to my career.. because I want that to be my purpose. I am so lost, but this article did help. Any feedback on my situation would be REALLY helpful.. I need to make a decision soon..

  175. Arthur E. Angove, D.O., Gen. Surgeon, Ret.

    April 27, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

    175

    As an almost octogenarian retired general surgeon I can enjoy all the comments above. When I was fourteen I was inspired to be a medical missionary. At Westmar College my counsellor directed me to take courses that would credential me as a biology, chemistry and physics high school teacher; a pastor, and physician. I started teaching with an annual salary of $3500. After three very enjoyable years of renovating the third floor of the high school with all the most uptodate scientific equipment through a grant from the U.S. government who wanted us to catch up to the develpers of Sputnik, I studied physics at the University of Iowa where Dr. Vernor von Braun who invented the rockets that bombarded London, and Dr. Van Allen of whom the radiation belt circling the earth was named, and watched the development of the Explorer. I was going to become an M.D., but after my wife experienced a disablingly painful back condition that couldn’t be helped at the hospital in Iowa City, she wanted to see her own physician in Rochester, MN who after fifteen minutes had her laughing as she walked normally out of his office; and at no charge to her. After learning that he was a D.O. I questioned many M.D.s as to what is a D.O. As with some of the above comments I received very discouraging advice; but my real life experience told me to get my D.O. degree for which I am eternally grateful. This past weekend a beautiful princess and a shy gentle boy invited me to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary. Their pediatrician daughter from Florida asked me to attend the celebration of which I was their pastor for three years in Madrid, Iowa, and performed the marriage ceremony. We had two daughters while teaching, another daughter while studying osteopathic medicine in Des Moines, Iowa, where I am now a board of trustees member of the great Des Moines University. Two sons while in Surgical residency; and another daughter during my first year of surgical practice in Milwaukee, WI. My malpractice insurance policy was $1000/yr. Then suddenly $16,000/yr and at that time many surgeons questioned whether to continue doing surgery; well the last year of practice I went to the bank to borrow $104,000. to buy the policy required to practice surgery in the hospital. My first surgery in Milwaukee was an appendectomy for which I charged $170. The parents insisted on paying me in cash; and greeted me by bowing and saying: Good morning Mr. Doctor. I don’t even know what the charge for an appendectomy is now. A few years ago I did a cholecystectomy on Governor Adelberto Paz in La Clinica Medica Cristiana in Progeso, Yoro, Honduras for $75 charged by the hospital. I didn’t charge anything. My kids have often asked: Dad, why do we always go on vacation to some place where you do surgery? It’s because that’s what I enjoy doing the most! My oldest daughter Julie is a labor and delivery nurse (RNC, BSN, EFMC) and stops in to tell me excitedly: Dad, I had the most wonderful day…then proceeds to tell me the details….and they even paid me for it! I’ve been mentoring premed students from the University of Wisconsin and Marquette University and having them with me at the Surgical Morbidity/Mortality Reviews, and all have thanked me for inspiring them. A beautiful girl who could be a model came up to me at the Medical Society Foundation dinner and told me: Thank you Dr. Angove for inspiring me to become a general surgeon. That’s worth more than any amount of money. My advice to young people is to put all your resources into becoming that which is your passion and what God inspires your heart and mind to be to serve humanity. A cheerful heart is like a good medicine!

  176. F. A. Hayek

    May 4, 2012 @ 4:53 am

    176

    I wonder if OBAMACARE and/or similar governmental policies that may possibly be passed within the next 5 to 10 years may give further reason not to become a doctor. Wouldn’t salaries decrease, more of doctors’ jobs be dictated by third parties, etc., etc.? In fact, much of the stress of becoming a physician would, in my opinion, be lowered by relaxing the stringent process currently in place. In other words, licensure laws are as much to blame as anything else for the problems with the medical field today. Without them, some salaries would go down while others would go up, competition would increase, costs would be pulled down so that cost of care could become more affordable, better doctors would be rewarded better and bad doctors would have to quickly choose a different profession. People wouldn’t need someone with 12 years of education and the associated stresses to do a routine physical or fix a common ailment. The shortage of doctors would be met by more willing and able people to fill the various niches in the medical field. Perhaps some medical schools would cost less, attracting larger numbers of graduates. These ideas sound very utopian and you may say that this would cause rampant problems because anyone could practice medicine, but people need to take responsibility of themselves and find the right person for the job. It’s not like there are no mistakes in medicine even with these supposedly necessary licensure laws which are burdensome.

  177. charann77

    May 6, 2012 @ 3:31 pm

    177

    I think that all the issues you pose are legitimate, however, my father is a family physician and went to medical school while married to my mother and I am proud to say that they are still happily married 25 years later. Although he talks about those times being very difficult, he still has fond memories of his times at USC medical school. And as a family physician with his own practice he still never missed one of my ballet recitals or volleyball games. I think that it, like anything else, has to do with what you make of it. Trying to be easy going and having a sense of humor about it is extremely important. My dad tells one story where he was in residency and was working the grave yard shift the night before so got no sleep and then had to attend a lecture the next morning. The last he remembered was them turning off the lights for the slideshow and then next thing he knew his arm was soaking wet and the room was empty. It was then that he realized he fell asleep and drooled down his arm with a puddle on his desk. Its obviously exhausting but he can now look back and laugh at those times. I think he would say that the struggle was worth doing what he is passionate about. He loves his patients and the sense of pride he gets from being able to help them. I know this may seem a little idealistic but i think this is possible.

  178. Carla

    May 7, 2012 @ 1:10 am

    178

    I’m not even a doctor and I have to agree with ALL of this. I am a Certified Nursing Assistant and I am currently in school to be a Medical Assistant and Phlebotomy, but in my 6 years as a CNA, I agree with everything you just said. I don’t get to heal people or save lives per se BUT I do get the glorious task of being my residents family, I do get to spend more time with every patient, luckily for me. And when I think I’m about to give up on the medical field entirely, I have the occasional LOL tell me how much they love me, and that I am God’s gift to them. :) But thank you for the story all the same. It made me realize I am NEVER going to be a doctor. I enjoy food, sleep and the occasional stress-relieving nookie. Lol.

  179. Ali B

    May 7, 2012 @ 2:34 am

    179

    Charann77: 25 years is a long time ago, hon. This article was meant for people going into medicine today, when things are considerably different. Although it doesn’t seem like his experience was any walk in the park, either. Also, it doesn’t seem like you have any first-hand experience with medicine. You know about as much about medicine as you do about marriage: you know your dad who went through it. No substitute for experiencing it yourself.

  180. Indian Girl

    May 10, 2012 @ 3:49 pm

    180

    When some people are “born” to be doctors – what traits do they possess?

  181. ChrisC

    May 14, 2012 @ 2:18 am

    181

    I’m currently a student on a fast-track for a DPT. I have been blowing my classes out of the water and where others are struggling I am having no problems. I love everything about the human body and internal workings, even the nitty-gritty details everyone else seem to hate. That being said I’ve been considering jumping into a pre-med program. I would have no trouble being accepted but this decision has been keeping me up at night because I have my doubts if it’s the right decision for myself. Reading this put more doubts in my mind. I know if I put my mind to it I can do it, but you make it sound like it’s not even worth it. What should I do? A DPT is rewarding and I’ll be able to help people but I’m afraid it won’t be enough. I don’t want to stop learning when there is so much out there, esp when I can help people with what I learn. I don’t want to finish college/grad school and look back knowing I made the wrong decision. Any advice would be great, I would greatly appreciate it from someone who clearly knows the profession.

  182. Ali B

    May 14, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

    182

    PT is a hugely rewarding profession — my sister is one. And, I gotta tell ya, it chafes her that she’s just as smart as the docs, and she makes X amount less than them, and they call all the shots, etc etc. Then again, she’s never been a doc, so I’m sure there’d be something to groan about in that position, too. The point is you should go into any profession not because of such externalities as prestige, compensation, status or other such irrelevancies, but because YOU ENJOY DOING THE WORK AND IT GIVES YOUR LIFE MEANING. We live in these extraordinary times when we don’t have to hunt mastodon for a living, but instead can choose to sub-specialize in any number of interesting ways. So if you really enjoy working with people’s bodies and helping them heal in an absolutely tangible, rewarding way, PT is fantastic. If you like to deal with sick people every day as a physician, with all the pluses and minuses enumerated in the article, do that. But remember the only reason to go into medicine (or any other demanding profession): you enjoy doing that specific work above everything else in life. I mean, you order a burrito because you enjoy eating burritos, not because it’ll make you fart later. In the case of medicine, that work is dealing with sick people. Everything else is incidental. If that’s your calling, then do it. Keep your eyes on that, and you’ll make the right decision.

  183. Ali B

    May 14, 2012 @ 1:17 pm

    183

    Sangeeta: Ten fingers, ten toes, a tolerance for pain, and a complete lack of ego.

  184. Wally

    May 16, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

    184

    Most of the doctors I’ve spoken to have such tiny, tiny lives, they don’t know about the world and the finer things it has to offer. 40 year old men who know nothing but medicine, I wouldn’t ask them about anything but health.

  185. Tough Decision Awaiting

    May 26, 2012 @ 1:37 am

    185

    I am a Physician Assistant student and this blog has had me up the past couple hours reading it because I am faced right now with a very tough decision. I just started school two weeks ago. Two days ago I found out that the medical school I have applied to for the past 3 years decided to accept me this go around. Now I am in school to be a PA and have 3 tests next week to study for but any second I could close the books and decide to start medical school this fall. A little background information about me would probably be helpful to readers, as I realize this post is sounding a little confusing…
    I have known since high school that I was going to go into healthcare. Patient interaction and the challenges of diagnosis and treatment are things I truly believe I would not be happy without. During my senior year of high school I decided I would take the medical school route. I just couldn’t see myself getting the satisfaction and reward I was looking for in any other profession. In 2006 I started on the pre-med track. Despite the challenges of being on a division I NCAA varsity tennis team, I graduated in Kinesiology with a 3.76 GPA. I took the MCAT and applied to medical school. My MCAT was not very good, so, despite getting an interview, I was rejected. I worked for a year getting patient care experience, took the MCAT again, and applied again. I only got 1 point higher and was rejected yet again, so I started teaching tennis for a living because I needed to support myself. This past year was my 3rd year applying and taking the MCAT. Although my score was nothing extraordinary, it was 3 points higher than before and much more competitive, but it still wasn’t high enough to convince me that I would definitely get in. My mom is an RN and told me to look into PA schools because I was really just getting so frustrated that a stupid test was holding me back from doing what I dreamed of doing. After some research I decided to apply to PA school along with medical school. For anyone who has been through the process I don’t need to tell you twice how long and annoying the med school application process is (unless you were one of the lucky ones admitted early). On the other hand, PA programs typically start in the summer so their application process is shorter. I got in to PA school and kept waiting to hear from med school to really decide what I was going to do. Through the PA application process and more research I came to realize how amazing the PA profession is and started to think maybe I can get the same rewards (quality patient interaction and still being able to diagnose and treat) I am looking for in medicine by being a PA. With still no word from medical school, I had to make a decision because the PA program was starting soon. I decided I was going to move away from my long-term boyfriend and start the program. Well…..
    A few days ago, I received a letter saying I was accepted to medical school. Now I don’t know what to do. I truly like the program I am in, the students in my class, and the professors in my program. I think I can do great things as a PA and I don’t look at the profession as “settling” anymore. I am truly worried about making the right decision. At the top of my con list of being a PA is always having that thought in the back of my mind “I could have been a doctor. Why didn’t I?” But is that just my ego talking and can I get past that? On the flip side, at the top of my con list of going to medical school is my future life besides my job. I want to be a great mom and a great wife and I want that to start sooner (not too soon but to have the option would be great) than later. I am young so I would still be only in my low 30s after residency if I chose medical school but I can graduate from this PA program in 2.5 years and have a stable job. I do not mean to imply it is impossible to raise a family as a female physician. It is done all of the time but I don’t think I would be satisfied with someone else raising my children. Although I know the PA route is definitely not stress free, overall it seems to be more lenient for family life. My boyfriend is starting law school in the fall and we plan on getting married. He thinks I should go to medical school because it was my dream for so long and he thinks I would truly regret it later. He’s not pushing me and will support me no matter what, but those are his thoughts. I can’t help but wonder was all of that applying meant to lead me to a career as a PA? or am I supposed to realize that I need to drop everything and go to med school? It is just not that clear to me and am truly conflicted. Ok, I have been typing for too long. I am sorry if this is a pain to read, but I just really need some guidance and I know it should come from within myself but there just doesn’t seem to be any clear answer. I thought if I was accepted to med school then my gut would tell me what was right…didn’t quite happen that way. Comments, thoughts, questions, emails all appreciated.

    Amazing that this blog has lasted so long. Thanks Ali B!

  186. Ali B

    May 26, 2012 @ 3:01 pm

    186

    Ms Tough Decision: thanks for sharing so freely of yourself. So the conclusion of my article was that only people who start out 100% super gung-ho about taking care of sick people in the context of a medical career should even consider going into it, since most of those people end up being dissatisfied anyway. What I didn’t see anywhere in your post was how much you enjoy the actual *work* of being a caretaker of sick people. Because that’s what you’re going to be doing! Instead, you talk about having a stable job, being able to have kids while you train, and appeasement of your ego. Let me put it to you straight: these are the WRONG reasons for choosing any profession, especially medicine. And if you’re this lukewarm about the whole thing now, it’s like marrying a guy you’re about to break up with, hoping that the marriage will consolidate the relationship. Um, no. Sounds like going to med school would be a pretty colossal mistake here. Now would be a good time to subdue the ego and instead answer this question: “What work fulfills me while also making me a decent living?” Then go do that, young woman.

  187. Margit Schoenberg

    June 3, 2012 @ 12:22 am

    187

    I just now saved your comment. You are brilliant!!

  188. D.Divine

    June 7, 2012 @ 9:06 pm

    188

    Yeah, medicine in the States sucks ass.

  189. kevin

    June 8, 2012 @ 4:29 pm

    189

    I’m not sure which PA program you attend, but the idea of having kids during training is not realistic. I went to a PA school were we took anatomy, physiology and pharmacology with the med students. With the exeption of peds and gyn rotations I lived in the hospital with the residents and med students. Like a lot of them I developed depression, sleep depravation and an ulcer. It gets better after graduation, but just because your a midlevel – its not a cakewalk. Your core clinical skills develop during your first 3 years after graduation. Expect to work your tail off and come home exhausted. Fact is MD or PA – when you have to deal with 25-30 people daily it takes a toll on you. I guess you could shelter youself in Derm or FP and limit your hours if you want to be a good Mom- but you should stay away from surgery, ER or other intense specialties because they will burn you out. I’ve been a PA for 17 years and I figure I have another 8 good years left in me. I look forward to the time when I can focus my effots not on my patients, but friends family and pets. Best of luck.

  190. Denis

    June 10, 2012 @ 12:18 am

    190

    Ali-
    Your piece was very eye-opening for me. I’ve read everything you wrote as well as most of the other posts on this blog. I was seeking some advice on what to do in my situation. I am a junior in undergrad and I’ve been juggling between the decision between pharmacy, physical therapy and medicine for a couple years now. I’ve had no trouble with any courses I’ve had to take for undergrad in pre-health sciences and have no interest in any field outside of health. As a whole, if I had to choose between doing the work of a doctor, pharmacist, or physical therapist I would choose the work of a doctor. However, I can see myself in other fields; I’m just not sure if it would make me happier than medicine. Everybody I know tells me I should maximize my potential and become a doctor but not many people understand what this entails. Obviously, the decision is my own to make but in the past I wanted to take the easiest route to a comfortable life with good money which led me to think that pharmacy was the route for me. However, as I got older I realized that I wanted to have a career where I could feel satisfied with my work and where I could feel fulfilled. I know this seems egotistical because every health career makes a difference in their own way but I’ve always felt that becoming a doctor would satisfy me internally. However, I’m not generally a hard worker and have gotten by just by having a good head on my shoulders. Also, I don’t know if I have the tolerance to endure medical school in terms of the physical and emotional rigor. I’m not satisfied with losing many friends or with losing relationships. I would like to enjoy my youth and it seems almost impossible to do so and become a doctor as well. I know that with this information it’s probably not a good idea to go to medical school at all but for some reason, I can’t stop thinking about the prospect. In the end, I just want to live a happy life and I don’t need an astronomical income. However, if I don’t pick a career that fulfills me and if it leaves me wanting more, I know I will be tempted to challenge myself to the fullest. I’m taking a year off before applying because of my lack of ability to decide. Do you have any advice for me in this situation? I know that you said that people should only go to medical school if they only envisioned themselves becoming a doctor and nothing else but can anything different be said about my case? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.

  191. Ali B

    June 13, 2012 @ 4:11 am

    191

    Denis – It’s interesting to me that people get so stuck on medicine amongst literally millions of career choices. It’s like saying, “Look, I really like burgers. But I don’t think they’re good for me. But if I don’t eat burgers, what will I ever eat?” Simple — eat ANYTHING ELSE. We live in an era that, with access to powerful supercomputers, internet connections, easy website building tools, free streaming video, 3-D printing and god knows what else, with minimal resources you can create any business that you want. There is no excuse for being this unimaginative. Forge your own path young man. And from what you’ve discussed, medicine’s the wrong fit for you. Usually people start by being way into it, then get disillusioned. But if the bloom is already off the rose for you before even starting, that’s a bad sign.

  192. Denis

    June 14, 2012 @ 6:38 am

    192

    Ali- Thanks for the insight! I’ve got a lot to think about in my year off.

  193. Triton

    June 14, 2012 @ 11:55 am

    193

    I wouldn’t call being in FP “shelterd”, it’s as demanding as any other specialty.

  194. Dreama1

    June 16, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

    194

    Thank you for this blog.

    It has really opened my eyes.

    I was pursuing a BA in psychology with the intention of becoming a clinical psychologist, but psychiatry interested me since I also wanted to prescribe (I know that there are clinical psychologists who can prescribe in some states), so I decided very late in my degree that i wanted to do med school.

    I never thought I would like science and I avoided it like the plague but I thought I may as well endure it because eventually it will be over. I have talked to plenty of psychiatrists, most of whom don’t think their medical school was actually useful for what they do on a day to day basis (obviously that depends on what psychiatrists). I ended up enjoying science even though it takes so much more effort than any arts class I have done. There is something to be said about working hard for a grade, as opposed to being naturally good at writing, for instance.

    Do I regret taking these science classes? Not really, as it proved to me what I had long doubted that I “can” do anything that I put my mind to and if i wanted it that much.

    Then I realized the competitiveness of med school entrants, I have an excellent GPA, but obviously I had not decided from the time I was a child, so I had a lot of catching up to do. Now, I realize that it is all in vain. I decided at the end of my 2nd year of college to go into medicine. By hard work, I have nearly finished all of the pre-requisites including organic 2 and biochemistry from start to finish in a years time (summer included). On a side note, I thoroughly enjoyed chemistry – a subject that I “hated” in high school.

    As I’m sure you all are well aware I wanted to go into medicine for all the wrong reasons. The one reason that persuaded me to do it was that I didn’t want to have any regrets later in my career that I didn’t pursue it. However, I can strongly say now that the only regret I would have is if I pursued this decision. As many of you said, it’s something you cannot get out of it once you’re in.

    I’d better stop while i’m behind.

  195. David

    June 20, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

    195

    Hi Ali,

    A very thought-provoking blog post – there’s a reason it’ still attracting so much discussion even seven years later. BUT I don’t think I can agree with your main hypothesis.

    My experience has been that people who have it all tend to be unhappy people – they always want even more, and completely forget how privileged they are. This, I believe, is true for many doctors. Some people have mentioned how people in finance, pharmacy, or law make even more money – but that’s very naive. Why? Because first of all these were mentions of very successful individuals – i.e. not of the average finance, pharmacy, or law grad, but rather of the top 10% or so. Obviously it doesn’t make sense to compare the average MD to the top 10% of another high-paying job. When you compare the average MD to the average finance, pharmacy, or law graduate then you’ll see that the average MD is making a lot more money (even when taking into account higher debt upon graduation and the long time to practice) and has a LOT more job security. And honestly, do you really think that the average finance or law graduate has a less stressful life than the average MD?! I certainly don’t think so.

    I think this also shows another problem that many people who are interested in med school have: the fact that they are deciding between medicine and completely unrelated career options (such as finance or law) shows that they are not really interested in a career as a physician – their main motivation is money and prestige. And those are pretty bad reasons to go into a career – there will always be someone else who makes more than you make.

    Similarly, I find it rather bizarre that some people are deciding between med school and becoming a PA – these are completely different jobs! By the same “argument” you could also say that you are deciding between med school and becoming a hospital janitor – since both jobs are in healthcare after all.

    So guys, regardless of how much you whine, don’t forget that the average physician makes $200k in the U.S. – do you really think that that’s poor pay? Would you rather work three part-time jobs in retain, have at least as much stress, no healthcare coverage, a job that’s much less interesting, and make $15,000 a year? EVERYBODY who gets an MD is a superprivileged person, with 99.9999% job security, the highest average income of any job, and a job that’s actually interesting and exciting. Something to think about.

  196. David

    June 20, 2012 @ 2:14 pm

    196

    Also, further to my post a few minutes ago: every other career has major risks. Many people who own restaurants and gas stations (“alternatives” that somebody has mentioned in a post) go bankrupt. Many people who have innovative business ideas never get access to venture capital. Many people who used to work in finance got laid off when the crisis came. But virtually 100% of med school graduates can become a physician if they want to – and unemployment is unknown of. Zero career risk. Which other education can offer that? Yet another major advantage of med school… therefore, rather than whining and complaining about how medicine is an oh so harsh career path, I’d recommend to be grateful instead that we have one of the best paid and most rewarding careers in the world. People who whine about medicine will likely whine even more if they ever experience a different career.

  197. C Humphreys

    June 24, 2012 @ 10:41 am

    197

    First of all, I love your post. I am applying to medical school next spring, and I came across this site while searching – ‘Reasons to become a doctor’. And I came across your site, which was the best by far. All the good reasons (posted on other sites) were lame…for example – you will get to save lives – like I didn’t already know that. This site gives you the real side of what it really takes. Reading your post makes me laugh (but the truth of it will probably make me cry later when I get to that point- lol!) But the fact is, if these things make you want to quit, then medicine isn’t for you and I appriciate someone posting what it really means to be a doctor!

  198. Emily

    June 24, 2012 @ 11:04 pm

    198

    Tough decisions. Hard to know what you want to do when you are 21… especially when it involves committing to a 7+ year medical education…

    Please listen to Ali to find in your heart what you truly want to do. Ask people for advice and ask about their experiences, but at the end of the day this is YOUR decision. And you have to live with whatever you choose (med school or not). Will you not be happy because you hate the hours and were pressured into medicine? Or will you come to love it? Whether med school is the right or wrong fit for you is something YOU need to discern. If something feels wrong, it probably is wrong. But make YOUR decision. Don’t let someone else make it for you.

    Please hear me out. I also struggled a lot with my decision. I still am. I am taking the MCAT this fall. It scares the hell out of me (honestly, I am not going to dance around the truth) because of what so many people tell me about medicine… but I just come right back to it. I have a passion for it when I shadow the doctors and see the patients. I love it. So I took MY own experience. I listened to others… but I had to know when to start listening to myself. I KNOW this will be the most time consuming thing I could ever do. Ya. That sucks. But who got anywhere without hard work?

    **In the end no one can take this away from me. I can get married, I can find other things to make me happy… but all of these things are outside of me; basically, they can be taken from me in a heartbeat. My education is something no one can take from me. And I can specialize however I want. I don’t know the future. So why not start with something I love. I truly believe everything will fall into place. And this begins with the MCAT. If I score poorly, I may reevaluate. People, follow your heart, and the fact that you are thinking so much about it means you are truly making an informed decision. Everything happens for a reason.

    Good luck!

  199. PTboy

    June 25, 2012 @ 10:58 pm

    199

    I never understood why more students don’t pursue dentistry instead of medicine, seems like a much better lifestyle while still helping people. Maybe the prestige matter? I feel like they get the last laugh though.

  200. Ali B

    June 26, 2012 @ 3:48 am

    200

    PTboy – For some time, dentistry has been regarded as being in the second tier of medical professions. Basically, those who can’t get into med school go to dental school. Startup costs for a new practice are very high (think of all that equipment), job satisfaction is low (nobody’s happy to see you, and no one leaves your office happy either), and I’ve heard anecdotally that dentistry has the highest suicide rate of any professional position. Doesn’t sound like a tasty alternative to me.

  201. Ali B

    June 26, 2012 @ 3:53 am

    201

    David – Some good points here, especially the one about how you’re probably not cut for medicine if it’s just one of the choices amongst law, finance, etc. At the same time, David, I wonder how much personal experience you’ve had with the medical profession. Are you speaking from experience, or just speculating? Because what I’m presenting is not hypothesis, as you call it — it’s my personal experience, which is beyond any kind of conjecture. This stuff actually happened. And there is no income high enough to make up for chronic stress and dissatisfaction, regardless of how ‘noble’ the profession.

  202. Jen

    June 30, 2012 @ 3:10 pm

    202

    ALi,
    I loved this blog – and it is dead on. After 10 years in patient care – and spending the last 3 years on the fence about whether i wanted to practice at all for all of the reasons you mentioned above, and I am not an MD. I think I was so idealistic 15 years ago about medicine, and alternative medicine to boot. Being a healer, being helping professional, yada yada. My students who intern with me find me cynical and sometimes a bit harsh about many people in general, and I tell them to come back and talk to me in 10 years, after 20K in unpaid claims, rude clients who stiff you for their fees, beloved clients who then threaten to sue you. It is enough to make you hate people in general. But in truth my anger at all of this was largely about ignorance. PBS’ The Doctor Diaries captured this so clearly, since the attrition rate is very high. It took some time for me to clear out the anger at medicine not being as I had imagined, and then seeing if I could accept it for how it is, and find a place for myself in that.

    Ironically, on the other side of this clearing out process, and deciding that I do in fact want to continue to be a clinician, I am considering returning to school to get a PA, which will all a more steady income than being a self-employed ancillary provider and even more opps for teaching and research. For the students out there, the first 5-7 years after is just brutal, and I had no idea what I was in for, even as an ancillary provider. One of the docs on PBS summed it up best – medicine should only be practiced by someone who just cant imagine doing anything else. It has to be an obsession or you won’t get through.

  203. Jezzabel

    July 1, 2012 @ 10:40 pm

    203

    First of all, thanks for posting this. When I was a premed and expressed reservations about what my life would like in med school and beyond, my worries were uniformly dismissed by my adviser with many variations of “you can, you should.” Barring some prophetic dream in the next few nights, though, I’ll be moving forward knowing that I could (was accepted), but I’m not, and that is the best decision for me.

    Clearly, many people who are reading all these comments are searching for answers about whether to embark on this career/life. I feel for you all, and I’ve been there before. I wanted to share how I came to the decision to not go to medical school for those of you looking for the courage to make the same decision.

    When I applied I wasn’t sure I’d go if I got in, because I already had some reservations. Pre-med wasn’t a cake walk for me, and I enjoyed my time in my liberal arts courses much more. The MCAT was hell, and I didn’t do fantastic, but good enough. I was mostly interested in mental health, and I thought psychiatry would be best deal – highest paying, decent hours, part time work seemed feasible, etc. I’ve always been a humanitarian at heart, and I certainly didn’t set my sights on medicine just for the prestige and money. Doing something along the lines of MSF has been a long standing dream of mine. I also grew up rather poor, and I saw this as a definite way to never be a single mother working 3 jobs just to pay the bills.

    But, it all just never really felt right. I remember opening acceptance emails and having my stomach sink. I really value health, which was originally a motivating factor for med school, but I soon realized that the training is in no way healthy. I deferred one acceptance to take some time out to think it through, and it was a great decision. Through shadowing, I realized that most doctors only get to spend a short time with their patients, and mostly they are managing meds or prescribing away. I want a more holistic, integrative approach, and that is not what I’m seeing in the profession. I also talked with career counselors, which helped me get to the bottom of my decision. I pretty quickly threw out the idea that I needed to go to med school to provide medical care or pursue MSF someday – I never intended to be a surgeon or specialist, and I think as a mid-level (if I decide to go that route) I could do a lot in the way of primary care. I also shadowed NPs and PAs in the same clinics I shadowed primary care docs (in family med, pediatrics, and psych), and I didn’t see a huge difference in their day to day patient load. I don’t care about prestige, and frankly, the culture of medicine doesn’t jive well with me, so not getting those letters behind my name didn’t matter. I also pretty quickly let go of the fact that physicians make such a good living (I know residency your a slave, but I don’t think there is much complaining to be done about a guaranteed 150k+ salary). I don’t have an extravagant lifestyle, am not materialistic, and I really have no need for such a high salary. Other health care professionals also make a very comfortable living. Finally, I realized the idea that as a doctor, I’d have lots of professional freedom, was also lacking. It seems the days of the solo practitioner or small practice are coming to an end, and the 300k debt that I’d accumulate would probably be a significant barrier to professional freedom.

    Even given all of these realizations, it is still hard to not go. Sometimes I wonder if I’m giving up on a dream – but I’m quickly consoled by 2 things: this is a dream that has the potential to turn into a nightmare, and I can always go back if I find down the road that I made the wrong choice. Its harder to undue med school at the tuition prices today. As a pre-med student or some one working towards this, it can be hard to get caught up in it all, and becoming a doctor becomes almost part of you. It takes courage to step back and be honest about whether its the right lifestyle for you. I’m not sure what I’ll do now, but it’ll probably be something in mental health. I’ve checked out some accelerated NP programs for people w/o a prior degree in nursing, and have found some from good schools that can be done in 2-3 years.

  204. reg

    July 2, 2012 @ 3:10 am

    204

    Docs are No. 1 Life Saver on Earth, and No.1 Killers too..

  205. Ali B

    July 2, 2012 @ 4:38 pm

    205

    Jezzabel — THIS IS BRILLIANT! Someone actually did the work of shadowing the various allied health professionals, weighing the consequences of going to medical school, and then making a decision based on all the relevant data. EVERYONE WHO’S CONSIDERING MEDICINE SHOULD READ JEZZABEL’S COMMENT. There. Can’t add much more than that.

  206. Emma

    July 2, 2012 @ 6:05 pm

    206

    I’m a RN for the past 2 years. Nurses deal with the same stuff doctors do and have the same issues! I’m leaving nursing due to all the political BS that is common in hospitals. I went into nursing to care for patients but I find I have no time to do that, most of my time is spent running from task to task to task. I start registered midwifery school in the fall, I’ll have 45 min appointments with my patients, I’ll be paid better and be able to diagnose and prescribe. I thought about med school allot, but it just seamed like I’d be dealing with the same time constraints, poor work environment and difficult administration. The only difference would be instead of be responsible for 1-20 patients at a given time, I’d now be responsible for over 100!!! No wonder that MD is screaming at a patient/nurse in the next room! Think about the difficulties that everyone associates with being a nurse, the same ones apply to being an MD, they are just exaggerated due to the increased volume of ppl under that MD’s care.

  207. kidist

    July 19, 2012 @ 8:31 pm

    207

    its real but i am not gonna give up!!!!!!!!!!i will do it

  208. Valentas

    July 22, 2012 @ 1:48 am

    208

    Hello,

    after reading this I have an incredible amount of stress…I am 19 year-old person who will have to choose in less than two days what I select as my prime career. My grandmother had done dentistry in Soviet Union at Irkutsk where were little food to sustain, -30-40 during winter. That was in prison where people who would become new doctors died every day because of lack of food or water. But she survived…and now I am the one who consider a career as a doctor..however, I hate people. I cannot listen to all complaints how they need to loose weight and still they are not moving their ASSES for this to achieve. I remember myself thinking about non traditional medicine, treatments with herbs to solve problems. However, I am an INTP, and god! I have been up for 48 hours already just because I cannot decide where to go. My psychologist told me that such people like would waste at medical school, because oh my I feel so burned out even at parties, how am I to survive damn practice with people at residency? Recently, I delved deep into programming, because I found that I absolutely like it. However, I did not have this subject at school and thus I sometimes just cry because of my undecisiveness…one of recommended careers for me is computer programming and I am invited to study biochemistry at prestigious university in UK. But god!I did practice at lab and it was such a toil. Boring as hell and incredibly long path to a better living. Bachelor and the hell of phd and post doc? I just can’t waste so much time. Also scientists get laid off every 3-5years because damn funding is being cut every year. It just tears me apart to read such topic about medicine. The only reason I’d choose it is because I like human body and I would like to use non traditional methods to cure diseases because traditional medicine just do damn business.I can see this in my town where doctor prescribe medicine and send them directly to town’s drug store to buy them.. Also I am incredibly impatient person, I may take a project or job which interests me and drop it after mastering because of boredom. I fear that medicine will be too much for me because my interests shift too much and I may find after 4 years of school that damn subject sucks..also I just cant see myself working with people every day + they are scared and me , damn loner and unsocial person, trying to tell them it’s ok you’ll be alright..the only advantage is that I would get of damn school without debt and this is where I am stuck completely. Nowadays people say that you have to choose something where you are good at but the other side of coin are bills and famile which must fed and happy. The life sucks and I cant see anything positive…please comment.

  209. Rebuttal to "Why I don't want to go to med school" « Frederick's Timelog

    July 23, 2012 @ 1:28 am

    209

    [...] even this well-known rant about why you should not go to medical school acknowledges: And the one reason why you should go into [...]

  210. Ali B

    July 24, 2012 @ 3:50 am

    210

    Valentas: looks like you don’t really need my help to talk you out of it, since you’ve done a pretty good job of it yourself.

  211. Whygeorgia

    July 28, 2012 @ 2:16 am

    211

    I spent the last couple hours reading the above post and all of the following comments. It was far from a waste of time– rather, a unique and much needed insight into medicine as a profession. As the son of a doctor, I can tell anyone reading this that choosing medicine as a profession can wreck a family. I hope I am unique in the fact that I hardly know my father. As a child growing up when my dad was in residency, I remember my father never being home, and asking my mom, “where’s daddy?”, the answer always being “work”. I eventually stopped asking and stopped wondering, and just accepted that I would never see him. When I finally did see him, he was too stressed from work and detached from the family, and would often go straight to bed after coming home, even if it was 6:00 pm. Years passed, and here I am, 20, my father 52 and the routine persists–a 70 to 80 hour work week and no time for family. It’s a horrible thing to say, but as the detached workaholic that he is, he has become more money making machine than anything else to our family. Us kids and my mom reap the benefits, the house, the cars. Hell, we kids actually get to live and love in the house; he only gets to sleep and drink in it. Think about it: you have to be so selfless to pursue medicine that you have to accept that your six figs are enjoyed primarily by your family (that you don’t even know well), and not you. Is the fancy schmancy MD worth it? As per the only conversation I had with my dad this entire week, “no. If you want to go into medicine, be a PA. Or an NP. Hell, even a chiroquacktor. Anything but.”

  212. John

    August 3, 2012 @ 1:53 am

    212

    I’m currently in Medical School, and I can only speak about my personal experience and my older brothers along with Dr.’s I know very well. I will finish in less than a year. Your list, first reason given, has not happened to me and did not happen with my older brother, and maybe this is because this was written in 2005, before Social Media, wasn’t like it is now, However, my brother is 13 years older than I am so for him Social Media didn’t help at all. Perhaps because the medical school is only a 30 minute drive from my home. The only friends I’ve lost were never really close friends. Today, my best friend in High School, who is a Deputy Sherriff and a member of the SWAT team spent the day having a blast. We spent almost all day on a large piece of land my father owns, Shooting a Variety of weapons. Brad and I, along with his brother Daniel all have large firearm collections and love to shoot them. Medical school does require you to give up alot of your time, but, you still can easily set aside time to do something with your friends. Your second reason, I can say doesn’t apply to me, however, I started medical school when I was 20, I turned 21 about 3 months later, I do have a girlfriend, but don’t plan on thinking of marriage until my late 20s. Once my residency ends I will start my own private practice, I will set my own hours, next reason… in FL, the state I will practice in does NOT require malpractice insurance, alot of states do not and my practice will fall under a LLC, so number 5 doesn’t really apply since you do NOT have to have that insurance you spoke of. I will spend plenty of time with my patients, since I will have my own practice, and when I get to a certain number, I will stop taking on new patients. I can’t control what happens in residency. I’m very glad that people such as Dr. Joseph Lister didn’t read an article telling him he’s not helping as much as he thinks. Saying you don’t help is like saying “I don’t vote because it’s not going to make a difference. The medical community as a whole is responsible for extending the lives of the human race. My brother, whom I mentioned earlier is in research, particularly, Oncology. My father, before my freshman year as an undergraduate, has tried to persuade me to run the business he founded. He would be much happier to hear I’m going to take over his real estate business, I would make ALOT more money, after taxes, it would be a high 7 figure amount per year, but,I have a great father, he has paid for every bit of my education and has told me he will financially startup my private practice and support my decision. I guess in a way I should thank you, anybody, who would be turned away from being an M.D. due to what’s in this article, shouldn’t have became a M.D. anyway. In my opinion, Serving (voluntarily) in the military is very similiar to becoming and being a Dr., at least as it applies to alot of the downsides you mention. During my freshman year in college, I remember talking to my mother regarding taking over my fathers business, I remember telling my mother about it, and to this day I remember exactly what she said and exactly how she told me including her body language. She said “Don’t do it, because you will be miserable if you do. If your reading this and are considering becoming a Dr., everyone’s situation is different, talk to M.D.s and others who will give you a truly unbiased, but still realistic picture of what you will encounter.

  213. Thomas

    August 8, 2012 @ 7:52 am

    213

    Awesome, awesome post. Thank you! I hope this puts people off becoming doctors. There are too many doctors who feel exactly the way you have described above, and it’s not good for anyone.
    5th Year Med Student, NZ

  214. A.Morgan

    August 8, 2012 @ 11:28 am

    214

    While I think that most of the stuff here that is posted is true, most don’t know what an ND is. There is a beautiful, brighter coin to medicine and unfortunately its not the allopathic way.

  215. BT

    August 8, 2012 @ 6:37 pm

    215

    Great blog post that really paints a clearer picture of the medical profession. I have read multiple blogs regarding whether to go into medicine or to actually leave the profession.

    I found this blog while I was searching for reasons to drop out of medical school. I am currently on a leave of absence from medical school, because of similar concerns presented in this blog. What I want to provide is my insight as a current medical student on leave.

    Before I entered medical school, I had reservations primarily due to financial concerns. I did not go into medical school thinking about how much money I will make. In fact, I calculated the future financial outcome if I continued on with becoming a physician. In the end, I would pay off my medical school debt in my late-40s/early-50s with little to no savings until then. The values I got were based on $300,000 loan with 6-8% interest, 4 year $50,000 residency pay, and $200,000 post-residency pay. The numbers seem as if it is manageable, which it is IF you decide to live a single life or your significant other has deep pockets. Also, income tax, malinsurance cost, living cost, and the number of hours worked were factored in to my calculations.

    Even after my calculations, I decided to matriculate into medical school, because I felt the financial sacrifices were well worth the opportunity to become a physician. After my time in medical school and researching more about the US healthcare system and pharmaceutical/biotech industry, you can say I’ve become disenchanted with the profession. The system is broken and will continue to get worst before improving.

    I believe I went into medical school with such optimism that it became idealistic. Young, blind ambition is strong. I thought that I can become a leader for change, but if I am working 80-100 hours/week and worrying about the amount of loans I have to pay off and practicing defensive medicine, I wouldn’t be able to practice medicine the way I envisioned.

    Another important factor to consider is what do you want out of life? Are family and friends an important part of your life? If they are, be prepared to leave them when pursuing medicine. Medical school alone has narrowed my social interactions to just my fellow classmates and colleagues. Talking about medicine 24/7 does get old quickly…which leads to another issue in medicine, if you are a creative individual, medicine will suck it right out of you regardless of how hard you try to maintain it. Prior to medical school, I enjoyed design but deciding between drawing, food or sleep isn’t difficult after being awake for 32+ hours.

    I apologize for such a lengthy comment, but I want to provide my perspective. I find if you have the financial (i.e. not loans) and/or social (i.e. family and friends) support to pursue medicine then go for it if that is all you want and/or you cannot, I repeat cannot, do anything else with your life. The added stress associated with loans and a failing system just isn’t a great combination. That is why I decided to take a year off to explore other opportunities for me that will allow me to wake up everyday contributing positively to society without the excessive burdens that our current healthcare system places on physicians.

    Will I return to medical school and continue into residency? Maybe, but for now I have 1 year to find my niche in this world.

  216. Ali B

    August 8, 2012 @ 9:58 pm

    216

    In response to John: Well, boys and girls, if you’re unconscious enough to not know the difference between “you’re” and “your”, have no idea what commas are good for, shoot guns for a pastime and have loaded parents who will bankroll your medical education so you’ll have no debt, go to med school. Because you’ll be too much of an anesthetized automaton to notice that there’s anything wrong. But if you have a shred of feeling and creativity in you, why not put that to better use and create something the world really needs.

  217. Ali B

    August 9, 2012 @ 6:52 am

    217

    BT — great contribution to the discussion. One of the main reasons that I left medicine was that it stifles creativity. So if you have any kind of creative spark in you, any kind of entrepreneurial drive, it’s not an environment that nurtures that. Now that you have some time, explore options. Sounds to me like you’ve already crossed the point of no return, so more power to you and good luck with it.

  218. The useless

    August 10, 2012 @ 6:38 pm

    218

    I fucking went into the wrong fucking residency program, in the wrong fucking field, full of FREAKS. I am a freak too, by extension.

    The best times of my life are when I am asleep, unable to fathom what a miserable useless failure I have become.

  219. Matt Powell

    August 10, 2012 @ 9:06 pm

    219

    Great blog article. As a trial lawyer I have many great friends who are doctors. I also have seen the extreme stress and dissatisfaction that accompanies medical school, followed by a frustrating and unrewarding career. One of my close friends was so stressed out in medical school that he became very ill with crohn’s disease, and them under very mysterious circumstances died. And my other close friend went through a terrible divorce.
    Many years have gone by and my good friend who is a board certified ED doctor seems to have found balance and satisfaction with his profession. He certainly has an extremely disrupted circadian cycle, however he expresses great satisfaction out of saving peoples lives. Maybe being on the front line of an emergency room helps with job satisfaction. He has the benefit of set hours (to a certain extent) and the freedom of all of his patients being a one time visit.
    Another good friend was disappointed with being a urologist and he decided to go to law school. He was a great doctor and a good lawyer, but the additional education and degree did not change his satisfaction with either profession.
    Ali, I agree with your observations about the medical profession, however what doctors do is so important and the motivations going in to the profession has a lot to do with each doctors satisfaction of their career choice.

  220. Ali B

    August 13, 2012 @ 2:13 pm

    220

    Matt -
    Thanks for your contribution. The world needs docs for sure, so I really hope not everyone suddenly quits at the same time. What’s important is getting the right people doing it for the right reasons, as you point out. And yes, some medical specialties are more humane to its practitioners than others.

  221. Nara

    August 13, 2012 @ 5:00 pm

    221

    I’m 10 years out of med school and every single one of those points ring true.

    I’d just like to add a couple of links to a friend’s blog. He wrote from a Singaporean’s POV, but I think the points ring true for a number of countries. [Go to re-minisce dot blogspot dot pt to find the articles -- Ed.]

    To all commenters/potential commenters and readers of OP’s post, whatever your decision might be, make sure it is one that you would not regret, and remember that the quality of YOUR life has to be good, if not you are not in a fit state to do better for others.

  222. Nara

    August 13, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

    222

    Just to add that I’m also practising hospital medicine (higher surgical trainee in the midst of a career break because of familial reasons and in the midst deciding on a specialty change for the same reasons), and that I’m not here to generate traffic for Re-minisce’s blog, but that I’d like to share the views that I hold as well, but cannot articulate as finely as my friend had.

  223. Duarte

    August 13, 2012 @ 8:27 pm

    223

    It seems to me that what you dislike isn’t really medicine. It’s AMERICAN medicine. I’m a portuguese med student, and here things are very very different in many ways.

    -First, we pay 1.000€ (roughly 1200USD) per year of med school, so I have no idea of what being in debt is, even though I’m a fifth year (here medicine is 6 years).
    -Second, here healthcare is universal, which means no insurance companies. Why would you pay taxes AND a private insurance? Why not pay a little more taxes and have health for everyone? You take out an intermediary that only sees profit, and the “deal” is made between two entities committed to helping people, and not profit. They are the government: paying for health costs, and the hospitals: providing the health services.
    -Third we get payed very well when compared to other people here.
    -Fourth we have no lawyers interested in ruining doctors’ lives with lawsuits. Malpractice cases are handled by the medical boards, and all is done to improve care and minimize the damage to the patient. Although it happens sometimes, the main goal is not to punish the doctor (if he made an honest mistake. Deliberate mistakes and abuses are highly penalized…).
    -Fifth we don’t work so much as american doctors I think. It depends on specialties, but most doctors do one 24h shift a week, and have two days off (one of them in the weekend and the other one during the week, usually the day after a 24h shift).

    But above all of this, those reasons are why you don’t like medicine, not why everyone should hate it. I still think it’s the right path for me, and I could see myself doing a lot of other things. Also, there are no doctors in my family, and I have never felt any kind of pressure from my parents to become a doctor.

    But what you call grueling I call challenging. I love to change someone’s life by simply making it crystal clear that if they don’t do what they’re told they will die earlier. Explaining the disease, how it affects the individual, and how it can be cured or treated is something I truly enjoy. When you’re interviewing someone in the ER and the puzzle starts to come together and you begin to predict the patient’s answers because you already have a strong suspicion is a feeling of accomplishment like none other to a very curious and engaged mind.
    When you get to talk to a family and say that their loved one has gone through this and that, but they’ll make a recovery, having someone bring you a bottle of wine because you helped them understand how to properly take their meds and now they feel like a new person (yes, it has happened to me more than once!) GREATLY outweighs all the efforts, all the long hours, all the sleep deprivation, all the studying and unrecognized efforts. It’s just….. worth it! But since this is all subjective, it could be worth it for me and not for you, but don’t make it an absolute thing that it sucks to be a doctor, because it doesn’t. It’s my true calling, and I don’t think I’d be so challenged in any other job. Medicine is the perfect balance between intellectual challenge, good-doing, and human interaction.

    Having said that, we do only live once, so I’m choosing a specialty that will allow me to have a family and keep my friends, and that pays well. No general surgery for me eheh.

  224. Duarte

    August 13, 2012 @ 8:44 pm

    224

    I’d also like to say that if you don’t like how medicine is practiced, YOU’RE THE PERFECT PERSON TO GO INTO MEDICINE!! You can CHANGE THINGS.

    Your time with your patients is yours, you’re the one setting the tone, and driving the interview, so medicine is one of the few professions where one individual can make a huge difference in other people’s lives.

    Again, if you think things should change, then come on in and change them. It’s really easy to stand back and say “because I don’t like how it’s done, I’m not joining”, but it’s a lot harder and fulfilling to say “you know what? I don’t like how that’s done, and I can see a number of ways it could be done differently, so I’m gonna join in and change things!”. If you applied that mentality to other things, you’d be alone inside a cave. How many times do you not like how your family does family, or how your school does schooling, or how your friends do friendship? Do you give up, or demand more from them and continue loving them?

    Call me idealistic, but that’s how I view things.

  225. Nick

    August 16, 2012 @ 5:43 am

    225

    I have to choose between Medical School and Pharmacy School. I don’t particularly care for either of them but I have to pick one and go with it. I don’t like being around sick people but if I can make a solid living out of it then it would be worthwhile. If I go the med route then I would probably end up doing primary/urgent care. If I do pharm I plan on opening my own pharmacy.
    Which would you recommend? I’m 30 yrs old.

  226. jaded

    August 27, 2012 @ 9:35 pm

    226

    Ali, I’ve been reading the comments on this blog for a while now but just now decided to post. I’m a 24 year old female who’s applying for the second time to medical schools. I’m just so burned out. I’ve been working at a hospital for the past year and I’ve realized I don’t even like clinical medicine as much as I thought I would. I’ve always been more of a dry science type, and so from an intellectual standpoint, I’ve never been as interested in the biological sciences than I am in chemistry/physics. The only real motivation for me to apply to med school is (I hate to say it) the prestige and the job security. I’m getting kind of depressed because I want to enter into a prestigious and intellectual profession but am not sure I am cut out for medicine. Another option I’ve entertained is to get a PhD, but there’s less job security and I’m not too good at lab work.

    I’ve already been burned out by my premed years; is it true that things just get worse from here on out? I want a job where I can feel like I’m putting my intellect to use but not feel so exhausted all the time. I want to have time for my loved ones and eventually children: is it really that difficult to juggle a medical career and healthy relationships? Among the people you know in the medical profession, how many regret their decision to pursue this career?

  227. Ali B

    August 29, 2012 @ 8:02 am

    227

    Duarte – thanks for your contribution! Sounds like American medicine has a lot to learn from the Portuguese model. Impressed that you guys are so progressive, eg in realizing that legalizing drugs solves a lot of problems.

  228. David

    August 29, 2012 @ 10:28 pm

    228

    Totally agree with you Ali!
    I hate it how the medical system is tied with the legal system and you can’t do what you sometimes really need to do to help a patient, as it isn’t covered in the insurance etc.
    I think too many people just do it for the status, there are so many other ways to help others.
    And yes, very sleep deprived! :)

  229. Tariq

    September 2, 2012 @ 3:12 am

    229

    Several years ago, I accidentally stumbled upon a book, written by a female author. I forgot the title, but the book was about how and why she felt the need to leave her then family, i.e. a child, husband, home etc., upon meeting a writer at a retreat. The book was composed well, talked about a young woman’s trip to a retreat, effort to find herself; nothing special, but well. However, after reading few pages, it seemed that the book was almost like an explanation the author was offering herself–as if she was trying to justify her leaving the husband and child, to become a writer. She needed to do so, as writing it to the world will relieve her from a burden of guilt. I got the similar impression after reading the blog about not becoming a doctor. It’s not to say that she was wrong in her analysis of the price a med student pay.
    A person has many selves; one “self” may seek freedom, other “self” may regret leaving the prison. Now, after reading the above blog, I get the impression that the author is kind of trying to justify her not pursuing the medical career, after spending so much time/energy towards it. She is right about pretty much everything. Yet, her delivery of the information was less of a counsel’s than of someone who was (at the time of the original post) not fully in peace with herself. I am not a doctor, but do carry within what the fruit-cakes in California call “healer’s instinct.” I just wanted to tell the author to be at peace with herself. And those, who want to be doctors, first imagine yourselves to be guardians of life force [sounds like some talk from a 80's anime show], add some spiritual sprinkle over your hot brain, you will get the answer to the question–to be doctors or not? As mentioned before, you have many selves, and each will demand satisfactions. Try to listen to those layers of your being, the decision will be easier to reach. Just don’t let parents or peer pressure drive you, nor should you let a blog drive you away either. That’s all.

  230. Tariq

    September 2, 2012 @ 3:18 am

    230

    p.s: I think I got some singular/plural expressions mixed up–this is my second language and I don’t have any formal education, work at a hardware store selling screws and caulks.:-). I hope you understand. And oh! I hate visiting conventional medical offices. Those creepy cubicles and those lab-coats! do they have to wear lab-coats? Cheers.

  231. Tami

    September 7, 2012 @ 11:17 pm

    231

    So glad I read this…. There must be something out there I’ll enjoy, however. And what about dermatology?? Did you forget about the wonderful fantasy world of dermatology??

  232. Basch

    September 8, 2012 @ 3:16 pm

    232

    Hmm, this post gave me some thoughts. The author says that “can’t think of anything else to do” is a bad reason to go into medicine. That is the worst piece of an advice I have ever heard. For someone in that situation, not knowing what career to choose, this article gives no hints at all.

    Me myself, for example, has applied to medical school because I do not know any other options that would suit me. According to the author of this blog, this is a wrong decision because it simply wouldn’t be worth it. The question that remains is: Is there any career path worth going through for someone who simply does not know what to do in life?

    In the end, I must choose something. Why don’t choose medicine, which has some benefits, instead of any other random career? What should I choose instead? Law, finance, technology? As you understand whatever I choose it would be arbitrary. So instead of just saying “donät go into medicine” I would like som suggestions on what to do instead.

  233. Ali B

    September 9, 2012 @ 11:08 pm

    233

    Basch — First of all, I ain’t nobody’s career counselor. There are qualified individuals who do that shit for pay. I’m just here to start the riot.

    That said, allow me to clarify. Going into medicine because you’re not quite sure what to do is like saying “I’m bored. Let’s hand-build some canoes and paddle up the Amazon river — y’know, the part with all the piranhas and hostile tribes.” You could go get a cupcake from the bakery instead, go for a walk in the park, or pet some kittens at a shop instead of doing something pretty involved and treacherous. Medicine ain’t some default setting because you’re too damn lazy and unimaginative to come up with something to do with your life (learn programming and write an app! paint! compose! design a video game! join a startup! write a book! start a company from scratch!). IT’S A LIFE CALLING. And if it’s anything less than that, not only will you be unhappy, but you will do a half-assed job. And that’s the real crime, because you’ll be on your deathbed with your life half-lived, thinking what else you could have done to give your gift to the world more fully.

  234. Ali B

    September 9, 2012 @ 11:11 pm

    234

    Tami — Derm’s pretty sweet. Cushy hours, you don’t cure or kill, they keep coming back for more, it’s mostly out-of-pocket, and you are making serious bank off simple procedures that you don’t even have to do yourself (like having an assistant inject Restylane into ladies’ lips). So everybody knows it, and getting into residency is hypercompetitive. Good luck!

  235. Cynthia C

    September 10, 2012 @ 4:29 pm

    235

    I’m just about finished with residency and I have to admit you are soooooo RIGHT. Even worse? I did internal medicine

  236. john

    September 15, 2012 @ 4:45 am

    236

    Before going into any profession you should ponder on whether or not you can live with the life that is ahead. This is just another, ideal example of what medical school admission committees, SHOULD be weeding out but obviously failed to do so. Someone who romanticized the career before getting down into the heart of what really compiled such a prestigious profession. Doing so one will never become satisfied with the work of a medical practitioner because its not all “rainbows and butterflies”. Doctors are not the most trusted professionals because they go through so much schooling and the knowledge they attain. They are prestigious because of the path they have decided upon, and knowing what it will ask of them for the rest of their lives. Just being of a higher intellect does not deem a suitable physician. Before deciding to go into medicine you should understand what you are getting yourself into and if a blog like this changes anyones mind then you were never meant to be a physician in the first place. If your a physician and this blog portrays your every day practice, you should retire or become familiar with how to apply to school once more. This field obviously wasn’t suited for the faint-hearted. Your dealing with peoples lives for goodness sake I hope I never encounter any of these physicians who disgrace the field of medicine. Despite your expectations during matriculation healthcare is to better the lives of others PERIOD. If you do not feel like it was what you “dreamed” of, then life is going to be full of surprises if one so naive.

  237. Sonia

    October 6, 2012 @ 7:46 am

    237

    I’m nearly finished second year medicine and I really understand where the author is coming from. I think also thought it’s a bit about attitude- you have to find other cool people to hang out with and socialise with non med people now and again who will be impressed that you’re a doctor (we need these small ego boosts when feeling downtrodden and depressed). It’s important to stay thin and attractive (no-one likes an ugly doctor) and yeah yeah if you’re female (like me) as some tool pointed out earlier in the post apparently we’ll all be on the shelf in our thirties whilst men that age who aren’t doctors are banging twenty year olds.
    To that I say – are you for real? the fact that you’re on medschool blogs and you’re not in medicine makes me think you’re clearly not over your ex doctor girlfriend and you’re jealous that she earnt more and was smarter than you. Any woman with half a brain would not be interested in dating a knob like you, I don’t care how many sisters you have.
    Medicine, without a doubt, is a huge shitfight. I hate it most of the time and worry I’m wittling away my best years feeling traumatised by performing a rectal exam. I resent my parents who I still think subconsciously forced me into this. I’m in debt, and my sex life is not what it used to be.
    BUT. While nearly all of me regrets it – there’s this small part of me that doesn’t. It keeps me going.

  238. Katie J.

    October 13, 2012 @ 4:38 pm

    238

    Every-one has their own opinion on becoming a doctor or who had experienced going into medical school. I’m in my third year in med. school and I’m having a good time. I can say that I haven’t seen my family and friends in a while, but I still try and keep in touch with some of them. Coming out of high school I had a lot of friends, but now I only have 3 because their in med. school like me and they can relate to what I’m doing. My whole family are doctors, my mom(dermatologist), my dad(cardiologist), my brothers(ob/gyn and oncologist), etc. So, I kind of had a head start on what I really wanted to do. I been wanted to be a doctor since I was young, and I don’t regret it at all. I will agree in the blog about losing friends and having to cut off your relationship with the person you with because it may not work out like you think it will. To me, if you think that this is what you want to do, you should go for it!

  239. Jason Carter

    October 13, 2012 @ 9:48 pm

    239

    This is a really good blog, as a good debate about whether people should go to medical school or not. I think that Katie J. is right. You should see for yourself if you want to apply to medical school or not. I’m actually in my second year of medical school, I got accepted the second time around because I didn’t apply on time and set me a year behind. But, it doesn’t matter, since i skipped a grade and all. I just be in my early 30s, no big deal. I just realized that becoming a doctor was my dream, so I’m going for it and I’m straight, it probably won’t be the best time of my life, but all I know is that I’m doing something I want to do. Not because my parents told me, or a friend convinced me. Its just something I really wanted to experience myself. I actually just proposed to my girlfriend(we go to the same medical school) It was weird because we both got accepted to a college we both wanted to go to. she wants to be a Epidemiologist: Epidemiologist are the doctors who are also known as ‘disease detectives’. They carry out study of diseases and come up with ways of prevention of diseases through vaccinations, etc. I want to be a Plastic Surgeon. So really I’m happy at what I’m doing. Yeah its tough, but I’m happy. I Fucking married !!!!!! lol

  240. Lisa H

    October 13, 2012 @ 9:52 pm

    240

    You should just do what you want to do.. follow your dreams

  241. Why you should become a nurse or physicians assistant instead of a doctor: the underrated perils of medical school « The Story's Story

    October 20, 2012 @ 7:47 pm

    241

    [...] yet another perspective on the issue of not going to med school, see Ali Binazir’s “Why you should not go to medical school — a gleefully biased rant,” which has more than 200 comments as of this writing. As he says, there’s only one [...]

  242. Sasha

    October 25, 2012 @ 10:19 am

    242

    I’m glad I found a website with such large amounts of input from so many people with experience in this.

    @Lisa H: “You should just do what you want to do…follow your dreams”.

    That’s what they all say, isn’t it? And yet if everyone knew HOW to do this, by what MECHANISM to know what exactly their dreams are, and whether or not they are lying to themselves, what they truly ‘desire’ from the ‘bottom’ of their ‘heart’, then choosing a profession would be like choosing what dessert to buy at a café for those with the cash to buy it.

    As a first year undergrad pre-med, I’m taking science classes and one math class, and failing all of them except biology and maybe chemistry. Super BEHIND in everything, depressed, with topsy-turvy sleep (awake all night, asleep all day), and consistent thoughts of suicide due to feelings of failure and the deluge that follows, though I’ve ruled out from a philosophical and mystical point of view that suicide is unfavourable in my circumstances.

    As such, I’m sure many of you would say to me “obviously medicine, or science for that, is not for you”. Then again, this is really a studying issue/lack of concentration/depression, rather than an issue of preference. On the other hand, I do feel extremely bored doing what I am doing. Then again, what else is there to do in this terrible economy?

    Architecture, as well as law, is just as grueling and life-consuming, from all the research I’ve done, as medicine/practicing as a physician.
    Finance, business, management: no job security. Job security these days is in maths, science, engineering and IT.
    Do maths or science in uni for the time being: isn’t that what I’m doing now…?
    Do engineering: physics? Hell no.
    Do something in programming: Hmm..maybe..if not this then I’m out in the open where lots of youth go to rot for years and when their bodies’ ve started to decay.

    Bottom line: No idea…

  243. Sasha

    October 25, 2012 @ 10:23 am

    243

    BY THE WAY:

    I too SHADOWED NUMEROUS DOCTORS IN THE UK. I shadowed in the pain clinic, checked out wards, hand section, heart and various other surgery, pain clinic, plastic, general surgery, and a couple more, all in various clinics and hospitals.

    This was a couple of years ago. Afterwards I was still confused, still double-minded, still split by the +ve and -ve advice of medical professionals.

  244. Lisa

    November 22, 2012 @ 8:28 pm

    244

    My friend brought me here; I think she was seriously trying to help me with my dilemma. I always wanted to become a doctor because I believe good health is the key to happiness. As I’m in the process of applying to med school, I began to have serious doubts if I will ever be happy in this profession. My dream is to travel, be a part of Medecins Sans Frontieres, learn different languages and cultures. Even now after reading your post and a lot of other people’s post, I can’t give up just yet. I have a 8-5 job on the weekdays and I work in a nursing home on weekends. The job is overwhelming, underpaid, and understaffed; yet I can’t find myself to quit. The gratification and warmness I received from the seniors I care for are what keep me from giving up. I thank you all for putting up all your honest feeling and experiences, and I want to thank my friend for worrying about my future, but this is the decision I need to make for myself. I will definitely have to make a lot of sacrifices, but I am positive there’s something better on the other side of medical school.

  245. Michael

    December 7, 2012 @ 8:26 am

    245

    I cannot believe that I just read most of these comments instead of getting some sleep.
    Maybe sleep deprivation isn’t my problem.

  246. Wojtek

    December 8, 2012 @ 1:36 am

    246

    I just left medicine and I’m so happy! So, so happy! I tried to satisfy my parents by becoming a doctor, but after two months I said to myself – YOU WANTED TO BECOME AN ASTRONOMER! DON’T YOU REMEMBER?! I hated this studies so much! Now, I’m waiting for a new semester to begin studying astronomy and follow Carl Sagan. My parents hate me now, but I’m happy – what more do I need?

  247. Ali B

    December 8, 2012 @ 2:46 am

    247

    You’re my hero! If I could start a new career right now, it would be astrophysics. Hey wait a sec…

  248. Ali B

    December 8, 2012 @ 2:53 am

    248

    Lisa – thanks for sharing! Your experience at the nursing home has nearly nothing to do with what you will experience and do as a physician. It’s like the difference between being the ballboy (or ballgirl) at Wimbledon, vs competing in it. Now if you decide to be a nurse, that would be much closer to your nursing home experience. Also, read God’s Hotel by Victoria Sweet. It’ll give you an excellent sense of how modern medicine is done.

  249. Christa

    December 12, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

    249

    These are all excellent and true points. That being said, there is nothing (NOTHING) in the world better than the feeling of making a difference in the life and health of another. The days I leave the hospital knowing that simply by my being there, there is someone alive who wouldn’t have been (or conversely, someone who is now facing end-of-life with the respect for their wishes that they deserve)….it doesn’t get any better than that, folks. I’m a 3rd yr resident, and while there are so very many times when I agree with everything written above, I wouldn’t change my job for the world. Don’t go into medicine for money (cause you’ll make more elsewhere), or respect, or to make someone else happy. There are already too many people like that. Go into medicine because you love it. That way, when you are hating your life and hating the patient in front of you and hating your fellow residents and hating the nurses (and the list goes on), you’ll still love your job. Just not at that moment.

  250. Ali B

    December 12, 2012 @ 8:58 pm

    250

    Eloquently put, Christa! The world needs more docs like you. Thanks for sharing!

  251. Tanneer

    December 24, 2012 @ 12:05 am

    251

    I would like to put my two cents out there. I’m an electrical engineer planning to change career,the kind of frustration you see in almost every field at one point. I entered elctrical field because it is less risky, at the same time I will be helping people live a comfortable life. But 95% of the time in my job, what we do never gets implemented, what we build gets more bogged down by CEO rules and company’s interest in making money. I think this kind of frustration is in every field. Atleast in Medical field, there are some people who get sick without their fault, they are people who get cancer, no body wishes they get cancer, it is just their body. I think you guys would still be doing something worth useful, even if you help one patient, and saved one life, it adds a lot of meaning to your years of hard work. You are saving a life, and saving a lot of other people from grief.
    Read this with a grain of salt, this is my opinion as a spectator, not someone who has lived the hardships you described.

  252. Kayla

    December 30, 2012 @ 4:41 am

    252

    WOW!

    You REALLY opened my eyes. I’m a premed student now and I thought I knew the troubles associated with becoming a doctor (years of schooling, long hours, unhappy patients, insurance companies), but you just took it to a whole ‘nother level! I’ve taken 16 credit hour semesters and I think that those were difficult; sometimes I question if the stress is even worth it!

    I really can only envision myself being a doctor. I’m a psychology major, but after finding that I have little interest in it (partially due to the EXTREME easiness of the material), I wanted to do something more! So…my options are go to either go to a psych grad program (yawn) or possibly go down a path of hell to becoming a physician! Some choices, huh?? I need to make up my mind quick before I waste even more time and credit hours taking the prerequisite courses!

  253. Weezy

    January 3, 2013 @ 12:51 am

    253

    I am a Junior in high school and am looking forward to being a pre-med student in college. Money is not a problem when it comes to education and I plan to attend some prestigious college with a good medical school acceptance rate. I read this entire rant and most of the comments, but don’t feel a need to change my future plans.(becoming a MD) I have the full drive, consciousness, and mental capacity to be successful. I totally appreciate the author of this because this made me believe further in myself by seeing the “obstacles” which I know I can overcome. Also, thanks to everyone who commented because you all made OUTSTANDING points which I enjoyed reading.

  254. Chad

    January 4, 2013 @ 4:41 am

    254

    Thanks for the article. I’m in the application process right now and have another interview in February but I don’t think I’m even going to go. I have done very well in undergrad and worked an extremely hard job in Alaska with long hours and little sleep. So I know that I CAN become a doctor. But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago I thought about if I SHOULD become a doctor. I do like helping people but I don’t think i’m passionate enough to go through medical school and put up with all the negative aspects. There are a lot of other careers that I can see myself going into and I know I will be successful. I guess I had been fighting to become a doctor to prove to myself that I could but that’s not a good enough reason. Thanks for saving me years of my life and hundreds of thousands in debt.

  255. Emily

    January 4, 2013 @ 8:02 am

    255

    Loved this whole thread! So many differing views. I’m about to graduate with a degree in Kinesiology (mainly because the only thing I enjoyed doing at 18 years old was creating killer workouts for myself, but I got a teaching degree in Biology to shield my ass from unemployment.) I’m starting grad school in two weeks in Exercise Physiology because I truly enjoy it and I still get a kick out of it after 4 years, and a MS has never been know to be a bad thing. I love the idea of KEEPING people healthy, and we all know that diet and ample exercise is way better for the heart than an aspirin regimen. My plan is to get my MS, maybe teach a year or two (keep in mind I am only 21 and will have the MS at 23) get some real-life experience that so many med schools are looking for and apply. I used to be so worried about not finishing by the time I’m 30, not having time for kids, etc… I know I want to help people be healthy, because that is everyone’s most basic right. And given the fact that I love discovering new ways to do that through diet and exercise, I may find what I’m looking for without that MD or even the elusive PhD. All I’m saying is find your niche in life before committing yourself to med school.

  256. Sheri

    January 11, 2013 @ 4:09 am

    256

    You may find it difficult to remain healthy yourself with the workload and stres of a physicians life.

  257. Scottish Simpleton

    January 14, 2013 @ 7:01 pm

    257

    Waw.
    As a student currently in the process of applying to university, i thank you, mam. I understand that they’re may be a difference in American and UK medical schools, but many of the problems that you listed are faced on both sides of the pond.
    I didn’t meet the grades for medicine and after reading this, i am truly thankful. I have always had ambitions of doing psychiatry but the years of blood sweat and tears intimidated me (as it would most people)
    Now, i am applying for psychology as i am not sure what i want to do in my life compared to many of my peers – is that a crime? I will finish with an Hons at the age of 22 and i can make my mind up from there.
    Just 2 questions:
    1) As a female, i have noticed that the biological clock topic has arisen on multiple occasions. Do female doctors really struggle to have husbands and families? (Im trying not to generalise, so please forgive me) I would like a child or two one day, is it really a challenge with all the workload? How do these ladies have children whilst studying?
    2) I am a family girl through and through. My brother is a dentist and he applied for that course due to the financial security. Due to my mother having ill health, i knew i wanted to become a psychiatrist and ‘save the world each person at a time’. (Naive i know) Do you genuinly not see family and friends often?
    At 17, i do not feel that i am experienced enough to make the decisions to dedicate much of my life to medicine. But in the future, who knows? i could be helping you one day. :)

  258. Moe

    January 18, 2013 @ 9:35 pm

    258

    As a CNA who loves my job, and works in a hospital, thank you for choosing a different career path. It makes my job much easier when I don’t have to cover an MD’s ass because he/she hates his job and is burned out, and shows in their bedside manner. I have never had a desire to become a doctor, or an RN, for that matter, so this isn’t written out of jealousy. I chose my career 20 years ago and am constantly questioned as to why I didn’t or don’t currently pursue a higher nursing degree. My answer is simple: I love my job. I don’t want yours, nor am I envious of you. I don’t do it for the money, obviously, but for the fulfillment I get out of it.

  259. Balram

    January 28, 2013 @ 1:02 pm

    259

    You are definitely a good writer, you prety much almost convinced me not to even botehr going into medicine either, but the thing is, that last reason you wrote at the end applies for me.
    I can’t envision myself as anything other than a doctor, when I do think of myself as a lawyer/businessman, or whatever, I just don’t feel comfortable thinkg myself as someone who could potentially (not purposely) defend a criminal or a person who could profit of things that people would need, profiting of that stuff just isn’t me.

    The only job I can think of myself is as a doctor.

  260. Fred

    January 31, 2013 @ 3:38 pm

    260

    You are not a doctor and never have been. While the MD is a docorate degree, it is completely useless if you’ve exited before training. Unlike a PhD or even M.phil, an MD is a purely vocational degree. Anyone who calls you “Dr” is clearly misinformed.

  261. Blake W

    February 3, 2013 @ 2:54 am

    261

    Thanks for sharing. I found this to be honest, but grotesquely negative. As a pre-med, I frequently discuss with fellow pre-meds the imperative nature of going into medicine for good reasons. For me it’s about being able to be of service, and earning the HONOR and privilege to help people feel better, period. It’s like when you’re a child and you’re sick and your mom or dad takes care of you and that feeling you get, or when you’re sick and you go to the doctor and he gives you something that makes you feel better. THAT! I want to help people experience that same sensation, over and over again. [Other thoughts—>} If someone chooses to go into medicine, THEY are choosing, and by choosing that path, THEY are (or should be) accepting anything and everything that results from making said decision. Secondly, I think it’s really great that you are putting all of your knowledge and experience about going into medicine on this page. People need to hear this, especially pre-meds. People need to consider the perspective of others and learn from their experiences to save themselves time and heartaches. Aristotle once said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” I myself am pre-med. I was able to appreciate your candor, entertain your thoughts and empathize with you, however this does not mean I sympathized with you, although I do appreciate your honest perspective. I am not thrown by the reality of this profession. I think it is all a matter of perspective. People need to develop their own perspective, and pre-meds, med-students, docs, nurses can all benefit from trying to see the good in every situation. It’s my hope for everyone, that at the end of the day, it’s what in your heart that keeps you going.

    Yours respectfully.

    Best regards,
    ~Blake W

  262. Mein Traum

    February 3, 2013 @ 9:32 am

    262

    I’m a non traditional premed. Should be applying this fall. I have worked as a CNA and have soaked my feet plenty in the medical field. I hated my job as a CNA, but i loved the patients; I wanted to broaden my scope of practice . Money, prestige, and job security had nothing to do with my decision to become a physician. It was how i felt when i envisioned myself as a physician; the hair on my arms stood up, my heart raced, I got the chills and my eyes watered. I shadow doctors on a regular basis and i get the same feelings every time im with them. Yet, i have my doubts. All reasons Ali B mentioned are reasonable. Non of them really worry me excpet for number 6. I somtimes wonder if the sacrifice is worth it. Being a premed is already messing with my well being and when i hear that med school is like drinking water from a fire hose, i begin to question my journey. Premed is hard but not nearly as tough as med school. It seems like after med school, things will get better, but some say otherwise. I want to be able to take care of my patients but if im not healthy, how can i help someone else be healthy. Im afraid that i will hate what i love because of what it will do to me. But im also afraid that i will be stigmatized with regret for the rest of my life if i walk away. Part of me says to to stop being a little bitch and suck it up! i only have one other passion and that is the Universe or Unviverses! Carl Sagan is better than Batman, Superman and Spiderman put together! I love to read up on Dr. Stephen Hawking’s work and I study astronomy on my own time, so Astrophysics keeps nudging me constantly. But In that field, I will lack the people interaction and i figure I dont need t go to school to learn Astronomy. So, again, Im left to ponder my other passion. Im stuck in the grey area and afraid to make a decision that may imperil me.

  263. Omar Anas

    February 5, 2013 @ 7:22 am

    263

    Hm.. interesting. I started an accelerated Masters in Nursing Program at UCLA for career changers. I feel bad everyday because I did not get accepted into medical school the first time I applied, and wished that maybe I could have done it. A masters in nursing, I dont know what it is good for. Being a doctor seems more cushy, but after reading the site, it looks sucky but every job is sucky and has stress right? I dont know what to do…. I am 24 but everytime I see a white coated doctor in the hospital, I feel ashamed of myself… I am much smarter than this.. O well… gotta do what I gotta do.

  264. Dexter

    February 6, 2013 @ 12:12 am

    264

    Im interested in Psychiatry. I noticed you said earlier some specialties are less stressful than others.

    does that apply to residency years as well?

  265. Sid

    February 6, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

    265

    Echoing the feelings of most of the people above me, this is pretty much spot on.

    I just finished my first year of a materials/biomedical engineering degree in Australia and got an offer to do medicine. This is on my second try, after not getting in straight out of high school the first time around.

    As a background, I’m Indian. For a vast majority of us, like Paki’s and other brown people in general, the idea that becoming a doctor is the highest aspiration one could possibly have in life is more or less thrust onto us.

    After talking to a whole bunch of doctors and having this entire idea of medicine being some sort of amazing, respected, angelic profession that was sure to have the “aunties” lining their daughters for arranged marriage pretty much dispelled, I am so unbelievably glad I didn’t get in the first time.

    Although in Australia, the whole debt thing (at least in my case) doesn’t really ring true, I would have my MBBS by 22 along with about $50k debt by the end of it, roughly the same as most other degrees. Everything else describes the experience perfectly.

    Putting aside dubious government policy decisions increasing med student numbers without increasing internships/speciality positions, making it ridiculously difficult to get internships, let alone speciality training programs, Medicine is something that will encompass everything you are – it is very hard to have any other sort of identity in life other than being a doctor.

    If you want to be a GOOD doctor, then there is even less chance of you being able to have any other sort of identity (although, as always it is possible.) If you are fine with that though and, as you mentioned, its the only thing you could ever want to do with your life, its a different story and I admire anyone who is like that.

    At that point, scary as it seems in retrospect, if I’d gotten I may have only done it, like many of my peers, because it seemed like the logical choice for “smart kids” to make.

    I’ve realised that what I would like to do most of all is to do something creative or something new (that would most likely satisfy my ridiculous ego a little more than being a GP in some suburban clinic) or, as you mentioned in the comment thread somewhere “build something that society needs”. Although I have only done one year, I also realised that I quite like engineering.
    I’m not going to assume that just by choosing engineering instead of medicine, I’m going to do something groundbreaking and change the world.
    Hopefully though, rather than put in the ridiculous amount of work that is required in medicine to become say, an average doctor, if I put that same ridiculous amount of work into biomedical/materials research or whatever, I could become a really good engineer/researcher/non-doctor.
    That “good is the enemy of the great” thing you wrote somewhere hit home as well.

    Can’t thank you enough Ali, I’ll be recommending it to any prospective meddies like me who may be unsure about the whole thing, or at I’ll least be parroting your views to them so I can try sounding mature and insightful and gain their never ending awe :)

  266. medstudent

    February 10, 2013 @ 9:33 pm

    266

    I’m currently a student at a well-ranked U.S. medical school. Although this article is humorous, it is NOT a joke. It is the absolute truth. Anyone outside the seemingly transparent walls of this bubble is naturally going to read it with misinterpretation — certainly, the author must seem so cynical and ungrateful! There are people all over the world in worse situations, suffering from poverty and various illnesses. I’m not reducing the gravity of other situations that may appear worse, but there is something equally if not more horrible that comes with the disillusionment one experiences as a to-be-physician. You see the world for what it truly is, and it is absolutely hideous. You see yourself for who you truly are, and you have to face that every single day — most days, that’s also hideous. The realization that you will never reach the top of any mountain, but that you are under mountains upon mountains upon mountains… it’s an unfortunate one. This author is not being sarcastic; he is being honest. I’ve said the same things to individuals wondering whether or not to pursue a career in medicine, not because I think the profession is lame (it’s quite the opposite and extremely honorable), but because I truly don’t think it is where he or she will find an ounce of happiness without the adequate amount of stubbornness. A long time ago, I might have responded to this article entirely differently or maybe with ridiculous tears welling up in my eyes. Now I just read it with amusement, accompanied by the dullness of acceptance. Because as it turns out, that’s where I am in the stages of grief regarding the loss of my life (or, at least the “life” that we envision) to this immense pursuit.

  267. dolph

    February 15, 2013 @ 11:23 pm

    267

    I’ve been practicing internal medicine on/off for 5 years since I finished residency in 2008. Having some time off then really allowed me to read up and muse over the financial crisis and overall unsustainable nature of our civilization.

    Everything the author says is true, particularly points 5 and 10. Modern physicians don’t make nearly as much difference in people’s lives as they think they do…and thereby there are billions of dollars of research to try to prove that some drug or procedure or another gives a “10%” decrease in mortality. As if this is meaningful and worth the cost.

    Most of my patients are some combination of fat, poor, or old. There’s nothing I can do for them. They could be on 10 drugs, and stop all of the drugs tomorrow, and nothing would really change. Antibiotics and insulin do some good, but they too are overprsecribed.

    And everybody thinks they will live forever! The 22 year old adonis thinks he will live forever…naturally. But so does the 80 year old with diabetes, copd, and chf! And it’s my job to try to make that happen.

    The incentives in medicine are completely screwed up. We are paid more if we do more…but we can only do more if patients are sicker! There is no incentive to genuinely cure, and no incentive to pull the plug. The incentive is to just keep doing more and more until the system goes bankrupt.

    Which it will. This whole things ends the only way it can…bankruptcy. Just like the banks, just like mismanaged corporations, just like the local, state, and federal governments.

    Hospitals and clinics will go bust. There will be no money or resources to run them…and then will we pat ourselves on the back for a job well done?

  268. Ali B

    February 19, 2013 @ 4:23 am

    268

    Balram –
    I would suggest expanding your imagination, my friend. The world is changing very rapidly, and there are millions of professions besides doctor, lawyer or businessman. You’re too young to be stuck in this imaginary scarcity.

  269. Ali B

    February 19, 2013 @ 4:30 am

    269

    Farid Khan (aka Fred) -
    The day you fulfill all premed requirements at Harvard, spend hundreds of dollars on applications, fly out to dozens of interviews, get in, pass USMLE Steps I and II, take the Hippocratic oath, pass all preclinical classes, do all of your core clinical rotations and pass them, take dozens of nights of call, fulfill all requirements for graduation and get the actual piece of cardboard calling you an MD is the day you can be the judge of whether someone can call himself a doctor or not.
    That said – yes, you’re right. It is meaningless and arbitrary. I’m going to have to earn your respect no matter what my title is. And you do, too, and you can do better than coming onto this blog and trying to put me down. Try again.

  270. Mark

    February 20, 2013 @ 12:14 am

    270

    As a junior pre med student, this article scares the crap out of me. I did the track to pre med because I did not know what else I wanted to do. However now seeing a lot of my college buddies going into finance and getting high paying internships I am starting to dislike the whole idea of med school, and look more into the business world. As much as I would find helping people very rewarding, ultimately I want to make a lot of money and have a good lifestyle where I can maintain a family and friends. However being late on the whole degree selection I am on course to get a bio sci degree from a mid tier university with a 3.75 gpa. What options would there be for me that are more lucrative than med school? I know a lot of top banks and finance jobs like top tier universities and finance related internships/ college degree in finance. I have no business experience what would be a more lucrative field that I can realistically get in to???

  271. Ali B

    February 20, 2013 @ 3:30 am

    271

    Mark – here’s a bit of advice that’s going to be 100% correct in your case: if your choices are between finance and medicine, you should not go to medical school to be a doctor. Sounds like you’re most interested in making money, and medicine would be the wrong field for that. The only worse reason to go into medicine would be because you’re not sure what to do with your life — and that seems to be your other reason. Stay away, my friend.

  272. Mark

    February 21, 2013 @ 4:59 am

    272

    I knew you were going to tell me to stay away (obviously after reading the reasons for your med school hate) but I honestly dont know what a more lucrative field for me would be with a bio sci degree… I was looking for advice on that.

  273. StanfordTransfer

    February 22, 2013 @ 8:45 am

    273

    I just finished my undergrad at Stanford an am in the process of applying to med school – feeling anxious, excited, stressed but overall HAPPY. Even though I do believe the author is correct in making some of above claims, I also believe that in comes down to you as the individual and what you do in med school that shape your experiences (this goes for any phase of your life, not just med school). If you’re constantly complaining about how hard it is and how much you have to study and how you don’t get to hang out with your friends each weekend to get wasted, then yes you will probably hate medical school and in fact hate any other profession you go into because you will always find something to complain about. I’ve had several friends from Stanford go into banking and finance because of the grand allusion of money, and rest assured, they are making 120K+ in just their first year. BUT I have never seen them more miserable in their life before. One guy never sees the day of light (literally) because he’s at work for 10-16 hours per day starting at 4am. The only reason he hasn’t quit is because of the awesome pay, quite obviously. At least if you go into medicine (for the right reasons) and work ungodly hours, you’ll be rewarded well intellectually and financially. If you go into medicine for the money or prestige, you might as well be another miserable banker without risking anyone’s lives.

    To add to the point made earlier about losing your friends and significant others – yeah, you can basically say that about ANY situation. Just think back to when you graduated from high school and went to university — did you stay in touch with every single friend from high school? In fact, did you stay in touch with every friend you made in your freshmen and sophomore years by the time you were a senior? Our lives are dynamic, we are constantly making new friends and new connections. If you make it a point to see a best friend or group of friends, then you will not lose touch with them. Even if it you’re in med school. I’ve been in a relationship with my bf for almost a year now and hope that we can still continue what we have past the trials of medical school (he’s an engineer so luckily I’ll be the only one who does the bitching) — but hey, you know what, if for some reason I absolutely can’t hold a serious commitment at that pt in my life, I’m ok that with. To me, becoming a doctor takes priority and I’m willing to put up a fight. And that’s why this whole pre-med/med school thing is a weed-out process. If you’re not ready for the hurdles that are coming (emotionally, physically, mentally), then don’t do it. Seriously, you’ll only be wasting time, money, and other precious resources.

    Cheers

  274. Greg

    February 26, 2013 @ 6:51 pm

    274

    You are 100% correct my friend. What cracks me up though is the fact that there are Pre-Med students commenting as if they have a serious clue which can contradict your own statements. Although I think that they are sincere in their ways, fact is that Medicine provides the biggest illusion known to man; a high salary and life of luxury. Americans associate high salaries with luxury and wealthy living, along with being able to enjoy the feeling of that wealth. However when considering the amount of time (10+ years) and the return which averages 300K for EXPERIENCED specialty physicians, it can be said that the only reason one would pursue medicine is because of some Ghandi-like calling to serving others. I’ve had many friends of mine go on to top-medical schools, yet get to residency and are harshly disappointed by the realities of medicine. Prestige only lies in the mind of its beholder, or in other words, if you feel special then you feel special, but that does not change the cruel reality of your job. Doc’s are not the kings of the hospital, it’s the admin’s and owners ( M.B.A anyone?) who are the true top dogs. Everyone else dawning a white coat just allowed to feel that way.
    So when considering the true reality of medicine; working in excess of 70 hr/ wk for a 400K salary, encountering sick people every day of your life, and never spending time with family friends or loved ones has its serious drawbacks and should all be considered as mentioned. Many naive med students fail to do the simple math before thrusting their applications into the AMCAS system. If they did the simple math they would realize that when considering private for private industry a M.B.A/Ph.D. provides a much better investment for nearly free of charge!
    Back in the day I was one of the many who didn’t get in to med school. I thought life was over and nothing would become of me. Yet I took a leap of faith and enrolled into my state med schools joint Ph.D./ M.B.A program. It was the best decision of my life. Not saying that I don’t miss helping people directly, but from a life standpoint I wouldn’t change a thing. I work nmt 45 hours a week at a Venture Capitol firm which hands me 600K base + 40% of salary bonuses each year. If you don’t believe me then just google what us VC’s make as Partners. The thing is that it only took me a few years after completing my degrees to obtain this. Yet considering the TRUE value, spending time with my wife and kids, I thank the gods for not allowing me to get into medical school. I mention these things because I REALLY want students to know that if they have a sharp mind and are after a good educational investment they need to think 3X over about medical school. It’s worth if for humanity, but if you secretly don’t care about humanity and thought you could get rich then you will/ have made the worst decision of your natural life. 300K debt @ a 8% interest rate is a hard thing to pay off when you are also wanting to live a life of luxury and prominence. That’s 2K a month just because you have debt! I don’t care what prestigious school you went to or what career you are in, nothing America is worth spending that type of money.
    So yes I may have come off as pretentious in many ways in my comments above, but I just want people to really understand their financial fate as potential med-students and residents. I know a few surgeons who are trying to get into the firm I work for. They are some of the exhausted guys I know. My father also worked 80 hrs/ wk when I was a child so I know the excruciating feeling of not being able to enjoy your life. Just really think about all of your options instead of pursuing some fanciful trend.

  275. Dr J

    February 28, 2013 @ 6:07 am

    275

    Mark: You should definitely go into medicine, as there is no more lucrative field for a bio-sci degree. It’s the cost that’ll get you though.

    Ali: Well written, reminds me of my own incredulity at observing fellow classmates going through medical school “without knowing why”. I started medical school 6 years after finishing undergrad, and with a very clear purpose. Without that, I would have been miserable.

    Now, I’m in Fellowship for Trauma Surgery, and even though I can relate strongly with points 1-7, I do love my job, I love what I do, and I wake up every morning excited to go to work. I think you’d be hard pressed to find many people who feel that way about what they do. No regrets whatsoever.

    I’d like to repeat your points as I hear/see them, and with commentary:

    1: Don’t go to medical school to keep friends (although I made many)
    2: Don’t go to medical school to nurture a relationship (although I met my wife during my 2nd year of residency)
    3: Don’t go to medical school if you want to spend your 20′s well rested, well paid, and having lots of drunken sex (although there was plenty of that last one [monogamously after I met my wife])
    4-5: Don’t go to medical school if you want to make lots of money (although there are very few Democrat physicians – go figure)
    6: Don’t go to medical school for your own health (guilty)
    7-9: Don’t go to medical school if you can’t deal with the stress of having yourself and your time stretched to the breaking point (aaarrgh, I’ve wasted HOW much time reading all these comments?!?)
    10: Don’t go to medical school if you can’t see the benefit of what you do.
    11: Don’t go to medical school if you can think of anything else that will give you the same fulfillment, passion, and excitement. (I fracking LOVE what I do!)

    (Also, watch seasons 1-3 of Scrubs. Closest thing to reality, no joke).

    Back to Mark: Seriously dude – “Lucrative”? Do NOT go to medical school because you think it’s “lucrative”. You will end up wasting 4-10 years in search for something that you’ll not attain, and end up miserable in the end. There are many of ways to be “lucrative” for someone with the work ethic to get a “3.75 bio-sci GPA from a mid-tier university”, you just have to find it and apply yourself. Being a doctor demands your soul, and it doesn’t sound like you have even considered that part of it.

    StanfordTransfer: I think you’ll do fine, welcome to the calling.

  276. PMC Moving

    March 2, 2013 @ 1:54 pm

    276

    I would suggest expanding your imagination, my friend. The world is changing very rapidly, and there are millions of professions besides doctor, lawyer or businessman. You’re too young to be stuck in this imaginary scarcity.

  277. tg

    March 5, 2013 @ 2:38 am

    277

    I am a doctor from abroad and have been trying to get into the American medical system.Although your message does not directly apply to me, I felt that I should drop a word or two. It is amusing to hear people who have all the opportunity complaining about it. Its been more than eight years since I completed the board exams and was not able to find a residency post. I would not be any less qualified, than physicians here as I have worked in my field for years. Let me tell you about the life of a former physician doing jobs below level. I can tellyou it is no fun at all. I think doctors like you should not condemn medicine and tell people not to join. Medicine has its challenges,but also its gratifications. It is the system you work in that is defective. I can tell you where I come from doctors are respected, committed and they do help. So don’t run away from the field, fight to change this sick systm.

  278. Queenofspades

    March 5, 2013 @ 11:10 pm

    278

    What a fascinating piece and comments!

    I am a non-traditional aspiring Premed applying to PreMed/Post Baccalaureate programs after 20+ years of the “glamorous” business of film visual effects, in which I’ve worked 36+ hour days, 17 hr days back to back for months, traveled all over the world, struggled to maintain (or even keep at all much less make new) relationships, struggled with physical pain from injuries on set related to dangerous working conditions and long hours, pain from carrying heavy gear and toughing it out in extreme heat and extreme cold and everything in between, not to mention the sheer impact of epic fatigue – both physical and emotional – of it all. All for the purpose of Warner Brothers or another studio/media conglomerate’s bottom line. Good times. Some of this sounds familiar to many of the complaints here.

    I started out wanting to save the world in the early 90′s in NYC, ended up working with homeless teens in HIV/AIDS work and street outreach/Harm Reduction programs and burned out as both my team members and clients and friends died (literally) around me. So I went into film. And now here I am, back to the original idea, just a bit more refined.

    I’ve managed all of this with a broken back from an accident at age 14 (I’m lucky to be walking and upright) and with Graves Disease which I was diagnosed with in 2000. Since this diagnosis I’ve been learning about alternative medicine and practicing it in many/multiple forms for both my pain management and immune health. I’ve learned a lot and I intend to incorporate this into what I do and who I become as a doctor. I’m particularly interested in Osteopathic Medicine given the connection between the NMS and autoimmune disease.

    Unlike many people I’ve met over the years I have a hardcore work ethic. I believe in service which seems to be a forgotten concept in this era of me first. I want to do is something where I can walk away and know I’ve done something, ANYTHING to help make this world a better place.

    Working in film, tv and commercial production is EXTREMELY HARD. But then again, in my experience, anything worth doing is hard. I know I can handle long hours and grueling working conditions and I’ve survived this even working in a (often but not always) miserable industry. I know I can apply these same skills to something more worthwhile. Bonus: when it’s worthwhile it ups my game, as does working with a good team.

    I found this thread fascinating.It make me wonder about the assumption set and character of so many people who go into medicine without having given it serious consideration.

    I’m excited personally, even knowing what a long road there is a head of me. Wish me luck! I’ve got the fortitude in spades already, for which I am grateful.

  279. Munaza Ali

    March 6, 2013 @ 4:00 am

    279

    Being a indian, i always been told to become doctor or had high expectations from my parents and i think i really want to be a doctor, but coming across to your article being a 2nd year student in college, you scared the hell out of me foreal, i am really wondering do i really wana do this? i mean i love helping people and honestly i never imagined myself other than a “doctor” . i am self supporting student and get no funds from parents to pay for college so i dont think i really can afford medical school even if i work my ass off!

  280. Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Pursue the Degree You Are | allishanks

    March 6, 2013 @ 9:42 pm

  281. Marcella

    March 7, 2013 @ 6:07 am

    281

    My boyfriend could have done many things, but he chose medicine. He’s in his his second year of his neurology residency and we’ve been together more than a year. He’s worth it, but I’m no martyr. He made – and kept – tons of friends from med school. In fact, to make money on the side, he played in a band (he plays the drums and the piano). He runs, works outs, and if he’s not on call, we have dinner together every night. When he is on call, some time I stop by around 9 with some cookies and we chat for 20 mins or until he gets called. My point is, it all doable. It’s not easy, not for me, not for him, but if you really want it (the career) and each other, it works. I’m not in medicine, and I think that’s a huge plus for both of us!

  282. MDPhD to Be

    March 7, 2013 @ 6:38 am

    282

    LOL! this is exactly right and for people who are thinking about going to medical school

    As a MD/PhD soon to graduate:
    if you want to make a difference … don’t go to medical school unless you absolutely have no idea on how to make a difference
    if you want to help others … don’t go to medical school unless you have no other valuable assets
    if you want to get rich … don’t go to medical school unless you have no other abilities
    if you are creative … don’t go to medical school, its rules and regulations will stifle the life out of you
    if you want it to impress others … a million dollar impresses others a lot more.
    if you want security and safety … go to medical school, it will definitely provide you that
    All in all … you get sucked into a trapped in endless tasks and responsibilities, no chance for advancement and changing the future.
    Medicine is a game and mostly is the NIH of popularity contests, people feeding on each other’s ego along with millions of dollars in waste.
    To be honest, only reason why I actually even went to med school was because it offered a redo of college, hopefully to meet someone nice and get married … but then I realized people love money a lot more while I love helping others. So the sad reality of this is, I never got what I wanted, nor will i likely and by staying in this field I will never make the same kind of impact on health. After I finish, I probably wont even do a residency. No matter what your reason is for going into medicine, you will not get what you want out of it. On the other hand, if you have everything you want then medicine is great for you.

  283. Bob

    March 7, 2013 @ 7:18 am

    283

    I have to disagree with you Ali. While there is some truth to all of your statements, they are in some instances, are hyperbolic. I feel your comments come from the perspective of someone who should not have gone into medicine in the first place.

    Medicine is stressful and taxing in many ways. As a surgeon, I can relate to your references to losing the best years of your life, lost relationships and opportunities. I have seen many of my friends make more money than I will likely earn.

    In college, I faced the choice of matriculating into a top law school or go to medical school. There are days I regret my decision. I think people in any profession have such days. More often than not, however, I love what I do. No other profession combines the intellectual satisfaction, manual dexterity, solid pay, job security, social prestige and independence I have.

    I don’t hate my patients– even on ER nights when I come in a 3 AM to handle something. And unlike you, I have been able to maintain many of my non-medical friendships. My friends’ jobs are boring; they make a ton of money but they crunch numbers and talk about how to “maximize value and arbitrage opportunities”.

    My radiologist, dermatologist, pathologist, anesthesiologist, ophthalmologist, and ER doctor friends are uniformly happier than I am. My advice to college students considering a career in Medicine: It is a long haul, with ups and downs. You will not be worth tens of millions of dollars, but you will be very comfortable. You will achieve a satisfaction and pride in your work that non-medical professionals or mid-levels (NPs, PAs) cannot understand or appreciate.

    Regarding Ali’s comments re: innovation and entrepreneurship: I have know many doctors who have started companies or have used their earnings to leverage themselves into other investments. Realize that Ali’s opinion is one end of the spectrum. I cannot predict the future or what impact the ACA will have on a still wonderful profession- but I do not regret my decision.

  284. Bob

    March 7, 2013 @ 7:29 am

    284

    Also, while I abhor Fred’s disrespectful comments towards you – you really can’t speak about the medical profession unless you have actually practiced it. Being a medical student/intern is the bottom of the totem pole – all of the scut and zero respect.

  285. Wang

    March 7, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

    285

    Oh well, it’s not for everyone. Not tough enough, not smart enough. Good luck in your future endeavors.

  286. Scott

    March 7, 2013 @ 6:20 pm

    286

    So many of these are true now for veterinary medicine as well. Add on to your list that clients expect top-notch cutting-edge veterinary medical care that is essentially free (e.g. “can’t you just give it a shot?” or “vet bills are so expensive” even when they are a very tiny fraction of what human medicine would charge) and then maintain that you’re “not a real doctor.” Despite paying about the same (I think vet med recently became more expensive) you get a much lower salary. Speaking of the dangers of medicine, how frequently do your patients scratch, bite, kick, or maul one of your colleagues?

    It’s all getting out of hand, and I don’t recommend vet school to people either, unless they come from a very wealthy background and can pay for it upfront.

  287. Optimistic

    March 8, 2013 @ 3:34 pm

    287

    I work as a doctor, and I am HAPPY. There have been times when I am not, and there are sides to my job I don’t like. But in life, I am happy.
    I could list you all the things I would change in my life if I had a magic wand, but I won’t, I don’t have a magic wand.
    I like to concentrate on the things that make me happy and fulfilled. How work makes me feel. How I spend my time off (unfortunately sometimes it is just catching up on sleep . . . )
    One thing I would like to add to the ‘do medicine/don’t’ debate is the emotional toll what you will inevitably see and experience will take on you. Things that to the general public are terrifying, horrific and a once in a lifetime occurrences, happen everyday. You see them everyday. Eventually you become numb. Things that initially devastated you because of how sad they were stop making you shed a tear. That’s the part of medicine I don’t like. I don’t like the fact that things that used to affect me don’t. That I have become hardened to some of the atrocities that the game of life deals. I haven’t met a doctor yet who hasn’t been ‘hardened’ to some extent to the sad things we see day in day out.
    But I am a sucker for happy. I like seeing and treating kids. I like making them feel a bit better, laughing with them, sending them home from hospital well again. I couldn’t work in adult medicine. Chronic illness is one of the westernised world’s biggest problems and it is only going to get better. I like to deal with the cute fluffy side of things. The (mostly) smiley reassurance I am able to give. My respect goes to the physicians who work day in day out with people who have self inflicted diseases, that have no chance of a cure, just a way of slowing down the internal ticking time bomb of the last breath. I couldn’t do that.
    If you are going into medicine. Think long. Think hard. Don’t go in it for the money. Don’t go in it for the glamour (lets face it, half the workforce wear glorified pyjamas all day). Do lots of work experience. And if early on you don’t like it, don’t stick it out for the sake of it, get out.
    Remember the world does need doctors, even if sometimes we are subjected to lawsuits and abuse, so if you are just having a bad day, week, month, stick at it for another six. You might find wandering around in pyjamas, comfortable financially, but not rich, yet satisfied, is right for you. Try (I am unsuccessful) to live by the motto ‘What goes on in the hospital, stays in the hospital’. That way you get a balance between life and work. But it’s true, being a doctor means the hospital is going to take up more of your life than is ideal. But what job is ideal? I don’t think anyone knows the answer to that!!

  288. Loving Medical School

    March 8, 2013 @ 4:52 pm

    288

    As a third year medical student, I am sad that this article is getting as much credence as it is. While some of these points may be experienced by individuals at one point or another in their medical career, this is certainly NOT representative of the average person’s experience. While I am only a third year, I have made it through many of the gamuts of medical school already- at a top, rigorous, institute- and strongly, STRONGLY disagree with many of the above comments. While we may not be able to have the lush lives of some of our peers who entered different tracks, we as future physicians can still enjoy many of the same enjoyable experiences of our era.

    Yes, you will certainly lose some college and high school friends throughout medical school- who doesn’t?! When each of us moves to a new place, job, career, this is an inevitable outcome. However, I still stay in contact with and see my three best friends twice a year- and we all live on opposite coasts! It’s not that hard (not hard at all actually) to pick up a phone on your way to or from the hospital or during one of your breaks on rotation. Medical school is first and foremost about learning to allocate your time in a way that works for you. MAKE the time to take care of yourself, it’s there, trust me! I’ve actually been to 5 new countries and 7 new US States since coming to medical school- some of these expenses even paid by school! Conferences and projects are always open and available- find them and take advantage!

    While it is certainly rough on some rotations to find hours upon hours to spend with your sig-o, it is not impossible. Your work load waxes and wanes, and it’s all about finding someone who can support you when you need it, and enjoy your free time when you have it. I’ve been dating a wonderful guy (non med!) for over two years now and our relationship is great. You both have to understand that as busy professionals, you’re not going to be that lovey-dovey couple who spends every night making gourmet meals together over candle lit tables. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have one of those nights every now and then- it makes it all the more special.

    The hours can be tough sometimes, that is true. But what about your finance friends who are also working 12-16 hours a day? And your top firm lawyers who works more hours than I can physically even understand? With the new laws in place, medical students can’t even stay past certain times at the hospital- you’re forced to go home. But then when you think you can’t make it another day, the rotation is over! And you have time off! And you rest and you go back into the new rotation! It doesn’t last forever, and it’s not like every day is misery- much of what you do is actually enjoyable (surprise!!) and makes the day fly by.

    Many of the other comments rotate around the theme of ingratitude- from patients, from co-workers, etc. While some patients are absolutely awful, why didn’t I hear mention of those ones who are great? Who hug you sobbing in joy, after you’ve told them their baby is going to survive? That you’ve successfully cured their mother of cancer? For every patient who makes you life a living hell, there are more who are so grateful for all you’ve done for them. If you’ve had the opposite experience, did you ever think that you as the student or resident might be doing something wrong to alienate the patients?

    To wrap this up, yes, medical school and the medical profession can be extremely difficult at times. This is why not all people are meant to be doctors. You, Dr. Binazir, obviously we’re not a good fit for the profession and that is okay! It looks like you have done other wonderful things with your life. But I think it’s inappropriate for you project your issues with the system onto everyone interested in going onto medicine. Being a doctor can be a wonderful and enlightening career path- it is something I’ve only ever had overwhelmingly positive experiences with. I hope that everyone understands there are two sides of the same coin and if you want to help people, then becoming a doctor may be for you. It is something you should consider and weigh carefully- because it is a commitment- but it is not NEARLY as bleak as this article makes it out to be.

  289. Dana Landry

    March 9, 2013 @ 8:14 am

    289

    I didn’t get in 10 years ago and I’m glad every day. I got to the secondary app stage with all the DO schools. By that point I had borrowed $50k – my first degree was in literature and I went back for the prereqs. I met my goal, which was to apply to med school. But, I was exhausted, and had no social life out of the lab. I remember friends and a mentor who were doctors warning me to get out, and at some point I listened and started living my real life.

    I don’t regret the premed stuff because learning chemistry and physics has been so valuable in my growth as a human, and in my job. It took me until past age 30 to find my niche, as an executive in senior housing. I really make a difference in people’s lives, I have some respect within my field, and it pays well enough. Compassionate, smart people will always be needed in the exploding and diverse field of senior care. To all the youngsters looking for guidance, consider gerontology, a MPH, or MBA with a healthcare focus.

    It’s sad to see how desperate people are to make a lot of money, at the expense of their happiness. It’s also been therapeutic to read my own self-loathing, depression, and overdeveloped ambition reflected in so many others with high expectations put on them by their own selves.

  290. Gus

    March 9, 2013 @ 5:56 pm

    290

    Fantastic Article! For all you pre-meds saying that it is really all about attitude, most of us said that too at the beginning and don’t think that anymore. I just finished medical school and i went through everything the author said. I keep telling my friends who ask me why did you go into medical school that I had a very good reason, I just don’t remember it anymore!!!
    One more thing, do you want to hear the sad part, I have a degree in business administration (financial analysis) :D! I have a ticket out of this nightmare, yet I am not taking it, I don’t know why.
    Will let you know once i have the answer.
    Thanks again for this great post.

  291. Eric

    March 11, 2013 @ 10:13 pm

    291

    I agree with all of the above comment. I’m on the threshold of beginning pre-med but I do not believe in all of my research that there is any universality to your claims. It is highly circumstantial. If you care about that friend enough, you’ll stay close. If you love that girlfriend to the greatest extent, you can hang on. I agree that those who envision nothing but being a doctor should question their decision. All this extensive epic is serving as is a deterrent. We should not deter our potential doctors. We should aptly and accurately portray their impending challenges in a context that is not so discouraging. Be not a pessimist but an enthusiast. This isn’t even the word of a realist, necessarily. The experience, although universally challenging in different aspects, is SURMOUNTABLE. Encourage everyone who is even partially interested to climb that mountain because the more people who reach that apex, the stronger, more erudite and more able our doctors will be.

  292. DocSen

    March 19, 2013 @ 7:10 pm

    292

    This is by far one of the most mature and honest articles I’ve read from a Doctor. I, being an Ophthalmology trainee now, also believe that the only reason one should pursue Medicine is that she or he genuinely loves idea of treating sick people.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the Medical field in general.

  293. a medic

    March 20, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

    293

    I’ve just spent all morning reading this post and comments as I contemplate resigning from my job as an SHOin the UK. Sometimes I’ve been roaring with laughter and nodding in appreciation. I feel so jaded, worn down and stifled as a doctor. I didn’t start down the medical path until I was 30, having turned down a place at med school when I was 18 out of fear that it would take over my life. I travelled and taught English across the world and then decided it was time to grow up, and to the delight of my aging parents I announced I was coming home to be a doctor.

    Med school was exciting at first. I couldn’t believe I’d been given a second chance. I was seriously shocked but the hierarchical nature of the hospital system, the bullying and the arrogance of many of the consultants. I found it frustrating to be talked down to by registrars who were so self-absorbed that they didn’t seem to credit me with any life experience, and proceeded to ‘teach’ ie humiliate, seemingly with the sole purpose of demonstrating their vast learning and acumen. I hated the system but thought once I was through med school I would feel I could make more of a contribution, and I would never treat students or my juniors in the same way.

    As a foundation doctor I certainly did ‘contribute’, being rushed off my feet, basically picking up the admin work of the consultant who had a vast array of patients who, as director of the hospital, and thus motivated to clear beds at any cost, would stalk around the hospital, discharging patients who ‘looked too well’ to still be there. The number of these who ‘re-offended’ within the ensuing days showed that perhaps he was being a tad hasty. Nevertheless we all know hospital budgets are tight and getting tighter.

    I was starting on a set of 4 nights and noticed my heart rate was 100, I was sweating buckets and when I was cannulating a patient the nurse commented that I had the shakes. Suspicious, I got a colleague to take my blood and we sent off for TFTs. Sure enough, TSH was non-existent andfree T4 was5x higher than upper limit of normal (I know you guys in the US use different units for thyroid. Believe me, I was toxic as it gets).

    I showed a consultant who put me in touch with an endocrinologist, who told me to take beta blockers and carbimazole, and come and see him after the nights were over.

    Medical nights in a DGH are exhausting enough as it is, but running from one ward to the next with the occasional crash call thrown in, for 12-hour shifts on 4 consecutive nights when cytotoxic was absolutely exhausting. I even developed angina. However, my work ethic is so strong, I just gritted my teeth and dragged myself through it.

    I could go on…

    I’m now an SHO awaiting September when I am meant to be starting a training programme. As one consultant put it, well done! Keep your nose clean and you’ll be a consultant in 8 years.

    I’m 38 now. Can I really survive any more of this? My health has deteriorated, I don’t have time for my passion (music), hell, I don’t even have time to give adequate patient care.

    Another 8 years, of ‘keeping my nose clean’?

    I’m not sure. The thought of another day makes me feel sick. The irony is that I thought by going in later, with a more mature attitude, I would be able to accept any hardship. I certainly never expected to be one of the moaned. I used to be such a positive person, so full of life. Now I feel like a shell.

  294. a medic

    March 20, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

    294

    Sorry about the typos. .. obviously thyrotoxic, moaners. ..probably others. Blame it on stress ha! (Or my phone)

  295. Colby

    March 23, 2013 @ 1:46 am

    295

    I have practiced psychiatry for 20 years and I love my work. But YOU know, you are very right in everything that you have said: you stop liking people, you think that most of the people are dirt bags, people that don’t know you hate you, etc, etc. I’ll add that while psychiatry is essentially a great thing to do, the most prejudiced people against you are other doctors, and most people trivialize their own lives, their actions, their thoughts, and naturally, my profession, such that most of my work is for naught. It is one of the most fine and most degrading professions that I can imagine.

  296. Ali B

    March 24, 2013 @ 8:31 pm

    296

    Eric – We climbed the summit, came back down and reported on what we saw. You’re commenting from the foothills on how it should have been. In other words, you don’t have a leg to stand on. You need to let go of your beliefs and hopes — “this is surmountable” — and start observing the world for what it is. Pain is wishing the world to be different than it is.

  297. Ali B

    March 24, 2013 @ 8:41 pm

    297

    Dear Loving Medical School who goes to Johns Hopkins –
    Thanks for a great contribution. It’s good to hear from people who are in the midst of the medical profession, doing it and getting a lot out of it. If you could also share how much you’ll be in debt upon your graduation, and what your salary will be as a resident for 4 years, that would be really useful for the readers, too. My projection is $180,000-$220,000, with a starting salary around $45k. Right now your loans are in deferment so you probably don’t think about it. Would also love to hear back from you once you’re in 2nd year of residency. Obviously, you’re one of the good ones, and the world needs good docs, so your insights would be invaluable. Even better, you should start a blog and record your experiences. It’ll make a great book someday. Go get ‘em!

  298. Ali B

    March 24, 2013 @ 8:46 pm

    298

    Optimistic – Thanks for a great contribution to the discussion. Invaluable to hear from established practitioners how their lives really are.

  299. Ali B

    March 24, 2013 @ 8:50 pm

    299

    Bob – thanks for a useful contribution to the discussion. As for my statements being hyperbolic: which part of “gleefully biased rant” did you not understand? I did put it in the title, y’know.

  300. Lee Lovejoy

    March 25, 2013 @ 12:05 am

    300

    What do you mean gleefully biased rant? This sounds like a very fair description of the field! I’m only a resident in psychiatry now, but ever since reading this I send it to people who are interested in going into medicine.

  301. Natalie

    April 3, 2013 @ 7:18 am

    301

    Wow after reading this i realise i have a LOT to think about. I knew medicine would be a long and tough journey but i’m just not sure whether i’m willing to sacrifice so much for this career. Real respect to all doctors out there. Thanks for this article!

  302. Jordan

    April 4, 2013 @ 9:35 pm

    302

    Good article. I think this is the case for many people who go to medical school. I’m just finishing up at IU school of med and although this is not how it has been for me, or at least not as extreme, many of my friends at med school feel this way. Basically if you’re reading this comment and you’re a premed undergrad right, this is my advice to you. If you find these premed courses hard, then don’t go to medical school. If you find them pretty easy, then consider it. Also if you aren’t good at memorizing things easily, then you will have a bad time. I’m not saying I am really smart by any means but I found undergrad to be pretty simple and I have a pretty good memory. Once I look at something, I pretty much know it. I would say that I typically study 5 hours a today and going to lecture probably 4 hours a day but I know many people who only sleep, eat and study.

  303. Kim

    April 5, 2013 @ 7:51 pm

    303

    This article resonates very well with me. Boy I hate the practice of medicine. I love helping people, that’s why I joined med school. The idea of figuring out what patients are suffering from and finding solutions to ease their suffering is irresistible. Only that the practice of modern medicine is no longer as simple. I do not know why.

    In order to fulfill this dream, one has to put up with all the challenges in the practice. Many who did not go through med school do not understand the concept of modern medical practice. And no, much of the practice is not a necessary evil for the care of patients. A simple example that is also mentioned in this article is overworked residents/physicians. A tired physician cannot possibly provide better care than a well rested physician. But yet this idea that physicians must work long hours still persists after numerous studies that show adverse outcomes.

    This article explains my frustrations with modern medical practice so well. It will probably continue to hold true until the entire profession changes. Until then, you really need to love the PRACTICE of medicine (read: not loving patients) to be successful in it.

    The essence of medicine is beautiful, but to ignore the realities of the extremely flawed practice of modern medicine (and whether you can personally take it); and you WILL be in a butt load of hurt. This article serves as a very blunt yet necessary warning to those who is considering medicine as a career.

    No, your ideals, passion and hard work will not be enough.

  304. DG

    April 14, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

    304

    I’m currently a PGY-3 in radiology and just want to say that this was so incredibly spot on, aside from the Radiologists playing golf (maybe that was the case 10-15 years ago) and just wanted to say thanks for producing one of the best articulations of what i’ve felt for years but have been unable to put into words such as these. With things as bad as they are and only looking to get worse, from the MD perspective, what can we do to realistically get out? We have no real job skills aside from our medical training? Some of us have such insurmountable debt? What do you success stories out there suggest for us poor souls who are drowning with no life jacket in sight?

  305. Adam

    April 17, 2013 @ 12:13 am

    305

    The people that want to go to medical school to become physicians will read this and say “Yup, that’s true, but I still want to do this…” You make good points but I think it’s a sad that physicians try to dissuade others from joining the profession. I’m a physician myself and tell others thinking about medical school to think long and hard about it, but if you know what you’re getting into and you want to do it, you have to do it. I’ve met too many people who have gone to medical school for the wrong reasons. You have to pick medicine because it’s the only thing you want to do.

    I’d be curious to see how you feel today, in 2013.

    Thanks.

  306. A Lost Soul

    April 17, 2013 @ 7:32 am

    306

    This has been a cool blog to read and I’m glad everyone has been open and honest about their experiences. I have read every single comment all 300+…

    Here is a little bit about me. After high school I went to college undecided and eventually decided to study biology because science is the future and I thought it would be interesting, but I still didn’t know what career path I wanted to follow. During my 3rd and 4th years I had my mind set on becoming a physical therapist. I had shadowed people in the profession ( I am a fan of job shadowing and recommend it to everyone that’s indecisive) but was never really set on doing physical therapy. My last year I liked a few of the classes I was taking so I thought about pursuing a career in pharmacy. I applied to both pharmacy and physical therapy schools, but I am not sure what I really want to do and don’t know “where my heart is”. I’ve thought about going into medicine too. I graduate in May and have been thinking about applying to a few jobs as well.

    I wish I had this great drive to help people (I’d like to see a better world, but question how and why I should go about helping others) and do all these fancy things and follow my dreams, but the more I think about it the less sure I am about my dreams. So I’m just rolling with the punches and trying to figure out where I fit into this little world. All of your experiences have been interesting and have given me something to think about. Thanks for taking the time to write your thoughts.

  307. Katie

    April 17, 2013 @ 7:49 pm

    307

    I know this post is old, but I just wanted to chime in and say that a lot of this depends on specialty choice. I knew I wanted to be a doctor from the time I was in high school, although I briefly became an engineering major as a freshman in college in an attempt to dissuade myself from medical school. That was a bust, since I HATED engineering. So I switched to microbiology/pre-med and had a truly great time in college.
    I know this is hard to believe after reading a lot of the commends here, but I loved med school (the classroom work, most of my rotations, and my amazing friends/fabulous experience in a great city/great boyfriend). The environment at my school (top 5, pass/fail) was really supportive, somewhat from the administration, but mostly from my classmates, many of whom continue to be my closest friends despite the fact that we are scattered all over the country for residency. It was one of the best times in my life.
    Somehow I ended up in an anesthesiology elective and realized that I loved critical care and anesthesiology during my third year. Currently, I’m a third year anesthesiology resident in a combined anesthesia/critical care fellowship track. Although I’m tired and don’t have the flexibility to randomly go out of town like some of my non-medical friends, and although I definitely don’t have the flexible income as a lot of my other friends (grad student boyfriend + residency salary + paying off my loans), I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have enough time off to go on trips, go to yoga, go to the movies, and live the life I want. And I genuinely love my job. It’s intellectually stimulating, fun, provides the opportunity to meet lots of patients, requires me to use ALL my knowledge of physiology/pharmacology/pathophysiology ALL the time, and my co-workers are uniformly laid-back and interesting.
    All that being said, I think I’d hate my life if I was in any other field. I don’t know how I got lucky enough to have my teenage idea of doctoring become a reality. But yes, for some of us, it really is what we want and the sacrifices of time and money are worth it.

  308. Katie

    April 17, 2013 @ 9:55 pm

    308

    Also re: my comment above, I should add that I went straight through, which means I’m 29 right now. I went to public school for undergrad without debt thanks to some college money set aside by my late grandparents, and I have about $200K of med school debt that I’m paying off through IBR. And I don’t really want to have kids, so that probably helps me to be ok with my lifestyle and financial situation.

  309. Michael Cummings, MD

    April 26, 2013 @ 8:16 am

    309

    Very true, just about everything you said about medicine, and particularly training. But I think there are other good reasons to still choose a career in medicine you did not address sufficiently. Medicine is a blend of science and working with people, who are seeing you for the most important thing in their lives, their health. If you enjoy science and helping people, it is hard to envision a more satisfying job. Being a physician still commands among the highest levels of respect and financial benefits of ANY profession. Despite all the truly negative reasons you elucidate, I would still choose medicine, although I would have thought harder about my specialty choice, as some specialties have a far greater lifestyle benefit than others!

  310. Hugh Myronbrough

    April 29, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

    310

    I get the sense that you’re affiliated with Harvard. Your writing reflects that you went to school with and hang around social elites who went to Ivy League schools, and thus could have any job they wanted in finance, banking, law, etc. For them, medicine would be a bad bet: it has a gigantic opportunity cost of these high-paying careers.

    For the rest of us, there is no opportunity cost. Top law schools (the schools you need to attend to get into Biglaw), Ibanking firms, etc, they don’t want people who went to third-tier state schools. For us, those high-paying careers are not accessible. Medicine is accessible, because med schools don’t care about where you went to college.

    Basically, for a Harvard grad, medicine is a bad bet because Harvard can get him a great job on Wall Street. For a state school grad, medicine is still a great choice because he doesn’t have any other high-paying jobs accessible to him.

    I will start med school this August, and I will always remember to tell myself this: “For me, the opportunity cost of going to medical school was a future of uncertain employment and sub-50K jobs.”

  311. Jose

    April 30, 2013 @ 6:02 am

    311

    LOVE is love, you don’t love medicine, When you love something you live for it

  312. Diug

    May 2, 2013 @ 1:27 pm

    312

    completely accurate from my perspective. There are people who are genuinely happy in medicine, but those are the exceptions rather than the rule. There are Medscape surveys that consistently show that greater than 50% of physicians would choose another profession if given the opportunity. As a current third year student at a well known American med school, I feel as though part of the problem is the way that the profession has been touted by previous generations and portrayed in the media. It isn’t the physical demands of the work, the intellectual demands (though they are vast and at times overwhelming) or even the expense that breaks people down. It is the emotional demands and the constant necessity to live up to the societal image of what a doctor is supposed to be: totally compassionate at all times, unfailingly well informed in every situation (more realistic in the 50s when we had about 1/20th the information to master), and completely without emotion under pressure. Needless to say, living up to these expectations is entirely unrealistic no matter how hard you work and yet the field is only open to individuals with the kind of work ethic that will never relinquish the notion that they have to be perfect. In other words, medicine can never be just a “job” – it simply carries too many societal expectations. You work a ton of hours as an investment banker, lawyer, etc. but it ends when you leave the office (generalization, I know). Moreover, if you’re a shitty banker, you move on without having let anyone down but yourself. If you’re a shitty doctor, you let down yourself, your overbearing parents who likely pushed you into the field, your patients, and, most importantly, society in general. Hell of a lot of pressure, and we aren’t compensated nearly enough to balance that scale.

  313. Bobby S

    May 3, 2013 @ 10:37 am

    313

    For all the reasons above i chose the pharmacy route. In the end after 4 yrs of college and 4 yrs of pharm school with a residency to be a clinical pill counter, i lost a lot of sleep, ate crap i did not want to, skipped out on my gym schedule to cram more for an exam, and lost touch with a lot of friends. In the end i love what i do and had i have known all of this with medicine 8 years ago when i was a young fresh teen, i would have done a silly major in college, peed more in public, and done investment banking with my friends who by the way ride around in an r8 =(. All-in-all, i still feel compelled after all of this to go back and get my MD b/c of the shortage of physicians and lack of good care…….. Too bad i am wayyyy to burned out.

  314. NatalieAnne

    May 9, 2013 @ 9:38 am

    314

    I have been struggling quite a bit with career decisions, though it is not for a lack of research into options. I never considered medical school seriously in college because I did not want to make the sacrifices and I did not have any patient care experience. After graduating from college in 2009, I was a neuroscience research analyst at Duke. I realized how soul-sucking, petty, isolating, unrewarding, and alienating the culture of research was, and decided to leave research. I decided I wanted to pursue healthcare because I did neuropsychological assssments with geriatric patients with depression and/or Alzheimer’s Disease and I loved it. I have the GPA for whatever I want to do (4.0), GRE in 90th percentile, one first author publication in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, and I am set to have another paper come out soon. For this reason, many people, including my parents, have tried to convince me I should do medical school because I am likely capable and am young (26).

    I’ve explored and shadowed and gotten into a variety of health graduate schools (physical therapy, public health, clinical psych, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, and social work). I, however, place a high value on living life fully, and love camping and traveling and spending time with family and friends. I also have clinical anxiety and low-grade depression, as well as a low tolerance for sleep deprivation (it makes me physically sick, perhaps due to all the high stress things I’ve done so far). When I tell people quality of life is important to me, they call me lazy and say I will always regret not going to medical school. This application cycle I was accepted to Emory PA, Duke PA, Vanderbilt’s accelerated NP program, Emory public health, and a few others.

    I am leaning towards Vanderbilt’s NP program due to greater autonomy, independence, public health involvement, and leadership opportunities compared to PAs, but every week or so someone tries to convince me I need to go to medical school. I’ve talked with countless PAs and NPs who love their jobs, though the two PAs I’ve shadowed regretted not going to medical school and have tried to convince me to go to medical school. I think I have a good grasp on my values. Is it so wrong to want to pursue NP (vs MD) because of shorter training and better quality of life? I will always strive to know my limits as a provider and continue learning to improve myself. People have been so mean and insulting to me.

  315. Chris

    May 13, 2013 @ 7:34 am

    315

    I am a final-year medical student in Australia at the top-ranked medical school in this country. Before medicine I studied mathematics & worked in finance. I had the opportunity to go for a much more lucrative career in finance, but chose to go back to university and study medicine (in Australia medicine is an undergraduate degree, so this was a career change, rather than the standard route). I am still very young and will graduate at around the same age as a standard US medical graduate. I think that your thesis is entirely circumstantial.

    I’m very happy with my choice, and I can guarantee you that I would be miserable if I was a “creativity consultant”. But that may just be a function of my simplicity and desire for a circumscribed life, rather than a valid argument against your choice of profession. I think your rant is interesting, but ultimately lacks perspective. We’re not all Ludwig Wittgenstein, some of us have to be content being Maurice Drury.

  316. Robin

    May 18, 2013 @ 11:42 pm

    316

    This is not true!!! I am an ER doctor practicing in California and I adore every single second of it!! Even though med school was tough I still had time for a social life!! I also work shift work and have plenty of time off and eat an sleep fine! My friend whose a dermatologist had a great work week!! She works the same hours as any other professional does and has weekends and nights off! Sure residency was crap, but I still get payed more than most now that residency is over! What you experienced above was awful but just because it was awful for you it might not have been awful for others!

  317. SuperDhooper19

    May 21, 2013 @ 6:32 am

    317

    I read this entire thread and I’m a little concerned but not too concerned. I usually keep to myself, enjoy trying things (even if they don’t succeed-because it presents a challenge), and I could care less what kind of car/house I’m buying in the future. I’m not trying to climb that metaphorical hill to success expecting to slide down into bliss. Honestly, my ideal situation would be being able to run work to maintain physical fitness, eat the same food every day (eggs and fruit for breakfast, turkey sandwich and some side dish, and a light dinner which will either be composed of some sort of chicken breast or fish. plan to buy this in bulk from the nearest grocery store. I think people’s minds are so saturated with thoughts of the external world that they forget to taste the food they’re eating LOL. Just stop for a second and taste your food. It’s much more rewarding than paying $$$ to buy something expensive and unnecessary. As for the pace of things, I don’t mind eating on the fly. I often eat while riding on my bike and let my thoughts wander. I will probably probably buy whatever car my wife wants because I won’t care and will get a 300K house (if I can afford it with a fixed 25 year mortgage). I will also have one to two kids and this will probably where 85% of my revenue will go once I am debt free. I will probably invest whatevers left in hobbies a home gym and collect different free weights and machines and store them in the basement which will be cool naturally. If that doesn’t work I’ll try to buy a $60/month gym membership so I can squeeze some swimming, ball, and lifting in. Keeping myself good shape is a hobby of mine. I also will probably develop my instrument skills again. What do I look forward to? My job of course! Each day the patient’s are different! Ya, maybe they have the same problems but think about all the different facial features and expressions you’ll observe even if you were to just be treating the same condition all day. Also, they’ll all have different opinions and it’ll be interesting to analyze all the personalities. Ya, conversations are rushed but I’m sure you get to talk a bit. As for a social life, I have only one close friend as an undergrad and he’s med school bound too. I like having one or two close friends and am not a social butterfly (but I truly enjoy interacting with people…even in a setting where they have dementia (not funny) but you can gain a lot from the ways they move their eyes and watching their unique habits is fascinating to me. I feel like I want to be an excellent physician, I’m more fulfilled by reaching for a goal I will never achieve than trying to achieve a goal and then have achieved it. After all…think about it, if you have a goal in life and achieve it, what’s next…I don’t want to be perfect though but I will always strive for excellence. If I am able to I’ll retire when I’m 65-70. Then I will probably try and teach at the high school level in a school assuming I do not like get stupid or something. I like teaching. It’s something I do in undergrad. The one thing I am concerned about is that I hope my wife will like me and not thing I’m a boring person. I really don’t want to divorce my future lifelong pal :(

  318. LPJ

    May 28, 2013 @ 6:46 pm

    318

    Well I am only in my first year of medicine, but I would disagree. It’s true I spend a lot of time studying but I also have a family and I take time out for them. I know many, many doctors who live healthy lifestyles and obtain professional fulfillment simultaneously. I think you went into this for the wrong reason, and that’s totally okay, but the title of your blog is very, very misleading, especially since you yourself acknowledged your biased approach towards the motivation behind it. Bets of luck to all the medical students out there!

  319. Kenneth

    June 3, 2013 @ 2:16 am

    319

    So I’ve currently just finished my pharmacy degree. Seeing how pharmacy has changed in the past few years (especially in Canada with the expanded scope of practice)and is STILL changing, I was initially content with the direction of where it was heading. But up until recently, our government has been severely slashing the budget in pharmacy to the point where many new grads are having an extremely difficult time finding a full-time job. And not to mention, the wages have plummeted.

    Thanks to the bleak outlook of the pharmacy profession (and of course my burning desire to practice medicine), I am now contemplating going to med school to further fulfill my purpose. I understand there will be huge sacrifices involved, but I’m still leaning towards reaching the epitome of patient care as a physician. With that being said, pharmacists do play a large role in the PREVENTION of hospital admissions through counseling and finding drug therapy problems in a community setting. Do you have any thoughts on this? Should I just be content and focus on my career as a pharmacist?

  320. Ali B

    June 6, 2013 @ 7:51 pm

    320

    LPJ: Um, what you said made no sense. You say my title is misleading, then cite the evidence proving that it’s not misleading. Sure you’re ready to be a doctor? Chief Resident’s gonna eat you alive, kid.

  321. biomedical engineer

    June 10, 2013 @ 4:06 pm

    321

    Hello,
    Your post is dead on. I was a medical school applicant back in 2000. I actually was on the waiting list and missed admission by about 8 spots in 2001. I could have reapplied but changed my mind. I decided to continue with my career in biomedical engineering. I earned an MS in Bioengineering back in the late 90s.

    Years later, I was working with EHR for a government job. I decided to earn a 2nd master’s of public health. I wanted to go deeper in the details of the healthcare system. I embarked on a new round of research and a rigorous curriculum. We studied the extreme details of the history of Medicare, Medicaid, health economics, policy analysis, eligibility determination, medical billing, healthcare finance, epidemiology, etc. I did a capstone project on Agent Orange and its impact on the VA healthcare system.

    In 2008 we had to compare and contrast the healthcare proposals by each presidential candidate. It was very interesting, and we knew healthcare reform was pending. I learned a huge amount about the system.

    My conclusion is that the healthcare system does need major reform. The focus should most definitely be on primary care such as family practice, pediatrics, internal medicine, etc. But the flawed Medicare payment system based on fee-for-service created a ridiculous problem spanning decades. The system tends to favor specialists like radiologists (as you noted). But that is economically inefficient. The focus should be on primary care like in France which has the #1 system ranked by the World Health Organization.

    The US spends the most on healthcare but gets the least return on investment compared to other countries. There is an extreme shortage of primary care. They are woefully underpaid and overworked. You are 100% right. A person should choose an MD only if the desire is to care for patients.

    The high-paying specialties like dermatology and radiology need to be scaled back (i.e. EROAD). The focus needs to switch to primary care. The MD/PhD also needs to be scaled back. But primary care is blatantly overwhelmed and discriminated against (in my opinion).

    Meanwhile, I am glad I continued to stay in biomedical engineering. I am working on a 3rd master’s in ME and hope to do a PhD. I would like to focus on 3-D printing and opengl programming with applications to medical device manufacturing. I also saw veterans with prosthetic legs in a race in Texas. I am also interested in prosthetic devices and mechanical design with Solidworks or finite element analysis and continuum mechanics.

    I’m really glad I chose to stay in biomedical engineering rather than go to medical school. I recommend alternatives to medical school like a graduate degree in health informatics, FDA regulatory affairs, biomedical engineering, MBA and healthcare finance, accounting and medical billing electives, etc. The demand is very high and pay is good.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqjH2aVowsc

  322. Soon to be PA

    July 1, 2013 @ 8:45 pm

    322

    @Natalie,

    “I realized how soul-sucking, petty, isolating, unrewarding, and alienating the culture of research was, and decided to leave research.”

    LOL. You have no idea how much worse it is in medicine. Soul-sucking, petty, isolating, alienating, all of it. Seeing how patients are treated according to their insurance policy is soul sucking. Listening to the attending and residents laugh about a patient who just coded and died is soul sucking. Petty doesn’t even BEGIN to describe the childish, egotistical, passive aggressive behavior you will be subjected to day in and day out. Isolation and alienation is par for the course. You will spend your days in the library and in the bowels of the hospital. You will drive home, completely drained and exhausted, and look at people out playing volleyball, or having a BBQ in the park, and you will envy them for having a normal life. If you are single, as I am, you will come home to an empty, dirty apartment you have no time to clean and try to distract yourself from how lonely you are. You will stop answering your phone because it is just too miserable to keep saying “no” to your friends. Eventually they stop calling. You will be broke, living off loans. Every time you buy something you will feel a twinge of guilt and try not to think about how much it will cost with interest.

    I will be graduating from PA school mid-August, so perhaps I can give you some on the ground perspective to help you with your decision on NP vs PA vs MD. I have many years of experience working in the medical field as a CNA at a nursing home & hospice, a medical assistant at a free clinic for the uninsured, as well as a pharmacy tech. I agree 100% with the author that if you do not enjoy taking care of sick people, you are setting yourself up for misery, especially as a mid-level. Doctors can always escape to specialties where they have minimal contact with patients, but as a mid-level you will be a bedside provider, doing a great deal of grunt work working directly with miserable, sick people every day.

    Vanderbilt’s accelerated NP program sounds a bit iffy to me. Though I don’t know a whole lot about it, I can say that all the NP’s I know have had years of experience as a nurse before going to NP school, and that the advanced Nursing degree was traditionally meant to add to that experience. Going through nursing school to emerge as an NP may be a disadvantage to your career. Secondly, NP’s are trained to practice advanced nursing, not medicine. The coursework is typically thin on the hard sciences. As for the perceived autonomy available to NP’s vs. PA’s, that is really a terrible reason to pursue an advanced nursing degree. Virtually all NP’s in practice work under the direction of a physician and will be the first to tell you that practicing independently would be dangerous.

    I may be biased, but given your background and interest in science, I would recommend PA school over NP school. PA school is like accelerated med school. You take most of the pre-clinical science such as pharmacology, cadaver anatomy, and pathophys, in addition to clinical medicine which is taught by organ system. There is a very strong emphasis on learning how to do a thorough physical exam and history. This is the one area I believe that PA’s often excel at in comparison to MD/DO’s. That is by design. As a PA, you won’t be expected to diagnose and manage complex patients on your own, but the docs you work for MUST be able to trust your exam and documentation skills. Due to the accelerated nature of PA curriculum, though, there is quite a bit that is glossed over. You aren’t expected to understand the deep pathophys of the diseases you study. It is more clinical nuts & bolts, as some have called it, “cookbook medicine.” To get an idea of what you would be missing, just flip through a USMLE review book vs a PANCE review book.

    That being said, do not make the mistake of thinking PA school is easier than med school. Yes, it is significantly shorter, but the there is simply so much thrown at you in such a short period of time it is overwhelming and there is very little hand-holding. There are no summer breaks. It’s an unrelenting grind. Also, PA schools usually have very strict remediation policies. Where I went, if you scored below an 80% on any exam, you were given one chance to remediate. If you scored below 80% on remediation, you were kicked out of school, sink or swim, no exceptions. This happened to a few of my friends, and the overall washout rate at my school was typically between 15%-25%. The stress of losing your entire career, being dismissed from school tens of thousands in debt of over one exam is at times unbearable. It was not uncommon for some girl to start sobbing after an exam, which is quite unnerving. There were girls in my class whose hair was falling out.

  323. Wino

    July 16, 2013 @ 9:35 pm

    323

    So, Going through all of that is quite the nightmare. I will say that being a chiropractor is not much better. Sure there is no residency attached or a specialty you have to go through but the education is tough (depending on the school you go to) and takes a toll on you and your family. Don’t become a chiropractor…they will make you think you have gone through all of the above and one day after you have gone beyond the aura of graduation you will realize you are nothing but a glorified massage therapist trying to sell you product…which mind you is just about as good as an expensive bottle of ibuprofen. Will you help people with things that can’t be helped otherwise? yes, but only ~10% of the population will utilize your care. Stay away from becoming the under-appreciated, overrated, pseudo-science/pseudo-religion ‘doctor’ of chiropractic…

  324. Alfredo Sadun

    July 26, 2013 @ 5:52 am

    324

    You made me gasp and laugh as I haven’t done since reading House of God. So kudos for the most brillian argument that I’ve heard that was also wrong. Even “Samuel Schem” knew his truths were only half true and he’s had a great career as a physician.

    I’m the opposite of your medical school dean. I’ve loved my academic medicine life so my daughter chose medical school and academics as well. We’re both very happy. But we both knew the issues you so brilliantly articulated. Medicine is bad as a business model. Too little power and too much responsibility. Unless, of course, it’s the responsibility you crave. The responsibility of taking care of very sick patients, of teaching and passing on the torch and of making new knowledge to move the field. This is it’s own reward. Add to that the love and devotion of all the young people (especially residents and fellows) who put their careers in your hands. it’s all quite a priviledge. Maybe it’s also cognitive dissonance. If you put up with crap, it must be worthwhile. Tell that to a mother of a baby who is nothing but work and shows no gratitude. She will tell you that all the bad nights and dirty diapers and anxieties were all part of the best thing she ever did.

    OK, I’ve been lucky. I’ve had a great career sheltered in academics. But being surrounded not only by the best and brightest, but by idealists is an amazing joy. So I’ll finish by making this point with a metaphor.

    When the horrific tsunami hit Thailand and Indonesia, two planes were chartered to fly to Thailand from LAX. One was filled with doctors and nurses eager to help out. The other with lawyers eager to exploit the tragedy. Suppose there was one available stand by seat on each plane. Which plane wouldyou choose? Which group would you choose to spend time with? I’m very glad that I’ve spent my life with fellow enthusiasts who knew it was a joy and priviledge to help patients, shape the future of the field and nurture young professionals.

  325. Ana

    August 7, 2013 @ 4:52 am

    325

    I was wondering what you would say about PA school?
    Both my parents are doctors in Honduras, not the US. I had always wanted to be a doctor but now I am so confused. I dont know what I want anymore. I just received my bachelors in Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics. I do love research but I want the medical field more. Recently I started contemplating PA school over medical school but Im not sure. There seems to be many pros and cons to both. I wonder what everyone’s feedback is. I do want a family someday. I also want to live comfortably enough to provide my family with what they need and want. I also love helping people but I have had contact with non-profit organizations that seem to be making a difference in people’s lives. However, I do love biology. Physiology class was so interesting. Neuroscience was too much straight memorization (I like understanding concepts better).
    I am in the process of taking the MCAT soon so I am on my way to medical school but I am so unsure. We went to the bank recently to find out that there are no more educational or personal loans. Paying for med school is extremely scary.
    I also have the pressure of my mother that frowned upon my bringing up the idea of PA school. Suggestions? Good websites to check out?

  326. Pre-Meds: The Caffeine Addicted, Cut-Throat, Control Lovers | The Prospect

    August 7, 2013 @ 10:03 pm

    326

    [...] “Why You Should Not Go To Medical School – A Gleefully Biased Rant” by Ali Binazir [...]

  327. Tom

    September 4, 2013 @ 2:55 am

    327

    This blog has been such a big influence on me and my decisions regarding medical school, thank you so much Dr. Binazir for such a honest and truthful blog. I live in New Zealand and here at my University (University of Auckland) we are only ever given two chances to apply for med school in our lifetime here. As I’m still a first year freshman student I’ve decided to continue on with my current degree (Biomedical Science) and maybe as I get older and become more sure with what I want to do with my life maybe then I’ll apply as a graduate. If not then I still have my Bachelor’s degree and can continue with a honours programme and then PhD perhaps or just find a job.

    For those of you who are in the same position as me, who aren’t 100% sure on medicine and maybe are only applying because of parents, friends around them or any reason short of “medicine is what I want to do and I absolutely cann’t imagine doing ANYTHING ELSE” I hope I’ve given you an alternative option to think about. Take a step back and sit down and write down all your PERSONAL thoughts regarding medicine. Here at UoA we must write two 3000 character paragraphs stating why we wish to do medicine and our personal accomplishments, and when I sat down to write my thoughts down that’s when I discovered I lacked that natural calling and desire for medicine. I love helping people in whatever way I can, but I also realised that medicine isn’t the only way to do it.

    Don’t forget at the end of the day, this is all about YOU!!
    Hope that this gives you something to think about.

    Tom

  328. Akriti

    September 9, 2013 @ 1:03 pm

    328

    Hello .

    Firstly , T would like to introduce myself here . I am Akriti and I have completed my 12th and have secured a good score in my 12 . But due to my personal problems I was unable to make it in my entrances . The fact that I am writing to you is that I have been deeply hurt since I really wanted to get in to this field and I worked hard for it more than my own best friends . While they got in into their respective fields via reservations . Initially , I had decided to take a year off and give my entrances again but then my mother (she is a general surgeon) tells me that I won’t be able to take up such legal issues once I super specialize on something. She has given me couple of examples where a lady doctors have to struggle a lot more than males since these males try dominating everwhere . My mother has been a role model for me in my life and whatever she has adviced me to do has been correct( At times I never followed her , and I paid a heavy price for it )…

    Having read most of those above comments , it still didn’t dissuade me from taking up this course . I do not know exactly how doctors actually behave or react when they get to diagnose patients . The fact is that I have seen couple of doctors who had been involved in some sort of malpractices and I always wanted to serve people not for the sake of money , but for my satisfaction . Biology since 12th (not 11th) has amused quite a lot especially the human body and maybe just as Gabrielle said I don’t know , do doctors become lifeless and listless because of their jobs ? Because I have seen numerous doctors here who had been ignorant and they had trying to take o’er someone else’s patients ( in the field that they haven’t even expertized themselves ) !

    Recently , I have taken up an undergraduate course under Manipal University which is BSc in Biotechnology . I like it , but at times I wonder when I look at those med students wearing apron – what if I had waited a year just to get into med ..

  329. Bob Heinlein

    September 10, 2013 @ 3:17 am

    329

    Don’t do medicine if it’s too hard for you. You’ll have no free time and will hate yourself. The profession will be better off without you!

  330. Nurkin

    September 15, 2013 @ 3:59 am

    330

    Unless you have the emotional maturity and a particular intellectual and character constitution where you understand the relative vacuity of “peripherals” like money, prestige, title, power, etc. as compared to the aforementioned personal qualities, [which can only be honed through hard work, a dedication to a purpose that stretches above and beyond one's quotidian needs] you will not understand how and why medicine may be worth all the trials and tribulations. My grandmother was a physician in the former Soviet Union. She started medical school as a young girl in her 20s and then WWII interfered…she survived WWII and returned to medical school after it was over. When she became a physician, she was earning about 150 rubles a month, the equivalent of maybe $20…and she did not have her own office, no tangible perks, but a very hard life pounding the pavement [literally] visiting her patients in their homes. She did always tell me to choose any career I wanted except for medicine. And yet…I do not think that she would be the same person that made our whole family proud if she hadn’t be a doctor. Fast forward 30 years, she is 93 now – in the end of stage of Alzheimers…and one of the very few things she still remembers about her life [no longer recognizing immediate family members] is that she went through medical school [how difficult of an experience it has been] AND THAT SHE WAS A DOCTOR. Besides the fact that she is an incredible human being and highly intelligent is that her choice to use her natural potential to its fullest in a fulfilling intellectual career [NOT JUST A JOB], has been and will always be a source of immense pride for the whole family. It certainly is not just about the money or the lifestyle your career choices may or may not afford…It is also about a legacy you will leave to your children and your children’s children.

  331. Marvin MJ

    September 15, 2013 @ 4:42 am

    331

    Jesus Christ. This thread of comments, the tone of the author regarding the truths about Med School. I can do nothing but wish to see what the outcome would be if I chose whatever path. I am currently a freshman at a Community College in North Carolina, and I am enrolled in the Registered Nurse Program, which is an accelerated 2 1/2 year program with technical and theoretical classes as well as clinicals and labs. I recently discovered that my plans of transferring to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to obtain my bachelor’s in Biology while working as a RN over the weekends are no longer viable. I wanted to get extra experience as an Registered Nurse and be one step ahead upon entering my state university med school and also be qualified for a rewarding job ($35/hr). Do not get me wrong, the gap between Medicine and Nursing is humongous, I am clear of that. But now that they canceled the RN to BS and BSN program I thought of switching my college path at the community college to Arts and Science, in order for me to be better prepared to take the MCAT (for which I have already borrowed a book) and on track to obtain my Biology degree.

    As you can tell, I am obviously at the beginning of my college career, but I do not wish to pursue something I will later regret. The RN degree offered here is a great option, but I do not want to stop there. I am looking to achieve Maslow’s self-actualization and learning is what I love the most. For God’s sake, Medicine sounds excitingly challenging. I could go to my country’s Medical School, which is relatively cheaper and easier than UNC’s but again, I want a challenge. I want to fulfil my dreams, who does not? I understand the sacrifices doctors make and I am grateful for them being the nearest synonym of angels. I hate the fact that they are so underrated and I am aware of the debt and dangers they have to face in order to diagnose a motherfucking cold.

    I will keep posting updates and comments in the future. I still need to get laid you know. Later and good luck in making your decision.

  332. michella

    September 15, 2013 @ 2:43 pm

    332

    I´m so happy I`ve found this blog! I´m currently dealing with the difficult fact that… I´ve been accepted to medschool! In Europe, where I live. And I´ve put a lot of effort into it in the past two years. I actually thought I´d be really enthusiastic to pass the admission exams, but since I´ve received the results, two weeks ago, my life has become a nightmare. And I have to decide until the day after tomorrow if I´m gonna do it or not.
    I already have a degree in linguistics, but I became more and more disenchanted with the prospects of what to do after graduating and as years went by I´ve lost interest for this field of studies. And I wanted so badly to get into medschool! It seemed like the answer to all my doubts and worries, but now I know: I longed for it mostly – although not only – for the bad reasons listed in Ali`s post. But if I don´t do it, I`m afraid of regretting it later on. I´d like to go into psychosomatical medicine, but for that I have to study for 6 years a lot of things that don´t have a lot to do with the psyche, in a stressful environment and with highly competitive peers. And experience showed me I don´t respond very well to stress…
    On the other side, I´m really interested in Psychology and I´m wondering if this wouldn´t be a better and a much more pleasant way of getting to work as patiens, as a psychotherapist. I find Psychology truly fascinating, but hearing from so many people I know about how much they have to struggle to be accepted into a masters programme and then how much they have to pay in order to become a psychotherapist and how difficult it is to get a job etc. etc., I start feeling insecure and cowardly think again of medschool as the safe way. There I should “only” suffer a bit during the first 6 years and then do the job I think I´d love to. But then, why does it all feel so wrong?
    Sorry about this slightly incoherent post, I´m so confused and ashamed for not being able to decide… I wish I could just stop being so afraid of taking a wrong decision.

  333. Peter

    September 16, 2013 @ 8:57 am

    333

    This blog is so great to the point that it acctually gave me an erection lasting longer that 4 hours! Anyhow, maybe I should seek the emergency room or call the meat instead of driving myself to the hospital, maybe I should call the meat wagon instead so they can charge me what is already tax paid a $500.00 f-ing dollar bill which is multiple CO pays at the docs office? The ambulance is overpaid not the physicians! By the way, this blog is some hilarious Sh!t

  334. Matt

    September 18, 2013 @ 12:22 am

    334

    For many, the alternatives you mention to medicine is simply unattainable and not viable to most medical candidates. My wife is a Dr. and I started my career as an investment banker before law school. Big law, management consulting, and investment banking, are highly competitive careers where 80-hour weeks are common. After 2008, starting your career in these fields is even more competitive, save for the top 15 schools in the country with top grades. Having an actual career in these fields is even harder. The number of partner, managing director, and principal positions continue to decline. While many Drs. are on-call, these professionals are tied to email 24-hours a day. Vacation is non-existent, and the pressure for clients is extreme. Management consultants travel weekly, and one bad trade can get you fired on wall street. Working on holidays happens to everyone. I would much rather have the stability of medicine, even if it does have the drawbacks you mention. The number of finance professionals able to retire early are simply too small a number to be a viable career.

  335. Stephen

    October 6, 2013 @ 5:02 am

    335

    Wow. This was an eye-opening rant. I get it though. I am a pharmacist and pretty content with my lot in life. I had been tossing around the idea of going to med school, but after reading this… It just doesn’t seem so appealing.

  336. Dee

    October 11, 2013 @ 2:01 pm

    336

    It saddens me to think how many people may have been dissuaded from entering medicine because of this blog post. My son just underwent neurosurgery to remove a brain tumor and I will be ETERNALLY grateful to the surgeon, the neurologist, the nurses, physical therapists, anesthesiologist, and every medical professional involved in the procedure and recovery.

    I will NEVER forget any of them. To those folks still reading through these comments years later like I am, please do not be discouraged from entering medicine if you truly want to help people. You can and will change a life.

  337. Ali B

    October 17, 2013 @ 1:35 am

    337

    Debra – I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: the world sure needs good doctors. And most people in this world are not cut out to be good doctors, or they get into the profession for the wrong reason, so they’re better off doing something else. Glad your son made it okay, and kudos to the medical team for their skill and care.

  338. A Khan

    October 30, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

    338

    Talk about reading an article with every word resounding as your own life story !
    After having the same epiphany a few months ago, I randomly floated the idea of not practicing medicine anymore. I work in an amazing hospital in a unique sub speciality , adore dealing with patients (abhor the patient’s attendants though).
    Surprisingly the worst reactions I got were from my friends who are either at home doing nothing or are holding office jobs with paid vacation and holidays with all the trimmings. The number one remark…. how could you say no to helping people? and after putting so much time and effort and money into it? if you do this you are the true spawn of satan!!!

    The irony is that right now I’m logged in to do an online mock for an upcoming speciality exam while randomly ‘googling’ reasons to change my career.

    Kudos to you for having the courage to jump off the psycho zombie-doctor boat when you did!!

  339. J. Peterson

    November 11, 2013 @ 6:21 am

    339

    I have been practicing medicine for about six years now. I have a moderately successful practice in a rural town in southern Louisiana. I have a wife and 2 kids and a couple of ankle biting fru-fru dogs, my wife’s choice. I believe I have as much free time as any other successful professional that is devoted to his life’s work… Professionals other than physicians. I exercise, attend social functions with pre-medicine friends and medical friends, participate in my kids activities/ lives and an avid recreational saltwater fisherman. I spend many weekends at my camp on the coast with family and friends. I am absolutely enjoying my life at this time and it was all made possible by becoming a physician. Was med-school tough? Hell yeah! But it was doable. I will be the first to admit that I will never be the Doc to participate in cutting edge research or become the next guru in his respective field. However, I have staffed my clinic with great physicians that are more like the above-mentioned, then I will ever be. Personally, I am more than alright with that…I am able to treat patients and have a life. As far as financially, the early years are tough. Internships, residency and fellows are hell on the pocketbook but if you had any type of business sense the medical field is a very lucrative occupation. I work four days a week and off to the camp on Friday for the weekend. My kids are in private schools, we drive respectable vehicles, I have a camp and two boats, and live in a nice home. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but my life would be way different if not for becoming a physician.

  340. Farah Hasan

    November 12, 2013 @ 2:33 am

    340

    Have you read what they say about law?
    Probably the same stressful life.
    No, life is not perfect, but like you said. If you really want to become a doctor or a lawyer or a pilot. Go for it.

    Great Article. You are an awesome writer, I just feel bad that you wasted all these years before realizing it was not for you. I guess you can always be a professor and a writer at the same time :)

  341. christopholus

    November 13, 2013 @ 5:23 am

    341

    where was this article when i applied to med school? everyone told me how great it was going to be and how it would be worth it. two years in and i can hardly stand the smell of myself i am so full of chit. they teach us to zombie-doc and i can’t see the end of it. i want to finish because people say its worth it, and i’m already 120k in the hole, lol. i just hope i don’t lose my fiancé and I can have kids when I want to… my former life of earning a decent wage while enjoying life and saving for retirement is gone. here are the days of hard work, no pay (later on a little pay), and less satisfaction. mind boggling to think I signed up for this.

  342. Amirra Johnson

    December 5, 2013 @ 7:06 pm

    342

    Wow-

    I stumbled upon this article after realizing that I absolutely DESPISE chemistry while studying for my final. I quickly googled “I want to work in health care, with kids, but not go to medical school” I’m a sophomore in college, pre-med, have always wanted to be a doctor since watching my father study for MCATS at age 6. I think Greys Anatomy gave me a false sense of what it truely means to be a doctor. Debt, sickness, no social life, I’m not sure if this is something I really want anymore. I am stuck because I know I am capable of becoming one, if I quit my job, became broke, ended all my relationships and became a slave to the library…but is that really how I want to spend the best years of my life? I’m not so sure anymore…

    This was really eye-opening. Thank you.

  343. Dan C

    December 14, 2013 @ 4:59 pm

    343

    Just do what I do- realize upon the outset that it’s going to suck the life out of you and you won’t be disappointed. Also, it’s very, very important to have activities that you do outside of medicine/school. I don’t care what year in training you are, you ALWAYS have time to get away for a few hours. And those few hours make all the difference in the world.

  344. Tom

    December 16, 2013 @ 8:18 pm

    344

    I see a lot of younger students posting ” what a wake up call” , or “thank you for the warning”. while this one individual despised the medical field, he does not speak for everyone. People NEED TO LEARN TO THINK FOR THEMSELVES. Go out and research. Interview other doctors who are PRACTICING.

    Everything he stated is his opinion (supported by facts), and perhaps many of it is untrue, or situational. In reality, many people DO NOT keep in contact with old friends any way. Usually after high school, or college everyone parts ways, not just geographically speaking. I do not really care how close someone is to you, once you head on to your own career paths, you begin to enter different social circles. I have friends that I never speak to anymore, yet I am only minutes away. You will gain new friends with your interests.

    As for the pay, sure the average doctor may only make 200,000 a year, but that is more than what 90% of America makes. I find it ironic that he complains about pay . Although he does have a point. Other professions with less training will earn much more. BUT the way he presented it made it sound like he cared more about his pay check.

    Also, I do not believe you need to have dreamt of being a doctor since day one to enjoy the profession. I doubt most doctors today can say it was their first choice.

    In the end, it is just one person’s opinion. Please do not allow this to ultimately change you mind.

  345. Tom

    December 16, 2013 @ 8:21 pm

    345

    Just to add one more thing.

    I think the reason to why many are echoing the same message is, many dream of becoming doctors but only a small percentage are actually cut out to become one. You can’t really know for yourself until you are there.

  346. Natasha

    December 16, 2013 @ 9:29 pm

    346

    Hi,
    My name is Natasha and I’m 17 years old! I’m doing my A levels at the moment.

    I’ve always wanted to be a doctor. There was never a time in which I didn’t. Recently I was asked by somebody why I wanted to do medecine and my answer was that I wanted to save lives, to which their reply was that it wasn’t good enough.

    And so I began to think, and guess what, I couldn’t come up with any other reason.
    The field of medecine is stimulating, it continuously changing and keeps you on your toes. the human body is like a book. A gazillion paged book. And the minute you start reading you’ll have to think a thousand time if you want to stop. I read all your reasons but even that one reason as to why someone should want to become a doctor seemed to over shadow all the others.

    I’m not the studying type. I can’t study to save my life. So I don’t think I’ll be able to study to save someone else’s.

    My 2nd choice is to become and architect, and for some reason I know that I’ll be happier in that field. But what scares me is that I don’t know that. What if my life would be more fulfilling doing a career in medecine. I might just spend the rest of my life regretting the decision of not taking medecine even if completely capable of doing so.

    I don’t know why I’m writing this comment, I guess it’s because you seem to look like you have all the answers. So my question to you is this, if you were me what would you do and why?!

    X confused and desperate

  347. William

    December 20, 2013 @ 7:44 am

    347

    As a third year med student who is halfway finished with my 3rd year rotations, I have started to feel like I am about to get trapped in a hole I cannot get out of. I have not found a single specialty that I have found appealing. What is worse is the fact that I was a finance major in college, but thought medical school would be a better option. Not sure what I should do, as I hope it gets better, but my optimism is in critical condition.

  348. RL

    December 21, 2013 @ 12:32 am

    348

    Listen to your instincts. And you might want to google Women Leaving Medicine and look at that website for more insight on women who went through it all and then regretted it.

  349. Ali B

    December 23, 2013 @ 9:13 pm

    349

    Tom – Thanks for the comment. First of all, this is my blog. When you write here, it’s like you’re speaking to me in my household. Would be nice if you were to address me directly, instead of speaking to me in the third person as if I’m not really here.
    Second, I do not despise the medical field. Au contraire, mon frère, I think it’s great! I simply think some people are more cut out for it than others, and most (as in 90%+ of people) go into medicine for the wrong reasons. And yes, all of it is my opinion, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure that out once I call the post “a gleefully biased rant.”

    Ultimately, I agree with you wholeheartedly that people need to learn to think for themselves, outside of the influence of parents, prestige, societal pressure and unsubstantiated tropes about “helping people” or “saving lives”. What’s fulfilling to YOU? What moves you every day to create something useful for the world? Think about THAT, and picking a career path becomes much simpler.

  350. Ali B

    December 23, 2013 @ 9:18 pm

    350

    Thanks for the reference, RL! Here’s the URL for those who’d like to check it out: http://www.womenleavingmedicine.com

  351. Marian

    December 24, 2013 @ 7:06 pm

    351

    It’S being said over and over again but let me emphasize on finding your life purpose through Jesus and trust me doing medicine is a means to that. Any profession can actually be that means but just ask GOD TO help you. There would be challenges(everyone has that)- but what should give you joy is that you are in God’s perfect will for your life:-)

  352. Andrew Green

    January 13, 2014 @ 7:43 am

    352

    Just wanted to say a huge thank you for this article. I was going crazy thinking I wanted to leave Medical school when everyone around said how crazy I was to give up. Though it’s tough to think of another job/career now, I hope in time I can find something I love to do. I owe you great thanks for your insight into this situation, as only someone who has gone through it all can impart. This has saved many years of hardship and despair and I am very grateful.

  353. Laura

    January 15, 2014 @ 10:41 pm

    353

    Don’t got to medical school. Go to dental school or go get a combined JD/MBA.
    This is especially true for women. Your male colleagues consider you inferior and exploitable. Right now well trained American doctors are having trouble finding jobs. Any foreigner can come into this country and take your job away. You want to waste 25 years of your life plus medical school not to have a job, not to find work that you were trained to do? Welcome to medicine in the age of the new world order.
    If you are ambitious and bright enough to get into medical school stop right now. You will be at least 100K in debt at the minimum. The government is pursing a depopulation agenda. The american public expects health care for free and you will be stiffed for work provided.
    Dentists own their own practices. You can work as long as you would like to work. They have great hours compared to medicine. many of them work 4 day work weeks with free nights and weekends. There are dental emergencies but they are rare. Medicine demands so much time and labor from you. Don’t do it when no one is paying for health care.
    Women who are smart and interested in the sciences might look at developing companies or businesses in the sciences where you will have a chance to work for yourselves. Try to find a niche no one else has developed and build your own business.

  354. Terrence Goodspeed

    January 24, 2014 @ 2:30 am

    354

    Much of this is true, SOME of the time. A pre-med advisor shared this article with me as an undergrad, and it scared the hell out of me. I started thinking that I had made a huge mistake, and while I was enjoying the beginning of my journey – this scared me.

    That was nearly 10 years ago. Since then, I finished medical school and am currently midway through my residency.

    YES it has been insanely difficult, yes my life has been challenging, yes my wife has struggled, yes I often miss my daughter.

    But I cannot see myself doing anything else, I LOVE my job; difficult and demanding and slave-like as it is. I LOVE IT, it is the most rewarding thing I have ever done.

    My wife and I treasure the time we get to spend with one another, so do my daughter and I.

    If you are thinking about medicine, acknowledge that there are some huge obstacles, but don’t let this article (or anything!) scare you. Maybe I’m an anomaly, but I still have the same friends I did from high school, and my wife and I celebrated 11 years of awesome marriage last July.

    I feel bad for Dr. Binazir, seems like he may have chosen the wrong career path, for me – it was the ONLY path.

    Cheers,

    Dr. T Goodspeed

    (UCLA, UW, UW Medical Center)

  355. Teanna

    January 26, 2014 @ 7:51 am

    355

    I’ve read this three or four times and every time I do its like a blow to the stomach. I really want to study medicine. The thing they keep telling you to be successful in your interview if you even get one for any university in Australia is that they want to know WHY. Why is it that we want to chose medicine. I honestly can’t pin it. I have my doubts sometimes (all of which are above) and sometimes I forget how much work this is all going to be. I want to be 100% sure that this is it, that there is nothing else. Reading this makes me come back to reality and think about whether I can take all the bad (and lord knows there is so much) with the good and if the good is going to be GOOD ENOUGH. Thank you

  356. Ali B

    January 27, 2014 @ 10:22 pm

    356

    Laura – thanks for your contribution. A combined JD/MBA is versatile, but a pretty long way to go (and I hear law school is pretty soul-crushing in its own right). I’m thinking just the MBA would suffice, without drowning you in 4-years’ worth of educational debt instead of just two. As for dentistry: it’s kind of a tough call. You go into the same amount of debt as a doc, all the MDs look down on you since dentists are mostly people who couldn’t get into medical school, the startup costs for the office equipment are huge, and the suicide rate is sky-high. From this outsider’s perspective, this doesn’t strike me as a great alternative.

  357. The spirit catches you and you fall down | Amena Khan's Blog

    February 8, 2014 @ 2:21 pm

    357

    [...] Why you should not go to medical school  blogs.law.harvard.edu) [...]

  358. Rick

    February 19, 2014 @ 4:53 am

    358

    Read this article a couple years ago when I was contemplating heading back for MD school, and I almost backed out of it. Glad I listened to my heart and went through with it – making my way through M1 and loving it. Sure it’s difficult, but I’ve made great friends, we work hard, learn a ton, and are heading towards an extremely rewarding career. Now I won’t be practicing surgery because I do want to have a life (EM for me), but to all those out there still contemplating, go with your gut. If you think it’s the right move for you, don’t let an internet opinion from someone who is completely different than you sway your opinion. Overall, I do think the author makes some valid points, but again – if it’s something that calls you, I say go for it. If the hard work doesn’t sound like something you’re interested in, by all means – the admissions are getting harder and harder and someone else will be there to take your spot.

    … I’m sure I might get the ‘Ah you’re only an M1, just wait…’ but that being said, I worked in an ER for 9 years… watched 9 residency classes come and go. They all gave me the impression it only gets better – can’t wait to see how that turns out.

  359. Coursework Experts

    February 26, 2014 @ 10:50 am

    359

    Thanks for writing and sharing such a wonderful and interesting post about why you should not go to medical school. Medicine is a career oriented profession which has both benefits a glorious career and good human service.

  360. Ali B

    March 4, 2014 @ 12:16 am

    360

    Rick – Thanks for your contribution, and good for you! The world needs good doctors, and it sounds like you’ve observed and experienced enough to know that it’s a good fit for you. Most 22-yr olds straight out of college haven’t had 9 years of ER exposure, which should do any one well to prime ‘em for upcoming truths. Best, AB

  361. Jay

    March 12, 2014 @ 6:47 pm

    361

    I’m a 58-year-old cardiologist, and I must say this is both a well-written, spoken, and researched article. In numerous lectures I’ve given to both high school and college students regarding their future career choices my #1 take-home message is: Know the down sides of your considerations! Know that there are no perfect options/jobs/careers. This blog provides an excellent starting point for those with serious medical aspirations, and I believe should be taken seriously. As a suggestion, links to other/related career choices might be added in future editions for when one realizes that doctors are leaving medicine in droves for many reasons……………..

  362. Wanderer

    March 14, 2014 @ 4:18 pm

    362

    The longer one’s writings lasts on the limelights, the bigger is it’s value. I have read many comments, here is my contribution.
    Congratulations for this honest blog. Until I went to these internet blogs, feeling unfit for healthcare was something I had to suppress constantly, for fear of loosing my job or even my registry. It’s a terror. One disadvantage of being a doctor as I am (NOT FOR THE SINGLE GOOD REASON!) is the absolute lack of options outside practice. It’s hard to be on “NPC” pathways, on must be a brilliant doll with a shinning CV to be called for these opportunities. Otherwise, nothing happens. I keep trying but for a while I am grateful just for having some way of win my life with dignity. That dignity of an educated white coated steward, but that’s ok. Today I am not working as before, I am sorry to say that I don’t think I will be anything more respectable than what I am now, and that is a very bad feeling. I gathered savings and stopped working. That is even worst, since now I have no occupation at all. I am just sad because I did worked and had to stand many things to be here, eat grass and all that energy could have been directed to something I liked more, allowing me the chance of being something relevant and admirable. So many people did write their thought here, I think I have the right, isnt it? Please, don’t send the cops after me ok? Hey I got so angry about my profession that now my favorite sport is throw tomatoes over myself. lol. What a shame.

  363. Greg

    March 16, 2014 @ 3:24 pm

    363

    I’m a first year medical student. I wanted to share an honest breakdown of my thoughts so far:

    1) Money: I’m not even done with one year of medical school and I just crossed the $100K mark on my loans (had some from undergrad). By the time I’m done with medical school I’m looking at nearly $400K in student loan debt at an averaged 6% interest. I live very frugally,rent sectional housing (double wide trailer), grow my own fruits and vegetables, and work 15 hours/wk at the school library. Some of my fellow students are taking out way more money than me and they will be nearing the $500K mark, justifying it by the fact they will be “making tons of money” when they are doctors. Sad to see people who have come this far and have no idea what they are getting into. Go onto any student loan site and type in these numbers. See what you come up with. My total loan repayment will be the equivalent of buying a 4 bedroom house, 2 average cars, and an all expenses paid around the world vacation.

    2) Time: I average 12 hour work days. Mind you I’m in my first year of school and I’m working hard to prepare for boards. The good thing is I mostly make my own schedule. If it’s a nice day I’ll take a few hours in the morning and go fly fishing or trail running. Rainy day I’ll take some time at night and play video games or watch a movie. Some days, like today, I will study for around 16 hours straight, sleep for 6 hours, and repeat for the next few days before my test. I probably spend more time studying than most of my class, but I’m a slow learner. I rank in the middle of my class. Most of the people above me work harder, are gifted with photographic memory, or have a post-graduate degree in a medically related subject.

    3) Relationships: I have an amazing girlfriend that I have been dating for the past year. We are very happy together but I will say our relationship would be better if I wasn’t in Med School. She lives 3 hours away and we spend 1-2 weekends a month together. The distance has been difficult but she is very, very, understanding. It also helps that she is as busy as I am during the week with her job. We spend summers and vacations together and skype twice a day. I am not sure what the future holds for us but I am optimistic. She knows that I won’t always be there, that my patients will come first, and sometimes I’ll be exhausted, frustrated, or sad. Sounds cliche but she’s different from most girls and I think we can make it work.
    I haven’t seen my “pre-med friends” in months, but I do my best to stay in touch with them. I have it easy here because I’ve lived all over the country and have experience staying in touch with people and making new friends.
    Most of the people in my class are socially awkward. I have a small group of friends and we study together/ hang out when there’s time.

    4) Happiness: Am I happy? Yes, because I choose to be. It’s easy to surround yourself with people who complain and fall into that trap. I take my life one day at a time. I’m taking aim at my future, remembering my past, but focusing on the present.

    5) Physical well-being: I’m not in terrible shape, but this is the worst shape I’ve been in my whole life. Medical school is very sedentary. I eat very healthy, try to exercise every day, but the effects of sitting down 10-12 hours a day take their toll. I’ve had a host of illnesses in the past year that are likely a result of stress and lack of sleep. I would say this is the number 1 problem I have with med school. I need to find better ways to release stress because I know it only gets worse.

    6) Outlook: I really am worried about what’s going to happen to America’s healthcare system. I think as a whole we are going in the wrong direction. However, I am very optimistic for my career as an individual because:

    a) I know the career I’ve chosen is not for the weary. I took several years off between undergrad and med school. I knew what I was getting into before I started. I know most doctors don’t recommend it or wouldn’t do it again. I don’t care. I’m doing it because I can’t see myself doing anything else and I love it.

    b) I absolutely do not expect to “get rich” from medicine AT ALL. I have a very realistic, some would even say pessimistic view on compensation. ANYONE WHO EXPECTS TO GET RICH AS A DOCTOR IS SEVERELY MISGUIDED AND SHOULD NOT GO INTO MEDICINE!!! YOU WILL BE MISERABLE!!! The fact is, doctor’s salaries are going down and will continue to do so until the system breaks. I feel bad for physicians who rely on their practices as their sole means of income. I have a history as an entrepreneur: I’ve started and sold businesses in the past. I’m going into medicine with an entrepreneurial mindset and knowing that I will have to rely on a side-hustle to live a comfortable life.

    c) I love medicine, I love people, and I love learning.

    MY ADVICE: Take a year or two off before going to medical school. Know what you’re getting into. Understand how much money $500k is and how loans work. Please note that medicine is not an “easy way to make a few hundred thousand a year.” Shadow as many doctors as you can and ask questions about their happiness, income, etc. (be respectful though). Understand our country’s current state. LEARN about the affordable care act!

    And no matter what, KNOW THAT IT’S OK TO SAY NO TO MEDICAL SCHOOL. It’s not for everyone! YOU CAN LIVE A LIFE OF SERVICE, IMPORTANCE, AND WEALTH WITHOUT BEING A DOCTOR! But to those of you who choose medicine: welcome, and good luck.

  364. Ali B

    March 18, 2014 @ 2:20 am

    364

    Greg – thanks for the contribution and your generosity with your thoughts. It’s always useful to hear from people who are actually having the experience. Didn’t know med school got so expensive so fast, but it makes sense. -AB

  365. Greg

    March 20, 2014 @ 1:30 pm

    365

    Ali- I go to one of the more expensive schools because it was the only school I got into. However, most med students are graduating with $200-300K in debt when it’s all said and done. There are no subsidized loans for professional or graduate students, so I am taking the compounding interest into account here.

  366. College freshman

    April 5, 2014 @ 10:44 pm

    366

    I would just like to thank everyone for the great comments! They have been the best resource I’ve found yet. I am currently a freshman at a state university on the premed track, but I am beginning to have reservations about going to medical school because it seems that I would be doing it for the wrong reasons (basically, I see becoming a doctor as my “best option” because of the pay, respect, lifestyle, and the fact that you make a positive contribution to humanity). My uncle, who is an orthopedic surgeon, has been reluctant to recommend becoming a doctor, and I now see why. The problem is that I’m not sure what else I would do if I didn’t become a doctor, but I see that this, too, is a bad reason to go to medical school.

    Thanks again for everyone’s input!

  367. Colleen

    April 7, 2014 @ 6:46 am

    367

    Jesus, it’s been how many years since this was posted? And it’s still getting comments. Seems some things will never cease to be relevant.

    I’m nineteen – admittedly still a kid, yeah – and I just finished my first semester at a university, studying forensic anthropology of all things, simply because I find osteology beautiful. Typical intelligence, honors student, decent GPA, blah blah blah. I thought I would go off to college and things would at least start to fall together. As it turns out, I’m bored as hell.

    When I was small, my parents kept this gargantuan medical dictionary on the coffee table of our living room. I used to fantasize about being a doctor, but I never realized I was smart enough to actually get into medical school – I lived in the combined shadow of my two older sisters, the geniuses. But after a year away from that poisonous atmosphere, I’m beginning to understand that I’m not quite so useless as I once thought. My mother, with her job as a radiology tech, is the only other person in my family who can name even twenty percent of the bones in the body. I’m good with memorization, chemistry, biology… whatever; you get it. I’m smart. Ish.

    Most of my desire to go into medicine, I think, stems from my desire to be intellectually stimulated – but don’t get me wrong; I understand that’s only a partial factor in practicing. I am terrified of growing into full adulthood with this persistent, nagging boredom. I am capable of effective communication, when necessary. I already hate sleeping, eat minimally, and have no expectation of lasting friendships. I do not care about prestige or money, and I like to help people, when at all possible. I have no qualms with death, the smell or the sight or the existential crisis of it (as a student of forensic anthropology, I’m required to have the expectation of dealing with death, anyway).

    Furthermore, while I do not exactly feel that medicine is my one and only possible path to life, or that I am destined to practice it, or even that I need to practice it to realize self-actualization, I think I would find it entertaining, and satisfying, at least in part. What do you think of me, Ali, after the character profile I just built? Do you think I would be a (literally or academically) miserable student?

  368. lynda

    April 30, 2014 @ 1:56 am

    368

    Hi everyone!

    I think that something is lacking in some physicians: they don`t believe in God. This is a big problem because if they did:
    1) They will pray and feel a happiness that definitely help to stand all the bad parts of this world and to see more clearly what’s going on, what is true and what is only an illusion.
    2) their narcissic “tendencies” will all be directed to the one and only, to God that is the Real Healer and the one that decides when we live and when we die, and if we recover or not and when. This makes the physician more humble and will decrease a lot of the pressure that is on his shoulders and allow him a better understanding of life and therefore,make him handle it more serenely. Also, this will make him understand that,he should treat his med-stududents, nurses and others that don`t have his knowledge with more tolerance because he knows that God knows better than him and God trats him well so he should do so.

    3) The trust in God makes people more lovely and kind. In fact, a lot of the bad behavior that is observed in people has its origine in the lack of trust in God. They are on the defensive.

    4) When a persons believes in God, believes that there is reward after this life, in the Hereafter, then the persons can accept the idea of not living a life that is not 100% perfect, because anyways this life is a test, the real life is in Paradise.

    My mum is a doctor, not me. She wants me to be a doctor. The problem is that once I start working with them, I am not sure that they will teach me very well, or that they will treat me very well or that I will have the freedome to do the correct thing when they belive that the wrong thing is better. I mean, I like this job, but I want to be a doctor if I can for exemple choose not to administrate vaccins, or drugs that I am not sure of. If I can choose to stop working when I see that I really can’t work at that moment and if I do I will harm the patient. I want things to be right in the medical field before I enter it. It takes a team work to change things, people have to start thinking and questionning things and not just accepting whatever is presented to them.

    Thanks for posting your story Ali, it is good to know what is going on there.

    Cheers!

  369. Holly Schneider

    May 6, 2014 @ 4:03 am

    369

    Thank you! For the real view of determining med school. I am an NP and love love love what I do, not the piddly pay and low status, but the ability to see, help, recommend and prescribe if necessary. I am tired of having knowledge (albeit less detailed) & experience and not having the respect of the medical community to allow my independent practice. Hell, I work completely independently now! I’m smart enough and humble enough to say “I don’t know what that is”, and apparently it’s not good enough to say “let’s find someone who does”. I was considering taking a bridge program to MD, but I think I’ll stick it out a while longer. I went to graduate nursing school because I didn’t want to be a doctor. I wanted to listen and teach and then treat if needed.
    Well, I still don’t want to be a doctor (although some days the money and status would be nice). AND I may tell my son, who has considered being a doc since kindergarten, to start with nursing first, work a little and see what happens. Thanks again, I’m glad I found your blog!

  370. Madeleine

    May 7, 2014 @ 10:28 pm

    370

    I was just wondering if the hatred for med school and being a doctor is for all specialties, or if y’all are just talking about surgeons. I was thinking about maybe going into the medical field but specializing as a dermatologist because I’ve heard it’s a specialty where you can still have a life and a family/you won’t be called in to work at 2am type of thing. Is this true, or do you suggest avoiding medical school in all?

  371. RL

    May 11, 2014 @ 3:57 pm

    371

    Dermatology is vey competitive and you have to be at the top of the class to be able to get a residency in it. Which would mean you would need to work extra hard during medical school, which already demands most of ones life.

  372. Kyle

    May 13, 2014 @ 5:52 am

    372

    Madeleine – You are making a huge mistake if you are planning on going to medical school for the money or lifestyle. Specializing in dermatology is extremely hard. Yes they make a very good salary and have amazing hours. However, this is the reason that it is so competitive. You must be in the top of your med school to even have a chance to get a dermatology residency, and even then, it isn’t guaranteed. There are other specialties that are more lifestyle geared, but it seems that many med students are catching on, and these lifestyle specialties are becoming more and more competitive. If you truly love medicine and can’t see yourself doing anything else, then go to med school. If you can see yourself doing anything else, then maybe reconsider your career options.

  373. I.R.

    May 13, 2014 @ 9:02 am

    373

    I am so sad I did not read this article 5 years ago when I decided to go into Med School without giving it much of a thought, since both my parents are doctors, and I didn’t really know what else to do. After these 5 years, I always felt like I was the ogre of my class, hating the bad aspects of being in med school, but certainly, we are on the same page.

    Actually, your article is dead on.. I laughed and also a little tear might have escaped while reading it because it is so unfortunately accurate. I also am thinking about finishing med school and not studying a specialty nor practicing, because of exactly the points you mentioned above.

    My advice to people who are NOT SURE if they should study medicine, DO NOT study medicine.
    Only do it if you are literally 100% SURE and it is your lifelong dream and really CANNOT imagine yourself NOT being a doctor.

  374. Greg

    May 13, 2014 @ 11:48 pm

    374

    College Freshman- There’s a difference between “not knowing what else I would do” and “nothing else I’d rather do.” You can do ANYTHING. YOU can start a business and become a millionaire, travel the world and meet interesting people, become a professional athlete, etc. The only thing stopping you is yourself. If medicine is the only thing you want to do, then do it! If there’s anything else you want to do, do that first. (You can always come back to medicine)

    Colleen- You said it yourself, you’re a kid. Enjoy your youth! With that being said, try and shadow some doctors to start getting a feel for what being a doctor is like. You have a long time to decide if medicine is right for you, but don’t close any doors quite yet!

    Madeleine- The “hatred” for medical school stems from the people who probably shouldn’t have gone into medicine in the first place. That’s great you’re interested in derm- very tough to get into, but they have a great lifestyle and decent compensation. Keep in mind that some people would be unhappy in derm, just like some people would be unhappy in surgery and vice versa. There is certainly a shift occurring with all specialties towards a “I want a life outside of medicine” viewpoint. If you decide to go to medical school keep your options open- you never know what you’ll enjoy most.

  375. Andrea Monroe

    May 24, 2014 @ 5:16 am

    375

    Wow sounds like a nightmare. I currently work in Investment Banking at JpMorgan. 23 yrs old been out of school only 2 yrs and make decent money but I really don’t like business. Was thinking about going into Medicine….but for the amount of years and investment I think I may be better off staying in finance or going to law school to be a Corp Attorney, I would spend less on my higher education as JpMorgan would pay for my MBA or JD if it relates to business and I would make a lot more and still be able to maintain a cushy corporate lifestyle without the nightmare described above. However, I commend those who put themselves through this if all that you say is true. The world does need more doctors, especially those who are in the medical field for the right reasons, to diagnose, help & care so I definitely give you a round of applause cause my job makes money but I wish it actually “helped” people or served a better purpose.

  376. Bethany de la Cruz

    May 26, 2014 @ 5:41 pm

    376

    I cant believe how long ago this was posted with all the recent comments still pouring in! A very eloquent defense of doing things for the right reasons. No matter what you choose to pursue in life it shouldn’t be such a secret that this is the only certain path to happiness.

  377. Elleir Noire

    June 5, 2014 @ 3:32 am

    377

    Good day. I am currently a Nutrition major and planning to take up medicine after finishing my masters. This is an excellent article and I find it very straightforward. I once read a book titled Learning to Play God. The author, Dr. Robert Marion, had exactly the same

  378. Elleir Noire

    June 5, 2014 @ 3:39 am

    378

    story as yours. Maybe, I have to think it over before making a huge decision in my life and career. It’s funny how I struggled to find the perfect premed course when I might end up not taking med and being a surgeon after all. I am thinking of taking Ph. D. after M.S. because my field is getting interesting and I suppose, I might live a much more desirable lifestyle.

  379. Steve

    June 12, 2014 @ 6:15 pm

    379

    Hi Ali,

    This is a great post, I know it is pretty old now but still wanted to comment. I esp agree with no.6 about your own health suffering as a result of working in the medical profession! Also due to red tape etc you often can’t help people as much as you’d like, is really a shame.

  380. StevenStallone

    June 15, 2014 @ 7:12 pm

    380

    You should have become a fireman. They make $100,000 a year and most of the time they take turns sleeping in the firehouse while one guy goes out and gets the lunchmeat.

    And they get $800 a month extra money for saying that they will become available if a big fire breaks out and they are needed and called into duty.

    Most fireman never get a DUI, because the cops drive them and their car home when they are caught drunk.

    And everywhere they go, they are a hero to everyone.

    I never saw a group of people get so much for doing so little.

  381. Akriti

    August 12, 2014 @ 4:59 pm

    381

    I am Akriti. I have already written in this blog previously and I want to share something . I m in my sophomore year of biotechnology course and it happens to be really challenging and interesting ! We have couple of subjects pertaining to medicine just to get through the basics and it’s just too much to learn in just 5 months ! But , it’s interesting too ! I wonder how do med students study all this in just 2 years ! (Anatomy and physiology) Frankly speaking , all that I wana do is to serve people in whatever way I can , even by working as a scientist . Apart from this , I have always had this weird urge of learning the make up of a human body and I personally feel that whenever I happen to be jobless or just get overwhelmingly intrigued by the design of our bones and muscles and tissues and cells :p I would wana learn more and more about it and keep amusing myself by learning the wonders of our body at my own pace :D I don’t really mind not taking up mbbs and pursuing biotech as my career because be it a doctor or a scientist , at the end of the day , both are equally important to serve the people in their own way !

  382. neuroperson

    August 12, 2014 @ 9:52 pm

    382

    As someone who has practiced medicine for 20 years this article is basically all true, and the real world for medicine is even more vicious at times than the author has said. To succeed in this bizarre medical industrial complex requires real guts, adaptability and a heart of stone. Im doing quite well now.. but have lost my hair, my eyesight, and have been divorced twice. If I were to do it all again, probably dentistry or pharmacy, or to be honest..gone straight into finance and become a hedge fund manager.

    And for all you idealists, dont kid yourself, you are not really helping people often. Medicines are all poisons (pharmakos is Greek for poison), most procedures and surgeries are unnecessary, and most people come in with problems caused by their diet and lifestyle and by the time they are seeing you its already too late.

    Its all a game, but largely at your expense.

  383. asf

    August 18, 2014 @ 10:25 pm

    383

    I dropped out of nursing school. I am so close to finish it, but I came to dislike patients, doctors,patients’ family and the hospital admins. Above all, I hated dealing with old grumpy kinky people. What’s wrong with today’s health care system?

    I am so glad that I can wake up at 8 am.

  384. Harry L

    August 21, 2014 @ 8:30 am

    384

    This is one of the reasons for me not going through with Med School, I have family and all the docs I worked with advised me against it literally because my relationships would be strained. you definitely have to be a certain kind of person to do this, I got EE from a patient and still love the field. I am a Radiology Tech now and wanted to be a Radiologist but I am considering being a Radiologist Assistant know (mid level provider) only two more years of school and no massive debt or time killer. My dream was to be a doctor as a kid so I figure RRA is close enough. All before the age of 30. I could even use the extra time to go to law school.

  385. Sally

    August 30, 2014 @ 5:42 pm

    385

    americans villify doctors–they are hated, not appreciated. Debts are outrageous, other countries med school is completely paid by govt. In states, you get debt, stupdent loans, and ride that american hamster wheel for 20,30,40+ years for what–war dejour? Boy cott doctoring in the states. Better off being a school “teacher”–1/2 year, full pensions, full health, tenure, and 50-90K for 1/2 year of work with only a state school bachelors. MD==suckers

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