A newly minted family doctor from the University of Texas medical school system will soon be treating women and delivering babies in one of the country’s most prodigious hospitals that also includes sensitive treatment for pregnant women in the Texas prison system. She was told by not one or two of her school counselors but by every single counselor she consulted that she should choose another field. “Don’t even try it; it’s too competitive.”
- “It will be too tough and exhausting.”
- “You won’t even have time to be young because you will be too busy.”
- “Even if you make it, you will hate it with all the government paperwork you have to do today.”
Wow! I’m convinced. I don’t know how anyone stands up to that kind of discouragement. However, my friend’s daughter is pleased with her decision, excited about the future and still looks plenty young to me. Her advice, of course, is to persevere. “You need to be sure it’s what you want because a lot of people will try to tell you to do something else. Once I told someone that I wanted to be an ob-gyn, they even tried to convince me to be a podiatrist. Do you know how much I hate feet?” she said recently over breakfast at a local coffee shop. Of course, she said, you can’t be fooling yourself. You have to have the grades and good test-taking skills. You also have to be willing to work long and hard hours and to stay attentive and competitive through hard courses and harder teachers who have that God-like physician personality (mostly).
Folks also will tell you that it’s expensive and that many students graduate with medical degrees and astronomical debt. However, there also are many scholarships available. For some of the most prestigious medical schools in the country, the hardest part is getting in. Once you are part of the student body, the system itself tries very hard to find scholarships and philanthropists to help with medical student debt. If medical school is the path for you and you are still in high school or junior high, be sure you pick up classes where you will excel. Your grade point will be very important for next steps. Also, while you’re in high school or starting college, find a local physician or family friend who will let you shadow him or her. Actual physician experience in shadowing a professional is very important to your resume. One case of a practicing physician who didn’t get into medical school on the first round believes it was because her resume showed she’d only worked as a cashier at a local grocery. She needed the experience of medicine or science on her resume. She took her master’s degree in chemical biology, worked in the field for a few years and got in on her second round of interviews. Your volunteer work will be very important for you application, too. Choose something where you truly help others and have one-on-one contact with people in need of care — homeless, soup kitchens, teaching young students, visiting needy neighborhoods and interacting with families, etc. You also need a very good answer as to why you want to be a doctor. The wrong answer is for the money. Don’t even say it. You will be working hard for the money you earn. The prestige and competition are fun for some but, in the trenches, it’s just you and the patients. Be sure it’s what you want and that you are strong enough to handle what you’ve wished for. Have that answer ready for your interview.