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whatdoido

Advice + guidance, please— I’m not sure I want to be a doctor

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Hi,

I know that from the title alone that I will be receiving a bombardment of “don’t do it if you’re not passionate!!!” That’s a fair response, but let me preface with this: I’m not not passionate. I like biology— a lot. The idea of being a doctor doesn’t fill me with dread, and it is something I can see myself doing and being good at.

The problem is I mentioned that it doesn’t fill me with dread, but it doesn’t necessarily excite me either. Everybody else I know who is on this path seems bursting with drive and passion and an absolute “I will be a doctor, or I will die" attitude. I feel virtually none of those things, and I have been wondering for a while if that means I shouldn’t do this. I just finished an undergrad in a pretty distinctly pre-med major with a cGPA of 4.0. I have been doing research since 2nd year and have decent ECs. I have not yet written the MCAT, but the plan is to begin studying next week and write mid or late August. I am a curious person, I really do enjoy helping others, I like solving problems, and am pretty empathetic, so I would like to think I would make a competent doctor.

But I always hear people say if you can imagine yourself doing anything else other than being a doctor, do that instead. Well, I can see myself doing lots of other things. But every time I think of making a plan to pursue one of those interests, I just feel this overwhelming push to stick to my current medical path, because I know that I am capable and it would be such a waste not to. For example, I could see myself being a professor, because I quite like teaching, but that involves a similar workload as becoming an MD does, so I think “why not just be a doctor?” (+ not passionate about research). I have a very business-oriented mind and love entrepreneurship, but then I think of the overwhelming risks and odds against you and think “why not just become a doctor? Stability + great career” I like computers a lot and could go into computer science, but again, I think “why not just become a doctor and make 3x that doing something you still enjoy?” I know and know and know that it isn’t about the money, certainly not the prestige (trust me, could not care less about that), but in the end, money does dominate to a great extent the type of life you will have.

I just feel like I have to do this, because it would be such a huge waste of potential (in my own mind; rationally, I know there’s nothing wrong with pursuing other careers) and work I put in these last four years. And again, it’s not like I hate the idea of medicine. I love most of biology (anatomy does does bore me, but physiology/cell bio is really cool to me). But then I wonder if I will feel regret at not pursuing other things, since this career is so absolute + difficult + time-consuming. I just feel like maybe I’m too much of a dreamer and have too many other interests and I need to crush them and think realistically, to put it bluntly.

I don’t really know what the point of this post is. I’m just really sick of being on the constant teetering edge of “do I really want this?” It’s driving me crazy, to be honest, and it’s the reason I haven’t written the MCAT earlier, and it is starting to mess with the quality of applicant I would be in this already difficult journey.

I guess what I’m asking for is some guidance. How do I make up my mind on this? Is this a sign I will be extremely unhappy in med school + as a doctor? Has anyone else felt this?

Sorry for the wall of text.

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You will figure it out in the fullness of time, meanwhile study for the MCAT. Acceptance is far from certain for excellent candidates, persistence is absolutely required and on average, it takes 3X for an acceptance. A Plan B is essential. You may or may not be accepted in the next few years and, if not, the decision shall have been made for you. Applicants arecattea Ted to medicine for all sorts of reasons. Let it play out. See if you arecaccepted, only then must you make a decision and serious commitment. Explore other options as you continue toward medicine, 

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"I just feel like I have to do this, because it would be such a huge waste of potential".

That's pretty much what my research director (along with many other professors in my department) thought when I said I was going to med school after my MSc.... You see, it's very relative. I feel like your vision of "being a doctor/medicine" is somehow biased, as if there was no greater achievement for gifted people. Also, it's not exactly true that being a doctor and a professor are quite similar. Being a professor is very demanding of course, but you are not expected to do night shifts or to announce to someone that their child died, among many other things. 

So I'm not saying you shouldn't go to med school, because if you are capable and if you want it then go ahead! But you I think you should really think about what you want to spend your days doing after you graduate, and PLEASE, get this idea out of your head that not being a doctor is a waste of potential, because we need great people in every sphere!

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Everyone has felt uncertainty in making major decisions in direction. Very few undergrads understand what medicine is really about. Many residents 2nd-guess their path on a regular basis.

I think as Bambi suggests,  write the MCAT and apply to med this fall.    You will then know what doors are open to you a year from now. 

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I'm going to go counter to the whole "just apply and see what happens" and say hold off and maybe explore other options you might be interested in. Your stats will remain the same, you'll only build more experience. After all that if you still want medicine, at least you'll have a lot more life experience which will inevitably aid in being a good physician. 

It may not change that you're just meh about it. However, I think a lot of things are blown out of proportion when it comes to finding the 'perfect' career. Every career ends up becoming a job over time and just becomes meh, but at least you can make something a more meaningful meh if you're passionate about it. I agree with Elgar, there external pressure which glamorizes medicine and that it's the ultimate career for bright individuals, which is not the case at all.

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Nothing in life has to be definitive or absolute. You could go to med school and do it for 20 years, then teach to future doctors, then start a business. You have the right to change your mind! I think that you should ask yourself, what do I want to do now and fo the next years? Don't try to think about something to do for the rest of your life! I am a biologist, in my late thirties, heading back to school after a bsc and msc and working for 12 years in biology... Its ok to make a change. 

I don't think you are alone when you say that you don't have a burning desire to become a doctor. I am going back to school in a specific program but I totally see myself doing 10 others professions, I am just choosing what is interresting me the most now... At the end of the day work is work, and you have several other aspects in your life also that are extremely important. Your career does not define you entirely and you could be happy doing several things!  Another way to help answer your question, think of yourself at 85 yo. Do you think you would regret not going to med school? 

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1 hour ago, waifu4laifu said:

I'm going to go counter to the whole "just apply and see what happens" and say hold off and maybe explore other options you might be interested in. Your stats will remain the same, you'll only build more experience. After all that if you still want medicine, at least you'll have a lot more life experience which will inevitably aid in being a good physician. 

It may not change that you're just meh about it. However, I think a lot of things are blown out of proportion when it comes to finding the 'perfect' career. Every career ends up becoming a job over time and just becomes meh, but at least you can make something a more meaningful meh if you're passionate about it. I agree with Elgar, there external pressure which glamorizes medicine and that it's the ultimate career for bright individuals, which is not the case at all.

I second this advice. Just because you think it’s a possible path for you doesn’t mean you have to rush into it.  There’s no real harm in just doing something else for a year (or two, or three, or five), and then deciding to apply later. 

Some people will argue that it’s more difficult to put up with the intensity of medical training when you’re older because you don’t have the same energy, or you care more about the rest of your life (family, friends, etc). Or that it delays you ‘starting your life’ or making money, or whatever. That’s one way to look at it. But for me it’s been the opposite. My life got started before medical school, so I was able to start with some stability in my life, some money in the bank, and a perspective that lets me take a breath and not feel totally defined by being a student or the grades I get (like I did when I was younger). Going through med school now in my 30s I am happy I did it and I am happy to be here, but I can’t imagine a younger version of me managing any kind of work life’s balance, let alone enjoying or even surviving the experience.  

If you decide to wait to apply, you may still want to write the MCAT now if your degree was relevant and it will make the material more fresh in your mind. But your GPA isn’t going to change, and going out and having another career or other life experiences may help you better understand whether you want to be a doctor (and if you do, will only strengthen your application).

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16 hours ago, whatdoido said:

The problem is I mentioned that it doesn’t fill me with dread, but it doesn’t necessarily excite me either. Everybody else I know who is on this path seems bursting with drive and passion and an absolute “I will be a doctor, or I will die" attitude. I feel virtually none of those things, and I have been wondering for a while if that means I shouldn’t do this.

I actually think it's very healthy.  Because the "I will be a doctor or I will die" dogma is not true. 

16 hours ago, whatdoido said:

I just feel like I have to do this, because it would be such a huge waste of potential 

This is the reason why I would suggest you to put the MCAT on hold.  If you write the MCAT and get a great score, you are still stuck in your conundrum, but the MCAT score makes it even harder to decide against medicine. Next thing you know, you are staring down the barrel of long years of training and a career you are at the very least unsure about. I say, go explore a little, and if you in the future decide that medicine interests you, go for it. 

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19 hours ago, whatdoido said:

Hi,

I know that from the title alone that I will be receiving a bombardment of “don’t do it if you’re not passionate!!!” That’s a fair response, but let me preface with this: I’m not not passionate. I like biology— a lot. The idea of being a doctor doesn’t fill me with dread, and it is something I can see myself doing and being good at.

The problem is I mentioned that it doesn’t fill me with dread, but it doesn’t necessarily excite me either. Everybody else I know who is on this path seems bursting with drive and passion and an absolute “I will be a doctor, or I will die" attitude. I feel virtually none of those things, and I have been wondering for a while if that means I shouldn’t do this. I just finished an undergrad in a pretty distinctly pre-med major with a cGPA of 4.0. I have been doing research since 2nd year and have decent ECs. I have not yet written the MCAT, but the plan is to begin studying next week and write mid or late August. I am a curious person, I really do enjoy helping others, I like solving problems, and am pretty empathetic, so I would like to think I would make a competent doctor.

But I always hear people say if you can imagine yourself doing anything else other than being a doctor, do that instead. Well, I can see myself doing lots of other things. But every time I think of making a plan to pursue one of those interests, I just feel this overwhelming push to stick to my current medical path, because I know that I am capable and it would be such a waste not to. For example, I could see myself being a professor, because I quite like teaching, but that involves a similar workload as becoming an MD does, so I think “why not just be a doctor?” (+ not passionate about research). I have a very business-oriented mind and love entrepreneurship, but then I think of the overwhelming risks and odds against you and think “why not just become a doctor? Stability + great career” I like computers a lot and could go into computer science, but again, I think “why not just become a doctor and make 3x that doing something you still enjoy?” I know and know and know that it isn’t about the money, certainly not the prestige (trust me, could not care less about that), but in the end, money does dominate to a great extent the type of life you will have.

I just feel like I have to do this, because it would be such a huge waste of potential (in my own mind; rationally, I know there’s nothing wrong with pursuing other careers) and work I put in these last four years. And again, it’s not like I hate the idea of medicine. I love most of biology (anatomy does does bore me, but physiology/cell bio is really cool to me). But then I wonder if I will feel regret at not pursuing other things, since this career is so absolute + difficult + time-consuming. I just feel like maybe I’m too much of a dreamer and have too many other interests and I need to crush them and think realistically, to put it bluntly.

 I don’t really know what the point of this post is. I’m just really sick of being on the constant teetering edge of “do I really want this?” It’s driving me crazy, to be honest, and it’s the reason I haven’t written the MCAT earlier, and it is starting to mess with the quality of applicant I would be in this already difficult journey.

I guess what I’m asking for is some guidance. How do I make up my mind on this? Is this a sign I will be extremely unhappy in med school + as a doctor? Has anyone else felt this?

Sorry for the wall of text.

We all have these moments at every decision point in our lives. Try thinking of yourself in 10 years or 15 years time. What are you doing at this time. Let all your virtues and your sins (power, fame, fortune) loose, be honest with your true wants/desires/wishes/dreams. Sometimes, we are daunted by the next step, and we don't focus on the big picture and the ultimate goal. 

Another thought exercise. Pretend like you are your 16 year old self again, deciding on your career with all the knowledge you've gained from your last 4-5 years. Now, what would you want to do? What would you picture yourself doing in 10 to 15 years time? 

Hope this helps. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tbh I think very few people actually enter medical school with a burning passion. The whole "I can't see myself doing anything else" shtick, in my honest opinion, is, more often than not, just premeds hyping themselves up to get that motivation boost to get themselves through the sleepless nights studying, the summer spent on the MCAT, the stress of applications, etc. I have a hard time believing it's even possible for someone to NOT see themselves being happy doing something else. Like, really? There are a million things you can do in this world and this is the ONLY thing? Unlikely! :P If you feel there's nothing else for you, in most likelihood it's more due to lack of exploration of other career paths or sunk cost fallacy rather than actual passion for medicine.

So no, I don't think you need a burning passion to enter medicine. At the end of the day, how happy you will be in your career will depend on so much more than just raw interest for the nature of the work, and I'm sure there are plenty of very fulfilled physicians who would of course be capable of finding fulfillment in very different paths. It's a good thing that you're questioning yourself now instead of blindly charging in, and I guess my advice would be to not do it just because "man I've put in so much work already" or because "I have the potential of making more in this career than with my other options so it would be a waste to not do it".

I'd suggest finding out as much as possible about the realities of medicine, that is, the current state of residency matching and the job market, the actual components of daily work in medicine other than the really cool stuff, etc. In many specialties, you'll likely have to move away from home in your 30s for the only job you could find; is that something you're willing to deal with? In many specialties, you'll have to juggle a tough balance between life and work; is that something you think you're capable of overcoming? Of course you can avoid a lot of these problems by going into a more flexible field like FM, but would you be happy with that, or would that be "a waste of potential" in your eyes? It's a matter of determining what in medicine you're after, and determining if that is compatible with the other factors that are necessary for your happiness in life. If the only thing you want in medicine is to operate on bones or brains but you also absolutely need to have quality time with your significant other and children, then yeah probably look elsewhere.

Good luck with your decision!

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