Deciding on Medicine

Has anyone else struggled with deciding upon medicine?

Since starting my senior year of college and then graduating (class of 08) with a political science degree, I’ve spent so so so much time thinking about committing to medicine. I think the main reason why I hadn’t seriously considered this path earlier (in high school or as a child, for example) is because I stutter…and when I was younger it seemed obvious to me that a doctor, or any person in a position of authority, shouldn’t – couldn’t stutter.

After college I spent about 2 weeks taking pre-med courses. Though I’m a fairly mild stutterer, for those two weeks it seemed I was barely able to get a word out – in lectures, in labs, you name it. Although I still had this desire to take this track, I convinced myself that it would be better to get a full-time health related job to help solidify my decision once and for all before jumping into the pre-reqs. So, I worked full time in an operating room for 9 months, prepping for procedures and stocking supply rooms. I found that I loved watching operations and I found that 99% of the anesthesiologists and the surgeons were genuinely good, caring and personable people (contrary to what a lot of people say about docs in these specialties).

After several months I began having a change of heart about pursuing medicine. I think the major reason for this was that my stuttering in the hospital became the worst it had been in years (probably because my actual job was very isolating and didn’t require any speaking). The couple of times I was asked to interact with pre-op patients, I was barely able to express myself or get any words out. I watched as the docs around me spoke freely even under stressful circumstances, and I think at the end of the day, my self-confidence suffered a bit.

I also reasoned, maybe if I was truly meant to do medicine, I would’ve loved my hospital job despite my personal difficulties with talking and despite the fact that maybe…simply…working in an operating room wasn’t up my alley. I began thinking that maybe I only became interested in medicine at the very end of college because I didn’t know what else to do, and hey at least with medicine you’re provided with a strict educational track that you pretty much have to follow to a T.

I began thinking about other career paths. I decided that since I liked reading history books, that I would be a high school history teacher. I spoke with an old high school history teacher of mine and he let me watch him teach some classes. I became excited about this idea. I also completely changed gears and decided that it would be really great to teach in another country for awhile before pursuing my history teaching path.

So much for being brief Anyway, I’ve been teaching English in various universities in Ecuador for the past year and a half, and I’m scheduled to go back home (to the US) in Aug 2011. During this time, I’ve committed much more than ever before to practicing various speaking techniques (to alleviate stuttering) every day. Also, in terms of helping to raise my confidence in my ability to speak to large groups of people (now in two languages), this experience has been great and I know that I’ll be thankful for the rest of my life that I worked up the courage to leave everything I knew to come here and teach.

I like teaching, but I definitely am not passionate about standing in front of a full class. What I love about my job is being able to help my students one-on-one when they seek my advice.

But since August of this past year, I’ve begun thinking again about going into medicine and taking the prereqs. Obviously it would be silly for me to say that being a good one-on-one teacher = a good fit for medicine… it’s just that this past year and a half has dramatically boosted my speaking confidence, which in turn has been making me think that I really could go down the path of medicine if I really really decided to.

So again, I’m excited about the prospect of taking science classes – something I’m certain I avoided in college because I was afraid that my stuttering would prevent me from being a good lab partner. The issues probably seem unrelated, but it really was something that made me hesitate.

Did anyone else go back and forth like this before finally committing?


Changing or choosing a career is not an easy decision and should not be taken lightly. Your decision will most likely be based on what drives you and what “negates” that drive?

It is a process and once you put yourself out there - through volunteering, shadowing, and talking to others in the field and not in the field; you will find your answer.

Once you have your answer, there will be other challenges to face … this is not to scare you off but just saying that what OPMs say: IT IS A MARATHON!

Good luck on your journey.

Thanks for the resopnse, ChicBrownie.

I’m definitely one of those people who has not yet been 100% certain about this (or any other) field. I think you’re right – that it’s important to acknowledge feelings of mine that “negate” the desire to pursue the career change, that it’s important to get more health-related experiences, and that one should speak with people in and outside of the field.

Thanks again. Happy holidays.