Deciding to pursue medicine

I'm hoping someone can help me with this. I'm trying to decide whether to pursue medicine as a career or not. I am curious as to how current doctors knew that this was what they wanted to do. Did you know for sure before you started? How did you choose between medicine and another career (assuming you felt some passion for both)?
I'm currently taking my post-bacc classes – actually I'm taking a year off because I thought I was giving it up, but now I miss it and am not sure about my decision. I would of course have the small challenge of the MCAT, getting admitted, getting through, residency…, but I'm trying to decide if I should go down this road or not.
Thank you very much for your help!!

Hi DrugRep,
I've been watching this thread, waiting to see if it would get picked up by anyone.
Honestly, I think you are just barking up the entirely wrong tree in looking for the answer to that question here. For the most part, the folks on this website are people who are passionately in love with the idea of practicing medicine - and who are going to tremendous lengths and life altering changes to realize their dreams.
Why did I want to become a physician?
Why does a pilot love to fly? Why does Tiger Woods love golf? Why do nuns and priests obey their calling? I can't remember ever not wanting to be a physician. For me, it's so complex and intangible that I scarcely know how to explain. It would be just as easy for me to explain why I loved my child, I think.
Sorry, I'm probably not much help. Maybe someone else can verbalize their motivations better. Maybe their motivations are different than my own…?
Good luck!

I'll chime in here. Although I can't answer your question directly as I have not yet reached that goal. But I sure hope this is what I want to do (I'm spending enough time studying…that's for sure).
I had no passion or desire for medicine until about 2 years before I applied to medical school. Meaning, it had never occured to me to go to medical school or become a doctor. But I was bored with work and school and such. I was looking for something new that could keep me intellectually stimulated, in a environment of constant learning, and a career varied enough that I wouldn't get bored. I also knew I wanted to continue my formal education (I had dropped out of graduate school after 1.5 years).
After talking with many people in many professions, I thought M.D. was the way to go for me. The opportunities are near limitless in the types of things a physcian can do. The education is challenging, and completing it is worthy of a feeling of accomplishment. The profession is a respected one. There is a humanitarian aspect to the work. And who can beat a job in which you can help people out every day…and not just helping them out slowly, but make real, permanent changes in their lives. On top of all that you get to use the latest technologies out there. It just seemed too cool to pass up.
I can honestly say since starting medical school (only 10 weeks ago) everyday has been fantastic…Certainly there are occasional down points. But, I have gone to sleep with a smile on my face, and awoken excited to start the day, each and every day since I started. Completely different from the job I was in…and I'm not even getting paid for this! Let's just hope it continues.
That's why I like medicine (or at least why I like medical school). I think the key is to not be too afraid of the leap you'll have to make. It's certainly scary to drop everything and start something entirely new. But as of now, it's definitely worth it. Good luck deciding what to do.

I’m not a doc; I’m not even in medical school yet, but I can tell you in the most general terms why I want to be a physician, and that is because I want to do something that makes a difference.
I’d wanted to be a doctor for a long time, but didn’t think I could become one. I even married a nurse so I could be closer to medicine. I settled for teaching. To a certain extent, I was making a difference. I taught students who were underdeveloped when they entered college, and I loved seeing the lightbulb come on when students finally “got it.”
But that exhilaration faded in the midst of university politics, colleague back-stabbing, and the general malaise that hung over the English departments where I taught. Money was an issue, too. Without my PhD, I was never going to make enough to support a family, and always living under the black cloud of semester-to-semester contract work offered little sense of stability and that can begin to undermine your enthusiasm for your employer.
I decided “screw teaching,” and I went chasing after money, which following my divorce, I really needed. I got a gig as a technical writer for a pharmaceutical wholesaler. It took about six months (after I bought all the clothes, CDs, gadgets, kid stuff) to realize that I was pretty damned empty inside. After I got my head screwed on straight following the divorce, I decided that I couldn’t whore myself out any longer. I was joining the fight. Money didn’t make me happy, and I could become a doc–even at my age. I stumbled across OPM one day and enrolled in General Biology the next semester. I haven’t looked back since.
Alot of people assumed I wanted to become a doc because of the money, but that’s not the case. If it was money I was after, I’d stay here. They throw money around this place like it’s worthless. As proof of that, after my first 90 days was up, I had my performance review, and I got a 10 percent raise. A year later, I got a nine percent raise. And I’m certainly not that good of a technical writer.
I didn’t mean to be so long-winded, but there it is. That probably won’t help you much in your decision, but there it is.

I think the reasons are as varied as are doctors. Some people just knew they wanted to do it, went straight through undergrad, into med school and a few years later they're out in private practice. Others take a much more circuitous route and spend some time doing a lot of other things (probably like most OPM's).
One way or another you do need to figure this out. There is a lot of time, money, energy and sacrifices facing you if you decide to pursue this profession. Make no mistake, there are a lot easier ways to make a good living and also make a difference in the world. I think it has to go deeper than that. You also have to love going into the office/hospital/clinic every day knowing that how you will spend your day is stimulating, exciting, rewarding, etc.
I don't have any specific advice for you other than to spend some time thinking about this. Volunteer at a hospital if that will help. Shadow a doctor, too. I think the opportunities are nearly limitless. Heck, if you find out you don't like patient care, you can go work for a biotech (lots of MD's and PhD's in that field), or do research, or go into academics.
Good luck.

QUOTE (DrugRep @ Oct 9 2002, 12:26 AM)
I'm hoping someone can help me with this. I'm trying to decide whether to pursue medicine as a career or not. I am curious as to how current doctors knew that this was what they wanted to do. Did you know for sure before you started? How did you choose between medicine and another career (assuming you felt some passion for both)?

Thank you very much for your help!!

Hi there,
I never really wanted to become a physican when I entered college back in 1970. I wanted to become a research scientist, which is what I did before I entered medical school in 1998. I applied to medical school on something of a whim and got in. By the time I got to third year, medicine or more specifically, Surgery had taken hold for me. Now, I wouldn't trade my profession for anything. I love what I do at every corner. I can definitely see where I make a difference in my patient's lives each day. Good luck on your choices.

I'm kinda with mpp–I was tired of being bored. I was already doing stuff (public health work) that helped people, but I'd got to the point where it was going to get more boring as I advanced up the ladder–less contact with folks outside my field, more jargon-filled meetings, less and less feeling of direct impact. And no less boredom as far as I could figure out. I thought I might get a Ph.D. but each field seemed too narrow–there was no field in which I was sure I would never get bored. MD allows all kinds of flexibility, so if I get bored I can do something else. The final cathartic moment came when I realized that the last strongest pull of the socialist values I'd been raised with was the idea that everyone should be taken care of. And that my health work up to then was not incidental (as I'd thought it was), but rather, a reflection of very deep feelings about not leaving anyone behind–about what I felt that we as a society owe to those who are sick, frail or suffering. At this point I ebated a lot about nursing vs. medicine but realized that research would be important to me and that combining nursing degrees with a PhD would take no less time or effort than getting an MD and there were a lot of concrete advantages to getting the MD.
In amidst all of that, especially in the first stages, I did lots of informational interviews with doctors and others; did What Color Is Your Parachute? exercises, and went to therapy. And volunteered–actually, doing street outreach and needle exchange was important to my decision too.
Eventually if you gather enough information and look inside yourself enough and keep an open mind while you'll do it, you'll either get to the point where you have to do it, or you won't. My own take is that this process of becoming a doctor is so insane, and there are so many reasonable alternatives, that unless you have to do it, you shouldn't.
Good luck!
sf/boston joe

I’ve wanted to be a physician since the 60’s when I first heard of Dr. Christian Bernard from South Africa, who I believe did the first heart transplant. I was about 10yo, in a tiny podunk town in AZ and was hooked on medicine from the time I saw the images of this surgery on my family’s tiny black and white TV. Only problem was, I came from a family that considered a person educated if they had a hs diploma. Going to college wasn’t even thought of in my family. I told my parents that I wanted to be a doctor and they were very supportive and surprised but I was on my own as far as figuring out how to finance it.
As a kid when I researched what kind of college courses I would have to take and coming from a very weak math and science background, I thought no way. So I gave up on my dream but I still liked health care, so I went into the military at 19, became a hospital corpsman (loved all the procedures and triage I got to do), went on to college and got a BSN.
Fast forward 17 yrs. Loved being an OR nurse but after 10 yrs. of evolving and becoming very knowledgeable, experienced and proficient no matter what the situatuon from GSW to the head, liver transplants, acoustic neuromas, 3 to 5 finger replants, esophgectomies, and after working on several surgical teams and having a good rapport with the attendings and the residents, the old dream started to stir up inside of me and I was terrified. I just thought I was too old and not smart enough so I sort of repressed the idea but at the same time I just started to think about it and thought of all the times the residents would ask my opinion about a particular suture or they would take my advice about pt. positioning or if I asked about a particular procedure and their approach, they never hesitated to teach me or draw me diagrams like for a gastric bypass procedure. I’m now thinking ‘omg, I’m really liking this and I want to know a lot more’.
I was 44 and thought I’m not getting any younger, times have changed, I really want a crack at medicine. I told some of the attendings about my decision to go pre-med and they were so enthusiastic and a few said “it’s about time”. It’s just “a calling” for me, I’ve had this simmering in me since I was 10. I don’t care about the long hrs., I always get a second wind about 2am. anyway. (I worked 22 hrs. straight once ,being on call and in surgery with no one to relieve me, it was a neurosurgery case and the pt. went into DIC, very hard work but I loved it).
It’s a crazy life around the hospital at all hours but it just suits me and my personality (sort of like the old tv series MASH). I’m very happy being back in school knowing this time around I’m going to fulfill my dream. Vita

Hey! It starts right here, now: the question, “Is this (Medicine) the right path for me”?
I had at one time, ten to eleven years ago, asked the same. Having worked as an OR tech, I was somewhat familiar with the Industry and considered thoughtfully a career in medicine as a physician. But based on my experiences at that time, and from what I had seen of the industry, most notably aspects relative to surgery, I came to the conclusion that I would be miserable if I had chosen to become a physician and, if I were to become a physician, I would have only been in it for the monetary gain. So, I turned my back on it and went on with my life.
Fast forward to present. About, oh, early of 2001, my interest in becoming a physician resurfaced again. Nothing that I can recall had sparked the interest; it was just there. However, this time, it’s form (my interest in medicine) burned in my heart to the point that it ached!
Then, September 11th. Consequently, everything seemed meaningless. I was to the point that I even began to regret or question my selfishness for bringing innocent children into such a turbulent humankind. My livilihood? What did it mean? Whose appetite did my livilihood fill outside of those vague and faceless shareholders, in which whose financial portfolio benefited from my unrewarding toil?
But, yet, the burn was still there. The desire ever growing and taking a form of its own. I knew I had to follw its lead. But, this revelation, recognizing that I indeed wanted to pursue medicine, endeared to me a quandary of sorts that realistically stated, “Your are 37 years old. You are married. You have three young children. .You still have’nt finished your undergrad degree. You’ll have to accomplish many hard tasks prior to applying to med school. Now is the time in your life in which stability should be your modus operandi.” But when I fully considered the prospects of not realizing and fulfilling this dream, I felt empty. So, I knew.
There are many things people must bring into fold when making important choices or decision for themselves and for their family. I am not cognizant of your circumstance, and can offer no single recipe of insight into your query. All that I, or most of us, can offer you is a sense how it felt to know that medicine is or was the right choice. I think that once the choice has been made, you will marvel at your sense of liberation and feel elated about your new sense of pupose.
Good luck in your decision.

Hello all,
Thank you all very much for your responses thus far. I really appreciate it. You have given me a lot to think about (luckily I have a while until I can start my Orgo sequence again!).

I guess I have a little bit different of a background and reason for wanting to go into medicine.
I always toyed with the idea…even when I was a little kid…then when I graduated HS, I decided I’d go into Vet medicine. I applied to 1 school, got in, and was going through all the motions…but not really excited about it at all. Also during that time, I got engaged and then married. Right before we got married I decided I still loved the science, but thought I’d go into horticulture instead. We moved 1/2 way across the country and I got accepted into school. I also took a job in the tech industry…which eventually became web development/design. I’m still doing that right now, but also a pre-med student.
Growing up I was always a sick kid. My mother would keep me out of school for weeks on end at times it seemed…I had asthma, allergies, etc. Various autoimmune issues that no one seemed to understand. I finally found a good ENT who kind of took it upon himself to “fix” me. Great man. I probably owe him my life a million times over. He put me into a remission of sorts from my ill health. This was in high school. When I went to college, I was ok for a year…but then after I got married, things deteriorated. Beign generally confused I went from dr to dr with very little to no help from anyone. In the meantime, working in the tech industry (and hating it), I met a very lovely man who had the same sick dimented sense of humor and vast interest in the field of medicine as I did… We both “studied” emerging disease together-Ebola, hantavirus, Dengue…back in the early 90s before the outbreaks became more common and the internet was very widespread. He always called me Frau Doktor. I guess in a way, I inspired him to go into medicine, where he found his happiness. He became a CNA and then an EMT in his late 40s.
Life events changed, layoffs, moves, company buyouts etc (gotta love that big business) and everyone parted ways. About a year later I had my first child. Various things had happened during my pregnancy. I had miscarried once before becoming pregnant which was dismissed as a standard occurrance. But after giving birth I became VERY ill. So ill that I couldn’t function. Testing testing…Probable diagnosis of Celiac disease. Now, I can add this one to my weird list of diagnoses of everything from Raynaud’s syndrome to Asthma. At this very point, I was still working in the tech industry, but boy did my life start to change. Crash course education in everything from autoimmune function to pediatrics to nutrition.-bring it on! I was reading anything and everything and participating in support groups and forums and reading reading researching you name it I was pretty much doing it. My son became ill…crash course in cardiology. Other things happened…crash course in this and that…I became pregnant with my 2nd child…decided to forego the dr/hospital scene there…crash course in in depth labor and delivery. My second son was born…my first diagnosed with Celiac disease…
the story goes on and on…
it’s always been in me…the love of science. But it wasn’t until my more recent battles with life and circumstance that I felt like I should do anything about it. I spent my whole life as a sick person, and no one seemed CAPABLE to help me or my children, nor did they seem to have the desire to do so. I became my own physician, and theirs. Through all of this, I’ve developed an even deeper passion for medicine and helping others. If I can, in my lifetime, prevent 1 person from having to go through what I have gone through, all of the work and hours of stress and toil will be worth it. So, do I have a passion for it? I can’t possibly say how passionate I feel about it. Do I love it.? I can’t possibly say how much I love learning and helping. Do I think I can do it? Without a doubt in my mind…Do I think I’ll be good at it? Yes, without sounding arrogant, I think I’ll be damn good at it…I want to be the physician that everyone sends their patients to and says…we can’t do anything for this person-can you fix them…and I say absolutely…and I do it…or we know there’s something wrong with this person, but we can’t figure out what it is…can you find it? and I do it…that’s the kind of physician I want to be.
now, if I could just make it through the rest of my undergrad and into med school…
sorry for being so long winded.