Reason why you want to be a doctor

Hello everyone! This is my first post. I’m so excited!!

So, I’ve recently started to prepare for medical school application.

As a part of the preparation, I have listened to Premed years and Old Premed podcasts.

Then, I noticed that everyone talked about their passion to direct patient care, which made me wonder if I am motivated for a wrong reason and if the admission committees will buy my reason.

Do you think the reason why you want to be a doctor has to come from the passion to directly help patients?

Is it considered a valid reason that I want to help millions or more of patients by running clinical trials or conducting translational research or that I believe that direct interaction with patients aid research and trials to develop a new therapy? I mean only doctors can run clinical trials (right?).

I’m not saying I’m not interested in one-on-one patient care, but I’m definitely more passionate about saving patients who cannot survive without current technology and therapeutics.

I’m looking at MD- or DO-only program because I don’t think I need lengthy basic research training (I’m a co-author of 5 publications and have an on-going research project). I’m open to research training option where you have to stay in med school for one additional year.

You don’t need an MD/DO to run clinical trials. A PhD can partner with clinicians to do the research. If you’re particularly interested in a certain field of science, PhD might be a better way to focus your time and energy on figuring out new therapies.

If you still want to go the research route, you might focus your applications to those schools that want to train researchers (ie the ones with tons of research dollars, with mandatory research projects, have MD/PhD programs, large academic institutions, etc).

Your reason for wanting to pursue a career in medicine is just that, your reason. I’m sure interviewers are tired hearing the same canned answer person after person, year after year. It might bring something to the conversation, pique their interest, and make you a memorable applicant.

Kennymac, thank you very much for your reply. And I am sorry for taking so long to reply. I could not connect to this website for some reason…

Please let me explain a little more. What I meant by “run clinical trials and translational research” is that being a leader/PI/corresponding author in clinical but not basic research. I’m sure there are some clinical studies whose corresponding authors are PhDs, but they are much rarer than MD corresponding authors to my knowledge.

I kind of see this as the research world counterpart of nurse/PA vs physician in clinical setting. If I remember correctly, some people on the premed years podcast who have been accepted to med school described they chose to be a doctor over a nurse or a PA because they wanted more responsibility, more control, or leadership. And I believe that MD/DOs are more likely to have more responsibility, more control, and leadership at least in clinical trials.

So if the adcoms thought their reasoning was strong enough to accept them, my reasoning should not hurt my application as long as they don’t have strong bias toward training clinicians. That is what I think but I could be biased because you know, I want to believe I have what it takes to be accepted and to be a physician. So may I ask for your opinion?

Your reason for wanting to pursue a career in medicine is just that, your reason. I’m sure interviewers are tired hearing the same canned answer person after person, year after year. It might bring something to the conversation, pique their interest, and make you a memorable applicant.

Thank you so much. This is encouraging! Do you think it is appropriate to ask the school if they wouldn’t just disregard my application because of my intention or goal?

Also, I noticed a lot of schools’ mission statements mention research to some extent even though their program do not require research or they are small. How trustworthy are their mission statements compared to the factual criteria you mentioned?

Thank you!

You can definitely run clinical research as an MD, and if that’s what you want to do, more power to you. I wouldn’t hide the fact that you’re interested in research on your applications, just keep in mind that as a research MD/DO, you’ll still be expected to have a role in the clinic. Basically, if you don’t want the responsibility of treating patients at the same time as doing research, then PhD might be the way to go. Academic centers, especially, seem to love physicians that are interested in research. It’s good for the field, and it’s good for the hospital.

I don’t think your reasoning to become a physician is “different” enough to warrant asking schools if they’d even consider you. It’s pretty normal, actually, just not the canned “i want to help people” answer. It adds some depth as to how you want to help people…

I can’t speak to research-centric schools because I didn’t really apply to many, but my school’s mission statement is very patient/clinic centered despite being at a major regional academic center. The education is heavily clinic-based, which is really what I wanted. However, we have funded programs for student research, people who would love the free-labor of med students for clinical research, bench research in the hospital, and ties with some pretty large research companies. In my case, research is not mandatory or even really expected, but opportunities are ample despite the school touting clinical over research. I would imagine it would be the same case at other schools that don’t stress research but are large enough/get a lot of funding. I wish I could help you more, but I didn’t dig too deep into research opportunities before getting into school.

Obviously the mission of every med school is going to be to create physicians that don’t suck. Just some put more emphasis on research than others. If you’re also interested in the bench aspect, you might pursue an MD/PhD program. They take longer, but many (all?) are funded with stipend. We have 2 per class, and they get med school paid for plus some cash for living expenses every month.

My big reason for pursuing medicine is the intimacy of the conversation and the chance to teach patients during their most vulnerable states. Sure I could do this in a whole host of other occupations, so I’ll have to cater more of my personal statement towards the uniqueness of the encounter, interest in science, etc. I think that is a great reason to want to be an MD or DO as long as you’re being sure to make this desire specific to the occupation.

I think you’ll find that reasons are multifaceted. There are reasons and subreasons ad infinitum. Whenever I ask myself why in the world would I want to embark on this journey that is clearly fraught with numerous obstacles, barriers, and unforeseeable catastrophes just around the bend I point to just that fact…that the overcoming of obstacles, breaking down of barriers, and dealing with crises are a way of building indomitable character traits. Such qualities make for not just a good physician, but a good citizen and contributor to the body politic. But meh, some people may not be in to that kind of thing.

On a different level, I yearn for deep professional and intellectual satisfaction. This, I think in part, is the result of an epiphany (or series thereof) that I came to regarding the vast majority of my early educational experience, namely, that I hadn’t learned squat and I didn’t know jack. This I had to remedy and so I flung myself (rather haphazardly) into learning what I should have learned earlier in my life (I’m 32), which happened to coincide (or perhaps engender) a love for math and science and the deeply analytical nature of the medical arts.

However, the most poignant reason why I wish to become a physician is to fulfill a calling. I subscribe to that age old idea of one working in a vocation rather than just working a job. It is a lost concept in our techno-frenetic age, but I think it still holds out as the best means for personal growth and success. I currently work as an ophthalmic technician and surgical assistant and despite the numerous ails that plague our medical system, there is almost nothing more satisfying than sitting with a patient and engaging them in such a way that they feel that someone genuinely cares about what concerns them. I often remember a statement found in the introduction to Harrison’s Internal Medicine (I have the 17th ed). It is a telling idea. Under the section entitled The Practice of Medicine a quote from the 1950 edition of the text reads:

No greater opportunity; responsibility, or obligation can fall to the lot of a human being than to become a physician. In the care of the suffering. [the physician] needs technical skill, scientific knowledge, and human understanding…Tact, sympathy, and understanding are expected of the physician…

But why? Why isn’t mere technical and scientific expertise enough? Because, the quotation continues,

…the patient is no mere collection of symptoms, signs, disordered functions, damaged organs, and disturbed emotions. [They are] human, fearful, and hopeful, seeking relief, help, and reassurance.

This idea resonates so deeply with me because, as I said above, at least for me becoming a physician is a calling…a “lot” that “falls” to one rather than a choice based solely off of material reasons, monetary or otherwise.

I want to incorporate a more holistic approach to medicine. I know that this is already in practice, but I sincerely feel “the more the merrier” is an apropos adage. I have never been devoted to the idealogy that treating the symptom, but not the problem, or simply removing a part of a system when an ailment’s proliferative/exacerbatory abilities are a factor is the best course of action. There simply has to be a better method to treat or cure when prevention doesn’t work.

The presumed evolutionary trek from utilizing scalpels and electrotherapy to pharmacutical aid is still continuing in the realm of medicine. I preface that sentence with the word “presumed” because it seems like the jury is out concerning the benefits of ET. I use that only as an example. The methods and practices utilized within the scope of medicine are evolving. Therein lies one of my interests. As medicine progresses I will be there watching and aiding as it unfolds. The ability to aid in ushering in whatever marvels that will come is an aspiration of mine. I am eager to undertake the arduous tasks that will present themselves. Thus far it has been a thrilling and interesting ride. I look forward to any future bumps, pot holes, narrowed areas, etc that I may encounter with the confidence that I will be able to keep on keepin’ on and influence a more favorable path. The future relys on skepticism and I will forever be its student.

My understanding is that PhDs, MDs and DOs are all people who can run trials. (This is why as I work on getting pre-reqs under my belt I am asking myself what area of medicine and health science I most want to pursue - clinical care or research?)

That said - the biggest reason I had always wanted to be a doctor was to help people by finding and fixing pathologies (as much as possible)… and since that’s my passion it’s something I could do from a research and development stand point OR in direct patient care.