How did I actually get here?
I honestly never really took the time to ask myself that question since having been accepted to medical school. I guess I kind of get stuck in that future oriented, goal seeking mentality where I don’t really give myself much time for reflection. It seems to always be about the next step and how I am going to accomplish the next goal at hand. In essence that is what the journey to becoming a doctor is like. It is like jumping through a series of hoops with each one being higher than the one before – there is always more that needs to be done. Through my four years of college as a pre-medical student that is pretty much what life has been like. Can it be exhausting at times? It certainly can be.
Medicine is a hard road and I think a lot of people are left wondering if a career in medicine is really worth it. I know I have had my fair share of doubts along the way but ultimately I know that there is absolutely nothing else I can see myself doing. Despite what some may think there are so many things to love about medicine and I feel blessed to be able to pursue a career in this field. In fact, an 18th century philosopher once said that “a physician sits in the front row of the theatre of life.” That is a very powerful statement and in my experiences so far I feel that it is very true. Through my new website and blog I hope to chronicle my journey to becoming a doctor while shedding light on the joys of medicine and who knows, maybe I can inspire a few high school or freshman college students to put aside their doubts and embark on their own journey to becoming a doctor.
So without any further procrastination I would like to first reflect back on how I actually decided that I wanted to become a doctor. There are a lot of people that knew from a very young age that they wanted to become doctor and that was certainly not the case for me. My background is unique in that I didn’t realize I wanted to become a doctor until I started college. I had no one in my family that was a doctor and I actually had no one in my immediate family that was even in any type of medical field. My decision to become a doctor was truly my own which came about from my own ambitions and interests.
For me it all started with my passion for fitness and nutrition. I started working out at a very young age when I was only in the 4th grade. At that point I was only doing bodyweight exercises like pushups, pull-ups, and sit-ups but I took it very seriously. As I progressed on to middle school I then discovered the sport of bodybuilding which introduced me to this whole community of science and learning. There were all of these exercises that you could learn how to perform, you had to learn how the body worked, and you had to know what foods to eat. Through all of this I found myself marveling at the shear complexity of the human body. I was amazed by all of the chemical processes that occur within the body and how it has the ability to heal itself after a workout. I found myself always wanting to know more. I fell in love with the process of self improvement and I developed a thirst for additional knowledge that was unquenchable.
Even when I was in middle school I was quite the dreamer. I was always dreaming of what my life would be like in the future when I grew up and I really wanted to do something big with my life. I absolutely hated the idea of living a life of mediocrity. I figured if you are only going to get to go through life once you might as well make it great! I ended up spending a lot time planning out my future when I was younger. I would research different careers on the internet and brainstorm on paper to see if each career would be a fit for me. However, with my interest in the human body I was able to narrow my choices down to a career that was health related and involved helping others. I knew from the start that personal training or being an athletic trainer was something I did not want to do for the rest of my life. I viewed these careers as possible stepping stones to a larger goal. A big notion that guided my choices was the thought that I could not live with knowing that I could have went further in life. This idea is what eventually ruled out the possibility of becoming a nurse, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant.
As I progressed through high school I was narrowing my fields down to some of the main types of healthcare professionals such as pharmacist, physical therapist, and physician. Those were essentially the big three for me that I had to choose between. During my senior year in high school we had to do a senior research project where we had to pick a career that we thought we would like to pursue and then shadow someone in the field. I immediately chose pharmacy which I think at that time I was mainly drawn to because it guaranteed a six figure income after only six years of education after high school. This is a horrible reason to choose a career and for that matter after shadowing a pharmacist I definitely knew this was not what I wanted to do. The patient interaction was not on the level that I would like it, there was no detective work, and there were no procedures to be performed. I know some people love pharmacy but for me it was mundane. I did not like the idea of working behind a counter all day. I wanted to be out in the field working one-on-one with patients while attempting to alleviate them from their discomfort.
Then, I explored the possibility of becoming a physical therapist. Once I actually got into college I was heavily divided between physical therapy and medicine. During my freshman year in college I joined the medical interest club and that is when I was first introduced to the groundless negativity that sometimes surrounds medicine. After one of the medical interest club meetings an upper classman suggested I try working in a physical therapy office as a physical therapist aide for the upcoming summer. This student also happened to be very biased against medicine. When I told him I was contemplating going into medicine he said, “I do not see the point in becoming a doctor and I really do not think it is worth it.” Being an impressionable freshman college student I started to think maybe medicine was not a good career choice so later that year I ended up taking that summer job as a physical therapist aide.
The job itself was interesting and exciting at first. I got to work first hand with patients who were recovering from a wide range of injuries and surgeries. However, after I worked there for three months the whole idea of “rehabilitation” became very boring to me. It became very repetitive – shoulder injury, knee injury, lower back injury. It was the same thing over and over again. There was no mystery, no disease that needed to be diagnosed, and it was with this experience I was able to cross off yet another potential career. After starting my sophomore year in college it seemed as though the smoke had cleared and I knew from then on I wanted to become a doctor. From the start of college I kind of always knew I wanted to be a doctor but to be honest the idea was overwhelming and intimidating. It would be a long road ahead, there was extraordinary pressure to have to get all A’s, and then there was the dreaded MCAT. Despite of all the obstacles that would lie ahead I decided that come hell or high water I was going to become a doctor.
In Part 2 I will discuss what allowed me to put aside my fears and realize that becoming a doctor was worth it. I plan on discussing all of the opportunities that are available in medicine and I highly urge anyone considering a career in medicine to check back in for Part 2 so that maybe my experiences can help you cross off some potential careers from your own list.