***This is a letter that I'd like to write to the various e-mails I receive from would-be medical students wanting to get an "advantage" before applying to med school.***
Would you do it all over if you knew then what you know now?
Seriously ask yourself this question about anything and I believe you’ll find yourself struggling with the answer more than you’d have thought. What if you didn’t take that job? What if you never had kids or married? What if you didn’t let that smooth talking guy/ girl get into your pants? And so forth.
Now imagine that you've spent the last 3 years thinking this, about one choice, that ultimately has decided your entire future, complete with ridiculously hazy details, complicated directions, and unknown outcome. Imagine that you know that the next 4-5 years (at least) will be filled with "mentors" like this *who hold you in nothing short of complete contempt and abhorrence for being weak and lazy because you don't work 24/7/365. Would you do it again or still continue?
What does the future hold for me once all this is complete? Will I be able to make a living while paying off my insane debt, have a decent life (being a lazy bastard and all), and take care of my patients without burning out? Did I have a better job and opportunity prior to entering medicine? These are all questions that I, personally, consider before drawing any conclusions about entering medical school. My reasons are varied and differ greatly with peers based on life experiences, situations, etc. I cannot tell you whether or not you’ve made the right choice by deciding to become a physician because my own basis is entirely personal and based solely on the immediate and unforeseen circumstances that plague me at that time.
And because my conclusion changes I find it hilarious and rather absurd that pre-med students often seek advice from medical students. Yet they're told that we're the beacons of light on this subject since we're knee-deep in and that true understanding of medical school can only come from a medical student. Questionable philosophy at best.
What can I honestly tell you about medical training that will truly benefit your own decision? That it’s hard? That during the first couple years I had short periods of tremendous exultation intermixed with long episodes of utter hopelessness; all while getting no more than 4 hours of sleep? That I can count the number of times I've almost been divorced on 2 hands? What about the panic-inducing debt that I've accumulated from loans, upcoming away rotations and interviews, and "emergency" car repairs? Believe me, I had people tell me all these things prior to my entrance and I still had no idea what to expect.
Simply put, no one can make a decision like this for you nor can they truly prepare you for what's to come. You have to do your homework, spend time with people who are in the thick of it all (and not just volunteer for simple shifts or work for uncle Larry's office), and evaluate the true reason you desire to become an MD or DO.
If I’m miserable I’d have opted out long ago. Sure I spend a great deal of time complaining about the process, but the fact that I can see some light ahead, have witnessed the transformation in myself from this process, and understand more than ever that medicine is not the utopian environment I’d believed so long ago and needs people to make a change keeps me going. You need to figure this out for yourself.
* Thanks to Panda Bear's recent post for this editorial.