Bioethics Discussion Blog: "Why Can't I Be a Doctor?"





Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"Why Can't I Be a Doctor?"

From Loma Linda University SCOPE, Autumn, 2004, in a nursing school graduation speech , T. Richard Rice, PhD concluded about for whom medicine is practiced:

In one of Charles Schultz’ cartoon strips, two of Peanuts characters have a spirited exchange. Linus has declared his intention to be a doctor, and his big sister, Lucy, does what big sisters often do. She cuts him down to size, deflates his fantasy with a healthy does of reality. Says Linus “I want to be a doctor.” Lucy:“You’ll never be a doctor.” Linus: “Why can’t I be a doctor?” Lucy: “Because you don’t love mankind, that’s why”
“But I do love mankind,” Linus insists, “I do love mankind. It’s people I can’t stand!”

I am sure that there are many of my visitors who truly care for their fellow people and, whatever their current occupations, may have had thoughts either in the past or even in recent times to change their role in life and become a physician. It would be most interesting to read about those who had hoped to be a doctor once or who still have that feeling. Could it be that the profession of medicine and the role of the physician, despite all the bad stories of doctors and medical practice, still has qualities that would lead some folks to thinking that would be just the right job for me and then seriously asking themselves “Why can’t I be a doctor?" Maybe you would like to write about your yearnings in this regard and why you might want to take on being a doctor. ..Maurice.


At Wednesday, February 14, 2007 6:31:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

You might be interested in going back to a previous thread in April 2005 on the subject "Why are You a Doctor?" and my description there of why I became a doctor. I might add that what it takes to be a doctor is money, money and some more money, time, a willingness to attend to details but also to the bigger pictures, a stong stomach, ability to tolerate sleepless nights and, of course, an intense interest in and care for your fellow Man. That's all. Welcome to the profession! ..Maurice.

At Wednesday, February 14, 2007 7:51:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot of doctors only really develope their compassion and caring while they are in training. These are kids going in and not really mature. I see some who are socially disconnnected dolts who are the most caring and mission-focused doctors 20 years later.

I see others who seemed to really care about people and have a lot of capacity for compasion and empathy who, 20 years later are "all about me."

At Wednesday, February 14, 2007 9:07:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Anonymous, what you write is absolutely true. I don't know the basis for the metamorphosis but it must have something to do with their personal experiences throughout the now physicians' lives. I bet is all has to do with satisfaction with the career both personally and a reflection of that of their immediate family. If a growing physician finds that nugget of pleasure in the daily experiences with patients, as time goes on the physician will become settled firmly in his or her profession. If a physician over the years finds that the profession of medicine has not met his or her degree of self-fulfillment and indeed has become a hindrance to the degree of enhancement of life set by the physician or desired by the family, then they will behave in a manner consistent with a practice that is "all about me."

So those of my visitors are thinking about what it would be like to change their careers and become a doctor, think of the demands the profession will make on you and your family's lives and think hard whether a modified Linus's rebuttal to his sister "“I do love myself. It’s other people I can’t stand!” might be yours. ..Maurice.

At Wednesday, February 14, 2007 9:16:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

By the way, for those who are contemplating changing to a career as a physician, I can tell you that at the medical school I teach, we have had students starting out in the first year of medical school at ages 35 to 45 and completed their schooling. What I can't tell you is what happened to their careers as physicians over the years. (Incidentally, the usual age for beginning med students is about 23 or 24 or so.)..Maurice.

At Wednesday, February 14, 2007 10:18:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Finally, this evening, I must show you a summary of an essay found on "Frat Files ( Thousands of Essays and Term Papers"). It reads:

Becoming A Doctor

A doctor is someone who can help someone else in need. There are many
types of doctors, ranging from general pediatricians to specialists. They are
respected people and are looked to when something is wrong. Everyone needs a
doctor at some point, so doctors are very much in demand.
I am interested in this career because I like to help people. Also, it
pays well so I can live off the salary. Another reason is because many of my
relatives are doctors, nurses, or dentists. Even though school and training are
very hard, it pays off in the end, when someone can make a difference in
someone's life. I am not sure if I would like to be a pediatrician, or a
specialist. Specialists probably earn more money, but do not do as much, and
are required to learn more. I do not think I will want to be a surgeon, because
cutting people open and taking things out does not seem very appealing.
To become a doctor, one must endure a lot of training and education. ...

If all of the statements here in this summary are incorporated into an essay, what perspective would this essay portray to a medical school admission committee? Let's do some role-playing. (I love role-playing!) If you were on the committee, would you find that the candidate was expressing the points you would expect from someone who should be admitted to medical school? If so, why and if not, why not? ..Maurice.

At Tuesday, November 18, 2008 12:45:00 PM, Blogger D A V I D said...

I am enamored with the idea of being a doctor. This is an idea that has plagued me throughout my lifetime. However, as a teen I was rebellious and ran away from my problems... Today at twenty-four years of age I am seriously contemplating the idea of going back to school to pursue this lifelong dream. I am determined enough and while the requirements are stringent I am confident I can succeed. I currently and working on an MFA and working in my career field with much success. I am not rich, however I am a homeowner. The educational loans coupled with the mortgage are the two determining factors which has held me back. I want to leave this all behind and I want to completely devote the next 4 years of my life to returning to school and studying premed in the hopes that I can serve in the most humbling and rewarding of all of life's paths.

I know it will be a hard road for me. As a youth I excelled in academics but around my sophomore year of high school and my early college years I was troubled with harsh realities of trying to make it on my own and did not build myself up mentally taking tough courses... I opted to turn a hobby into a career and incurred a lot of hardships legally and financially...

What do you suggest for someone troubled by their current lives? I don't want to be 35 years of age before I can financially afford to make the move. I know that I will make an excellent doctor. Thank you for this blog... I was contemplating starting my own cope with the present turmoil.

At Tuesday, November 18, 2008 7:29:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

d a v i d, do you see things in your past life, either constructive or destructive that have contributed to your interest in now becoming a physician. Does the Blogger link to your current blog say something about this? What I am getting at is that with more years ahead to spend your money on education, with limited time to do other things because of the need to study and years before being a physician and practicing medicine will provide you a comfortable income, are you sure this is the course of your life that you want to take? May I make a suggestion.. if you haven't done so already, I would suggest that you consult with a university career guidance counselor. They are usually skilled in their jobs, so that by asking you appropriate questions they may help confirm your goals or suggest alternatives. If after you see a counselor, I would most appreciate you returning to this thread and tell us, with as much or as little personal detail as you desire, what value you got out of the consultation and whether or not your career goals have changed. I am sure telling your experience will be of benefit for others who come to this thread. ..Maurice.

At Friday, February 06, 2009 7:51:00 PM, Anonymous Aaron said...

This thread has been going on for a while and the recent post is only a few months old so I thought I'd throw in my two cents.

I'm 26. I don't even have my bachelors yet. I went straight into the workforce from high school and did very well for myself, ending up in manufacturing management earning more than almost all college grads make starting out. I went back to school a few years ago to work on my engineering degree, as it is a desired degree in my chosen field. My point here is really that up to this point in my life I've really just stumbled in whichever random direction my life has taken me. It's been somewhat interesting. I've travelled to different countries, worked in a few for a while...picked up a second language, but I never really thought to myself, "This is what I want to be or do for the rest of my life."

I was one of the many victims of the recent economic downturn and have been unemployed for several months and re-evaluating my life. I have always thought that I wanted to do something in my life to help people...and I truly enjoy working with people and solving their problems. During this time I've suddenly decided I want to become a doctor...and after I made the decision it just seems so right although I know it is a long and difficult road. It appeals to me on so many levels: working with people, lifetime learning, the challenges, the research, the respect...I think it is a really noble profession. Not to mention the fact that healthcare professionals are in high demand for the forseeable future.

It would be a long road for me as I haven't even finished my bachelors yet. I'm no stranger to hard work...I took full courseloads for the last two years while working a highly stressful job for 60-70 hours a week and still managed to pull a 3.8 GPA so far, being about halfway through my bachelors in mechanical engineering. I also have a family, which naturally complicates finances...however I want my children to realize the value of a good education as they get older. Due to current circumstances, I'm guessing if everything went according to plan I could finish medical school by the time I'm about 35...then residency...I know it's a long road, but life is about the journey and either way I'll be in my forties someday, I figure I may as well follow my heart as it's the first time I've ever made a conscious career decision.

So what do you think? "Why can't I be a doctor?" Is this just some fancy or should I go with my gut instinct and try to make it happen?

At Friday, February 06, 2009 9:11:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Aaron, may I suggest you go to the thread "Uncertainties and the Life of a Doctor" where a host of visitor have written their concerns, some of which are similar to yours, migrating from one occupation into the profession of medicine later in life. I have written there a series of responses which may be pertinent to your questions. Please read them and then write either there or here if you have further questions. ..Maurice.

At Friday, April 03, 2009 3:36:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am looking for some advice on the possibility of becoming a medical doctor. I am currently a freshman in college, and can't decide between medicine or nursing. When I was younger I wanted to be a doctor, but I kind of changed in high school, but now I definitely want to go into the medical field. My mind was changed to the medical field by some personal health experiences including myself and some family members. I really love science, and learning about all aspects of the human: biology, chemistry, psychology, philosophy, etc. One big thing I am contemplating is if I actually would be able to complete medical school; I am not one of those naturally smart people, but I can do well if I study and put forth the effort. I really think my passion lies in the medical field, but I guess I am unsure of myself. Any advice?

At Friday, April 03, 2009 5:55:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Anonymous from today 4-3-2009, virtually all students get through medical school if they really do have a passion to help those who are ill and will, through study, allow that passion to be professionally expressed by completing medical school and later training becoming a doctor. The major aspects of becoming a doctor have more to do with character and interest than with complicated mathematics, physics,engineering concept learning. You don't have to be "naturally smart". You should simply have a willingness to study and learn in order to accomplish your goal. As I said most students, probably just like you, do graduate. But it takes time, a lot of personal time and it takes money to go to medical school and those are the factors that students must consider before applying. My best wishes are sent to you. ..Maurice.

At Thursday, July 09, 2009 12:12:00 AM, Blogger Miguel said...

This is kind of strange but I'm already in medical school. And I'm having doubts of becoming a doctor, due to my personality. I'm really introverted, and suffer from occasional bouts of low self esteem, anxiety, and depression. We only live once, why can't I be a doctor?

At Thursday, July 09, 2009 7:47:00 AM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Miguel, depression is not a rare emotional condition in medical students and it is very important that you seek counseling and medical assistance as soon as possible. Depression in medical students can be relieved and if treated you can become a doctor. ..Maurice.

At Saturday, August 15, 2009 7:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am 30 and work for engineering consultant firm design buildings in california. I am doing reasonably doing ok with my work. I am seeing a shrink and re-evaluating my entire criteria of living a life that i really like.
I seriously dont know how i came into the field im working now.I really didnt give a chance to think about my life when i was a kid or when i was high school.
After rethinking my life altogether, i just dont like to be an engineer at all.I have a revaluated my self to such an extent that i took personality tests ( from my shrink) to findout that i am right brained dominat to an extent of 98 percentile, which is a complete opposite of the career i have rite now.
I started thinking about my life from now on and started to feel a great liking towards the medicinal field. All during my high school, i was really good at biology, chemistry and physics. I really was bad at math but still have no clue how i convinced myself to go into a engineering program. I have been looking around the internet to express my feelings and desire. I would be very happy to know from you, if i can become a doctor possible a surgeon

At Saturday, August 15, 2009 8:32:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Anonymous from today 8-15-2009, to become something more than a technician physician, you must have an interest in people, their welfare and health. To decide to enter the profession and your age is still appropriate, you must get a real understanding of the life of a doctor in comparison with the life you have now. There may be no regular hours like perhaps you have now as an engineering consultant participant. It also depends on your family life and, if married with children, how the disruption of life as a student and later as a professional physician will affect that life along with the financial impact of the early years.

As I have repeatedly noted to others who have written about changes in their career, you really should get the "facts" from the sources..such as life of medical students but from medical students themselves and life of a doctor from doctors themselves. Take time out to talk to them and even though they may not give you the whole picture of their lives, by listening to them and asking questions, you will be more familiar with the burdens and pleasures of what you want to get into. This would be my advice. Best wishes.. ..Maurice.

At Monday, January 11, 2010 11:55:00 AM, Blogger D A V I D said...

This is D A V I D again. I was recently at Vanderbilt University talking to some medical students about their career goals and what they would have done differently. I currently have an MFA and I am working on either renting or selling my home. I have arrangements made now so that when I am ready I will live with a relative in California and work on some science courses to prepare myself for the MCATs and from there I will begin applying to medical schools. While Vanderbilt is a dream, I will apply. Some other schools I am interested in are Emory (also a dream), U of L for their hand transplant surgery(I was beaten by several boys as a child and have a deformed left wrist as a result), Loma Linda University for their health and preventive medicine message, and La Universidad de Autonoma de Guadalajara which has an English speaking medical school.

I am very close to pursuing this. I am anticipating going to Colombia in July after having sold my house and car and I will be pursuing this lifelong dream. I always wanted to be a physician... and the way I look at it I will be 35-40 anyways, I might as well begin moving towards my MD and the practice of medicine. Thank you for providing this forum.

At Monday, January 11, 2010 12:09:00 PM, Blogger D A V I D said...

I was met with some very interesting schools of thought while touring Vanderbilt's School of Medicine asking questions about what would make me a more competitive candidate. Of course good MCATs and grades in the sciences are a given, they also mentioned shadowing a professor who I may take interest in their work. This advice is helping me decide on a university to pursue the premed requirements necessary to score well on the MCATs. In high school I was a troubled kid. I moved in my sophomore year and I ran away that same year... during this interim I ended up in a high school in Illinois that did not place much emphasis on their curriculum and I suffered. I did however take my ACT and scored a 30 in science. I only took it once and I barely attended classes that year. I did however read the chemistry book my junior year.

I am a fantastic test taker and I typically remember everything I read and write. I am also an accomplished artist and I have great skill with my hands. I would like to lend this to my future career goals. My sister has a scar across her face from her earlobe to her chin and she has never had and plastic surgery to remove it. As a child her and I were playing in our apartment when I accidentally collapsed a metal tape measure scarring her hands. One day I hope to ask her to remove the scars I created on her hands, and maybe one day she'll ask me to remove the scar on her face?

Anyways, some of the students told me to go back to school and do it! I even heard about a girl who is in my career field who returned to school and was accepted by Vanderbilt. I exchanged email addresses with those students and will be in contact.

One woman with admissions told me I was too old. She hit me with all sorts of ideas such as nursing, etc, but I think those were questions she was giving me to make the decision for myself.

I am serious about this. As soon as I sell my house and my car I am moving to California to live with an aunt and attend Loma Linda University for the premedical courses. I am very interested in their health message as well as preventive medicine. I alluded to an interest in plastic surgery earlier, however, I am not sure that that's the only discipline of medicine I would like to devote my life to. There's so much work to do and I want to contribute.

At Monday, September 27, 2010 5:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am a current McGill University student, just starting my BSc degree in Pharmacology(2 yr). MY final goal is to end up in medicine, to pursue surgery. But, lately, it has been a struggle to even get out of bed and go to school, or to even care about anything. I actually failed to get into a team that was really important to me, and that really took a toll on me. I was wondering, whether, being depressed ( I don't really know if I really am...??) will affect me later in life in my career. I also wonder whether being a doctor will allow me to have a family, that is very important to me. I also wonder whether i will be capable to be competent in my work. i love people, but sometimes I forget things. I also wonder whether I will be able to handle to psychological issues that lie ahead when losing a patient or the stress about having to deal with being a perfectionist in everything. These are questions that i ask myself every single day, and that are currently hindering my education, because I make myself wonder why am I studying Pharmacology when I can do something better with my life, or something I would enjoy more. I am a person that enjoys not only the sciences (bio, chem, physics, math) but ALSO enjoy the artistic side of things (drawings, paintings, photography, poetry), and it makes me wonder how my life could be in 10 years studying other professions. Tomorrow, I am going to see a counselor to see what he/she tells me, but I just wanted to see your opinion.

The only big issue i have is not whether I want to go into this career. The issue I have is whether I will be good at it. i don't want to hurt anyone, or be seen as stupid. I want to be a very good doctor, and i wonder (whether these are self-esteem issues or not) if I will be one. i mean I am volunteering with St. John Ambulance, have volunteered in three different hospitals dealing with different types of patients, I have volunteered in clinics as a helper, I went abroad to teach english, I worked in many different settings, and done research. Can I do this??? (Canada doesn't require MCAT's)

Thank you...Maurice.

At Monday, September 27, 2010 6:04:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Anonymous from today, I obviously sense your concerns but many factors go into recommendations about careers, some of which I don't have the facts and so it would be unfair and poor judgment on my part to give you my opinion of whether or not you should go into medicine as a physician. The best advice would be to communicate directly with a career counselor at your university..helping you through your concerns is their profession. I just want to emphasize that there are many components of patient medicine besides that of the functioning as a physician. Your career counselor can help you make the decisions. ..Maurice.

At Wednesday, March 30, 2011 10:08:00 AM, Anonymous IC said...

I am a Canadian student who was just about to transfer to the Bachelors in Psychology and a recent visit to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal gave me the idea and yearning for becoming a doctor. I am 21, almost 22 and I have almost no science background, extreme difficulty in Math...However, I love Biology and Chemistry and all that has to do with the human body. I want to be in a profession where I can help people both physically and psychologically. I am considering Peds...Another problem: I do love learning but I am the type of person that needs proper sleep in order to function well. I heard that Med students don't sleep a lot and rounds in the first year are extreme in that sense. Finally, I don`t know how good I can be at cutting people...I am sure I could get over it if needed to save a person's life, but I am weak of heart as they say. What do you think? Is my interest for the profession and my interest in helping people enough for me to start all over again, from scratch - starting with the basic advanced level math courses and so on?...I think it would take me at least 2 years to get up to level in science and get into Med school. So maybe I could start at 24, be a doctor by 27?

At Wednesday, March 30, 2011 10:46:00 AM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Your concerns, IC, is similar to those of many others. What you write suggests that you are not fully aware of the realistic burdens of going to medical school and later internship/residency and later practicing medicine on your own. As I have described above to others, going to a medical school now and talking to the med students about their life and also talking to physicians in various specialties about their life and then finally discussing what you want and what you learned with a career counselor at your school are the best things you can do for yourself. You should not attempt to go into a medical career "blind" to the realistic facts. This is the best advice I can give you. ..Maurice.

At Wednesday, March 30, 2011 12:03:00 PM, Anonymous IC said...

Ok Mr. Maurice. Thank you for your advice. I applied to do my science prerequisites. I will see how that goes, maybe also volunteer in a hospital and finally apply and see if I get in. I will go with the flow and ask the questions I have to the proper people as I advance on this path.

At Friday, November 30, 2012 9:44:00 PM, Anonymous k786 said...

Im a business major finishing up college in management/marketing and have decided to pursue a career in the medical field i have 0 science background and am hoping to do a post back. I have been working for a fortune 500 company and am in line for a job that will pay me 60ki after i graduate but i am turning 22 and dont want to regret not taking this chance and follow a career in which i can really grow as a person &i help people. Do you think its crazy to want to pursue this when i can be debt free have a lot of $ and be very successful at a young age? Please any advice is helpful thank you.

At Friday, November 30, 2012 10:03:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

k786, if you find you have management and marketing skills, perhaps using these skills in the medical system, such as in hospital administration will be satisfying. Hospitals are often non-profit and their work is certainly to benefit the sick. Check with the officers of your local hospital about their training, experience and happiness with their occupation. Just a suggestion.. ..Maurice.

At Saturday, December 01, 2012 9:30:00 AM, Anonymous k786 said...

I was hoping to be a dentist actually i should have specified this is k786 please any advice towards pursuing this dream in light of everything i have going for me future job and everything instead leaving it all to go towards this i want to do a post back and then dental school

At Saturday, December 01, 2012 12:34:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

k786, if it is dentistry that is attracting you, I would strongly suggest that you discuss the career from student to the final professional experience with several dentists. It is only through this investigation of a career will you be able to begin to know what will meet your interest and plan for your future life. Good luck and best wishes. ..Maurice.


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