What Kind of Doctor Do You Want To Be?

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Since the day I started medical school…actually probably more accurately since the day I started telling people I wanted to go to medical school…people have been asking me what kind of doctor I want to be and I have been giving them a generic answer of “I really don’t know, but today I’m interested in XYZ.”

Understandably, the further I get into school the more common this question becomes and, ironically, the more fabricated my answer becomes. 

Simply put – I have no idea…but I feel this distressing compulsion to come up with something I think I might do just to keep from sounding like my life has no direction.

Likely due to some cruel joke the universe has decided to play on the already tortured medical students of the world, many of us get to our 19th year of school and still have no idea what we want to be when we grow up. 

Sure, as first and second years most of us can blurt out some random specialty we think we might enjoy but, by and large, nobody knows for sure what kind of doctor they really want to be until at least part of the way through third year…and the ones who think they know usually end up changing their minds.

I know I like Pediatrics, I think I will like Ob/Gyn and Reproductive Endocrinology and I had fun in the ER last summer…but how do I know I’m not better at surgery or psychiatry? 

That’s where 3rd year comes in. 

This year is hands on – we get to experience the ins and outs of six different clerkships (Internal Medicine, Psychiatry, Ob/Gyn, Surgery, Family Medicine, Pediatrics) and some of their various sub-specialties and decide the pros and cons of each before committing to one or the other.

So, half-way through each of my rotations I’ll share what I’ve learned about the service I’ve been on that month and, as we move through the next year, you will all get to experience the process of deciding on the rest of my life with me. Lucky you. Don’t act like you’re not pee-your-pants-excited to witness this.  

And, hopefully, by this time next year I’ll have a better answer than “a doctor” when someone asks me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” 

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5 Comments + Add Comment

  • While the decision of "what to do when you grow up" seems like a big one, in my experience most medical students have an easy time making the decision in the end. As you go through the different rotations, you'll be naturally attracted to certain areas of medicine and repelled from others. I think it's important to pay attention to the types of personalities in different fields as well as the work itself, as that will help with the decision. One of the things that attracted me to internal medicine is the fact that the residents were just as geeky and cerebral as I am – I knew I'd found a home!

  • Well…to be fair, i didn't know what i wanted to be when i grew up until 2 yrs after college lol! But, whatever kind of doctoring you decide to do…you'll be good at it :-) pray about it, and you'll be lead to the right choice <3

  • I hear ya! I'm mostly pumped about 3rd year because I'm hoping for some lightbulb "aha" moment where I realize THIS is what I want to do for the rest of my life. In the meantime, when people ask what kind of doctor I want to be, I just tell them "a good one!"

  • You'll get to know yourself, and grow in a professional and personal level, this coming year. You will realize whether you like complex medical problems or the OR; whether you prefer treating younger or older patients; and whether you are a "doer" or a "thinker."

    Be open to all the specialties – and be ok with changing your mind several times throughout the year. Don't forget that this is probably one of the biggest decisions you will ever make! But, if you start residency and decide that you made a mistake, don't beat yourself up over it, it's not worth it. Again, it is OK to change your mind.

    Don't stereotype – yes, it is true that a lot of surgeons can be mean…but definitely not all of them. I have met amazing surgeons, and amazingly talented Ob-gyns, as much as I have met great internists and pediatricians.

    The best advice I ever received was this: if you like to be hands-on, choose a surgical, procedure-based specialty; if you like to think, choose a medical specialty. I hope this helps! :)

  • I didn’t pee my pants…but it was a close call! whew!

    I look forward to your insight on rotations! I remember discussing the Big Question with a few physicians I shadowed in the past, and their common response was that many times, people pick the fields they are most familiar with, or had the best experience in and that choice could work out great or terribly.

    But they also assured me that while it does suck to switch residencies at any stage of. during or after, people (like Michelle Au, of course) do it and are much happier for it…so my take-away lesson from that was to keep an open mind and never feel like I’m trapped forever.

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About The Author

I'm an ObGyn. I started this blog as a medical student (some would call that doctor school) and now I'm working as an Ob/Gyn, which is seriously the coolest job ever. I'm a twin mom and recently added a baby brudder to the mix. My life story through November 2010 can be viewed here. The events in the many years following can be summed up as wedding bells, books, exams, babies, and doctoring. I started this blog in hopes of landing a role in a Lifetime movie so I could quit medicine and move to Hollywood, but that hasn't happened...so if you wouldn't take medical advice from Angelina Jolie, you shouldn't take it from me. I may not even be a real person. In fact, I'm probably a spambot. Or possibly a 15 yo boy blogging from a dingy basement. If you're really interested you can read more about me here. If you have any questions or want to guest post contact me.

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