The question I get most often when I say that I’m applying to medical school is, “What type of doctor do you want to be?”
It’s a funny question to me because I have no idea. Most students don’t, and if they do on average 80% of them will change their mind before they graduate. I tend to say some sort of primary care, likely family medicine or pediatrics, because I want to have a relationship with my patients and care for the whole person. I think that my holistic approach to medicine fits in well with primary care. However the more and more I learn about different specialties, the more doctors I shadow, and the more things going on in my own body, the more I change my mind. Maybe I’d love the mix of primary care and surgery that comes with OBGYN, or maybe even GI since I think so much illness can start in the gut. I could love the thrill and shift work of Emergency Medicine, but I could also fall in love with my surgery rotation. Who knows!? The good news is that I think it’s all interesting. The endless options and unknown are both terrifying and exciting to me.
When I think of the “type” of doctor I want to be, I think more of character attributes. I want to be patient, open, and unbiased. I want to be a good listener and do what’s best for my patients no matter what other pressures I’m facing. I want to be passionate, hard working, understanding, and as well educated as possible. I want to help people help themselves, but provide life saving or life changing intervention when needed. I don’t ever want to stop being fascinated the body or lose my desire to learn.
This past weekend, on the way home from Notre Dame, I listened to a Ted Radio Hour podcast called The Source of Creativity. It followed people from Sting to Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love, and had them discuss the ins and outs of their creative process.
One major takeaway is that our education system stifles creativity and rejects failure. It focuses on academics, which may cause some children that have an affinity for dance or art to think that their talent isn’t worthy. It penalizes mistakes, even though mistakes are almost required in order to get to something fantastic.
One of my favorite quotes from it was, “If you are afraid to fail, you’ll never create anything original.”
The decision to go into medicine is a scary one for me, not only because I am a little late to the game but because I don’t know what my future will look like. I don’t know if I’ll end up working crazy long hours at the hospital or have somewhat normal hours in a private practice. I don’t know when I’ll fit in a family or what state I’ll live in. I don’t know if I’ll be able to use my beloved holistic approach or if my training will push it to the wayside in favor of more traditional western medicine.
The podcast left me incredibly inspired to forge my own path, whatever that may be. I feel like often my (and many other people’s) views on health and wellness aren’t necessarily mainstream, so just like failure they get stifled and rejected. Medicine is a relatively conservative field, but I don’t want that to hold me back.
Here’s a confession: I do have a bit of a crazy dream for the future. So crazy that it seems impossible. There are so many aspects to it that it doesn’t even completely make sense in my own head. It seems silly to even dream things like this when I am so far removed from being able to even try it. Even so, I doubt myself and my ability to make it happen. It seems like the standard route would be far easier and less complicated.
What I dream of is having my own medical and wellness practice where I work with a staff of like-minded physicians, nurses, nutritionists, therapists, and more. Together we will care for the whole patient, with long appointments where we can actually spend time with the patient, where we help coach them through lifestyle changes, where we do the necessary testing and where we can prescribe any necessary medications. I dream of showing my patients my favorite calming yoga moves, talking to them about certain recipes I love, and walking them through their diagnoses and possible treatments step by step. I want to get excited with my patients about their successes and be their partner in achieving their best health.
It would be the whole package, and it would be for people that want something different. I hope and pray I could make it available to any and everyone that wants to get care there (<—the really really hard part). I think I view myself combining a the partnership of a health coach with a training of a physician. The focus could be on whatever specialty I end up loving – primary care, gastrointestinal, or maybe even women’s health.
I feel like this might be every pre-medical student’s dream before they actually get into the medical field and see the way things work. However, Revolution Health Center out near Charlottesville is very much like this, so I know it’s at least a possibility. I’m sure there are many more people and places out there doing similar things and I’m sure there are many challenges. I am not becoming a physician to make a ton of money, but there is definitely pressure on doctors to see as many patients as possible to recoup costs, and paying back an incredible amount of student loans is always in the back of my mind. I don’t even know the half of it, but I trust that I’d be able to make something work if it’s important to me.
So that’s one big scary dream I have. One that might never play out. One I know is a risk and could fail, which is terrifying when you’ve educated in a system that doesn’t like failure. But I’ve got some time (okay, a LOT of time) to think about it, learn a ton more in school, see where I find my place in the medical system and figure out how I can feel most fulfilled and be most of service. I’ve already taken one risk in changing careers and applying to medical school, so why stop now?
- Phew, it was scary to share that crazy dream with you all because it seems ridiculous that little old me could do something that big and different. Do you have any scary, secret, crazy dreams about your future?
- Have you ever avoided something because you were scared to fail?