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Aug 9, 2015
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Pre-Medical
Hello everyone,

Many months ago I posted a thread regarding my life events and failures the pushed me back to pursue medicine as a non traditional student. Well after working for 40k a year I thought I should perhaps consider going back to University of Louisiana at Lafayette to study biology as a pre-med. I work in the field of industrial automation as a PLC programmer and electronics technician. Since the market of oil has plunged I am paid much less, and I do not see the glorified life of the oil field ever returning to how it was a few years ago. Service companies like my family's have had to cut their prices by 25% and this lowers revenue substantially. Now, oil companies realize they can get the same service for much less, and this will make returning to normal prices difficult if you want to stay competent in the industry.

Anyways, enough of that. Back to medicine.

I am a very dedicated person and know that once I choose medicine and start my studies, there is no turning back for me. However, research is key. I have been researching the different medical specialties ( I know it is pointless because everyone clearly states that you cannot know what you really want to do until you are actually in medical school) and I have found that nearly everyone hates their lives for the most part. I am aware of the reform that causes doctors to do more, make less, and not have the respect they used to have.

As someone who constantly lives the middle class, financial stress life, I am aware that I personally do not want to live like this forever. Through a series of events these past few years, I have had to grow up quickly, and at 22 years old, I feel like I should have a house and kids with the amount of stress I endure. I handle it well, but why am I financially stressed all of the time and still have an engineer's stress level on a 40k salary.

Going back into medicine, I have 20k in student loans now. Hypothetically speaking, I may accumulate up to 80k total by the time I finish undergraduate studies. By the time I finish medical school (I'll give a worst case example) I will have 250-300k in student loans. Interest will accrue on these loans in residency, and let's say I specialize in something such as general surgery (Again, all hypothetical). I will finish residency at 36 years old. My fiance is currently one year away from dental school so let's say she is a dentist by the time I am a year or so into medical school, will all of this be worth it in your eyes? Will the loans be that big of a deal if I were a specialized physician? I personally don't see why a debt such as that should be the actual reason someone doesn't pursue medicine. Maybe a factor, but not the reason.

Can any doctors or current med students give me some advice here? I work long and hard now. Sometimes waking up at 4 am to go offshore and return to work and arrive home at 6-8 pm, sometimes with no days off, and then repeat. I'd feel much better doing that if I knew I had a career as a physician awaiting me instead of the same grind every day. I know what it is like to work hard under stress. The work load doesn't bother me. I find purpose in medicine that I can't seem to gather anywhere else.

In advance, thank you all for your time.
 

etp123

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Aug 25, 2014
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Have you considered pursuing PA? I've seen on many doctors here suggest that route to pre-meds with apprehensions due to familial/financial stress.

I am not a doctor or med student but I'll pass on what knowledge I got from them regarding the "same grind every day": be careful about the romanticized picture you may have about the field of medicine. It's not always necessarily that each day is a "new challenge"... you may find that there's way more stress and much more of a grind than you anticipated, depending on what you specialized in/where you end up.

But of course, the experience will be different for everyone. What some will say about the field may not reflect how it will actually be for you. Only way to know is to actually get there. Do a lot of shadowing and clinical volunteering, talk to professionals about their fields when you get the chance. Good luck :)
 
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Apr 25, 2014
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OP I'm not hearing anything in your post about why you passionately want to become a physician! I'm just hearing I'm unhappy with xyz. If it's to reduce stress then wrong career change or if just for the money wrong career change. Another option, be a house husband and support your wife's career and help he grow her practice.
 
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GreenDuck12

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"As someone who constantly lives the middle class, financial stress life, I am aware that I personally do not want to live like this forever. Through a series of events these past few years, I have had to grow up quickly, and at 22 years old, I feel like I should have a house and kids with the amount of stress I endure. I handle it well, but why am I financially stressed all of the time and still have an engineer's stress level on a 40k salary."

Before you upend your life, I would really encourage you to volunteer in a medical setting. This post makes it really clear that you 1. dissatisfied with what you are currently doing and 2. want to make more money (who doesn't). However, at 22 years old, you make slightly less than the household median in the U.S. Yes, you heard that right, you are making slightly less than what the average 2 people make (and not necessarily at the beginning of their careers). I'm not sure how being stressed correlated with "should" have a house and kid? I understand being dissatisfied with your current salary but going to medical school really is not the answer. I understand being dissatisfied with your current level of stress but going to medical school really is not the answer. There are many alternatives to making more money and having less stress that do not require post-bac (if you already have a degree), 4 years of medical school, 3-8 years of post medical school training, and a lifetime of high stakes tests and life/death decisions.

As for living the "middle class, financial stress life," that is entirely a matter of how you choose to spend the money that you have. If you are spending more than / as much as you earn, you will constantly feel the stress. If you are spending less than you earn, you will feel much less stress. There are many happy people who live off of small salaries and many happy people who live off small portions of their salaries. You may want to examine where your money is going each month (it was eye opening for me) and look into budgeting strategies. Best of luck to you.
 
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Aug 9, 2015
25
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Pre-Medical
OP I'm not hearing anything in your post about why you passionately want to become a physician! I'm just hearing I'm unhappy with xyz. If it's to reduce stress then wrong career change or if just for the money wrong career change. Another option, be a house husband and support your wife's career and help he grow her practice.
Sorry, I did not clarify why I want to pursue medicine. I have my reasons. I was just targeting a separate issue. I have had close relatives suffer and die from Alzheimer's, cancer, etc., and ever since I have spent long hours caring for them, I have had an extreme passion for helping others. I have taken anatomy and physiology classes and I absolutely loved them. My introductory interest in medicine is there. It's all in good respect; I want to pursue something I feel passionately about doing. My question addressed the path's worth along the way, not whether or not I will enjoy what I am pursuing.
 
Aug 9, 2015
25
2
Status
Pre-Medical
"As someone who constantly lives the middle class, financial stress life, I am aware that I personally do not want to live like this forever. Through a series of events these past few years, I have had to grow up quickly, and at 22 years old, I feel like I should have a house and kids with the amount of stress I endure. I handle it well, but why am I financially stressed all of the time and still have an engineer's stress level on a 40k salary."

Before you upend your life, I would really encourage you to volunteer in a medical setting. This post makes it really clear that you 1. dissatisfied with what you are currently doing and 2. want to make more money (who doesn't). However, at 22 years old, you make slightly less than the household median in the U.S. Yes, you heard that right, you are making slightly less than what the average 2 people make (and not necessarily at the beginning of their careers). I'm not sure how being stressed correlated with "should" have a house and kid? I understand being dissatisfied with your current salary but going to medical school really is not the answer. I understand being dissatisfied with your current level of stress but going to medical school really is not the answer. There are many alternatives to making more money and having less stress that do not require post-bac (if you already have a degree), 4 years of medical school, 3-8 years of post medical school training, and a lifetime of high stakes tests and life/death decisions.

As for living the "middle class, financial stress life," that is entirely a matter of how you choose to spend the money that you have. If you are spending more than / as much as you earn, you will constantly feel the stress. If you are spending less than you earn, you will feel much less stress. There are many happy people who live off of small salaries and many happy people who live off small portions of their salaries. You may want to examine where your money is going each month (it was eye opening for me) and look into budgeting strategies. Best of luck to you.
As stated above in my reply, I have my true reasons for having a prior interest in medicine. I am aware that I make enough money now and due to my last hardships, I am excellent with budgeting now. In the past 6 months I have managed to save 20k. Pursuing medicine may recreated hard times for 8+ years so if that was my ultimate fear, I wouldn't go back. I am not worried about future hard times with what I do, I just feel an emptiness for not giving something I had such great interest in a shot.

My analogy for my stress level was indeed a terrible one. Lol. My point was that I can endure heavy stress and prosper, so a heavy workload as a physician, medical student, etc. wouldn't dissuade me from pursuing it. I am just curious about the financial worth of medicine today. I am by all means not doing it for the money solely, but I cannot ignore the fact that after 12-15 years of sacrifice, I would enjoy a fair compensation. I seem to believe medicine still offers that.
 
Apr 25, 2014
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Sorry, I did not clarify why I want to pursue medicine. I have my reasons. I was just targeting a separate issue. I have had close relatives suffer and die from Alzheimer's, cancer, etc., and ever since I have spent long hours caring for them, I have had an extreme passion for helping others. I have taken anatomy and physiology classes and I absolutely loved them. My introductory interest in medicine is there. It's all in good respect; I want to pursue something I feel passionately about doing. My question addressed the path's worth along the way, not whether or not I will enjoy what I am pursuing.
This is what matters the most! Pursuit of medicine is a marathon with flaming hoops, barbed wire, pits with alligators, etc. If you aren't pursing it for the right reasons then you're lost to begin with. So read on SDN, take the required premed courses (read strategies on SDN on how) and get a 3.25+ sgpa, and shadow some physicians. The prereq coursework is similar between PA and DO/MD. You can do it, but it will be a long hard road and it will take a toll on family, relationships, and you so discuss it with family and decide if it's worth starting. After doing that in a year or so after you've accomplish these things you'll know much better if medicine is for you. The prereq coursework is similar between PA and DO/MD.

Bets of Luck!
 
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QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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I don't think it's accurate to say that "nearly everyone hates their lives for the most part" in medicine. You have to understand that you get a biased sample when you read online forums like SDN, because the people who tend to post are people at either extreme (ie, other love or hate their jobs). But if you're looking for a career that isn't stressful, I will say that medicine is definitely the wrong career for you. It's incredibly stressful. And amazing as this may seem, it is still even financially stressful for many physicians. Premeds tend to overlook two things when considering the financial aspects of a medical career: 1) you will almost certainly have six figure debt that continues to accrue interest throughout your training and will in many cases take a decade or more to pay back. This puts a serious crimp in your ability to live the upper middle class lifestyle that many of your non-physician peers from college will be living while you're still in training, and 2) there is quite a lot of social pressure on physicians to up their spending commensurate with their greater income. I have colleagues who earn on the order of a quarter of a million dollars per year, and are still living paycheck to paycheck. Seriously.

Here's what I suggest you do. First, get a job working or volunteering in the health care setting, NOT with relatives. Caring for ungrateful, non compliant strangers is very different than helping with the care of people you love. There are a lot of a**holes out there, and a**holes get sick too. If you don't have some internal motivation for doing this job even when you get zero external gratification from "helping people," you won't enjoy it. Second, get the book "The Millionaire Next Door" by Thomas Stanley, and read it. That book will help you understand why physicians as a group tend NOT to be wealthy people, in spite of being relatively high income earners compared to many other professionals.
 
Aug 9, 2015
25
2
Status
Pre-Medical
I don't think it's accurate to say that "nearly everyone hates their lives for the most part" in medicine. You have to understand that you get a biased sample when you read online forums like SDN, because the people who tend to post are people at either extreme (ie, other love or hate their jobs). But if you're looking for a career that isn't stressful, I will say that medicine is definitely the wrong career for you. It's incredibly stressful. And amazing as this may seem, it is still even financially stressful for many physicians. Premeds tend to overlook two things when considering the financial aspects of a medical career: 1) you will almost certainly have six figure debt that continues to accrue interest throughout your training and will in many cases take a decade or more to pay back. This puts a serious crimp in your ability to live the upper middle class lifestyle that many of your non-physician peers from college will be living while you're still in training, and 2) there is quite a lot of social pressure on physicians to up their spending commensurate with their greater income. I have colleagues who earn on the order of a quarter of a million dollars per year, and are still living paycheck to paycheck. Seriously.

Here's what I suggest you do. First, get a job working or volunteering in the health care setting, NOT with relatives. Caring for ungrateful, non compliant strangers is very different than helping with the care of people you love. There are a lot of a**holes out there, and a**holes get sick too. If you don't have some internal motivation for doing this job even when you get zero external gratification from "helping people," you won't enjoy it. Second, get the book "The Millionaire Next Door" by Thomas Stanley, and read it. That book will help you understand why physicians as a group tend NOT to be wealthy people, in spite of being relatively high income earners compared to many other professionals.
Thank you for your advice. I will have to read the book!
 
Aug 9, 2015
25
2
Status
Pre-Medical
This is what matters the most! Pursuit of medicine is a marathon with flaming hoops, barbed wire, pits with alligators, etc. If you aren't pursing it for the right reasons then you're lost to begin with. So read on SDN, take the required premed courses (read strategies on SDN on how) and get a 3.25+ sgpa, and shadow some physicians. The prereq coursework is similar between PA and DO/MD. You can do it, but it will be a long hard road and it will take a toll on family, relationships, and you so discuss it with family and decide if it's worth starting. After doing that in a year or so after you've accomplish these things you'll know much better if medicine is for you. The prereq coursework is similar between PA and DO/MD.

Bets of Luck!
Thank you! I'm from Louisiana, so the alligators won't be a problem ;)
 
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Darth Doc

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Jun 22, 2013
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Thank you! I'm from Louisiana, so the alligators won't be a problem ;)
I love your sense of humor. You'll need it to keep sane if you go to PA or MD/DO. I'm a PA who just finished my MS2 year. I happen to love medicine and people, and it's why I'm going back to school. I want to be better and do more. There are a lot of posts on PA vs MD/DO on SDN. I've written a few myself. Bottom line, though, is that you need to evaluate for yourself what the grind of medicine can be like. I've worked in prison medicine (truly fascinating population with unique and rare diseases for multifactorial reasons related to low health literacy - once you get beyond the drug seeking behavior) and even that made me enjoy medicine more. There are horrible days and good days in any profession.

Only you can decide if it's worth it to you. (Some days I hate my life - even when I know it'll be worth it. Medical school is just like that for most people.) My husband is amazing and so are my kids or I couldn't get through this. I also know of people whose marriages ended in divorce because of the stress of medical school. If it's worth it to you, is it worth it to your fiance?

The debt? It can be paid off easily if you live smart right after residency. It takes a lot of self-control for both you and your fiancé to do that, which is why most physicians have a lot of debt when they're done. They've lived poor for so long that they're ready to enjoy their money. There are great blogs by doctors on how to do this without joining the military, working in an underserved area, etc..

Is medicine a smart decision? I think it is, because even with the downturn in the economy, fiscal changes looming for physicians with changes in Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, insurance, litigation, etc... It still pays well as a profession - if medicine is something you want to do.

(You could also consider dental school and working with your fiancé in a joint practice. You'd make more than a PA and be your own boss.)
 
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Aug 9, 2015
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I love your sense of humor. You'll need it to keep sane if you go to PA or MD/DO. I'm a PA who just finished my MS2 year. I happen to love medicine and people, and it's why I'm going back to school. I want to be better and do more. There are a lot of posts on PA vs MD/DO on SDN. I've written a few myself. Bottom line, though, is that you need to evaluate for yourself what the grind of medicine can be like. I've worked in prison medicine (truly fascinating population with unique and rare diseases for multifactorial reasons related to low health literacy - once you get beyond the drug seeking behavior) and even that made me enjoy medicine more. There are horrible days and good days in any profession.

Only you can decide if it's worth it to you. (Some days I hate my life - even when I know it'll be worth it. Medical school is just like that for most people.) My husband is amazing and so are my kids or I couldn't get through this. I also know of people whose marriages ended in divorce because of the stress of medical school. If it's worth it to you, is it worth it to your fiance?

The debt? It can be paid off easily if you live smart right after residency. It takes a lot of self-control for both you and your fiancé to do that, which is why most physicians have a lot of debt when they're done. They've lived poor for so long that they're ready to enjoy their money. There are great blogs by doctors on how to do this without joining the military, working in an underserved area, etc..

Is medicine a smart decision? I think it is, because even with the downturn in the economy, fiscal changes looming for physicians with changes in Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, insurance, litigation, etc... It still pays well as a profession - if medicine is something you want to do.

(You could also consider dental school and working with your fiancé in a joint practice. You'd make more than a PA and be your own boss.)
Awesome! Thank you! Very helpful.
 

futuremdforme

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May 12, 2013
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As someone who constantly lives the middle class, financial stress life, I am aware that I personally do not want to live like this forever. Through a series of events these past few years, I have had to grow up quickly, and at 22 years old, I feel like I should have a house and kids with the amount of stress I endure. I handle it well, but why am I financially stressed all of the time and still have an engineer's stress level on a 40k salary.
Basically no 22 year old can afford a house -- that's just not realistic for the times we live in. I think it's fair to consider that medicine pays well in choosing a career, but do realize how long a road it will be. Undergrad + 4 years medicine + 3-5 years residency + potential fellowship before you're earning the big bucks! Remember your friends in other professions will actually be buying that house, and you'll still be moving around, etc. So don't go into it blind without truly considering how you'll handle that aspect, since as a clerk, you'll be working long days and enduring high stress for the privilege of paying the med school money.
 
Aug 9, 2015
25
2
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Pre-Medical
Basically no 22 year old can afford a house -- that's just not realistic for the times we live in. I think it's fair to consider that medicine pays well in choosing a career, but do realize how long a road it will be. Undergrad + 4 years medicine + 3-5 years residency + potential fellowship before you're earning the big bucks! Remember your friends in other professions will actually be buying that house, and you'll still be moving around, etc. So don't go into it blind without truly considering how you'll handle that aspect, since as a clerk, you'll be working long days and enduring high stress for the privilege of paying the med school money.
I have come to realize that I can make the sacrifice. My future wife still has a year of undergrad left before dental school. I think if I were go to back and pursue medicine, now would be the time. I would not start a family with her still being in school, and I would much rather wait until she was finished with dental school before buying a home anyway. So since I still have all of this time to wait, I will return to school. I can probably finish my undergrad in 3 years, being as I have a fair amount of pre requisite courses from CC that will transfer. I know it will be a long, grueling journey. But I think at the end, I will be glad that I chose it. Only time will tell!
 
S

Sardinia

@CamWahn As a heads up, when it comes to graduate school loans they accrue the moment you take out the loan, not the moment you graduate. Subsidized loans are only offered to undergraduates, all graduate loans and above are unsubsidized meaning the government doesn't pay off the interest for the four years you are going through M1 - M4.
 
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Aug 9, 2015
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There is one cluster of reasons to go into medicine: you want to be in a field that is challenging, helpful to others, and that involves utilizing science to make people's lives better.

I'm not sure I hear that. I hear a lot about future expected earnings. There's nothing wrong with wanting to do well, but medicine isn't the best place for that.

If you have the ability to clear all the hurdles - the volunteering, the MCAT, the dealing with the snarky TA who wants to hand out a 2.0, the bureaucracy of applications, getting a 3.6+ in the science prerequisites, the obsequiousness of begging for letters of rec - you have the ability to do a comparable salary in most industries.

You can do just as well as most MD's by getting two or three Cisco certificates. You're earning 60k in 6 months, and 150k in a year. If you are driven, its not hard to do $300k. And, oh yeah, no debt and its quite easy to find a job with just a CCNA.

Less technical people can do better in a variety of industries, notably in sales or industries where business development is key.
Sorry for my question to come off as a desire for salary. I actually have had 6 figure job offers as a 21 year old before I even finished trade school as a SCADA programmer. That's besides the point. While I would be one of very few young people making that kind of money, I did not take these positions for ethical reasons. My father owns the oil and gas service company I work for. I program and design new Siemens PLC control systems. I could not accept a job with a competitor. Besides, I probably would have gotten laid off after oil collapsed, so I made the right choice there. That would basically destroy a family relationship since our company's root is in our product. This was the reason I gave up on my medical dream as a freshman in college. I was promised bigger compensation while in trade school and then the oil and gas industry came to a painful stop while in school. My initial goal, since a child, was to be a physician. As stated in a previous reply, I have had terminally ill close relatives that I took care of. I held my grandmother's hand as she passed away, and looked at her feet afterwards. Both were broken due to her being carelessly rolled through a nursing home in a wheel chair. Good old case of abuse in a nursing home. The CNAs there let her feet drag, and sadly we did not know that her feet were badly broken and that she was in terrible pain until after she passed. She, along with her son, my uncle, died of Alzheimer's 6 months apart. I remember looking into my uncle's eyes (he was an English professor at one of LSU's community colleges) and telling him I was going to pursue medicine. He could not speak at this point, but his eyes lit up and he had such a smile on his face. He would stutter the first syllable for my name, letting me know he did not forget me, and that he understood. This was all before I gave up on my medical journey. This along for the volunteering I did with my fiance', who is pursuing dentistry, reassures me that I do passionately like the field. As someone who programs and designs systems for different applications, the human body is the most amazing collection of systems that I could ever work on.
I have a vast quantity of reasons for pursuing medicine. I love science. I am great at math. There is no way I would waste a decade and a half on something I am not interested in. I was just addressing one issue with the path of getting there, and that issue happened to be financial.

If you look into anyone's reasoning for pursuing medicine, I am sure you will find an issue with some of the reasoning. It seems to be inevitable. But my point is that I do have my reasoning, and one of the less prioritized is money. It just happened to be a topic I wanted more information on.
 
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Sardinia

@CamWahn I don't know the details, but have you ever considered going through with the HPSP Scholarship e.g. military route? If you don't have a specific specialty of interest that you want and you end up in an expensive school then it can help you out with your concerns regarding debt. Also good on you for being able to be financially independent at that age with that sort of income. I still could never make that amount of money, although I'm working on getting there. I think that very few people are in your shoes in trading a very lucrative career for one you have a passion for and personally understand that it is not easy to pass on the family business.

Link
 
Aug 9, 2015
25
2
Status
Pre-Medical
@CamWahn I don't know the details, but have you ever considered going through with the HPSP Scholarship e.g. military route? If you don't have a specific specialty of interest that you want and you end up in an expensive school then it can help you out with your concerns regarding debt. Also good on you for being able to be financially independent at that age with that sort of income. I still could never make that amount of money, although I'm working on getting there. I think that very few people are in your shoes in trading a very lucrative career for one you have a passion for and personally understand that it is not easy to pass on the family business.

Link
I have looked into it! And thank you. A family business is hard to leave since it affects everyone you love.
 
May 6, 2016
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Attending Physician
I would reiterate that there are better choices than medicine for those motivated primarily by high salaries. High salaries in medicine are mostly a reflection of walrasian returns to schooling, given labor quality.
I agree. I actually just wrote a blogpost that talks about the true cost of medicine. Bottom line, people see the high salaries physicians make but don't factor in the actual and opportunity costs of a medical education, not to mention the money we have to keep paying to maintain our licenses and certifications once we're done with training.

As for OP's question "Will the loans be that big of a deal if I were a specialized physician?": My advice is don't count on going into a high-paying specialty. Things change. You may hate the personalities in that specialty. You may find yourself being more interested in another specialty that doesn't pay as well. You may decide you'd rather spend more time with your wife and young kids. You may not have the grades to match into general surgery or whatever. You will be a different person when you graduate from medical school, with possibly very different priorities and interests, so whatever your motivations are, make sure they are sustainable. Good luck.
 
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