Is my answer not good enough for the admission committee?

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Dec 22, 2012
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I'm curious as to what kind of answers the admission committee is looking for when they ask the question "why do you want to be a doctor". I mean, do they really want to know the real reason or am I suppose to just rehash the same, overplayed, scenarios that everyone else has used? Some common reasons I've heard include:

-I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was a child
-I like helping people
-A loved one suffers from [X] and I want to make sure no one else suffers as well
-I love solving puzzles and the complexities of medicine
-Financial stability
-Medicine is always changing and there is always something new to learn

Don't get me wrong. I am sure these are valid reasons - but come on, everyone says the same thing. I tried explaining to a friend why I wanted to be a doctor and they said my reasoning wasn't good enough for the admissions committee. Or that the committee would not understand what I want to do. My views are a little different and I am coming from a different perspective. But how will they react to this?

The truth is, I have a passion for technology. A real, strong passion. I am currently a mobile application developer and I love it. I make good money and I enjoy what I do. But, I also have a passion for medicine. I hit the ground running in medicine. By the age of 16 I was a certified medical, nursing and occupational therapy assistant. By 17 I was working for a very large medical practice and I worked there for almost 5 years. Soon after that, I graduated with my BS in chemistry. When people ask me why I want to be a doctor, all I can think of is, “I know I can make a difference in the medical field”. Not good enough, right?

But I believe the more important questions are HOW and WHY. Technology is one the driving forces behind medicine. Without it, where would we be? Technology, as well as research, are an absolutely integral part of medicine. But it is sort of like the chicken and the egg. Who came first? Anyway, as much as I enjoyed working with patients (after all, I had hands on time every day. I wasn't some clerk. I was working alongside physicians.) I also think that I can come up with new medical tools and procedures to make caring for patients easier and more efficient. A quick example is that, everything is going mobile. So with my background skills I could come up with something useful and give back to the medical field.

I want to be that driving force. I want to invent and think of the medical technologies that will be used tomorrow. I want to find easier ways for patients to connect with their physicians. For physicians to collaborate together more efficiently. For getting information to where it needs to go, faster. My friend also made the point that things like these already exist or are in the works. To that, I reply, "but it can always be improved". Medical technologies (including procedures and protocols) get outdated fairly quickly and the field will need people to help push it in a new direction. I want to be one of those people. The mobile applications I developer/invent are successful because they not only address a need, but also because they are innovative. In essence, I believe I can bring something to the table.

Sure, I am no Steve Jobs, but that doesn't mean I don't invent and solve problems pragmatically. Some might say that I should do some kind of research. But then that takes away from the other half of what I want to accomplish. As stated, I do enjoy helping people and solving complex medical mysteries. Who doesn't? I find working with patients to be both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time (even when I was just a simple MA). As for the money, I’d be leaving a well paying job, and enjoying a debt-free lifestyle so that I could be $250k in debt. Does it really sound like I’m in it for the money?

But after standing around for 5 years not being able to really help patients the way I wanted to (since I was only an MA), I feel like I'll finally have my say. That my input will matter. This really isn't about being authoritative or playing the 'I'm a doctor' card. I genuinely care about the wellbeing of my patients and working at the clinic has opened my eyes on what NOT to do or how NOT to deal with a situation. By learning from the mistakes of the physicians I have worked with, I can be an even better physician. I can be better at improving my patient’s quality of life. It taught me how to do right by my patients. I thank my two mentors, who were both physicians at the clinic, for that. Through my experience I understood just how complex and intricate the human body is. I spent my time in college learning about the human body. It was exciting to see what I was learning be used in a real life situation.

So you see, my answer isn't simple. Even as I read a back on what I wrote, I feel the technology part seems to trump the actual clinical reasonings of being a physician. But what can I say that is both truthful, yet isn’t a rehashed story? That is why it is impossible to just sum up everything into a few lines like most folks. There are many things I want to do when I become a physician. I haven't met anyone in the same boat as me and that could be good and bad. It's hard to convey what I am trying to say at times. For me, it's not a shift from the technology field to the medical field. It's an integration. A unified, cohesive entity. There's just no way I could do one without the other.

I was told by a friend that I shouldn't write or tell med schools about this. That I should just stick to the standard points because they will be worried that I won't give back to the community if I am focused on medical technology. I guess he just fails to understand that there are two parts to my ambition, but they go hand in hand. Maybe it’s my fault for not being able to express what I want to say in a concise manner.

Anyway, if you’ve made it this far, I'd just like some input. Should I just be who I am and say the hell with what other say or should I just play it safe? What would you do?

TL;DR

I like technology. Currently working in the tech field (programmer). Reasons for being a doctor include: wanting to unravel medical mysteries, and also to create/invent/improve medical technologies. Nothing major (like inventing a new MRI machine or anything) but maybe something like a new EMR system or make mobile applications that can be used by physicians and patients. Is this a good enough reason to be a doctor?
 
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FrkyBgStok

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And you should listen to your friends. Maybe you have a better way of coming across but you talk a lot about what you want to do as a doctor, but not anything about why a doctor. Why must you go to medical school in order to accomplish these things? Why do you think you are going to have all the answers? Why do you think that everyone before you is inept at making solutions? Your explanation comes across as "I am gods gift to the health care industry" and any admissions committee is going to see right through it.

Moreover, medical schools are in the business of teaching people how to help people. If you want to invent tools and processes, things that can be done without medical school, they are going to say, "nah we will find someone who actually wants to be a doctor, not a businessman." And as I stated, you are coming across as, "nobody before me is capable of doing it."

In addition, let's say you do get to the physician level. when are you going to have time for all of this stuff? and how are you going to affect medicine as a whole if you are confined to one specialty? Are you planning on going to a very research heavy program? and if not, where are you going to get funding and experience in order to move forward with these breakthroughs? it sounds like you have big dreams, but you need to keep your feet on the ground.
 

mauberley

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So you see, my answer isn't simple. Even as I read a back on what I wrote, I feel the technology part seems to trump the actual clinical reasonings of being a physician. But what can I say that is both truthful, yet isn’t a rehashed story? That is why it is impossible to just sum up everything into a few lines like most folks. There are many things I want to do when I become a physician. I haven't met anyone in the same boat as me and that could be good and bad. It's hard to convey what I am trying to say at times. For me, it's not a shift from the technology field to the medical field. It's an integration. A unified, cohesive entity. There's just no way I could do one without the other.

I was told by a friend that I shouldn't write or tell med schools about this. That I should just stick to the standard points because they will be worried that I won't give back to the community if I am focused on medical technology. I guess he just fails to understand that there are two parts to my ambition, but they go hand in hand. Maybe it’s my fault for not being able to express what I want to say in a concise manner.

Anyway, if you’ve made it this far, I'd just like some input. Should I just be who I am and say the hell with what other say or should I just play it safe? What would you do?
What you wrote hasn't said anything (or at least hasn't convinced me) of why the physician route is the best path for you (as FrkyBgStok also opined).

On the other hand, I wouldn't say that you should stick to the same standard points, because you probably wouldn't be able to argue that convincingly, either, since as you implied, it's not who you are.

So... why not stick with developing tech?
 
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What you wrote hasn't said anything (or at least hasn't convinced me) of why the physician route is the best path for you (as FrkyBgStok also opined).

On the other hand, I wouldn't say that you should stick to the same standard points, because you probably wouldn't be able to argue that convincingly, either, since as you implied, it's not who you are.

So... why not stick with developing tech?
Honestly, because I'm developing tech without a purpose. I am not really helping anyone by what I do now. Sure, people like what I build and the money is great but what else? There's no interaction, collaboration among colleagues, no interest or goal. There is no motivation. I'm not working toward a goal that I can look back at and say "wow, I helped make this happen" or "ya, I made a difference". Plus, with no formal training in programming, I can't get far without going back and getting another degree. More time wasted IMO.

Perhaps I was a bit overzealous in my initial post. I am not trying to change the world here. I'm not saying I can fix the medical field or that it even needs fixing. But I also know that a 9 to 5 job as a doctor is not really all that great to me either. I've seen doctors walk in day after day, seeing patients with similar issues and you treat them the same way. It becomes a routine. And as a physician, if I reach a point in my medical career where I want to do something more than just clinical medicine, I'll know that there's an entire industry dedicated to this field. There are many companies who specialize in medical technology and often employ working physicians for consultation and, if you have the skill, inventing and creating new things to push the industry.

I'm not saying technology is all I want to do. And if that is what people took from my post, then all I did was prove their point. Being a physician opens doors to many different opportunities where I can make a difference. More opportunities for me to make a difference in someone's life. To help them, to see them get better. But people seem to have this mentality this can only be accomplished when you are directly working with a patient. This is incorrect. If a biochemist synthesizes a cure for diabetes, he would have saved more lives working behind the scenes than any doctor doing rotations at a hospital. The impact is just as significant. To me it's not about the method, it's about the results.
 
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DrMidlife

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Honestly, because I'm developing tech without a purpose. I am not really helping anyone by what I do now. Sure, people like what I build and the money is great but what else? There's no interaction, collaboration among colleagues, no interest or goal. There is no motivation.
You can find the same problems in any line of work. Within the practice of medicine, you're even more likely to find a vast field of egos that you have to navigate to get small amounts of work done.
I'm not working toward a goal that I can look back at and say "wow, I helped make this happen" or "ya, I made a difference".
You don't seem to be looking for opportunities within tech, just looking at your current job. Look up OpenMRS and PracticeFusion. Look at what all Epic has done to become a standard. Look at Epocrates. Look into bioinformatics and public health computing. If you want to make a difference, and have something hugely satisfying to look back on, you can absolutely do it from within CS/IT and save yourself the half million bucks and the decade to become a doctor.
Plus, with no formal training in programming, I can't get far without going back and getting another degree. More time wasted IMO.
Now that's completely ridiculous. You don't learn to code by going to school, you learn to code by coding. The guys who are now at Google/Facebook/Apple are the ones who never stopped using their nights and weekends to make stuff, for fun, after their first homework project in C or whatever.

You seem to be confusing having a tech job with being an influential. Influentials don't use tools to make stuff, they make tools that make stuff. So I'd suggest taking it down...a lot.

Best of luck to you.
 

ChE04

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I think that to go into medicine you really have to be primarily driven by a want to work with patients--the real bread and butter of medicine--which it doesn't sound like you are. Reading your posts it seems that as far as being a clinician is concerned, you could take it or leave it. There's nothing wrong with that at all, but in my opinion, the road to an MD is too long and grueling for it to be worth it to you considering your ultimate goals.

Furthermore I'm just not certain that getting an MD will help you accomplish your goals after you finish the minimum 7 year training period... throughout which you will most definitely not be accomplishing them.
 
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Dec 22, 2012
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Thanks for everyone's feedback.

I've decided to go to med school and keep my love for technology to myself. I'm sure I'll be able to do some consulting for medical technology companies and build my own medical apps in my spare time. If that eventually takes me places, so be it. If not, I'd be perfectly happy just being a physician.
 

notbobtrustme

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Don't be a unique snowflake. Admissions is more like a giant song and dance than anything else. Say what they want to hear. There's a reason why most pre-meds answer the same way. It gets results.
 
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Don't be a unique snowflake. Admissions is more like a giant song and dance than anything else. Say what they want to hear. There's a reason why most pre-meds answer the same way. It gets results.
Best advice I've hear yet. Thank you.
 

ChE04

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Don't be a unique snowflake. Admissions is more like a giant song and dance than anything else. Say what they want to hear. There's a reason why most pre-meds answer the same way. It gets results.
Fake it till you make it. Maybe also the reason there are so many docs out there who say going into medicine isn't worth it?
 
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