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Making a difference vs. Simply "working"

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by judyjudy, Apr 25, 2012.

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  1. judyjudy


    Apr 25, 2012
    Hello everyone,

    I'm not sure what most people's intentions are for aspiring to be physicians. I am not talking about the actual interest in medicine or intentions to help people. Let's assume that's a given...but I wonder, do most people just jump the hurdles to get a job? Like go to college, go to medical school, complete residency/fellowship, and then finally work for the rest of their careers just regurgitating what they have learned? How many people go into this path wanting to make advancements in their chosen field? Lately I have been so focused on outlining my path to medical school, and being really fixated on getting to the point where I can begin to work and make a living. But then I see stories of these extraordinary kids in high school doing all this research already, and it makes me feel small. They want to cure cancer and save the world. I guess as young kids we all had this fire to change the world when we grow up somehow, but it fades sometimes when we do get older. What do you guys think?

    And what does the picture look like for someone who is interested in finding new cures and procedures? What does it mean exactly to research or to be in academia? I'm sorry if this question is really juvenile to you, but I really don't know. :)
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  3. Shalashaska

    Shalashaska 5+ Year Member

    Mar 20, 2012
    This is the big "Q" isn't it. Admissions committees look for some sort of tangible proof of why an applicant is interested in becoming a physician. They look for things that applicants have done that have made a difference in the community. Yet once a majority of students get accepted, it's a one way road to the money and the typical doctor's lifestyle in the next 8-10 years. I think the system is partly to blame for this. With tuition spikes and increasing loans, I feel a lot of medical students don't really have much of a choice really but to go straight to the money. But of course, there are many students out there who truly want to make a difference and are passionate for what they want to do in medicine down the road.

    As someone who was born in another country, I would very much like to serve the United States in any which way I can. However, we can't just blame the system for turning out doctor's who want a paycheck - I think that the rigors of medical school drain a human being's sanity and so it is our job as future doctor's to keep our sanity and live for what we truly believe in. Yeah yeah yeah, many medical students will read that last sentence I wrote and laugh at me for it, but I don't believe in studying for a majority of the day, sleeping 4 hours, and neglecting personal health and lifestyle. We need to live for something or die for nothing while at the same time, maintaining our sanity. However, if society doesn't change, then not much else will.

    I'll be the first one to admit: I'm not interested in going into research at all. I'm not the guy who's going to cure cancer. But I personally love to build things and can see myself going into the development of medical implants/technologies. Will my future goals change? Of course. Do I have specialties in mind that I would like to go into? Of course. Will I change my mind about what specialties that I want to get into? Of course. But as long as we do something we enjoy and have a vision of what we want to contribute to society, I'd say that's more than showing up to work and taking home some green.
  4. wolfie77

    wolfie77 2+ Year Member

    Nov 19, 2010

    I think I see where you're coming from. I myself love research and plan on having a research-heavy career, partly because I would like to know that I have done my part to advance the scientific aspect of medicine.

    However, the clinician who sees patients and goes out of his/her way to care for his patients is making a difference too. I would argue this is the bigger and more important difference that physicians can make. As cheesy as it's going to sound, we're ultimately there only because of the patients. It is for them that we work and go to school and prepare for years and years. Part of the issue with medicine becoming "just a job" as of late might have something to do with the level to which doctors are invested in their patients and vice versa.
  5. WillburCobb

    WillburCobb I am the pull out king Banned Account on Hold 5+ Year Member

    Honestly, I don't think I can thumbs up this enough...perfect.

    In regards to OP's question its honestly a question of existentialism. You have to do what's right for you and what makes life meaningful for you. There's honestly (...meh...arguably) no wrong way to go about this, and you shouldn't feel as if your justifications for pursuing medicine, or any life choice, are wrong in any way. You just have to accept life and the absurd for what it is and roll with it. Your question(s) is/are in no way juvenile.
  6. 1TB4RKSB4CK

    1TB4RKSB4CK wussup doge Bronze Donor 5+ Year Member

    May 6, 2010
    Sounds like a legit interview answer haha.
  7. FrkyBgStok

    FrkyBgStok DMU c/o 2016 10+ Year Member

    Aug 7, 2005
    I didn't read all of the answers because there is a ton of words. Sure, some of it is based on a broken system, but in reality, this is real life. Everyone graduates high school with the ideas to change the world and become the next Steve Jobs, but the fact is, these people were not only smarrt but incredibly lucky. You may research cancer with no luck for 30 years and some undergrad could spill something or mix two things together to make your work obsolete. The simple answer is that people grow up, they change what is important to them and they get caught up in the grind. Medicine isn't exempt and it is apparent everywhere. I am going to do this job to save some money. 35 years later they retire. Some people don't want to save the world. Some just realize that it isn't going to happen without an incredible amount of luck and they'd rather not rely on that.
  8. wolfie77

    wolfie77 2+ Year Member

    Nov 19, 2010

    Very inspirational. :thumbdown:
  9. Aerus

    Aerus Elemental Alchemist 5+ Year Member

    Apr 20, 2012
    hSDN Member
    hSDN Alumni
    I just want to do something that I will enjoy for the rest of my life. I know the chances of me changing my mind are quite high statistically, but for now, I want to go into Primary Care. I'm not in it for the big bucks or else I'd be like "Surgeon!" or "Radiologist!"

    Of course I'll have to go through 4 years of med school hell, but that's a different story.
  10. To Research in academia as an MD means you are sacrificing your salary in order to find your name published in medical journals on esoteric and largely irrelevant topics. MDs doing research don't change the world. If you are one of the .01% of researchers who actually stumbles onto some relevant new treatment, you may get promoted to chief of your department and make a similar salary as the guy in the same field doing private practice down the road.

    Research as an MD/PhD means you wasted 4-6 years getting a degree you will never use (you don't need a PhD to do research as an MD, and you don't need an MD to spend your life on a research track)

  11. circulus vitios

    circulus vitios 7+ Year Member

    Jul 18, 2008
    I don't like the truth!
  12. theseeker4

    theseeker4 PGY 1 5+ Year Member

    This is very true. It is also important to note that it isn't necessarily a case of idealistic inspiration dying out as you get older. It is easy, as a high school or college student with no responsibilities more pressing than doing well in courses and going to parties on the weekend (or all week), to have "saving the world" as their ultimate goal. As people grow up and mature a bit though, they realize there is a lot more to life than going to school, doing great things and becoming famous some day by curing cancer. They find out that working toward ending hunger, or curing cancer, can be a very thankless job without the imagined glory and accolades. They also discover how satisfying it can be finding someone to marry, making a life together with another person, starting a family, etc.

    Priorities can and usually do change. I don't know how many people I knew in high school with the attitude "I never want children, I will never get married, my career will always be first" who now have children, a husband or wife, etc. There is nothing wrong with this, and it will most likely happen to everyone to one extent or another.
  13. oldbearprofessor

    oldbearprofessor SDN Advisor SDN Administrator 10+ Year Member

    Mar 13, 2002
    Rocket Scientist
    Is it okay if the research you do falls under the category of quality improvement and leads to small but meaningful changes in patient care and outcomes?

    It may not be "saving the world" whatever that means, but, how many babies lives have to be substantially helped by clinical research to have it be worth doing? My n=1, yours might be different.

    You may not believe that clinical research makes a difference, but this is not what I've experienced over the last 30 years in my field where clinical practice changes, often not major ones, have demonstrably improved outcomes.
  14. mrmatt

    mrmatt 5+ Year Member

    Jul 13, 2010
    Maybe you're one of the .01% ;)

    I have a strong interest in clinical QI (right now) and its ability to improve patient outcomes on a population and individual level. Good to hear that at least someone thinks it's possible to actually improve things, unlike many of the grim remarkers in this thread think.
  15. Crim1

    Crim1 2+ Year Member

    Jan 23, 2012
    I don't think it is so black and white.

    I want to go to medical school so I can reach my full potential and feel like I am solving practical problems and doing something important for my patients. Now that I am accepted, my focus is shifting to money. How best can I provide for my family while managing a huge amount of debt.

    I don't think too many people go to medical school just for the money and I don't think too many people are naive enough to go to medical school because they want to save the world.

    As an added note, the people claiming that luck is overwhelmingly involved in success are a bit scary. Life is what you put into it. Steve Jobs wasn't laying around the house and then magically made apple by luck. It was innovative ideas and hard work. People don't get accepted to medical school by luck. It is deliberate preparation and grit.
  16. notbobtrustme

    notbobtrustme Crux Terminatus Banned Account on Hold 2+ Year Member

    Jun 28, 2011

    Making progress is hard and it's not rewarded in 99% of the cases. Research involves major sacrifices to lifestyle, salary and the intellectual pay-off may not be evident for decades. All the low-lying fruit has been picked and what's left requires massive investments by dozens of people, not a single person toiling away in a laboratory.

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