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UCSDkid

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Hey guys,
For the past couple of weeks, I've been looking into a career in medicine. I'm willing to put up with the stress and hard work as an undergraduate and as a medical student, but I don't want my life to be consumed with my career. What I'm trying to say is that I want a stimulating and meaningful career that will not take away my life.

In my mind, when I think of physicians, I have this impression that they work for so many hours a week and even take their work home with them to finish up. Then, they also have to deal with calls and going to the hospital at random times of the night and during the weekend.

Is this true? Can someone get rid of my naivety? I really am interested in a career in medicine and as I said, I am willing to put the sweat into study, but I don't want my career to take over my life. I don't want to be stressed out my entire life, you know? I want to have balance in my life with family, friends, hobbies, etc.

Income is not a big factor for me in choosing a specialization. Can you guys give me some feedback on a physician's lifestyle and how many hours he or she works in a week? How about calls? Do all doctors get calls?

I've been really interested in family medicine. How's the lifestyle of a general practitioner? Are they consumed in their work? Do they go on calls?

Thank you.
 

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There are many, many different lifestyles possible in medicine. I would suggest you call up a few family practices in your area and ask about shadowing for a day or two. It might take a few calls but you should eventually find someone who is willing to have you around for a day.
 

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Some examples:

Emergency medicine: Not your typical 9-5. Work lots of weekends and holidays. Usually 60-80 hours a week. Lots do it in 12-24 hour shifts. No call for the most part, when you're off, you're off. My friends in EM typically have decent family lives with some additional stress around holidays that they have to work.

Family practice is more the 9-5 type gig, but you have call. My friends in FP also have decent family lives and have somewhat steady routines, but also seem to have less free time in general. Most of 'em make every church league softball game etc...

I keep hearing that derm is the best for lifestyle. Don't know any personally so can't comment.

Have one surgeon friend who seems to fit in well with the EM type schedule, with more of the surprise call-ins. Good family life as well.

Basically it's up to you, it's gonna be a lot of "work", but as it's been said: "if you love your job, you'll never work a day in your life.". You will make time for the things that are important to you. If your plan is to be the perfect dad/spouse/doctor, you'll fail. You can certainly reach an acceptable level at each of these at the same time though.
 
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Some examples:

Emergency medicine: Not your typical 9-5. Work lots of weekends and holidays. Usually 60-80 hours a week. Lots do it in 12-24 hour shifts. No call for the most part, when you're off, you're off. My friends in EM typically have decent family lives with some additional stress around holidays that they have to work.

Family practice is more the 9-5 type gig, but you have call. My friends in FP also have decent family lives and have somewhat steady routines, but also seem to have less free time in general. Most of 'em make every church league softball game etc...

I keep hearing that derm is the best for lifestyle. Don't know any personally so can't comment.

Have one surgeon friend who seems to fit in well with the EM type schedule, with more of the surprise call-ins. Good family life as well.

Basically it's up to you, it's gonna be a lot of "work", but as it's been said: "if you love your job, you'll never work a day in your life.". You will make time for the things that are important to you. If your plan is to be the perfect dad/spouse/doctor, you'll fail. You can certainly reach an acceptable level at each of these at the same time though.
Wow, that is a HUGE over-estimate for EM hours per week. Definitely not typical judging by the emergency medicine forum. 40-50 seems common in residency, with a little under 40 common for attendings.
 

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Wow, that is a HUGE over-estimate for EM hours per week. Definitely not typical judging by the emergency medicine forum. 40-50 seems common in residency, with a little under 40 common for attendings.

It does depend on the DOC. I was giving typical hours that my ED friends do. Granted, one is putting 3 kids through college and the other is carrying two mortgages.
 

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From what I've heard, clinical yeas and residency are going be tough no matter what. After that, you can definitely find a speciality that allows you to have free time or maybe even work part time. I would look into some of these lifestyle specialities (derm, pathology, EM, ophthalmology, radiology) and see if any of them interest you.
 

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Medicine is a life commitment, that's for sure. However, like many jobs, it is what you make it. I've seen both sides of the spectrum with doctor's that I've shadowed with. If you want it to consume every waking hour, including working at home when your not at work, you certainly can. But I have also seen many doctors that keep a very upbeat perspective, love their job, and make time for there family and friends without too much trouble.

When you said the following quote:

In my mind, when I think of physicians, I have this impression that they work for so many hours a week and even take their work home with them to finish up. Then, they also have to deal with calls and going to the hospital at random times of the night and during the weekend.

This can be true many times in many different specialties. But just because you are working many hours a week and have call sometimes doesn't mean that you can't have a life outside of it! If it makes you a happier person to be a physician, this will carry over to all areas of your life and it's worth it!!
 

Law2Doc

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Hey guys,
For the past couple of weeks, I've been looking into a career in medicine. I'm willing to put up with the stress and hard work as an undergraduate and as a medical student, but I don't want my life to be consumed with my career. What I'm trying to say is that I want a stimulating and meaningful career that will not take away my life.

In my mind, when I think of physicians, I have this impression that they work for so many hours a week and even take their work home with them to finish up. Then, they also have to deal with calls and going to the hospital at random times of the night and during the weekend.

Is this true? Can someone get rid of my naivety? I really am interested in a career in medicine and as I said, I am willing to put the sweat into study, but I don't want my career to take over my life. I don't want to be stressed out my entire life, you know? I want to have balance in my life with family, friends, hobbies, etc.

Income is not a big factor for me in choosing a specialization. Can you guys give me some feedback on a physician's lifestyle and how many hours he or she works in a week? How about calls? Do all doctors get calls?

I've been really interested in family medicine. How's the lifestyle of a general practitioner? Are they consumed in their work? Do they go on calls?

Thank you.


I think you need to take a lot if the premed responses with a grain of salt. Yes medicine, like most professional jobs, is going to be a lot of hours. There's really no escaping this no matter how much people buy into the lots of different practice choices mantra you hear in preallo. You will be working up to 80ish hours per week during residency. Then for a number of specialties the hours may go down after that, though in several they actually go up. Most specialties that are considered lifestyle specialties still actually involve 50-60 hours a week of work. The one exception is EM, where they do shift work, which can end up something like three to five 8-12 hour shifts a week (usually an average in the 40s each week) but until you are more senior, those hours will all be overnight or weekends, and unlike some fields you may not have any downtime to sit down.

I'd say realistically for an early medical career (other than surgery) plan on a 60 -65 hour work week average, with periodic evening or weekend coverage obligations. You might do better or worse, but this is a pretty realistic expectation. Basically the equivalent of 10-12 hour weekdays, with an evening or weekend call obligation every week or two.

Which pretty much means only do this if you like it, because it's going to be the bulk of your awake life.
 

biomaj

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Hey guys,
For the past couple of weeks, I've been looking into a career in medicine. I'm willing to put up with the stress and hard work as an undergraduate and as a medical student, but I don't want my life to be consumed with my career. What I'm trying to say is that I want a stimulating and meaningful career that will not take away my life.

In my mind, when I think of physicians, I have this impression that they work for so many hours a week and even take their work home with them to finish up. Then, they also have to deal with calls and going to the hospital at random times of the night and during the weekend.

Is this true? Can someone get rid of my naivety? I really am interested in a career in medicine and as I said, I am willing to put the sweat into study, but I don't want my career to take over my life. I don't want to be stressed out my entire life, you know? I want to have balance in my life with family, friends, hobbies, etc.

Income is not a big factor for me in choosing a specialization. Can you guys give me some feedback on a physician's lifestyle and how many hours he or she works in a week? How about calls? Do all doctors get calls?

I've been really interested in family medicine. How's the lifestyle of a general practitioner? Are they consumed in their work? Do they go on calls?

Thank you.

I'm currently a family medicine MA, and being a premed student as well I get a lot of opportunities to see/handle/participate in things with the physicians, that others do not. Before I even read that you were interested in family medicine, I was going to reply to give you a little insight (or my insight) on a family medicine doctor's work day. Mannyyy, actually most of the physicians in my clinic only work 5-8 hour schedules twice or three times a week. Now that does not go without saying the jeopardy calls, charting times, and being on an alternate on call schedule. But compared to other clinics I've worked in, it seems like they are able to balance their home life's pretty well (from what I see at work) for example they bring their kids & wives in, have time to throw pizza parties at work, level headed enough to have open conversations with you, just things like that. I'm not saying that they aren't busy, just that their work schedules make it possible for them to work part time, if that's something you're interested in. This is only my experience in my clinic, others may have a different opinion but overall they seem to all work part time without having a crazy day, they seem to have an abundance of patients, and a pretty even flowing schedule.
 

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From my vantage point- you're asking the wrong question. Doctors typically work more hours than the average bear.

I've been the average bear for the past couple of years. 40 hours/week, 9-5, M-F. I'm not at all worried about cranking up the number of hours, not because I feel I have too much spare time, but because I have a couple of years of experience working in a job that, compared to medicine, is unrewarding and not mentally challenging. There's the difference. It's not 40 hours vs. 60 hours. It's wholly different than that. You find the avenue of medicine that will tickle your mental sweet spot the most, and the hours of the week will take care of themselves. I promise you won't be bored, twittling your thumbs while waiting for the clock to strike 5:00. I'll gladly take 70 hours of being a doctor vs. 40 hours in cube land.

Hate to be the D-bag non-trad who thinks everyone should do what he did, but a think a lot of folks who go straight into medicine from college don't have an understanding of how sweet this vocation really is compared to "real world" jobs. If you're unsure, it'd be worth your while to check it out for yourself.
 

lacrosse87

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From my vantage point- you're asking the wrong question. Doctors typically work more hours than the average bear.

I've been the average bear for the past couple of years. 40 hours/week, 9-5, M-F. I'm not at all worried about cranking up the number of hours, not because I feel I have too much spare time, but because I have a couple of years of experience working in a job that, compared to medicine, is unrewarding and not mentally challenging. There's the difference. It's not 40 hours vs. 60 hours. It's wholly different than that. You find the avenue of medicine that will tickle your mental sweet spot the most, and the hours of the week will take care of themselves. I promise you won't be bored, twittling your thumbs while waiting for the clock to strike 5:00. I'll gladly take 70 hours of being a doctor vs. 40 hours in cube land.

Hate to be the D-bag non-trad who thinks everyone should do what he did, but a think a lot of folks who go straight into medicine from college don't have an understanding of how sweet this vocation really is compared to "real world" jobs. If you're unsure, it'd be worth your while to check it out for yourself.

I definitely feel ya on this one. Graduated in 2010 and have been working as an ophthalmic technician. Although I've learned a lot about ophthalmology from the job, I feel like there's still so much I don't know. And not being able to focus my energy on really mastering the field, being able to diagnose or perform procedures, and actually be the one in charge of coming up with a plan of care for pts has been killing me.

Can't wait to matriculate, since I would gladly work more hours as a physician/surgeon than keep going with the 40 hrs/wk that I'm doing now. I also agree with the above poster's comment that I feel a lot of people going straight into med school from undergrad won't really appreciate it quite as much
 

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A lot of it is up to the physician. I know a dual certified Pediatrician / OB/Gyn - this guy basically lives in the hospital. He delivers the baby and stays on board as the pediatrician inpatient and outpatient. Then there is another OB/Gyn who limits his hours to clinic only and has someone on call do deliveries for him. This is true for all specialties - it comes down to how much of your life you want to devote to work.
 
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From my vantage point- you're asking the wrong question. Doctors typically work more hours than the average bear.

I've been the average bear for the past couple of years. 40 hours/week, 9-5, M-F. I'm not at all worried about cranking up the number of hours, not because I feel I have too much spare time, but because I have a couple of years of experience working in a job that, compared to medicine, is unrewarding and not mentally challenging. There's the difference. It's not 40 hours vs. 60 hours. It's wholly different than that. You find the avenue of medicine that will tickle your mental sweet spot the most, and the hours of the week will take care of themselves. I promise you won't be bored, twittling your thumbs while waiting for the clock to strike 5:00. I'll gladly take 70 hours of being a doctor vs. 40 hours in cube land.

Hate to be the D-bag non-trad who thinks everyone should do what he did, but a think a lot of folks who go straight into medicine from college don't have an understanding of how sweet this vocation really is compared to "real world" jobs. If you're unsure, it'd be worth your while to check it out for yourself.

I wholeheartedly agree with you. It's a real shame that many (most?) premeds don't see the value of ever having a "real" job.
 

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I wholeheartedly agree with you. It's a real shame that many (most?) premeds don't see the value of ever having a "real" job.

They're too busy providing invaluable health care to Guatemalan kids (despite having little to no formal medical training) and conducting breakthrough biomedical research (despite having only having taken the prereqs) to hold a "real" job.
 

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They're too busy providing invaluable health care to Guatemalan kids (despite having little to no formal medical training) and conducting breakthrough biomedical research (despite having only having taken the prereqs) to hold a "real" job.

You can make a difference while working a 'real' job still and also do volunteer opportunities in your spare time. I've been a biomedical engineer since graduation and will continue until I matriculate and my work is making a difference. This experience and time away from school will be invaluable to me in the future in terms of perspective and overall happiness as a doctor. Additionally, stating that all pre-meds are doing the things you mentioned for their entire gap years is pretty far-fetched... New research doesn't reach patients without institutes and companies in place to mass replicate the process for the global population.
 
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JCTWP46

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Wow, that is a HUGE over-estimate for EM hours per week. Definitely not typical judging by the emergency medicine forum. 40-50 seems common in residency, with a little under 40 common for attendings.

Agreed. The shifts at the hospital I scribe at are 9 hours, usually seeing no new pt's after 8 hours. Seems to me most of the doctors there work around 45 hours a week, give or take.
 

EBTrailRunner

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From my vantage point- you're asking the wrong question. Doctors typically work more hours than the average bear.

I've been the average bear for the past couple of years. 40 hours/week, 9-5, M-F. I'm not at all worried about cranking up the number of hours, not because I feel I have too much spare time, but because I have a couple of years of experience working in a job that, compared to medicine, is unrewarding and not mentally challenging. There's the difference. It's not 40 hours vs. 60 hours. It's wholly different than that. You find the avenue of medicine that will tickle your mental sweet spot the most, and the hours of the week will take care of themselves. I promise you won't be bored, twittling your thumbs while waiting for the clock to strike 5:00. I'll gladly take 70 hours of being a doctor vs. 40 hours in cube land.

Hate to be the D-bag non-trad who thinks everyone should do what he did, but a think a lot of folks who go straight into medicine from college don't have an understanding of how sweet this vocation really is compared to "real world" jobs. If you're unsure, it'd be worth your while to check it out for yourself.

Well said. I've been working 9-5, M-F this past year. While it's nice to be able to forget about work once the clock strikes 5 and to have every weekend off, it's excruciatingly unfulfilling and unrewarding work. I wouldn't necessarily say I'm looking forward to spending significantly more time working in the near future, but I think the job satisfaction from getting to do something I truly love will trump having to work longer.
 

flatearth22

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I kind of resent this comment seeing that you can make a difference while working a 'real' job still and also do volunteer opportunities in your spare time. I've been a biomedical engineer since graduation and will continue until I matriculate and my work is making a difference. This experience and time away from school will be invaluable to me in the future in terms of perspective and overall happiness as a doctor. Additionally, stating that all pre-meds are doing the things you mentioned for their entire gap years is pretty far-fetched...

I was referring more to what kids do during UG, not in gap years. It's all about padding the resume by acquiring suitable experiences instead of doing something more practical. Instead of spending a summer working as a cashier or busboy, acquring real-world work experience, premeds are much more apt to fork over thousands of dollars for a medical mission (glorified vacation) in order to display their deep-seated altruism or work for free/little pay in a lab doing the mindless scutwork of some grad student or postdoc and pass it off for legit research.
 
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A lot of it is up to the physician. I know a dual certified Pediatrician / OB/Gyn - this guy basically lives in the hospital. He delivers the baby and stays on board as the pediatrician inpatient and outpatient. Then there is another OB/Gyn who limits his hours to clinic only and has someone on call do deliveries for him. This is true for all specialties - it comes down to how much of your life you want to devote to work.

The "I know a guy" type posts are most often misleading. A lot has changed in medicine, and folks who got established years ago probably have a different set up than most people coming out these days will ever have, sorry. Its why i always tell folks to shadow very young attendings or expect a warped view of medicine. As an OB GYN, no you won't likely "have someone" to do the deliveries for you. Most likely you will be that someone on call for the older partner who got in before loans shot up and reimbursements shot down. Decades from now you will still be that someone because the money to have two people fill that one job is really no longer there. The old guy will retire and nobody will be brought in to replace him. There are part time jobs you could find, but usually in medicine part time means 40 hours a week at half the 60 hour per week salary, and a big hit to potential career progression (The reason it's not prorated is because the expense of having two part time employees doing one full time job are not equivalent in terms of medmal premiums, G&A etc.)

So yeah, ignore a lot if the posts that suggest you can work as little as you want in medicine. You cant without big career costs. Same as many other professions. This is a field Where the workload only goes up while the reimbursement only goes down. If you don't plan to work hard, probably shouldnt bother. But again, if you really enjoy what you are doing, and are not living for the weekend, you can have a nice career.
 

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From my vantage point- you're asking the wrong question. Doctors typically work more hours than the average bear.

I've been the average bear for the past couple of years. 40 hours/week, 9-5, M-F. I'm not at all worried about cranking up the number of hours, not because I feel I have too much spare time, but because I have a couple of years of experience working in a job that, compared to medicine, is unrewarding and not mentally challenging. There's the difference. It's not 40 hours vs. 60 hours. It's wholly different than that. You find the avenue of medicine that will tickle your mental sweet spot the most, and the hours of the week will take care of themselves. I promise you won't be bored, twittling your thumbs while waiting for the clock to strike 5:00. I'll gladly take 70 hours of being a doctor vs. 40 hours in cube land.

:thumbup: This could not be more true.
 

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From my vantage point- you're asking the wrong question. Doctors typically work more hours than the average bear.

I've been the average bear for the past couple of years. 40 hours/week, 9-5, M-F. I'm not at all worried about cranking up the number of hours, not because I feel I have too much spare time, but because I have a couple of years of experience working in a job that, compared to medicine, is unrewarding and not mentally challenging. There's the difference. It's not 40 hours vs. 60 hours. It's wholly different than that. You find the avenue of medicine that will tickle your mental sweet spot the most, and the hours of the week will take care of themselves. I promise you won't be bored, twittling your thumbs while waiting for the clock to strike 5:00. I'll gladly take 70 hours of being a doctor vs. 40 hours in cube land.

Hate to be the D-bag non-trad who thinks everyone should do what he did, but a think a lot of folks who go straight into medicine from college don't have an understanding of how sweet this vocation really is compared to "real world" jobs. If you're unsure, it'd be worth your while to check it out for yourself.

+1. Having been in the workforce myself, I agree. (M)any lucrative profession(s) have the same proportional relationship with hours/money. I know you said money isn't a factor, but if you want to be in a certain income bracket, I think medicine is actually pretty sweet for the amount of hours. Also, a thing about stress-- I think medicine is actually less stressful than a lot of jobs in the private sector because of the job stability. While being on the actual floor is obviously challenging and stimulating, you won't get your contract terminated unless you seriously F up. Compare that to most private sector jobs that are much more economy sensitive, not to mention more dependent on internal politics.
 

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Some examples:

Emergency medicine: Not your typical 9-5. Work lots of weekends and holidays. Usually 60-80 hours a week. Lots do it in 12-24 hour shifts. No call for the most part, when you're off, you're off. My friends in EM typically have decent family lives with some additional stress around holidays that they have to work.

Family practice is more the 9-5 type gig, but you have call. My friends in FP also have decent family lives and have somewhat steady routines, but also seem to have less free time in general. Most of 'em make every church league softball game etc...

I keep hearing that derm is the best for lifestyle. Don't know any personally so can't comment.

Have one surgeon friend who seems to fit in well with the EM type schedule, with more of the surprise call-ins. Good family life as well.

Basically it's up to you, it's gonna be a lot of "work", but as it's been said: "if you love your job, you'll never work a day in your life.". You will make time for the things that are important to you. If your plan is to be the perfect dad/spouse/doctor, you'll fail. You can certainly reach an acceptable level at each of these at the same time though.

The ideal model for EM is 4x12 hour shifts. It is considered a lifestyle specialty by some. You wont be working 60-80 hours...unless you want to.
 

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The ideal model for EM is 4x12 hour shifts. It is considered a lifestyle specialty by some. You wont be working 60-80 hours...unless you want to.

Agreed. However during those 12 hour shifts you may be running around for the entire 12 hours. And while you are more junior in the group, a disproportionate number of those hours will be overnight or weekend shifts. I'm not sure that slower paced 11 hour days M-F, with an occasional evening or weekend call is actully more disruptive to life, even if the total sum hours are better in EM. So I'd still go with what you like first and foremost, and not focus on the hours quite as much. You cannot be a doctor and live for the weekends like you might if you worked at the local Walmart.
 

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I actually see some time savings and flexibility that will be coming in from emerging and implemented IT that are used smartly. A lot of people are getting caught up in the trap, where they don't really optimize their workflows or care to understand, and are spending more hours, staying very late to finish up notes or charting, blowing their weekly hours 5-10+.

But there's so many opportunities for physicians that actually learn and embrace some of the technology that are now available and improving. For example, being on call can be a lot less restricting and annoying when you can now prescribe, dictate, and chart from your phone.

Physicians are never going to work any less, but it's certainly going to be much better ways of being more efficient and having a better life outside work for those who look for the tools.
 

Law2Doc

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I actually see some time savings and flexibility that will be coming in from emerging and implemented IT that are used smartly. A lot of people are getting caught up in the trap, where they don't really optimize their workflows or care to understand, and are spending more hours, staying very late to finish up notes or charting, blowing their weekly hours 5-10+.

But there's so many opportunities for physicians that actually learn and embrace some of the technology that are now available and improving. For example, being on call can be a lot less restricting and annoying when you can now prescribe, dictate, and chart from your phone.

Physicians are never going to work any less, but it's certainly going to be much better ways of being more efficient and having a better life outside work for those who look for the tools.

More efficient, maybe. But finding a terminal to order meds, dictate, or review the chart was never really the problem. Actually what I see happening at the more technology savvy programs Is that your work day isn't changing much, but now there is opportunity to have you finish up things from home ON TOP of the work hour restrictions since you will have easier remote access. so advances in technology make it easier to hose you without breaking the rules. Thanks technology. :(
 

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OP, get into derm. You can set up a good private practice making tons of money while working very little hours doing things that in no way justify your hefty income. It's a win-win situation.
 
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