The Mrs. The Mommy. The M.D.: Readers Want to Know: Should I Go to Medical School?
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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Readers Want to Know: Should I Go to Medical School?

I get questions from readers all the time asking whether or not I think they should go to medical school. This is a VERY personal decision that you have to decide for yourself. However, having gone through medical school myself and after making many difficult decisions to pursue this career, I do have some advice.

Obviously, first and foremost you need to have an interest in medicine. But once you get past that, here are the bigger things to think about when making the decision as to whether or not you should go to medical school.

Do you like school?

4th grade. See? Nerd. 
Because on the road to MD, there is a lot of it. Not to sound nerdy, but I have always enjoyed school. Of course, it wasn't always fun, but my passion for the subject matter kept me going. In order to become a physician, you have to complete high school, complete 4 years of college - with emphasis on doing well in the required prerequisites for medical school, complete 4 years of medical school, and between 3-6 years of residency depending on what field to decide to go on to.  Some physicians will then pursue a fellowship - such as high-risk obstetrics, critical care medicine, or hematology - which is an additional training after your residency. Also, at various points in your schooling, you will be required to take multiple board exams which standardizes everyone's curriculum.

Are you okay with delayed gratification? 

The road to medical school is the epitome of delayed gratification. One of my classmates from my post-bac program  - when comparing herself to her peers and close friends who are well into their careers - referred to herself as "The Little Engine That Could". That just about sums it up.  Many physicians look back and see that when compared to their matched peers, there were the last of the group to become "adults" so to speak.  They were the last ones to buy a house.  They were the last ones to start families. I'm kind of an anomaly - luckily the face of the medical student is changing. But I often think about if things for me hadn't turned out the way they did, when would I have started a family? My family and I have (and still) put off major decisions - until deadlines like Match Day, graduation, completion of residency, etc.

White Coat Ceremony circa 2010

Are you okay with debt?

Some Ecards

Everyone doesn't walk away from medical school with significant debt burden.  But the majority of us do. For those of us without a rich uncle, or a lucky PowerBall ticket, medical school can mean walking away with not only a degree, but also hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loans. That being said, you may be blessed to find scholarships for your medical schooling. These exist and I know firsthand, because I had one.

Do an extensive web search, but also, investigate the various schools that you're interested in and and see if they offer any medical school specific scholarships. Many of my classmates also joined the service or committed to public service type specialties for which their medical school education was covered.

Can you see yourself doing anything else? 
Homemade plexiglass whiteboards for studying...all the time

No really. If the answer to this question is "yes", then you definitely have some self reflection to do. I don't say that to be harsh, but when the "going gets tough", you do not want to regret your decision.

Whether or not to become a physician is not something that you can decide overnight.  Not only does this decision require a tremendous amount of time and energy to reach your goal, it means time away from the ones you love and minimal time for yourself. You may miss birthdays, weddings, friend vacations, or your kids' school presentations.

These things, although much improved as you become a practicing physician, are still there.
Being a physician means making sacrifices to put others needs before your own every day. Even the best, most passionate, well-meaning physicians get tired, so if your heart is not in medicine, you will quickly get burnt out.


Hope this is helpful! You can always email me with more questions at and they may become a "Readers Want to Know Post"!

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