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To medical students: the doctors of the future

By Heidi Moawad

As a medical student, you are the future of health care. Despite the persistent negativity about the state of health care and the seemingly never-ending health care crisis, you have astutely perceived the benefits of becoming a physician. There is no doubt that health care delivery is unreasonably complex for everyone involved and, as much as political party loyalists insist that this is the fault of the ‘other’ party, the bureaucracy and inefficiencies have endured despite the back-and-forth changing hands of responsibility.

Fortunately, you have seen past the commotion and panic, and steadfastly remained optimistic. There is not a single medical student who ended up where he or she is by accident. The completion of rigorous undergraduate pre-medical prerequisite courses, outstanding grades, and top-notch MCAT scores required for application to medical school only come to those who have a well-thought-out plan, combined with a commitment and perseverance to become physicians. Medical school acceptance is exceedingly competitive, involving a multistep application process starting with preliminary applications, and then progressing to selective invitations for secondary applications and interviews. Academic excellence is the entry point, while interviews serve to distinguish young people who have a passion and a gift for helping humanity. Interviews are granted to few; offers of positions in a medical school class are even fewer.

medical studentsYou have already overcome all of these hurdles and remained focused. You are fortunate to begin your medical education at a time when you can shape the future of the profession. Medical education is becoming more innovative, going beyond traditional approaches to learning. The potential benefits for students are endless. With these advantages, come higher expectations. As a doctor of tomorrow, you will often expect yourself to improve the world around you for your patients.

The direction of health care will certainly improve as your generation of young physicians in training masters the knowledge and proficiencies necessary to become licensed MDs in a few years. The capabilities that will make you a leader are skills that cannot be measured, yet can absolutely be learned. Like many of today’s future doctors, you are likely to find yourself driven to improve the health care options available for patients or to use technology in new ways that have not been thought of before. There has been an increasing trend of physicians playing roles that have not been defined previously.

As a young physician, while you fulfill the requirements for licensing, you may discover that there is more than one way to be a doctor. Some of the ways to be a doctor involve non-clinical work, which typically does not enjoy a well-established path. If you choose to establish experience and find employment in alternative areas besides clinical practice, you will find that you don’t have built in access to guidance and direction. Yet, it is advantageous for you to understand all of the professional opportunities available to you while you embark on the road to becoming physicians. Knowledge is power. Every young doctor ought to appreciate the full array of options after graduation from medical school. This can help set the stage for career satisfaction in the long term. You can attain a career path that is challenging and fulfilling. The results for medicine as a profession will be enhanced when all doctors use their skills and talents in the way that fits best.

Heidi Moawad, MD is neurologist and author of Careers Beyond Clinical Medicine, an instructional book for doctors who are looking for jobs in non-clinical fields. Read her previous blog posts.

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Image credit: Multiracial medical students wearing lab coats studying in classroom. Photo by goldenKB, iStockphoto.

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