A few days ago, after sharing with the Twitterverse, my vast experience with struggle while applying to medical school (23 rejections, yup, twenty-three), an aspiring medical student replied to me with this question:
And I was struck dumb, because honestly, it’s not something I think about so often anymore. But I was grateful to them because it made me think (and rethink) all the reasons I so often lay out to those that ask me. Because we can go from the generic “I want to help people” to the extremely personal, and still, at the end of the day, most of us say the same thing. So for all those aspiring physicians out there, here are some of my favorite reasons why I fell in love with medicine and why you might have fallen in love, too.
#1 I want to help people.
It’s cliché, but only because it’s really true and I find that true across the board. No matter where I’ve been in the world, whenever I’ve met and asked a doctor about their desire to become a physician, this reason always makes the list. As doctors, we are equipped and placed in a unique opportunity to help people in so many different ways – whether it be as clinicians, diagnosticians, researchers, educators or advocates – when you fall in love with medicine, you fall in love with humanity.
#2 I love service.
You know that five love languages quiz that people began to talk about a few years back? Well, when I take the quiz, mine always comes up as “Acts of Service,” meaning that the way that I show my loved ones that I care about them deeply, is by doing small mundane things for them that I think will brighten up their day or lighten their burden or relieve their stress! It has always been my way, as far as I can remember. In my clerkship year, I realized that it was very much why I loved being a doctor. The service part seemed natural to me and it was the part that I appreciated the most. I enjoyed spending time speaking to the family, running to grab a blanket for a patient or throw some ice chips in a cup. These small acts were what made the large, looming stress of medicine bearable and it was in them that I found my calling, time and time again.
#3 Medicine is bigger than self.
The other part of medicine that I loved was the realization that much of what I was doing was no longer for me. I remember sitting in anatomy class (one of my worst classes ever, second only to pharmacology), and having such a hard time memorizing and remembering all the small muscles and nerves and ducts and feeling exasperated constantly. I remember wondering at that point if my future was really in medicine! A wise mentor and faculty member then shared with us that what got them through medicine was someone telling them that they were no longer studying just for grades. They were not studying to earn academic honors, awards and accolades; they were studying to save a life. Realizing that scared me! And, at the same time, I was in awe of that fact, that something that I struggled with could someday be the fact that saved or made a difference in the care of a single person.
It was, and still is, enough.
#4 I enjoy challenging my brain with the constant intellectual inquiry and growth
If you’ve read my other articles here on Physeo, you know by now that I’m a self-proclaimed nerd. I loved the fact that medicine consists of lifelong learning! We are constantly challenged in this field to learn more, to go deeper, to find more sources – we are told to question, to ask, to research, to innovate. Eager minds and quests for knowledge are celebrated. Progress is sought after. Books are constantly being published, updated, and revised. There is a constant swell of new knowledge coming to the forefront with each passing month and year – the past year’s pandemic is proof of that. Because I love to learn and because I love the challenge, I felt that medicine was where I would be able to continue to feed that desire for more for the rest of my life. So far, I’m still finding new things to gawk at every single day! And I love that.
#5 I couldn’t imagine doing anything else
So what did I end up replying, you might ask? Because let’s be real – this entire article would be difficult to boil down into 240 characters or less! I leave you with my reply and ask you the same question – why’d you want to be a doctor, anyways?