Thursday, August 6, 2009

MiM mailbag: Doctor aspirations in high school

Hey There.

I am a high school student looking quite forward to being a doctor, but i have mixed feelings.

since i was in 6th grade, i have known that i was meant to be a doctor. i have a friendly "charismatic" personality (as my dad likes to tell me frequently), i enjoy children, love mysteries (puzzles, ect.), and i love love love to watch those shows on discovery health that everyone else in my family is too disgusted to watch. okay, this may not make me a good doctor, but it's my dream, and i am one of those people who end up getting what they want. i always have been the type of person that if someone tells me i can't, i'll make sure that i can.

but more than anything in the world, being a mother is my dream. i want to be a wife, and mother of many children. (many many children according to my mother- i want at least 5 kids). i know this is possible reading your posts. i can be a mother and a doctor. but i also read some of your posts stating that you wouldn't recommend doing this, and if you had to do it all over again you wouldn't.

although i have at least five years before i would enter medical school, my whole life is based upon one day being a doctor. i am taking all advanced classes, including math and science (sigh). and if you MiM's don't think it's worth it, i'm really not sure what i'm going to do.

i guess what i'm really asking is: do you love it? do you think those excruciating years of medical school, residency, ect. were worth it for your life right now? are you there for your kids in the best possible way? or are you dreading going to work every single day because your going to miss your wonderful family?

i have two dreams, and i know i could do them both; i just don't know how fufilling it would be to try to do "everything" so to speak. i want to have the relationship i currently have with my mother, with my kids. is this truly possible having a career in medicine?

p.s. (sorry i have to sneak this question in here) i know i have tons of time to truly figure this question out in med. school, but as you can tell in my post above that i'm a planner, and i need to know these things ahead of time. I have in the past thought of being a pediatrician, but i really want to truly make a difference in someone's life -and i'm not sure this is the way for me to do it. i am currently thinking of being an Ob/Gyn- the process of a growing child is just amazing, but i prefer the Ob part compared to the Gyn part. Do people do that? or is it pretty unheard of? or is there any other specialty that would be a better fit for me?

My interests include
1. children (preferably babies)
2. pregnancies
3. multiples (twins, triplets, etc)
4. psychology (the way the mind works- not really diseases or drug abuse)
5. " "(but i am interested in physical and emotional abuse and how it effects future dealings)

sorry- one more question: i am thinking of having a psychology major in college (along with the typical pre-med classes). anybody do this?

thank you and sorry for the very longgg question. i love all of your blogs and you really are helping me decide my future.


  1. I think you should enjoy these years to experiment and explore. You need not be doing anything special as a high school student to go to med school. I was a literature major at a small liberal arts college who decided as a junior to start taking science classes and go to med school. I ended up, after a one year hiatus post-college, attending one of the country's best med schools. At 28 years old, I hadn't yet even met my future husband. At 35, we had three kids together. It is absolutely possible to have a gratifying career in medicine and be a mother. Even a mother of many kids (we are deciding about #4 ourselves now). My biggest point is that you have plenty of time to decide all of these things. For now, though, just enjoy being a kid yourself. I know you probably don't think of yourself as a kid, and you are certainly very mature for your age. But being a kid is fun and doesn't last forever, no matter how hard you try. Have lots of fun. You are not even yet to the beginning of your great journey.

  2. Do what interests you! I got my bachelor's in business (though it would have been Spanish and Economics if I had my choice). I worked in the "real world" for three years before thinking about medical school. I traveled abroad quite a bit (one of my interests). I met my husband in college because I was at a party - not in my room studying (see what that can do to your GPA!).

    Take classes in college that interest you. No matter what you will have to find a balance in life and you will be pulled in a thousand different directions. As for whether it is worth it is completely dependent on you.

    You can definitely just do OB. But don't worry about any of that now. If you still decide to go to medical school later you will have to do a third year with a little of everything and that will better help you decide what you want to do.

    Good luck! College is fun. Being independent is fun. Finding who you really are without your parents around is fun.

    I am an intern, and going to work for 30 hours is sometimes easier than staying home with my baby. Emotionally and physically easier for me. Can't say why. But I miss hubby and son a lot. I am actually glad Luke won't remember these years at all and he is too young to get upset that I am gone a lot.

  3. i guess what i'm really asking is: do you love it?


    do you think those excruciating years of medical school, residency, ect. were worth it for your life right now?

    Loved medical school - met my husband there. Loved residency. (back before the 80-hour work rule). Never for a minute doubted my decision because of the training.

    are you there for your kids in the best possible way? or are you dreading going to work every single day because your going to miss your wonderful family?

    If "best possible way" means that I'm there for them as a happy, fulfilled working mom who gets serious job satisfaction and intellectual challenge - despite having to do some work on the weekends - then, yes, I am there for them. My work is meaningful. I'm doing what I love. I think my kids can see that - that is worth a lot.

    And like Tempeh said, you are so very early. Be open to different experiences. Challenge your mind during college --while I did the usual premed curriculum also made sure to explore areas I had any interest in - including Econ, Sociology, Urban Studies, yes, Psychology. Your major of choice matters less than your passion for it.

  4. Yes, it is worth it. And yes, like the others said, do what you love. Absolutely major in psych if that's what you're interested in. I majored in English/American Studies and I knew I wanted to go do medical school from the start. Best thing I could have done.

    And, as they said, have fun. Not because it's your last chance, but because it's a good habit to get into. :-)

  5. It sounds like medicine is really something you want to do, so you certainly should pursue it if feel inclined. If you go straight through to med school from college, you will be young enough to wait till your training is over to have kids if you desire.

    Lots of pre-meds major in psych, much more than you'd think, so don't worry so much about that. And you definitely shouldn't worry about your choice of specialty... most med students don't make that decision till their third year, some even later.

  6. Yes. Love pediatrics, love mothering. Combining the two is the best way (I've found) of making a difference in people's lives (my own, my own kids, and my patients).

    Yes. Some physicians were psychology majors in college (I was, and no regrets there).

    No. By no means dreading work. You'll find the balance that works for you. You'll find the balance that works for you and your partner if you are fortunate to have a partner like mine.

    Indeed, you seem to be very much a planner (have that type A personality perhaps?), but do take a deep breath and enjoy what you are doing in the moment as well. Please don't skip ahead too much. Have fun. And, know that you don't have to do everything at once or on an artificial timeline created by somebody else, you'll do what works for you.

    And us MIM's are here for you rooting you on!

  7. I'm not yet a mother, but I'm in my last year of med school, figuring out where I'll be for residency (in OB/Gyn), and I like your questions. You sound exactly like I did when I was in High School, but I had less self confidence, not sure I'd find a husband for my dorky-self. I decided to keep heading towards medicine because it was the only part of my life I could 'control'. I don't regret it, it is fulfilling and worthwhile, but when I think about having a baby on top of my 100 hour workweek, I cringe. My intern hasn't seen her baby awake in 6 days, we're all so tired and overworked that the idea of a human other than myself to care for just seems overwhelming. It's hard. It's beyond hard. I had no idea what it would be like... I am in the hospital by 4:30 each morning, and I rarely leave before 7. I have one day off a week, (today), and I sleep, grocery shop, and return emails on that day off. I can hardly care for myself, no way can I care for a baby... Sometimes I question if it's worth it. I want a baby as soon as we (fiancee and I) can, but... it just doesn't seem wise until I'm through with residency (and 33 years old...)... women do it, but I don't know how.

  8. to respond to anonymous, just above. Women do it, and it is fine. You have to have faith and convictions that all of it matters - being with your kids and medicine.

    to respond to the original poster - you should relax and experience things. if you do end up a doctor, you will be a better person, mother and doctor, and if you decide something else is your true passion, you will be fine too! i went to medical school convinced i was going to be a pediatrician - and lets just say that would have been the worst choice possible for me. if i had known pediatrics was out, I probably wouldn't have gone to medical school. but I am happy every day that i am a physician, and I love my family more than anything. and they are doing great.

  9. Hi - I think that most of us love what we do (or we would be actively looking for something else!); but it's not the easiest road to travel - and it's difficult to plan everything in advance. I was going to major in psychology - but ended up in the "hard sciences" because I enjoyed those classes so much more. I thought seriously about OB/GYN as a career choice, until I had the opportunity as a med student to really explore the other options - and ended up in something that I could have never foreseen, but love every minute of.

    So, keep your dreams alive - but keep your eyes and ears open for new opportunities as they present themselves. And good luck.

  10. Just wanted to drop in with these little tidbits about me:
    -majored in English lit in college
    -had a kid before med school and one during
    -wanted to be a pediatrician but fell in love with anesthesiology during my LAST rotation in med school
    -it's a great fit for someone who wants to be a mom, likes to solve puzzles, and wants to make a difference not only day to day but also moment to moment
    -if I had stayed in peds, I probably would have gone on to a NICU fellowship - LOVE babies, love intensive care

    There are DAYS when it doesn't feel worth it, There are DAYS when I just don't want to go to work and dread leaving my family. There are moments when it's exhausting and stressful and I just want to turn back the clock and be in high school or college again. But overall? I LOVE THE WORK I DO. I am glad I chose this path. A rough day here and there, even a rough year here and there, haven't made me love medicine less - just the rough stuff that it sometimes comes with. If you truly feel medicine is the love of your life, then go for it.

    But I agree with those above who've also pointed out how much time there is for you. That's SO great! I didn't decide to go to med school till AFTER college. The other commenters are right: ENJOY YOUR YOUTH, do what you love best, major in what you're passionate about, and don't worry too much about the rest.


  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. im the mother of two beautiful children.
    im a pediatrician and i work full time.
    i wouldnt change either of these, EVER.
    being a mom has helped me become a better pediatrician. and being a pediatrician has helped me become a better mom.
    the pain of medical school and residency (although at the time, sometimes i felt it was unbearable), was absolutely worth it. when i see where i am now- in a wonderful job (working full time) that allows me to balance work and family- i have no regrets and would do it all again without a second thought!

  13. Totally worth it.

    I was an art history major in college. Finished half the pre-med classes there. Spent the year after college taking premed courses in a post bac program. Worked in a lab for a year while I applied to med schools and thought about the meaning of getting really serious with my boyfriend, now husband and father to my three kids.

    Was SOOO grateful for the short time off I had between colege and med school It made med school so much more palatable.

    Did a psychiatry residency and one year fellowship. Then took another year off while "home" with my second child. While "home: I volunteered 25 hours a week for my first's coop play school.

    Then joined a private practice with an old residency pal.

    So fun all parts of life. And someone else mentioned it was all before the work hour limitations in residency!

  14. I am really amazed by each of you! You are all such a well rounded bunch. I decided I wanted to be a doctor in high school. I planned, organized and fought to get ahead. I volunteered in a hospital, stuffed charts in the ICU. Deciphered MDs handwriting and looked up what was wrong with the patients at night. I stood in a corner when a patient coded. I was in awe, scared and felt wickedly alive. I majored in chemistry, spent my summers doing research. Did med school, fell in love, got married, residency, fellowship, another fellowship, started practice, had a baby. Achieving goals never fulfilled me like I expected it to. Medicine requires a great deal of sacrifice. Each of us commits to this then gives way more than a reasonable human would. It is best to do it because you enjoy the process. I would have found happiness much earlier if I had figured that one out early. If you never figure that out it is hard to be a doctor/spouse/mother.

  15. Here's a mother of a one year old girl who was born in my final year of a "lifestyle" residency, took six weeks maternity before returning full time, currently doing fellowship. The last year, I have been both the most exhilarated and the most miserable I have ever been in my life. The lack of sleep was unimagined and painful. I still haven't slept through a night. Your brain doesn't function like it used to. You get gender typecast as a mom, and no one considers you as a researcher anymore, even if you have 20+ publications (more than some of my attendings). At the same time, because I was so drained, it was very hard for me to counteract this.

    I have always worked hard towards and loved practising medicine, but the truth is that it does take a LOT of time. And that is time I can't spend with my daughter. And here is the other thing- my daughter, to me, is the most amazing and gratifying thing in the world. I see her, and no matter how tired I am, I am happy.

    I do think that kids are better when they have their parents around. I know about all the research that says that high quality day care is equivalent. I know that many of my friends are perfectly happy with the quality of the day care that our children attend. However, when I spend time with my daughter in the classroom, I see those same babies lying on the floor and crying for ten minutes and not being picked up, and it breaks my heart.

    We spent the last week with my daughter on vacation, and in that week she learned to walk freely, clap her hands, stack rings on a stacking toy, pick her nose (oh dear...), and say her cousin's name (her third word). She also made some significant social progress by not just taking toys away from her cousin, but actually giving them back when the other girl started to cry. This last thing, I know she would have never been able to learn in kindergarden, because the teachers just shrug their shoulders and move one of the kids to another area where there are different toys.

    I don't have an answer for you or even for myself. Should I stop working and be a SAHM? After 15+ years of medical/science training? I think I would be depressed. Or do I choose to hope that my daughter will be ok, and that she will figure things out with very little guidance?

    One thing I think I know. If you do medicine, you will not have a lot of time for your kids, and someone else will do most of the rearing. I personally don't know how one can have 4 children and do medicine- hats off to those who can. But I think it is fair to say that children need time with their parents. Time is in very short supply when you are a physician. If you are ok with that, and I know many people are, and I am not wanting to judge that at all, then go ahead. For me personally, the reality of this amazing little girl has made it very hard to leave for work each morning, and to stay those additional 30 minutes at the end of the day to do the extra project.

    To me, medicine, at the end of the day, is a highly, highly rewarding profession, despite the long hours and sometimes harsh work environment. At the same time, my daughter is, well, my daughter. I am torn in the middle. I feel that I am not doing any of the two well enough. Meanwhile, there's no time for me to take care of myself, connect with my husband, stay in touch with any of my friends, or even get enough sleep. It is very, very, brutally hard. I hate to be discouraging, and if I were in your shoes, I would probably not give a whiff about some burnt out person's rambles on a blog. But if I could snip my fingers and be in the place where I am now with a satisfying, manageable job other than medicine, I think I might.

  16. Great comments. I am mother of 3, had all after a VERY hard residency (pre-80hr work week). I would say, if there is something else you love, do it. For me, there was nothing else that I loved as much as medicine and it was the right choice. I love what I do. But cutting corners, leaving early is just not an option when you are caring for patients. If you are in business, perhaps you just don't move ahead as quickly in your career when you leave to make a soccer game. My husband is an MD. We cannot both work clinical days at the same time (unless my parents spend the night), our hours are too long and odd for any nanny. So I am part-time (and part of that is research). That is the only way we can make it work. The compromise is that I work all the time and I spend lots of time with my kids (much of my research work can be done at home while the nanny is here). And I have no time to sleep or rest or relax. Mothering and doctoring are the 2 most meaningful things in my life. I don't know what else I'd do...

  17. Major in whatever you want to in college. I wish I knew more about economics, for example. Medicine is amazing, but take a look at public health (MPH degree) -- I have both degrees, and while I love what I'm doing with my MD, I know I would have found total happiness with just the MPH. I'm not a mom yet, but dealing with all the struggles that come with juggling motherhood with medicine. I remember being younger and knowing that the only thing I ever wanted to be when I grew up was a doctor, and planning out the path to get there. In some ways, the last 10 years have gone by quickly (I had my 10-year high school reunion last night!), but in other ways, they've gone by slowly enough that I've had time to do lots of exploring (of the world, of myself, of my friends and family, and of my relationship).

    And definitely don't worry right now about what kind of doctor you're going to be. I thought any of a number of things was suited to me, and then fell in love at the last minute with the one thing I had completely written off, so there's plenty of time for those decisions.

    Good luck!

  18. I am a mom, wife and a doctor. Yes, the years of residency and fellowship are hard and supportive family is helpful. I had my baby in fellowship and was on bed rest! It took me three years to finish my fellowship instead of two! Do I regret anything? probably not, however, becoming a Cardiovascular surgeon was my dream, but my husband thought I would never be home if I became one. I still think about it often, but in the end, I think I am reasonably happy that I listened to him, and that is important! I do hope that I could see my baby more often, but I guess I love my job and my work, working and curing diseases, and seeing my patients' confidence in has me going. I think being a physician is the best career and I am thankful to God and everyone who has helped me become one..a good one.


Comments on posts older than 14 days are moderated as a spam precaution. So.Much.Spam.