After graduating from highschool, I got accepted in a leading university back in the Philippines (University of Santo Tomas, the oldest existing university in Asia – even older than Harvard University, and the biggest Catholic University in the world) for a pre-med course (BS major in Psychology), a 4-year course one usually finishes before pursuing the degree itself leading to a degree in Medicine. But as developments would take their course, I decided not to study in that university. In hindsight, the said university must have accepted me as an incoming freshman, because I had better chances of pursuing medical studies. Also, the school administrators must have seen and checked that one of my relatives, my Mom’s sister, finished her Medical Degree from the same university. Finishing my undergraduate degree over 20 years ago, I can share certain scenarios to prospective Medical school students who currently weigh their options on whether to pursue their Medical Degree or not:
1) If you can describe your plan to become a Medical Doctor mainly as a capricious scheme, and not strongly grounded in your deep personal desires, it is wiser not pursue a Medicine degree at all. Also, it doesn’t follow that if one of your esteemed family relations is a Medical Doctor, you have to finish the degree, too. It takes much more than having blood relations to motivate you to finish medical school. Being a Medical Doctor is a highly honorable lifetime vocation (just like the priesthood, the practice of law, being a teacher, being a parent, among other fields) and not just a diploma that you conveniently hang on the wall to impress family members, relatives, acquaintances who usually don’t know any better what entails behind finishing a Medical Degree.
2) You have to get reliable and sustainable sources of financial support to finish your Medical Degree. The costs vary according to countries, and they cost more especially in countries that are essentially capitalist in economic orientation, where market forces dictate costs including that of education. My Aunt, who’s the Medical Doctor I was referring to earlier, was most willing to support me, but she asked my parents to shoulder part of the costs. My Father realistically would not be able to afford it. He had a spotty employment track record that could not provide for reasonable means to support the medical school studies of his son (myself).
3) If you’ve noticed Medical Doctors are earning much more than the typical employees, look again more closely. It’s a function, really, of the number of years spent on studying, in this case, at least 10 years, that have provided medical school graduates with the values of discipline, focus and perseverance, which they have then transferred and made a lot of use in their medical practice. As such, you can also make use of the same tactic by spending at least 10 years of hard work in studying along the field that excites your heart and mind. You don’t really need to take Medicine just to make the same principle work in your case. You can actually become a PhD holder by pursuing another field that is much closer to your interests.
4) Your eventual goal is to become wealthy, hence, the decision to pursue Medicine? Unknown to most people, majority of Medical Doctors end up not being particularly wealthy towards the end of their careers, or upon retirement. They just have enough savings than most people, which amount may probably be useful to start a business, or get them to do something else that they want other than medicine. With all the time spent dealing with patients, with a complex health care system now existing anywhere, even if they’re paid high salaries and the best set of benefits, they hardly have the time to build their wealth. And being tired and exhausted most of the times, most of them end up seeking out time for a downtime someplace. They may be ending up spending a big portion of their earnings during their downtime, i.e. vacation and rest time. Building wealth is also a full time endeavor that calls for a lot of practical thinking, crafting out details of strategy, and implementing consistent sets of action. If you want to be wealthy, the wiser approach is to pursue a career in entrepreneurship (or as a businessperson). It is best you study this approach now, and check on those accomplished others who have chosen this path along business, rather than getting into Medical School.
But don’t stress yourself much from weighing your options in pursuing advanced studies. There were many others who planned to become Medical Doctors but eventually ended up pursuing other careers; many ended up becoming well-known writers. Paul Theroux, the famous travel writer, wrote in one of his books, that he could have been a Medical Doctor if he didn’t become the writer that he is now. Another one was Michael Crichton (of the “Jurassic Park” movie fame). Other recognizable names include Anton Chekhov, W. Somerset Maugham, and William Carlos Williams – all were medical doctors. Now, if it’s just holding on to a “Doctor” title that fascinates you, and will make you feel adequate with your peers, you can always pursue other fields of study that would lead to the title. Figure which field would that be for you, as soon as now.