Interview with a Doctor

Posted May 21, 2012 by

When people hear I’m an emergency room doctor, the first thing they want to know is why I decided to enter this field of work. Although many doctors respond to this question by stating they have always known they wanted to help people in this capacity, or are fascinated by the workings of the human body, my answer is very different. I entered into medical school after many years as a lawyer. I was in an elevator when the woman beside me had a seizure and stopped breathing. The sense of helplessness to intervene is what spurred me to possess a skill set that would help me to be able to save a life.

The most common misconception about doctors is that they are in it for the money. Yet as high paying as the profession might be, it is hard work that pushes you above and beyond what you imagine you can do. Days of sleepless nights, split moment decisions that have a lifetime of consequences, working with and treating people from all walks of life, and dealing with a very sensitive issue of humanity, our limitations and death are all part of the job.

I wake up every morning humbled by the work that I do and the people who I work with that give so much of themselves. From the blindsided motorcycle driver who sustained massive internal injuries and did not make it, to the smiley toddler with a peanut stuck up their nose, you never know what the day will bring or how your personal capacity will be stretched. The greatest lesson I’ve learned from my day to day work is that we do all we can and let go when it’s time to let go. It is easy to second guess oneself of carrying guilt when things go wrong, but it’s all about knowing you did your best and carrying the good moments with you, like toothless grins and grateful mothers with a specimen dish with a snotty peanut.

Medical school is generally four years after a bachelor’s degree, although there are many schools that offer a fast track which enables students with high grades to go into medical school after two years of undergraduate studies. In addition to specific class requirements like biology, organic and inorganic chemistry, physics, calculus, English, sociology and psychology, my medical school, as nearly all other medical schools, requires students to take the MCAT exam. Although I had really good grades and scored high on the MCAT exam, I was advised to distinguish myself by doing research. I quite enjoy science so I picked a distinguished faculty member to work with which was open to being my mentor and worked hard. I had to really understand what I was doing in order to explain and defend my work to scientists who were distinguished in their fields and had specific and complex questions about my research. I was also lucky to have the opportunity to ‘shadow’ a physician. His candor with patients, his sense of humor, his ability to listen to his patients and address their concerns as well as work with a multiracial staff team, was an invaluable experience to me in learning some of the skills they don’t teach you in the text books at medical school that are critical to my everyday interactions. Lastly, I was strongly encouraged to volunteer. This was to indicate to my medical school of choice that I was wanted to make a serious contribution to society but the experience in and of itself was a lesson in working hard and being committed to something that sometimes had little or no returns. Some of my colleagues chose volunteer opportunities that they enjoyed and which they gained experience and great satisfaction from so in retrospect, I would have chosen more carefully, but in general, all volunteer experience is a big plus for applications and personal enrichment while giving back to the society.

Although I enjoyed being a lawyer, I certainly feel that I have found my calling in medicine, particularly as an emergency room doctor. I hate to admit it, but I enjoy the adrenaline that comes from dealing with emergency situations, multitasking and needing to have a quick mind and quick feet. It sometimes reminds me in an odd way of my days in the courtroom. On a scale of one to ten, I would definitely rate my job as a ten.

I would tell a friend who is considering this line of work to look beyond the salary to look beyond the high paycheck or professional pride, and to really consider their motivation for getting into medical school. It is hard work and sometimes the only thing that gets you through the rough days is the sincere desire to make a difference in other people’s lives.

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