Why You Probably Won’t Become a Doctor

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Only a small fraction of those who enter college as pre-med even apply to medical school, and of those that apply, only 40% get in. Statistically speaking, if you’re pre-med, the odds are not in your favor. Why is that and what can you do about it? Let’s find out.

In its simplest terms, the reason there’s a large mismatch between those who want to become doctors and those who actually do is a matter of supply and demand. A large part of this disconnect is due to popular culture narratives and stereotypes of what it means to be a doctor.

 

High Interest/Demand

There’s a huge number of students that want to become doctors, in large part because of this mismatch between expectations and reality. There are a few categories responsible for this draw and broad appeal.

1 | Status, Respect, & Prestige

The first category is the status, respect, and prestige one associates with being a physician. Sure, you’ll get some level of recognition for the hard work you’ve put in, but how much does that actually mean at the end of the day?

2 | Parental Pressure

Particularly in certain cultures, parental pressure is a significant factor in a student choosing the path of medicine. Comment below if you know what I mean. Parents want the best for their kids and have the best intentions. They genuinely think pushing you to medicine is good, and maybe they even get a bit of an ego boost from knowing their child became a successful doctor. But you are your own person, and you should pursue the career path most appealing to you.

3 | Money & Wealth

While money isn’t everything, it’s an important consideration that’s unfortunately deemed taboo to even talk about. “If you aren’t ok struggling paycheck to paycheck, then you are just a greedy monster who isn’t doing things for the right reason!”

Being a physician is a unique career path in that it’s low risk and medium to high reward. What I mean is that if you followed the tried and true path of becoming a doctor -meaning you get into medical school, then residency, then fellowship, and then become an attending- then it’s essentially guaranteed that you’ll be making low to mid-six-figures. Depending on your specialty, maybe even high six-figures. It’s definitely not easy, but it’s a highly structured and predetermined path leading to a comfortable upper-middle-class lifestyle.

In contrast, other professions involve much higher risk. Sure, if you start your own business or become an actor, you can make much more money than the average doctor. But there’s no straightforward path, no guarantee, and the overwhelming majority of people who take those paths end up failing.

Don’t get me wrong, medicine is an awesome profession, but it’s far from perfect. Those who initially have an idealized view of what it means to be a physician realize the truth at some point. I do my best to give you the reality of medicine, not to discourage you, but to portray the truth so you can decide if it’s what you actually want to do.

 

Low Supply/Availability

The other half of the equation is the lower supply of training positions to become a doctor. But we have a physician shortage in America, and a surplus of people wanting to become doctors, so why don’t they just open more positions?

More medical schools and more medical student seats are opening each year, which provide additional positions for future doctors to be trained. That’s great, but there are still far more interested applicants than there are positions. That’s why only 40% of applicants each year get accepted. Regardless, the bottleneck in physician training occurs at the following step, with residency. It doesn’t matter how many fresh medical school grads you’re minting if they aren’t able to complete their residency training.

Residency positions in the United States are funded by Medicare. Therefore, to increase the number of practicing doctors, you need to increase Medicare funding. Unfortunately, calls to increase Medicare spending to fund new residency slots are usually met with deaf ears on both sides of the aisle.

Funding hasn’t increased since 1997. It’s ultimately in the hands of federal legislators. The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2019 proposes adding up to 15,000 new Medicare-funded residency positions over a five-year time span. We’ll see what happens.

 

An Obfuscated Path

The high demand and low supply to become a doctor is further exacerbated by a difficult and complicated path to getting into medical school. There are so many moving parts and components, each with their own unique nuances. Failing to deliver in any category can prevent a student from successfully matriculating to medical school given the high degree of competition. There’s the premed coursework (including weeder courses like organic chemistry), research, extracurriculars (including volunteering, shadowing, and clinical experience), letters of recommendation, and that’s before you even get to the actual application.

The question then arises if these are even good metrics or standards for premeds to strive toward. Many of these guidelines and requirements were implemented with the best of intentions, but when deciding who is best suited to be a physician, these are simply markers, not perfectly accurate indicators.

It’s only natural with the competitive nature of medical school applications for these elements to be further warped. In the past, being a well-rounded applicant with reasonably strong academic performance was enough. But nowadays, with everyone trying to outcompete one another, you have to worry about not only getting straight A’s and crushing the MCAT, but also the number of publications you pump out, having sufficient volunteering, shadowing, and clinical experience, and impressing adcoms with your unique qualities.

Countless students, seeking help in an increasingly confusing premed application process, turn to a checklist mentality. To get into medical school, they think they must check the box for various requirements. “3.7 GPA, check! 40 hours of shadowing, check!” As a result, they become a cookie-cutter premed, just like many others, who lack a unique narrative or perspective. They lose the human element of what makes them unique.

Becoming a good physician isn’t just about proving your academic abilities or getting exposure to medicine, but about developing yourself as a person. Have you learned humility, compassion, work ethic, resilience? Have you challenged yourself and overcome obstacles? You’re so much more than just a premed. You’re a person first, and getting in touch with that will make you a better physician in the end.

And if you’re the first person in your family to go into medicine, just as I was, you’ll need to be resourceful to find others on your own to help guide you down the path. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a doctor until I was diagnosed with IBD during my first year of college. It ignited a fire within me to stop at nothing to become the best gastroenterologist I could be. I worked my tail off, brute-forced it, and I would stop at nothing. I was constantly trying to become more efficient, effective, study better, and I didn’t know how to slow down. I absorbed everything I could from everyone I met. I was so hardcore, I even secured a research position during my freshman year in a lab researching IBD models in mice.

I still made mistakes though, and I wish I had a mentor to guide me through the process. I relied too heavily on online resources, like SDN or Reddit, and my peers. I was too naive to realize that much of the chatter on these online resources is an echo chamber, where premeds repeat what they’ve heard elsewhere. While these were moderately useful resources that got me 80% there, I wish I had a trusted guide to take me the other 20%. I wanted to learn the nuances like how to most efficiently find a lab and excel in research, how to craft an effective narrative instead of just checking the boxes, and other less talked about components, like the various strategies to letters of recommendation or how to strike the balance between medical and non-medical extracurriculars.

After speaking with my colleagues at Med School Insiders, many of them felt the same. We put our heads together, combined all of our collective expertise, invested thousands of dollars in production, and created the all-new Premed Roadmap to Medical School Acceptance Course. It’s the resource we wish we had when we were in college. It includes all the finer details and nuances that only the experts know — the secrets we used to get into top medical schools with full-tuition scholarships. The things that most doctors don’t even know, and those on online forums have no idea about.

Like how to be such a competitive applicant that schools will fight over you, or how to blow away admissions committees by being extraordinarily prolific with research. It’s something we’re very proud of, and we’re confident that you’ll find this to be the single most comprehensive and helpful resource for premeds, anywhere. If you don’t, we offer a 30 day 100% money-back guarantee. And if you’re able to demonstrate financial need, we offer the course at a steep discount to make it accessible to all socioeconomic backgrounds.

To see what the course is about, check out this video about how to stand out in research. Trust me, you won’t find advice like this anywhere else — it’s advanced techniques that a small minority of people are even aware of. Much love to you all!

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