Many, at some point in their childhood, have said “I want to be a doctor,” like me, maybe as early as three-years-old. I first told my dad that I wanted to be a nurse. He asked, “Why not a doctor?” I responded, “Girls can’t be doctors!” He said, “Of course, girls can be doctors,” to which I responded, “Ok, then I want to be a doctor!” Didn’t take much convincing! But, should I let a three-year-old make such a major life decision?
When I was applying to medical school, I asked myself, “Who decided that would be a doctor?” Was it me at age three, my dad, or me in my mid-20s? I had other interests, talents. Drawing, painting, acting. My college theater professor said that medicine was the wrong profession for me. I loved writing, public speaking, teaching, science, but was medicine right for me?
Then one day, I attended a med school open house. There, a doctor gave a speech saying he would show us his vacation slideshow. I imagined pictures of sandy beaches and children cannon-balling into cool blue waters. What happened next changed my life!
Dirt roads, a dilapidated building with a “clinic” sign, crying malnourished children receiving vaccines. He spent his vacations on medical missions in developing countries. I commented, “I think it’s wonderful that you spend your vacations doing your job to help people.” He responded, “Thanks, but, it’s not my job. It’s my way of life.”
That night, I went home and ripped up my personal statement that I had been writing for more than six months! I rewrote the essay, this time, with purpose. I’ll write about my personal statement in a later post, but the take home message: I made an adult decision to pursue a career in medicine. Did you?