By Aunna Pourang, MD
Whether you have always known that you wanted to become a doctor, or you have decided to pursue medicine after a completely different career, you are in for a challenging, yet incredibly fulfilling journey. Beyond outstanding grades and MCAT scores are a few key ingredients that can set you apart. Here are a few secrets to this path that have been the keys to my success.
#5: You can’t see yourself doing anything else
When times became rough for me, I would just tell myself, “I can’t see myself doing anything else in life.” This mantra got me through every day of pre-med and medical school and before I knew it I graduated with my medical degree.
If you are not 100% sure about your decision, then it’s important to understand why. Are you going into the field for the right reasons? Do you feel more passionate about something else? Do you doubt yourself? Whatever the reason, it’s worth understanding motives and working on overcoming any barriers that are preventing you from doing what you truly want in life.
If you are 100% sure, then don’t give up. Not getting accepted to medical doesn’t mean you aren’t meant to be a physician. It just means that you have a different path. I know many people who didn’t get into medical school the first few times around and became phenomenal doctors.
#4: You are becoming a doctor because you want to
I have met a few people who have gone into medicine because their family members expected them to or because they thought it would make them happy. Many of these individuals didn’t finish medical school and if they did, they were often resentful or unfulfilled. What many people don’t realize is that behind the glitz and glam of the white coat are years of studying, delayed gratification, sleepless nights, exams (for the rest of your career) and other stresses that are not portrayed on TV medical shows.
This is your life and no one else but you is able to live it for you. We are responsible for our own happiness, and no one else’s. Furthermore, your value does not come from a degree. Trust me on this one. As any Type A personality will tell you, there is always another milestone you will want to conquer, so finding happiness within will make the process more rewarding and easier to deal with challenges along the way.
It’s also worth mentioning that there are also many other much easier and quicker ways to become rich. While physicians make more money than the average person, they do so at a cost of many years of hard work, student loan debt and long working hours. If you can go to sleep at night knowing that the money you made was worth it because you enjoy what you do, that’s really priceless.
#3: You listen to your heart
This point goes a step further than #4. Just as there is pressure to pursue a prestigious career, there are often many naysayers. Many doctors discouraged me from becoming a physician. I have also met many people who decided to pursue medicine in their last year of college or after another career and doubted themselves because they weren’t like traditional pre-med students. It’s never too late to pursue your goals. Moreover, with so many competitive applicants who look great on paper, well-rounded candidates with life experience can stand out among the crowd.
Remember, anyone who tells you not to do something is doing so because of their own doubts, which have nothing to do with you.
#2: You care about people
This is an obvious point, but medical training can lead to burnout. Keeping the big picture in mind of your role in helping others can help you push through difficult situations. Good bedside manner and listening to patients also goes a long way. Compassion is also something that admissions committees for medical school and residency look for beyond your transcript. Above all, medicine is a team sport and people want to work with others who are respectful and professional team players.
THE NUMBER ONE KEY TO BECOMING A PHYSICIAN
The main difference between those who achieve their goals and those who don’t is the belief that they can. You don’t have to be an astrophysicist to become a doctor. You also can’t compare yourself to others either. Everyone has something wonderful to offer, especially if it is based off a foundation of genuine intentions. It all starts with a vision, committing to yourself and the greater good and persevering against the odds to make your dream a reality. You get to write the story of your life, so make it a great one, and enjoy the process along the way.