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Weekly Weigh-in: Choosing Your Path to Medicine

Welcome to PDr’s Weekly Weigh-in! Each week, we ask medical students and physicians to weigh in on some of our most frequently asked pre-med questions.
This week’s question: What other career paths did you consider besides medicine? Or, what other programs (such as PA) did you research before choosing your path to medicine and what factors affected your decision?

Evan Laveman, DGSOM MS2

I had always entertained medicine as an option since around age 14, but there was a time during high school where I contemplated going into film. I started to get very involved in the film classes at my school, and started doing regional competitions with borrowed equipment. Before too long, I had an amateur (and unofficial) production team that would do competitions, make promotions, or even film music videos for young local bands (our friends). I enjoyed the process of video production and promotions so much that I started looking into film programs at various colleges. One of the things that steered me away from film was the fact that I enjoyed it as an freelance student who could enter competitions at will, but I didn’t think that I would find the same enjoyment working within a film industry. I strongly felt that the aspects of filming and directing that I loved the most were also the most likely aspects to get stripped from away if it were to become a career of mine rather than a hobby. I found my path towards medicine hitting something much more deep and seemingly consistent. I took a chance on medicine and learned to rely on myself to preserve my motivations. Most importantly, when I made my decision, I tried to never look back. The grass can always be greener on the other side, but it can be the greenest where you decide to water it…and maybe plant some flowers.

|| Read: Why Medicine? ||

Brandon Brown, UCSF MS1

I had medicine in my mind since I can remember and the only other path I seriously considered was going to graduate school to become a scientist. I started doing research during my 2nd year in college and I actually really enjoyed it for the most part. I liked the problem-solving aspect of it a lot, and that it didn’t involve memorization. However, the research experience is highly variable depending on the lab and circumstances, and it lacked the social component that medicine provided. Being able to work with such diverse people was a huge draw for me. And while research can be very satisfying, often the victories take months or even years to achieve, whereas in medicine you can often see the result of your work on a daily basis. More practically speaking, the career aspects after graduate school are kind of up to the whims of the NIH budget during that time and being the somewhat risk averse person I am, that just didn’t settle well with me. Not to mention, if you wanted to go into academia and you’re fortunate enough to get a faculty position, you’re kind of stuck there. In medicine, there’s the flexibility to go work virtually anywhere in the country, or the world. Plus, even if I decided that I really wanted to do research, with an MD its possible to do post-doc research and enter that field. Medicine really allows you to do a lot of different things in your career, and I love that freedom.

|| Read: Nurse Anesthetist or Anesthesiologist? ||

Edward Chang, DGSOM MS2

When I was applying to colleges as a senior in high school, I had many other interests other than medicine. History was my favorite subject so I considered becoming a history teacher. I also really liked sports and sports journalism so I entertained the idea of being a sports journalist or a broadcaster (come to think of it, I probably don’t have the voice for broadcasting). As I considered those options, I decided that following sports was more of a hobby (even though I dream of being an NBA coach one day) and that history was impractical. I was always somewhat drawn to medicine because of the relationships you can have with patients and the impact you can have on their lives. I ultimately “decided” on medicine when I was applying to colleges because I felt that it would be the most meaningful and intellectually challenging. Nevertheless the decision to go into medicine was an evolving process, not just a single light bulb moment. My experiences throughout college (shadowing, volunteering, research, etc) continued to confirm my initial leap of faith that medicine was the right choice for me (it really was a leap of faith because I knew barely anything about medicine as a senior in high school) . I realized later on while I was in medical school that one of the things I appreciate most about medicine is the ability to learn science and then immediately translate that into a practical skill that can change people’s lives.

Emily Chiu

Emily Chiu is the Director of Logistics at She is currently a third-year undergraduate student at UCLA. If you have any questions about her work, or are interested in contributing to, please contact her at [email protected]. Follow ProspectiveDoctor on Twitter, @ProspectiveDr.

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