During my sophomore year of high school, I was going to take debate. I’d been terrified of public speaking for as long as I can remember, and I enrolled in the class to try and get rid of that for college. Being me, I actually dropped out of the class and enrolled in the pre-medicine class that all of my friends were in during the same class period. That had to have been the best decision of my high school career, aside from taking engineering classes or auditioning for high level choirs.
I’d never considered a career in medicine before this class. I’d heard about the perks of being a doctor, like the pay, the hours, things like that. But taking that course, seeing my first ever surgical video, learning more about the human body… it honestly changed my life. My mom’s an engineer and works with human bodies, but I never looked beyond that for myself. Seeing a video of someone getting a total knee replacement and not being disgusted but rather fascinated rocked my world. I knew from that day on that I wanted to be a doctor. I didn’t know what kind of doctor, I just knew that I wanted to be one.
I never anticipated the day that I would fall out of love with medicine. What makes someone fall out of love with the career they love? Or, I guess, it’s the career I thought I love.
My plans were to go to medical school and get my MD/PhD. I would become either an awesome surgeon or an awesome oncologist. I loved the idea of interacting with patients and practicing medicine. I had a “Grey’s Anatomy” equivalent fantasy of falling in love with another doctor, having super awesome smart babies, and retiring with a ton of money after having saved tons of lives and making lots of progress in the research field of my choice.
All of that changed when I actually met other people who were in my major and wanted to become doctors.
I like to think that I’m a nice person, and I understand other people don’t see me that way, but most people do think I’m really nice. I just kind of assumed that other pre-med students were nice too. All of the other pre-meds I had already met were nice, so why wouldn’t the others I met in college be nice too? I was wrong.
These people weren’t nice. They didn’t want to help other people get better unless they were their ride or die friends. They would rather squash other pre-med students like a bug under their foot than help them. I’ve only known one pre-med student in my career, maybe two (?) who didn’t want to tear down their fellow pre-med students. All of the others were assholes. Persuading residents in my hall to not vote for me for President of the hall. Not helping me when I was having issues, but just laughing at me for not understanding it. Always trying to one-up you. Everything is done carefully and is calculated as a way to make yourself look better to med schools and to look better on your resume.
I tell my friends and family that I switched from pre-med to the PhD track because I couldn’t live without research. While that’s true, it’s also because of these people that were also pre-med. These people weren’t just the other people in my classes. These were the people who would become my future colleagues or fellow surgeons or whatever other medical term you could think of. I couldn’t imagine working with these people because if they act this way in college, imagine what they act like when we’re competing for internship positions, or to become chief resident? I didn’t want to be stuck with these people for the rest of my life. So I had to make a decision. Which half of my career goals do I want to pursue? Do I want to be creative or stick by the rules? Do I want to experiment or interact with patients? I had to choose: myself, or my career?
I chose myself. And while I regret this, I also don’t. I’ll be happier in the long run, and that’s really all that matters.