Doctoring Reflection

Fridays reflections: Get real, med-students.

I was up, the paperwork done, and my hand on the door.

“Doc, I have just one more question.”


“My grandson is in medical school, and he wanted me to ask which field of medicine he should go into.”

Before I could answer the patient added this zinger:

“He wants a field that has good hours and pays well.”


I was busy and behind, so initially, I offered a politically correct, get-me-out-fast kind of answer. Something along the lines of, I am sure he will find a rewarding field of medicine regardless of the pay.

But then I couldn’t help myself.  I wasn’t that far behind; I’m in.

Since you asked, here are some nuggets for your grandson:

Tell him that the joy of medicine is not the financial security but the satisfaction of using hard-won skills to help others.  These skills might be modest and technical, like placing burns in the left atrium, or extraordinary and near-magical, like the ability to convince a sedentary patient to move, or a Speaker of the House to quit smoking.

Tell him that my happiness quotient as an impecunious medical student or resident is the same as it is now.

Tell him that the best doctors I know are passionate about knowing more medicine not gathering more treasures.  (Med-students take a lot of modules, maybe they should have to pass one on Thoreau’s masterpiece, Walden.)

If your grandson persists in his desire to prove the nay-sayers wrong: that money can buy you love (of medicine), tell him to find a field of doctoring that takes MasterCard or Visa. Who knows, he might like fixing teeth, reshaping eye-balls or making people look better in the mirror.

Oops, now I am farther behind.


4 replies on “Fridays reflections: Get real, med-students.”

But why tolerate an alleged conflict of interest (doing well v. doing good) when it need not exist? No patients are helped when a burned-out and bitter physician gives up medicine at 45, or when the best students choose careers where they are treated like professionals rather than serfs.

If the profession were left alone rather than micromanaged by the government, there would be plenty of opportunity to make a living AND provide voluntary charity care when deemed appropriate. The market is an amazing mechanism; we ought to scrap the mixed system in which we’ve been stuck for the last 70 years and try it someday.

My thoughts exactly, Jared.

It’s funny how seemingly compassionate medical professionals don’t hesitate in demanding complete conformity to their own ideas/views – “maybe they should have to pass one on Thoreau’s masterpiece, Walden”.

I work hard at it. I build fences and dig moats. And yet it escapes. My streak of progressive-ism, that is. Sorry about that.
Maybe it escapes because I hate to see a few miscreants ruin all the fun for the rest of us. Take as an example, the spine surgeons from my home town.

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