I’ve rounded the corner of my third year of medical school, where students have to start thinking about their future since we will begin applying for residency this summer/fall. 3rd year is a chance to try out a lot of the specialties, and hopefully find your niche. You decide what you like or dislike about each area (internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, neurology, etc) and decide how that fits into your needs or desires.
Some students are lucky – they knew, for example, that they wanted to be a neurologist right from the beginning of med school, they were fortunate to love it during their 3rd year rotation, and can now focus on arranging their 4th year electives to reflect this choice. Maybe they weren’t sure what they wanted to do, but they loved pediatrics and can’t imagine doing anything else.
Other students thought they knew what they wanted to do, rotated in the specialty and hated it, and are now completely clueless and a bit panicked as to how they will approach their last year of medical school. (a lot of my future-surgeon friends seem to fall into this category)
Then there are students such as the one currently rotating with me on pediatrics. This student is a gunner (in medical school, a gunner is someone who likes to throw fellow students under the bus in order to make themselves look good; they tend to study excessively and boast of their superior knowledge, as well). This student was talking with some of the pediatric residents and attendings, who asked him what specialty he wanted to go into. He began a speech about how he LOVED pediatrics, including the time he recently spent on the neonatal ICU, where he, no joke, volunteered to take call overnight for “educational” purposes (read: he probably took the overnight call because he thought it would impress the docs who would thus award him with a higher grade). Now, I have nothing wrong with pediatrics, but it seemed pretty obvious to me that this guy did not possess the typical peds personality (easy going, loves kids) and was thus bullshitting the attendings so they would think he was really interested in their specialty (and…perhaps give him a higher grade because of this). But what do I know…maybe he really does want to be a pediatrician.
The attendings and residents leave the room, and this student turns to me and asks what specialty I’m considering. I tell him which one (it’s not pediatrics), and his reply? “Me too!” WTF? So he either has multiple personalities (with very diverse preferences) or he’s full of shit. Any guesses on where I’d bet money? He then starts telling me that he is considering a lot of different specialties. He thinks being a hospitalist would be really interesting, but he “needs to make a lot more than $150,000 per year”, and starts discussing which specialties he’s most interested in based on the salaries they command. At some point he must have realized what a d-bag he was starting to look like, got flustered for a second, and quickly muttered “but I need to find something I really love, too.” Wow.
Don’t get me wrong, money definitely comes into the picture when picking a specialty, given that virtually every student will graduate with between $100,000-200,000 worth of debt. I also think lifestyle (meaning a M-F, 40-50 hour workweek) plays a role in future life-satisfaction and should be taken into consideration (particularly for those who want to have kids someday and still be happily married). But those should not be THE determining factors. I just couldn’t believe this classmate of mine going on and on about how much money he needed to make and how that was his main criteria for his future career. It was disgusting, not to mention frustrating to think that he might be applying to and interviewing at the same programs as myself (if he deems my future specialty worthy enough). Surely program directors see through the bullshit of students such as this guy, right? I hope so.
So, in dedication to my money-obsessed classmate:
May he realize that, though money is necessary in many ways, there is more to life than a multi six-figure paycheck. (and may doctors and residents see through his fake personality as he hits the interview trail at the end of this year).