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How did you know you wanted to become a doctor?

Did you have any inner conflicts about: spending dedicated time with your kids, giving up a part of your life, missing out on relaxing and having fun....etc? How did you pay for your education?
how do you know this is what you were meant to be?

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1 Answer


Joseph Sokal

Like many people who go into medicine I was strongly influenced by my family culture. My grandmother was a psychiatrist and my oldest brother, who I admire greatly began medical school when I was still a pre-teen. It happens that my father was fascinated by and often discussed Freud. Along with these external influences I was always good at listening and helping others which gave me a feeling of being useful and important. As I aged I saw my brother become successful as a physician. He enjoyed his work and he made good money which appealed to me. However money is not the best reason to go into medicine. You really need to enjoy helping others and also have the inner capacity and external support to help you face some of the tragedies you will encounter as a physician.
Like you I had many doubts about becoming a physician. I was a history major in college and gave thought to doing graduate studies in that field. I do think I would have been happy being a professor but that too is a very hard road and I think it is often harder to achieve economic security. I was worried about missing out on life and medical school school is very demanding. The upside is that it gives you a lot of structure and a strong sense of the future while many of your friends may drift for some time. The downside is that the structure sometimes makes it harder for you to really test yourself and learn to cope effectively with all the openess and opportunities of life itself. Regarding family I always felt that being a doctor would allow me to comfortably support a family. I chose a speciality that would allow me a reasonable lifestyle. It is important to understand that once you complete your training you will have lots of freedom to craft your schedule and decide how you want to live. Naturally some specialties are more demanding then others.
I paid for my education through student loans. I chose to go to an in state, state funded medical school because it was significantly cheaper than private or out of state schools. I am still paying off my debt at the age of 53 but it is only a very tiny portion of my income.
I don't think it is typical for people to know 'what they are meant to be.' It is often good enough to have a pretty good idea and begin pursuing the goal. Along the way you can change your mind if it becomes clear that the path is not right for you. I do think it is important that you be sure that you want to be in a people helping field. The only exception is is if you know you want to do research and conclude that an MD is a better way to go than a PHD for the area of research you are interested. Finally whatever you pursue always treat obstacles as an opportunity to learn. If you don't succeed at something make it an opportunity to learn and to grow in another way rather than focus on it as a failure.

All the Best Going Forward,
Dr. Joseph Sokal

Answered 5 years ago

Joseph Sokal