Is Pursuing a Career in Medicine Worth It?
Krupa Patel wanted to become a doctor ever since she was in college studying abroad in South Africa. There, when the students were taking a break from their studies, one of her classmates jumped into a shallow pool and became paralyzed.
“The accident was so shocking,” said Dr. Patel, a 2018 graduate of AUC School of Medicine. “The desire to want to do something to help shaped my time as a student. It inspired me to do everything I could to become a doctor.”
Today, as a PGY-3 Internal Medicine senior resident physician at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, Dr. Patel knows pursuing a career in medicine requires a substantial time and financial commitment, but also believes that a career in medicine is worth it.
“I always had a strong interest in the sciences and did very well in school, but I didn’t realize how hard it is just to get into medical school,” Dr. Patel said. “Then there is the workload and the commitment of time. It is extremely hard, but there is incredible reward in medicine. It’s a job where you are constantly learning, meeting new people and creating relationships. A job, a career, in which you dedicate the best years of your life to serving others. And when you do good, you feel good.”
Here’s what you should know if you’re asking yourself, just as Dr. Patel did: “Is a career in medicine right for me?”
PURSUING A CAREER IN MEDICINE: PROS AND CONS
Demand for physicians is on the rise. With large segments of the U.S. population getting older and a significant portion with growing families, pursuing a career in medicine is a timely decision considering the looming physician shortage.
The overall employment of physicians and surgeons is projected to grow 7% from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That comes at the same time as a report from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), projecting that the U.S. will face a shortage of between 54,100 and 139,000 physicians by 2033. New doctors will be needed to fill that gap.
Demand for physicians is one aspect to consider when deciding if a career in medicine is worth it. But it’s also important to understand the challenges medical students face, reminds Dr. Patel, including:
- Highly competitive route: The competition is stiff. Only 41% of medical school applicants were enrolled in the 2019–2020 school year, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges.
- Demanding academics: Pursuing a career in medicine requires discipline and takes four years of medical school and several years of training after earning your MD. Graduates must complete a residency in their desired specialty and a fellowship if they want to subspecialize.
Dr. Patel learned this the hard way. After submitting her first round of applications, she was not accepted to medical school. Undeterred in her pursuit of a career in medicine, she took a circuitous route, studying and graduating with her Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences from Tufts University School of Medicine.
“You have to be tough and persistent, and you need to have incredible work ethic and have the drive to keep pushing forward no matter what challenges come your way,” she says.
TYPES OF CAREERS IN MEDICINE
Dr. Patel’s story demonstrates that there is no single path to pursue a career in medicine. Most recently, the West Virginia born-and-raised resident has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in the ICU. Next year, she will serve as Chief Resident of her internal medicine program.
There are many different types of careers in medicine to explore—family medicine, cardiology, oncology—and it’s up to you to seek out rotations in those specialties to determine if they’re a good fit for you, says Dr. Patel. If you’re not sure what medical specialty to pursue, the American Association of Medical Colleges profiles more than 135 specialties and subspecialties in the United States and nearly 40 specialties in Canada. Here, you’ll find descriptions of the work physicians do, training requirements and salary and workforce information, plus links to relevant organizations and publications.
There are also a growing number of options if you are considering pursuing a career in medicine, as the scope of the field is wide and varied. Here’s a sampling of possible career paths in medicine:
- Clinical Ethicist
- Disaster Medical Specialist
- Emergency Medicine Physician
- Family Medicine Physician
- Palliative Care Physician
Now that she’s nearing the end of her residency training, Dr. Patel says another reason she has discovered that pursuing a career in medicine is worth it is the reaction from her family.
“My parents are immigrants from India and though no one in our family is a doctor, they had very high educational expectations for myself and my siblings,” says Dr. Patel, adding that one of her sisters is a clinical psychologist and social worker, and another is a university professor. “Now I’m getting a lot of calls from my parents who always seek my advice and opinion about their health concerns. It’s clear they’re extremely proud and we’ve built a stronger bond than ever before. I get to do what I love and also take care of my family.”
Interested in taking the next step towards a career in medicine? Learn more about American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine.