Experience points

I get a lot of hits from a link in this pre-medical student forum, and reading through it, I was actually quite horrified. My Don't Become a Doctor series is all about the downsides of the practice of medicine, but I didn't think people were actually sitting down and calculating the costs, trying to balance out MBA vs JD vs MD. A word to the wise, DDS wins that contest every time.

The prevailing argument throughout the forum revolves around whether physician compensation is adequate to defray the costs of medical school and residency. I think that you can add and subtract all the dollar figures you wish, but that's not the cost of medicine.

The real cost of medicine is not that I will make only ~$130k as a general internist. The cost to me is that from the age of 21 to 29, I was doing nothing but studying and working. My friends got jobs, got married, bought houses, and in some cases had kids. I did none of these things. My single friends spent their evenings hanging out in the social scene, developed big networks of associates. I don't know anyone outside of health care.

Undoubtedly, you'll say that there are plenty of docs who got married in med school, had kids in med school or residency, and have all the things that I mentioned: a wife, a home, a family, a big network of friends and social support. This is true. But do you think any of those new spouses or new parents wanted to spend 80 hours a week in the hospital away from their families? Many of my friends with kids never saw their child's first words or first steps. As I like to say, one of my colleagues celebrated the birth of his child by taking an afternoon off. I tell people this jokingly, but it's true. He took a half day.

Who cares about the money? Medicine cost me my twenties. I can't put a dollar figure on that. While other people were backpacking Europe, I was scouting out the best spot in the library to study. While everyone else was amassing a treasure trove of experience points and leveling up, I've been sitting at lvl 1.

If you ask me today if it was worth it, I'll say yes. I am doing something that I love, and I am getting paid handsomely for it. I have reached a point in my life where I am finally reaping the benefits of all that sacrifice, but the thing about sacrifice, you have to give up something good to get something good.


cramberry said...

Well said, iFinding. You have a poetic way of writing that really hits home. I'll remember your words as I slave my way through med school. It's not easy watching my friends move on to such an exciting part of their lives while I remain buried in textbooks, tests, exams, and debt. At the same time, I know I'll eventually get to a stage where what I'm working towards will be mine. Just not now...and not for a long while.

Thanks, and please keep writing. I enjoy reading your posts, especially since it has tracked your journey from a med student to now. :)

Anonymous said...

Your last paragraph says it all.

Although it's tempting to think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, I can assure you it's not. I struggled all through my 20s - no medical school for me, just an average-paying job and the thrill of trying to establish myself in life while paying off college loans and dealing with the escalating cost of living. Believe me, it was not fun and exciting.

I was finally at a point where I was doing reasonably OK financially. Then I got knocked down in my 30s by non-Hodgkins lymphoma. I'm fine now but the health baggage is gonna be with me forever. Many of my friends moved on with their own lives and in some ways I've been out of the social mainstream ever since.

My point is that most of us have to make sacrifices of one kind or another during our trip through life. You can make yourself crazy, comparing your life to that of your peers and dwelling on everything you've missed, or you can decide to concentrate instead on what you've gained.

Besides: for all we know, humans are allotted a certain amount of happiness in life, and you don't want to use it all up by the time you're 35. Your peers might be having more fun than you right now, but there are no guarantees that there won't be a ton of heartache waiting for them down the road.

If you can recognize it's all been worth it, you're a lot wiser than many people. Somehow I think you're going to be a very good physician.

Louise said...

Excellent blog! I'm looking forward to spending some time here.. :) Hope it's OK that I put a link on my own blog. Keep up the good work!

thestoryofhealing said...

This post spoke to me as, I am sure, also with many of your readers. I often asked that about myself especially while I was in medical school. Did I miss on life? But the answer is all in your post. :-)

I married after medical school which is pretty normal for the bunch that I know. I got transplanted to this country (one that I am very familiar with by the many coming and going visits with family since I was 16 but surprised to find out that I still felt uprooted and new at some point when I finally decided to stay), just a little bit after medical school. And here I am, starting life but still waiting to start life it seems. Professionally, I need to do some things all over again which I want to stay positive instead of get tired just thinking about it---back in the library for long hours for who knows how much longer to get certified. No whining, just saying life is life and it's up to us to live it. And live it wonderfully and thankfully at that!

I'm glad to be reading this blog and to realize the blessing of the choices and hope we are given. :-)