i want to help people

it is inevitable that every hopeful medical student to be will be asked during the admission interview: “why do you want to become a doctor?”

and it is just as inevitable that the answer to that question will be: “because i want to help people.” or cure cancer. or get rich helping people and curing cancer. or world domination.

perhaps it would be appropriate for interviewers to then tell these bright-eyed medical school applicants that there are so many other ways to “help people”.

there are definitely much better ways of earning large amounts of money in a short amount of time (which do not involve a nigerian prince requesting for your bank account number) and it should be made known to the general population that cancer isn’t “cured” by surgeons or haematologists. cancer is cured by scientists in labs and the mice they experiment on daily. true story.

anyway, as i was saying, there are many other ways to “help people”. i recently sat through a clinic session with a man who is passionate about children, in a completely selfless, non-creepy manner. at one point he passed a list of community resources available in the state to me. it was 4 pages long and it had contact details of physiotherapists, special ed schools, counselors, social welfare workers, psychologists. there were support groups for children with autism, Down syndrome, physical disabilities. i bet if a family was looking for a good lawyer or accountant, he’d have a list for them too.

my super brief almost negligible exposure to the world of human rights advocacy has made me feel that my work in the medical field is inferior to the sacrifices of those who make it their life’s mission to bring freedom to every person. an economist can bring much-needed perspective to the problems of the world. music brings healing in its own way. a person in full-time ministry brings God to those who need Him most.

why, then, subject yourself to the humiliation of being a junior doctor, the lifelong struggle with possible litigation, the uncertainty of postgraduate training, conflicts with family when you have frequent calls or long working hours, the constant swallowing of pride and anger and frustration when dealing with patients on a path to self-destruction, and very very little expressions of appreciation in the press?

why take the harder, longer way of “helping people”?

that’s what interviewers in medical schools should tell the 18-year-olds that walk through the door with their nervous smiles. they should be able to go home and think about all that has been said; ideally go and do some other undergraduate degree first and come back with an additional 4 years of experience, of exposure, before signing over their souls to a lifetime of “helping people”.

maybe it’s my current rotation – with the fussy bosses and the regular projecting of housemen’s faces on a screen, open to criticism and discussion by medical officers and specialists alike, the difficulty of applying for leave, the difficulty of everything in general – but i seriously think i could have used with a couple more years between college and medical school to decide on something like a career in medicine.

i definitely would have chosen differently, and i doubt i would regret it like i do right now.


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