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Medicine as a Career

Facing The Future

The first step to becoming a physician is to decide that at all times you will be realistic and honest with yourself. Before you reach the stage of applying to a medical school, you should periodically reevaluate your abilities and the sincerity of your conviction to become a physician. You should determine if you possess the intelligence, scientific aptitude, personality, and inner strength — that are essential for success as a physician.

Each prospective medical school applicant must in time face the reality that he or she will be but one out of more than 45,000 applicants competing for a place in freshman medical school classes. The competition is very intense and more than 50% of the applicants fail to attain their goal (at least on the first try). You should also be aware that since each applicant applies to about ten medical schools, there are more than 300,000 applications to be processed. This means screening 500 to 7,500 applicants to fill 50 to 250 places. The initial screening process rejects some individuals outright and ranks others for further action, determining if they merit a prompt interview or should be put on hold for an interview at a later date. It is, therefore, important to realize at the outset that in addition to your intellectual achievements and potential, the mechanics of the admission process itself is critical. Knowing which schools and how many schools to apply to, presenting your qualifications, writing your essay, and handling yourself well at interviews are all vital elements in achieving your goal. The admission process is the culmination of your efforts to become a physician. It involves marketing your personal assets to the maximum extent possible. It is therefore important for you to get to know your strengths and weaknesses in order to make sure that you accentuate the strengths and minimize or, if possible, even eliminate the weaknesses. The image that you indirectly project by means of the transcripts, recommendations, and MCAT scores submitted in your behalf, and that you directly project in your interview, will determine the success of your attempt to secure a place in a medical school. Once you have been accepted for admission, it is almost a certainty (because of the negligible failure rate) that in due course you will be awarded your medical degree.

Future Challenges

After completing their studies and training, the challenge of the practitioners of the twenty-first century will be (1) to maintain the traditional commitment to service as the central theme of their work in spite of increasing regulation; (2) to remain committed to life-long learning as medical knowledge has an increasingly shorter half-life of validity; (3) to seek to resolve the social and ethical problems that arise as technological capabilities increase within a humanistic framework. For further discussion of these challenges, see Chapter 16, Physicians and Medicine in the Twenty-first Century.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesGuide to Medical & Dental SchoolsMedicine as a Career - On Being A Physician, Why Study Medicine?, The Reality Of A Physician's Career