Are you going into medicine for the right reason?

March 21, 2007 at 2:28 pm (Applying to med school)

When you apply to medical school, you’ll have to write a personal statement in which you give reasons why you want to practice medicine, your preparation for going to medical school, and what future plans you have for the field. When writing this essay, you’ll have to demonstrate that you’ve seriously considered why you’re going into medicine and what the life entails. You’ll also have to show maturity in stating your personal reason for wanting to undertake such a hard—yet financially rewarding—life. Every year, applicants cite their desire to help others or some other vague statement as to why they want to become doctors. I’ll leave other authors with the task of teaching you how to write the perfect personal statement. My goal here is to challenge students who say that they are pursuing medicine for reasons other than money.

Look at the graph below [1]:

Applicants vs. Matriculants from 1995-2006.

The blue line gives the total number of people applying for medical school each year. The green line shows the number of acceptances. You’ll instantly notice that admissions were harder in mid 90’s than today. Various reasons are thrown out for the decline and subsequent rise in applicants over the past decade. Some theorists point to malpractice insurance or even T.V. shows. While there might be some validity to these claims, I have a different idea: economics.

Now look at this second graph [2]:

Quarterly changes in the U.S. gross domestic product

Here we see the quarterly change in the American gross domestic product since 1991. You can instantly spot the tech boom and stock market bubble of the late 90’s. You can also see the recession of 2001 and the slow economic growth thereafter. Instead of
claiming that pre-meds are following malpractice treads, I maintain that people are following the money.

Whatever the trend in the U.S. economy, there is a 2-3 year delay in the actions of the applicants. When the economy is strong—as it was during the latter half of the 90’s—entering college students realized that they could make a quick buck in computer science. Instead of killing themselves with pre-med courses, followed by rigorous training in medical school, followed by more training in residency, people could quickly achieve similar earnings by learning how to write code. All of the people who would have
originally pursued medicine to get rich bailed out and chased after the tech boom. After the market bottomed out, the next round of college students realized that the safety of the Internet bubble was gone and that they could go into medicine for a stable, predictable income.

My prediction is that in the coming years, if the U.S. economy continues growing, the number of applicants to medical school will plateau around 2009 or 2010. At that time, the cycle will be repeated as college students once again realize that jobs in business and engineering yield high incomes without sacrificing 10 years to achieve the same result.

My question to you, the reader: are you going into medicine for the right reason?



  1. Zeynep said,

    Dear writer (I apologise, I couldn’t find your name),

    In your opinion what is the right reason to go into medicine? I’ve encountered so many forms saying what the WRONG reason is to go into medicine

    – money
    – the desire to help people
    – To get a Dr. in the name
    – If you love sciences. (They say you could get a degree in biomedical sciences).
    – For respect

    Some of the above I agree with, I certainly wouldn’t want a docter, who was only out for the money, to ‘treat’ me. I wouldn’t feel safe. There are some absurd reasons above but I guess I just have to ask;

    “What is the right reason to go into medicine?”

    After being told all the wrong reasons, perhaps this little bit of information may enlighten me.

  2. mani said,

    hello. I graduate from bachlor in biology with 2.7 gpa and i took my mcat in september and i got 10….really sucks………………but in my transcript i did bad in my first two year and in last two year i got A’s and B’s… do you think i have to chance in MED school in US…………I did apply to few schools…………thanks.

  3. rein said,

    none. unless you retake the mcat, polish your gpa with probably a post-bacc (you remedy the obvious problems) and be a well rounded applicant.

  4. rein said,

    you have to refine your english skills too. medicine, after all, relies on interaction and communication.

  5. Anisha said,

    Good one
    thats very true
    I agree with what yous ay but sometimes I feel the people who are absolutely genuinely interestedd in medicine never get it ultimately

  6. Josh said,

    I’ve been reading your blog once in a while and decided to reply for the first time, thank you for writing all of this.
    love it!

  7. John Allen said,

    Incompetent doctors in Arkansas have almost sent my 71 year old father to his grave because of negligence. I notice my mother and I learned to spot on diagnose his symptoms with the internet before these waste of a fornication’s have! It is not prestigious and that fulling to be hated to the point of if theses lame-ass’s being shot for incompetence. Some people have nothing to loose when a doctor sends a loved one to the morgue because they didn’t have the skills or tried.

  8. Rukan said,


    I agree when you say there are loads of people who do want to do medicine but do not deserve it . However just as zeynep has said, what would be the right reasons? we are always told what we should not write or say but never told what would be the right things to say. Surely if you know what the wrongs reasons are you must know what the right reasons are. Thank you.

  9. Jimbo said,

    No one ever believes me when I tell this, but it it the truth. I have no reason to lie. 12 years ago, I suddenly was hit with a malady that has destroyed my quality of life. I thought the emergency room doctors would jump on it, but they turned me a way. It took a week to get in to see my PCP. In that time I lost my job. Since I was unfit for work, I also lost my unemployment insurance. No one would put me on disability without a diagnosis. I’d spend the next year depleting my savings paying doctors. EVERY single doctor I saw was paid PROMPTLY. THAT was all they cared about, NOT helping me.

    When my PCP couldn’t immediately, in the first 5 minutes, identify the condition, he gave up. Too much trouble. Too much bother. It’s not as if I brought him a hidden, unseen problem. At the time, there were still visible signs. My genitals were black and blue. I had a raging high fever and chills. I had incontinence. My groin was swollen. Had he looked into my eyes, he would have also realized I was being truthful when I said I was in agonizing groin and rectal pain and discomfort. I also told him I had a “bleeding sensation” in my lower abdomen. He didn’t send me for any scans, xrays, cultures. ultrasounds. No relief was offered. I pleaded for 15 minutes until the man would send me to a specialist. (Guess he didn’t want to do the paperwork.)

    I was sent to a urologist. A man I would later discover was dying of Altzheimers. Which explains why he never ran any tests which could have isolated my problem and kept asking me, “Who are you.” He didn’t even run urine cultures or blood tests. I don’t know WHAT he did, other than re-check my chart each visit, ask my name, and update my prescription for an antibiotic that never did anything for me. I begged and pleaded with him. I begged and pleaded with my PCP. I tried to find another urologist. No one would take me without a referral, and my PCP wouldn’t refer me. I tried to find another PCP. This is a small community with few doctors, and NO ONE would take me. It was as if I had gotten on some sort of blacklist. I couldn’t travel anywhere, because I couldn’t sit upright for more than a few minutes. In fact, I ceased all sitting of more than 10 minutes in length. I had to bumb rides, lying down in the back seat of the car to go anywhere.

    I became dependent on family. None of them (including me) could understand why I couldn’t get diagnosed or treated. I didn’t go back to my PCP, and his office never called to find out how I made out. It another TWO YEARS before I found another PCP who would take me. In that time I researched my condition on my own. Can you blame me? My condition most resembled acute prostatitis. They SHOULD have done a soft tissue scan to detect an abcess. But no one had ever done a thorough workup on me. No one ever even listened to me.

    The new PCP didn’t have the benefit of seeing all the physical signs of my affliction. By that time only some swelling remained. The fever and chills had subsided. I was still in agonizing pain and discomfort, unable to sit upright more than 15 minutes and still had mild incontinence. I was also weak, and still had the bleeding sensation in my lower abdomen. This doctor listened to my whole background and unbelievably, decided I must have “irritable bowl”. (I had NONE of the classic signs of irritable bowl.) He wouldn’t run any of the tests (scans) I had asked for UNTIL, I first completed his protocol for treating irritable bowl. I was sent to another doctor for a colonoscopy which found NOTHING. The IBS treatment did NOTHING. And then I was released. He had lied to me. He would not run the tests I asked for. He didn’t offer me any hope. He was convinced I had IBS. No doubt if my arm was growing out of my head he would have said I had IBS.

    A couple years later, still hoping to get the workup, diagnosis and treatment I had been denied, I at last found another local PCP who would see me. I walked into his office and before saying a word, he told me he could not do anything for my “IBS”. I was then lead out of his office! I was flabbergasted to later learn that my computerized records had been disseminated throughout the community, and was loaded with references of visits to specialists I have never seen, drugs I had never taken, and tests I had never been given. All directed at an IBS diagnosis and treatment. Somehow the guy who ran the colonoscopy (a prominent local doctor no longer taking patients) had screwed up and confused me with another patient and made all the false entries. I wrote two letters to the guy begging him to remove the entries so I could resume seeking a proper diagnosis. He denied his mistake,and refused! I protested to the hospital, asking them to delete the recors. They also refused. I then got a nasty letter from the doctor who made the mistake. He told me I wasn’t welcome in his office, and to cease writing him!

    I’ve spent the balance of the past 12 years suffering in silence, unable to find a local doctor willing to do a thorough workup. It’s like I’m still on a blacklist. I get screened out by the receptionists as soon as I give them my name. Or they have one look at the IBS entries and tell me there is nothing they can do for me. Apparently the guy who did the colonoscopy and entered all the false information has lots of friends in the area. They have indentified me as a “problem patient”.

    My condition daily grows worse, and I have additional new symptoms. I still can’t sit upright any length of time. I am stuck in a low paying job because it is the only thing I can find nearby. I don’t go out to eat, go to church, go to family functions. I spend all my vacation ad off time in bed. I work, sleep, eat, and suffer. And yesterday I was refused by yet another doctor. Is it any wonder then that I wait eagerly for death? I plan on asking God for justice. Most of these men took an oath. They have broken that oath, and I have no respect for them.

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