Always Wanted To Be A Doctor, Now I've Decided Against It. What Next?

Hey everybody, recently I made the tough decision to forgo trying to get into medical school. I had always wanted to be a doctor since I was a kid, and had pretty much been dead-set on getting into medical school after college. Now, after having a big discussion with both of my parents (both work in healthcare), talking with other professionals and having researched for hours and hours into what I wanted to specifically do as a doctor, I felt that being a doctor would not match with my goals.

Now comes the hard part. What do I do as an almost senior year college student, who had planned entirely on going to medical school, and now have decided not to? My plans had hinged on going to medical school, where I'd have my tuition paid via the National Public Health Service Corps scholarship, and paying back my undergraduate loans when I'm finally out of school. Now, without that surefire plan, I've pretty much thrown my hands in the air trying to figure out a legitimate plan for going forward.

Considering medical school was always my final goal, I unfortunately never really had a concrete backup plan to fall back on as I need now. My interest at this point would be leaning towards working in public health and nutrition, with a focus on health education/promotion at the community/school level, where the attitudes about health and wellness have a better chance of being influenced.

What are some of your guys thoughts? I'm open to anything since at this point I'm in completely new territory with having no predetermined destination for my career.

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A lot of doctors go into public health after their medical degree. Can I ask why you changed your mind on medicine?

Yeah, without further knowing the reasons on why you are giving up your life goal, it is hard to tell you anything else.

More information for why not would help.  There seems to be a shortage of good doctors. 

I will make the plug for nursing, a much underrated profession for males (still only about 8-10% of nurses are men).  Public health is almost synonymous with nursing.  There are many accelerated nursing programs out there that you enter with a bachelor's already and then do another year of schooling and come out with a 2nd bachelors (BSN).  Then you can do healthcare in whatever setting you see fit; public health, school, occupational, hospitals, clinics.  While not as glamorous as an MD and you do 10 times the work, it is very rewarding.  Plus, in a few years you could get your Master's as a Nurse Practitioner and do primary care/public health with hands on experience under your belt.  Just my 2 cents.

I second the nursing! The female to male ratio in nursing school would be through the roof! In all actuality though, its still a great job and there are a shortage of nurses in the US.

What is your major right now? And what are some of your interests? Its hard to see what could be done with your major or interests without knowing what they are!

Hi mate,  I'm a physician and an NHSC scholar.  It sounds like I did what you have decided not to. I think I can give you a different perspective.  We need to know more about why you have decided against it.  Medical school was the best time of my life  and residency is a life altering experience that will make you discover aspects of yourself that you didn't know you had.  Medicine is a wonderful profession.  

All medical careers are great for emigration purposes too. Midwifery is usually the highest in demand and would be a real curveball of a career option for you.

The reasoning behind my change of heart from medicine was that in talking to both my parents, doctors, PAs, and other professionals, the takeaway seemed to be that the medical field was moving away from the style of practice that I wanted to be able to do, mostly because of the change in the bureaucratic mess that constitutes a lot of medicine now. What I had wanted to do was be an independent family practitioner, probably with my own staff, and be able to treat my patients in the style I chose. I wanted to focus on changing my patients lifestyle and nutritional habits to give them a reduced chance at developing the majority of the prominent lifestyle-induced diseases in our society today like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, etc. This would allow many of them to reduce their dependency on many expensive and often damaging medications that are in use today. The problem is that I've been told repeatedly that I would not be able to do this as I planned because the method of practices nowadays don't really accommodate for it, with the intrusion of insurance, malpractice, and time/money constraints.

So instead my thinking followed that I should be involved in the creation, implementation, and education of awareness about those health and lifestyle problems we are having in our society today instead. It seemed like a better decision than going through medical school to become a doctor then realizing that I came all that way just to not be allowed to treat patients as I wished. Does this explanation help at all?

If your life goal is to encourage Americans to eat better and exercise more, that can take many routes. On the bigger scale, there's public health, public policy, even city planning. These can take the form of lobbying or of managing public programs as a health professional.

On the micro level, you could be a nutritionist, social worker, or fitness coach.

There's also an education aspect - Physical education and nutrition programs for schools, health classes, etc.

This pretty much matches more of my interest. I'm more inclined to look at medicine today as something that can be helped by a change in people's lifestyles and the way they treat their bodies before an actual illness, disease or injury occurs. Not that what doctors currently do is wrong by any means, it's simply that my approach to getting healthier is trying to fix what people do BEFORE they have to visit the doctor, if at all.

As Rebekah was able touch on, my interest lies in those directions for a career, although I'm still having trouble trying to decide what direction to go amongst those types of choices. Does anybody have any experience either those mentioned at the macro level or micro level by Rebekah? The other factor I have to consider is sustaining myself or a future family with the pay by any of these jobs. As a physician that wasn't a hard decision, but now I'm less certain now that I'm aiming elsewhere.

Well, this is fascinating, doctors spend the majority of their education and career focusing on disease. That is what they learn about and what they treat. Not many take a lot of time to focus on wellness.

I am actually in a very similar situation myself and although I wanted to be a doctor for a long time, I have pretty much decided to pursue a different path. I am a paramedic now, and took a non traditional route through undergrad so I'm not as close to finishing school as you. But from what you are saying it sounds like I decided against med school for many of the same reasons. Also, I work in an ER currently and almost all of the doctors and surgeons I work with advise against going to med school.

Maybe go to grad school and get an MPH? Or pursue a PhD in nutrition or sports medicine or physiology as some others have suggested. Another option is to start something of your own, such as a non profit or website or awareness/advocacy group, working in some area of medicine/health that interests you... third world water sanitation, diabetes awareness, farm to table healthy eating.

J

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