So you don’t want to be a doctor anymore.
Sunday, July 3rd, 2011
It’s the question that everyone asks you. From fellow medical students to patients, to family and friends, to the random acquaintance you’re meeting for the first time. They all ask, ‘So what do you want to specialise in?’ If you’re like most medical students, it changes by the week. But what if you’ve realised you don’t like any of the specialties, or even medicine in general? What are your options then? You’ve done years of study and you’re determined to graduate with a medical degree, but maybe medicine isn’t the career you want. Well, there are plenty of options outside of clinical medicine that perhaps you are unaware of.
I have a friend who decided fairly early on in medical school that working as a doctor didn’t suit him. He wanted the fame and fortune, without all that annoying patient interaction. He started planning his way out early, and while still at medical school, completed internships with big corporations and applied for various graduate positions. He ended up with a job in management consulting, with one of the most prestigious global management consultancy firms straight out of university, and never even bothered with his intern year or getting registered as a doctor.
I have another friend who, midway through his intern year, decided he wanted to change paths as well. No need to go through all that competition for specialty training positions. He applied to go back to university to study dentistry. The ultimate goal might be to become an oral maxillofacial surgeon, but if that falls through, working as a general dentist with its lifestyle and monetary benefits would suffice.
Personally, I took a few years away from medical school to conduct medical research. While at this point, I don’t see myself working full-time in research in the future, I can definitely see the benefits it would have over clinical practice. Research is a truly international occupation, and the opportunity to live and work overseas is much easier in research than in clinical medicine, especially in non-English speaking countries or countries with different medical systems. Research (for the most part) provides stable working hours, the chance to completely explore an area of personal interest and challenge yourself in different ways.
However, the opportunities don’t end in business or research. Medical administration is another option, and an area to which you can put your knowledge of the healthcare system to good use. Take the RACMA for example – the Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators. Dozens of doctors have also become politicians, business advisors, journalists and even actors or comedians.
Ultimately, a medicine degree is highly regarded in many industries, not just in health. It proves that you’re intelligent, you can problem solve, you can work in a team, and have many other skills other degrees might not necessarily provide. Studying medicine doesn’t mean you have to become a doctor or even that you are a doctor for life, and the career path you take is only determined by what opportunities you explore.