‘Should I Apply to Med School?’ Doctor Mom’s Advice to Daughter

My husband and I are both physicians and our oldest daughter has just graduated from college. She majored in biology and is considering a future in medicine. She has completed all the prerequisite courses and has taken and scored well on the medical entrance exam the MCAT.

She has her letters of recommendation ready and she has a position lined up at a doctor’s office to get some clinical experience under her belt. She is ready and she is in a strong position to be highly competitive. But she is hesitating. Many of her friends are taking a gap year or two to prepare for Physician Assistant school instead of medical school. Should she consider this, she wonders?

I don’t have the answers for the next generation about what careers to pursue. (Photo credit: Marcia Blois)

Our daughter asked for us to weigh in about whether she should go to medical school

She asks for our take. We know she is weighing the cost of medical school and the time it will take away from her personal life. She has always said she wants children and she is worried how she will be able to balance work and home life. Med school is many years longer than PA school and costs more. Many doctors end up in significant debt getting their training. Maybe there is a better path?

When my husband and I became doctors, getting into medical school was a golden ticket. Yes, med school was expensive, but job prospects were bright and doctors in general were satisfied with their profession and respected.

Twenty years ago women were wary of how they would balance medicine and motherhood

Twenty years ago, there were still many more male doctors than female doctors, but the tide was turning. Our med school class was approximately 50% women. Even then, women were wary of how to balance medicine with motherhood.

I think of the time in our first year of med school when I sat around with a group of other female med students and they all talked about their own parents. Many had come from physician parents and, without exception, if their mom was a doctor, they said that they did not get to see her growing up and that they wanted to do things differently with their own families.

But now there are so many women in the profession. We want to encourage her, go for it! Become a doctor! Advocate for change from the inside out!

We asked doctor friends if they were satisfied with their careers

So now we ask around: Are doctors our age glad they went to medical school. Has it been worth it? Do they recommend it for their own children? The doctors we talk to are thoughtful and generous with their time. Most of the male doctors agree that is is difficult to balance a medical career with time with family, but that overall they are happy with the way things have turned out.

Several of the women doctors express that they feel they missed out on a lot when their kids were little. They wish residency had been more accommodating when it came to maternity leave, they wish they had been able to work part time on occasion, they talk about the profession being a difficult place to prioritize the needs of their children.

Author and husband are both doctors and parents of five children. (Photo credit: Marcia Blois)

The doctors we spoke to talked about how much harder medicine has become

All of the doctors talk about how much harder the medical profession has become in the past twenty years: Increased micro management by insurance companies, limits on the time they are allowed to spend with a patient, decreased funding for research and medical care from both the private and public sector, increased physician burnout and the whirlwind decline of physician satisfaction during and after the pandemic. In truth, we are seeing the end of privatepractice as we know it. Doctors are being forced to close the doors to their private practice.

No question it is hard to be a doctor.

“You have to love it!” these doctors advise us. It is hard. They describe how many patients come in with a chip on their shoulder. “They are not always kind to our Nurse Practitioners and our PAs,” they tell us. “Even with us, they sometimes forget that we are also working long hours and are frustrated by things that are out of our control.” And yet, it is a glorious career.

Being a doctor means getting excellent training and experiencing the exquisite privilege of taking care of people.

Our daughter updates us that many of her friends are choosing not to apply to medical school, even the ones with excellent chances of getting in. They think it is too expensive, and that the payoff in terms of career satisfaction is too unsure.

I have a moment of existential crisis. What are we going to do if our bright young people don’t want to become doctors? We will need doctors. Someone needs to be around to take care of us and the generations to come.

I tell my daughter that I will never regret becoming a doctor

I tell her I will never regret my education. Yes, it was expensive and yes, it took many years but it was an incredible experience. The world will always need doctors. Even if your plane crashes on a deserted island, your medical knowledge will be valuable. No matter how the world changes and how technology advances, we will always need doctors.

Here is what I think: The helping professions are about giving back. Make sure you protect yourself and your family and set firm boundaries. Life is short and we only get one chance to raise our own children. Get the best education you can for the best price. Forge your own path and know that as with all career choices, there will be rewards and there will be costs.

I don’t have the answers for my daughter

The passage of time has not made me smarter, has not made me more sure, it has only made me more humble. I had my turn making these big decisions: Weighing the pros and cons, thinking through life choices and weighing my options.

I did what I thought was best at the time with the information I had. I don’t have the answers for this next generation. I don’t know if they should still pursue a medical school education. But I do have faith in their ability to make their own choices.

And I will be here cheering them on, whatever path they choose. And that is enough.

More Great Reading:

How to Speak to Your Teen About Picking a Major in College

About Maria Blois

Maria Blois is an MD and mother of five. She has authored medically focused pieces about parenthood focusing primarily on the early years including a book called Babywearing: The Benefits and Beauty of this Ancient Tradition with a foreword by Dr William Sears.

As her children have grown, her interests have shifted from babyhood to adolescence and young adulthood. Her writing explores the intersection of parenting and evidence based science. Maria earned her BA in Biology from Oberlin College, her MA in Sociology from The Ohio State University, and her MD from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and continues to make her home in Texas with her husband and children, two college aged, two in high school and one in middle school. You can probably find her at a local track meet.

Read more posts by Maria

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