Saturday, March 26, 2011

Why Do Medicine?

I can almost see the finishing line now. That line that was so far away 5 years ago but now with every passing day, the silhoutte of the line becomes distintively clearer. Strangely, it felt just like yesterday that I was sitting face to face, one on one with the then dean of the medical school for my interview. When he finally shook my hand to welcome me to medical school, he threw in a word of advise, 'It's gonna be a long marathon. You better start building your stamina.'

Now, I have been running this marathon for almost 5 years. This may be just the first part of the marathon (in the medical profession) but surely it is one of the longest and most tiresome marathon that I have run so far. It started with a sprint but now every step felt heavier than before. I'm excited yet afraid. It's so near yet felt so far now. This run has been nothing short of challenges. It is not just a run that physically challenges but also one that is emotionally challenging. This running track is fill with countless hurdles, some taller than the rest. Some so tall I fell so many times just trying to cross over them while some seems to have spikes it's so painful crossing them.

Of late, I have been thinking, why is it that most straight A's students in SPM like to pick medicine as their first choice when applying for JPA? Im quite sure out of the 9000+ students who achieved straight A's in the recent SPM, about 50% of them are gonna pick medicine as their first choice in their JPA scholarship application form. I had been through that phase before, eagerly circling medicine as my top choice thinking straight A's (with pretty good extra-curricular achievements to add) would definitely get me a place in medicine with the JPA scholarship. I'm not trying to blow my own trumpet here but it's necessary for me to mention it to continue my next point. Like a lot of people hoping to get the JPA, I pushed myself through all those extra-curricular activities in school hoping that will gives me the extra advantage when applying for scholarship. But I was wrong. I was disappointed because in the end I didn't get the scholarship. The straight A's does not matter because in the end it's not about the A's. After much thinking, I guessed one of the factor must be because it is really competitive to get a place in medicine under JPA simply due to the fact that if 9000 people scored straight A's, at least 4500 will pick medicine and out of that 4500, the government will only choose like maybe 1000 students to sponsor. So, where do you stand among that 4500?

Well, if you are one of those that is planning to do medicine (whether you scored straight A's anot) despite knowing how competitive it is going to be, the question is WHY? WHY DO YOU WANT TO DO MEDICINE?

Seriously, I think a lot of people don't really know why they want to do medicine. They just simply jump onto the medical bandwagon simply because they can (or so they thought). The other common reasons are like because it is prestigious, wealth, stability, family pressure, drama influences or the ones most commonly heard 'because I got passion and I want to help people'. Honestly imho, 'want to help people' is not a reason at all because any occupation also can help people, not necessary only doctors.

Well, if you are going into medicine because you think medicine is a prestigious course and career, you might want to rethink your options. It might seems like you are at the top of the food chain in medical school but in reality, you are at the bottom of the food chain once you graduate. If you are seeking glamour from being a doctor, you are going into the wrong field my friend. Even a blogger can be more glam than a doctor these days.

If wealth is your reason, you are once again wrong my friend. Those stories you hear of doctors driving 5 series BMWs and stays in huge houses with their own private pools are long gone. To achieve that kind of level of wealth, you have to at least be a very famous specialist or by the time you can afford all of that, you are probably all greyed and wrinkled. With the surge of doctors these days, it's going to become very competitive in the medical field. GPs don't earn as much as they do in the past anymore. And if you become a specialist, you will then have to compete with all the other specialist to be the best, else you'll be stuck forever earning very little. And do you know that junior doctors aka HOs in Malaysia are only paid something like RM 4-8 per hour? (minus locum) Junior doctors have long working hours, needing to work up to 48 hours straight sometimes and in certain hospitals without weekends off, so their pay certainly do not do them justice. So go be a businessman, entrepreneur or politician if you want a lot of money fast and young.

Some might claim that a doctor is the most stable job because the world constantly need doctors. But sadly, that is only true in the past. In case you haven't been noticing it in the papers or on the internet, there have been alot of predictions that there will be a surplus of doctors by 2015. And that means doctors can be jobless anytime in future.

Sadly, quite a lot of people are also in medicine due to family pressure. Parents who force their children to take medicine to relive their lost dreams without realizing what they are getting their children into. Sometimes this can be extremely tricky. I know, how can we say no to our parents especially if like you are their only child or their only hope. I have friends whose parents had sold off their entire possessions just to put them through medical school simply because it's their dream to have a child that is a doctor graduate. Sad but true and still happening. If you are being forced into doing medicine and have no interest at all, it's better you let them know now than to suffer later. It's tough but it's time parents know doctor's life is not a bed of roses anymore.

I find this reason a bit hilarious but who knows, some people might want to do medicine because of drama influences like ER, Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, House or even CSI (for Forensics)? After all, those dramas make doctors look quite glam and seems a pretty easy and exciting job. But time to burst the bubbles. In real life, or at least in Malaysia, being a doctor is nothing like they appears to be on tv. Seriously the stress that you face even as medical students is enough to make you age ten years faster. Whats more during housemanship. The sleep and rest deprivation alone is enough to make you age 20 years faster. This might be nothing for guys but for girls, you might want to be mentally prepared on this. With each exam, I can feel myself growing fatter (stress-induced eating), more wrinkles showing and eyebags revealing, especially so during my last profesional exam, I think I had really aged 10 years in advance. I never really had eyebags, dark circles or pimples until I went into medical school.

Lastly, if you so claim that it's your passion to be a doctor because you want to save lives, perhaps you want to ask yourself this 1st. Are you willing to serve in rural areas? Not just district hospitals although even that also some people are already complaining but real rural areas? Places where it is not accesible by public transportations or land transports. Places where you need to walk through jungles and is only accesible by boats. Places where you even need to wade through rivers just to reach your destination. Places that have no internet; dont dream about facebook or blog or twitter. Places where you should be thankful if you dont get malaria or dengue or eaten by crocodiles while serving there. Yes, believe it or not there are still such places in Malaysia and in fact my bro will be going into one of these places in a few months, hence thats how I know that such places exist in real. So if it's really your passion, then please don't whine, complain or appeal (or worse some will use their "cable" to get them forever not posted to such areas) if you ever get posted to places like that. Remember this, anyone can fall sick. Not just the city people. People in the rural area falls sick too and they too, need the doctors help more so than the city people in fact.

Of course, lets not forget the sacrifices you have to make as a medical undergraduate and a doctor eventually. This might be a bigger problem for those outgoing and happening ones than those who study all the time anyway. It's not that you have to totally give up your life and convert into a total nerd. You can still have a life, in fact I never thought my life have gotten any less exciting as a medical undergrad but to a certain extend, sacrifices are necessary. You can still be in a relationship, have fun, travel, blog etc as long as you know how to balance and handle your time. But of course, having an incredible amount of stuff to study also means that you will definitely have to cut down on partying and fun time. And in my case, it means saying no to many many events, modeling, advertorials (chances to earn some extra cash) and even a chance to be an Olympic torch bearer for the Malaysia leg. On a more serious note, sacrifices here is more to really sacrificing sleep and family time.

Depressing much? You haven't hear the worse yet I promise you. I seriously recommend that if you are still interested to be a doctor or is still being force into being one, you should read more here and here first. I think its only fair if you know what you are really getting yourself into before you cluelessly jump onto the bandwagon. Besides, even if you scored academically well, that doesnt mean you will be a good doctor, so dont feel oblige to do medicine just because you scored straight A's. We have seen too many people who are apparently very highly educated but talks and acts as if they have an empty brain. I hope you are clearer now of whats install ahead of you when you finally decide to circle off medicine as your first choice in the application form. But whatever your reason is, I hope you end up liking medicine and still do the best for your patients. Good luck doctors hopeful. :)

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9 fondue dips :

Excellent write-up Alli. forgot one thing. The thing that "I" want to know most of all -- is why YOU want to become a Doctor?

I think that if you HONESTLY answer that question, I would feel that I know you much better. If you could also tell "us" if you want to work in a big city or in a rural area, that would help too. :-)

My favorite subject and the one that I did the best in, was Physics....but being the practical person that I am...I realized that there just weren't many particle accelerators around or jobs for a I stuck with science and got a degree in something more practical -- Chemistry.

There I go again....a LONG comment. ;-)


M : Haha thanks. I will save that for another post ok? Too many things in one post already. Yea I guess sometimes you dont do what you like most too but what is more practical. :)

Well said Alli, and I have already shared on my Facebook. I have been wanting to take this course because I was in St. John Ambulance Malaysia back then and being a doctor was my biggest ambition at the moment. Hence that explains why I chose science stream instead of art yet right now I'm taking tourism course which is not really related to what I have been studying for approximately 2 years and 3 months before. I'm glad that I didn't step into the wrong way because ever since I started my Diploma in Tourism Management in Taylor's University, I realize that a medicine course is definitely not my choice, but tourism is the one.

Your post makes me think of how I was but due to the stresses that I couldn't stand anymore, I decided to run away and start doing research online about courses in different colleges/universities. I hope your post would help the people to think twice before they make their last decision, and that's the reason why I shared this post on Facebook as some source of advice to my friends because many of them have the same ambition too. :)

Jiamin : Thanks for sharing it with your friends too. Im glad that you ended up doing something you really like which is tourism and not medicine. I was in St John too and I can honestly tell you, luckily you didnt take up medicine because of your interest in St John. I hope my post will be able to clear up some false perceptions of doctors wannabe. :)

nice one darling. I also experienced something like this but i felt glad dat my parents finally allowed to go for what I wanted to do. :) I have cousin graduated n now be a doc dy, she told us that its not easy to be a doc, the life n so on, not really like what had been mentioned in the past. lol. but i guess she enjoy her work as a doc now, as she shared with us before about what she can learn during her journey as a doc. :)

anyway, lucks to u yea sweetie! :D and I also would love to know why u chose medicine! :p

Caroline : Thanks babe. Lucky you your parents allowed you to pursued what you wanted in the end. Yea the most important thing is as long as we still enjoy what we are doing, then we can do the best for others (in doctor's case, patients). Okies, i will write about that another time. :)

Views that all those top scorers should at least ponder awhile before having their pick at JPA sheet, and seriously, if one is taking up medicine aside from interested in saving lives, and are willing to sacrifice whatever it takes, better back off and leave that spot for others, if not, more innocent lives will not be treated equally and rightfully in the future, huhuhu

(bad experience with some doctors that just seemed too high up they cant see us, lol)

LIKED the way you write Alli :)

Kyle : Im sorry to hear about your bad experience with the doctors. Well, there's always black sheeps in the family. huhu. And Im glad to know you enjoy reading my post. :)

A very well written blog.

I am currently a holder of the STPM qualification, and I am considering Medicine as one of my options to further my education at a tertiary level.

Like what you said, I ought to really reflect on what I want to be, and be prepared for the challenges ahead.

Just some questions: Is life as a houseman in Malaysia right NOW still the same as what you have been through (busy and hectic with tonnes and tonnes of chores and work to do)?
Do you think that the number of doctors nowadays is just to high resulting in a high doctor to patient ratio? (I am wondering if the demand of doctors in Malaysia would be so low as to result in my unemployment in Malaysia.)

On top of that, your blog let me gain insights into the challenges ahead of me in the future medical career. It helps me get mentally prepared.
Thank you very much for sharing.