I often see a lot of talk about the "dream" of being a doctor. While "the dream" may be a true calling I would like to give another perspective.
I am leaving medicine. I did well in medical school. Passed all three steps on the first attempt (249, 231, 210). I also completed a year of internship with good evaluations. So, no sour grapes; however, one year of residency is enough.
The first two years of med school were a memorization-fest. It was broad and shallow -- but I enjoy science so it came fairly easy. Third and Fourth years were annoying but not too bad; however, I began to wonder whether medicine was for me. I found that I really disliked the ward environment: you have no desk, no personal space and no control over your time. I found medicine to be a lot of short term "firefighting" were you spend 10 minutes on a problem, leave, go to next problem, leave etc. Some people like that style of problem solving; however, I like problems that take some long term thought (months rather than minutes) and I like more control over my time. I have decided that any job that deals with the general public and requires you to use a pager is probably a bad one. I also like problems that demand my creative input -- to do something no one has done before. In my view, medicine is high level assembly line work. Fortunately, I have better options.
Interestingly, I am much like ****** Konner who wrote the book,
Becoming a Physician (ISBN-13: 978-0140111163). I was also a professor before I went to med school and, like Konner, I also decided to go back to my original line of work (but Konner left before residency). I guess I have learned that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Indeed, I am happy to go back to were I was.
There are those for whom medicine is a true calling but I have come to realize that I am not one of those. For me, the sacrifices of residency are simply not worth it. I would caution those in mid-career who are contemplating medical school to think very carefully. It is not necessarily a bad decision but be very, very sure. You have much more to lose than those who are in their twenties -- and much less to gain. I figure my degree cost my over a million in lost income. I don't have any regrets about going to medical school but I also have the financial resources to do absorb this. Even so, I spent a lot of time memorizing trivia that I could have spent on other pursuits.
Interestingly, although I don't really like "patient interactions" on the ward, I found that this was a strong point. I am really a "people person" (I won several teacher of the year awards as a professor); however, I found the "relationships" in medicine unsatisfying. I could calm the anxious, get those who were about to check themselves out against medical advice to wait a day, persuade needlefobes to let me have 6 tries on their crappy veins, etc. I have to say, I am pretty good with patients; however, I also have to say that medicine does not really provide meaningful interactions. They can be quite important (e.g., a diagnosis of cancer), but they are soon over and one with. In general, I found these "interactions" much less satisfying than the long-term relationships I had with students and consulting clients. In medicine, I generally felt that it did not matter if I showed up to work or not --someone else would do the job. In my old line of work, I contributed something unique -- I did things no one else would have done. It is time to step off the assembly line.
Overall, I think medicine can be a good choice;however, for me, it turned out not to be. However, I advise people to think hard about the decision to go to medical school -- particularly if you are an older student.