Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Future Doctor?

Everyone – from family to neighbors to friends to fellow airplane passengers – impressed when you tell them you’re going to be a doctor. There has always been, and will always be, a certain prestige associated with being a doctor.

“You must be really smart,” is the usual reaction to this declaration of my professional pursuit.

But, the funny thing, I don’t think I’m smart. In fact, smart is one of the last words I would use to describe myself. I may be a future doctor, which sounds rather smart and noble, but I honestly do not consider myself any smarter than the average person.

I am sure there are a handful in the profession that are truly gifted individuals, in general, my classmates are not brilliant. They are just normal people, some with unique hobbies and interests. There is one characteristic among all of us in this profession that is undeniable. And that is grit.

We are all hustlers. We stick with it. We not only work hard, but we push our physical limits. We have unwavering self-confidence. We are willing to sacrifice more than most others. Despite the darkness, we know there will be light at the end. We appreciate delayed gratification. It is these traits that make you a doctor. Anyone can develop and practice these traits. Anyone can be a doctor.

I was the hardest working person I knew. And then I joined my class and met 90 others who beat me by leaps and bounds. Some students are willing and able to lose sleep for a few days in a row, sustaining themselves on energy drinks and fast food. Some students are mothers and fathers who go home after a long day of lectures, exams, and tough faculty criticism and take care of their families. Still others have an hour commute to school every morning. I am constantly impressed by these people I sit next to in the classroom and I am proud to call them my colleagues.

Recently, I attended a national conference where I met pre-dental students. Of course they were overjoyed and excitedly waiting for their acceptance letters. I thought to myself – still half-asleep and sipping my fourth cup of coffee that morning – I really hope they know what they are getting themselves into. I really hope they have a strong support system. I really hope they want to do this. I really hope they won’t stop believing in themselves. I really hope they never internalize the negativity that will surround them or the criticism they will receive. 

The truth is, though, you don’t know how long and hard and lonely this road is until you’re already on it. If I knew, I would not have signed up for this. I would have chosen happiness. I would have preferred sleeping in on weekends. I would not have given up my 20’s to be a student. You hear from others that it will be challenging, but you don’t truly understand the depth of the sacrifices or the gravity of the challenges until they are staring at you in the face.

In my class, there has only been 1 student who dropped out. She decided – after two years – it was not for her. And she wished she would have spent more time understanding this crazy process before diving head first.

No matter how much I complain and even if I know I wouldn’t do this again, I would never give it up. Like it or not, I was given an opportunity that most others want desperately. I know – just like all those who stick with it in the tough times know – this is worth it. It’s hard, but it’s so so worth it.

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sonal-kumar

Sonal Kumar

Sonal Kumar is passionate about combining science and storytelling. She has vast experiences outside of healthcare including marketing and advertising, print and broadcast journalism, including TV/radio production. Sonal is an alumna of Columbia University. She tweets @sonalkumar2011.

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