How Do You Imagine Your Future Career As A Physician?

I’ve done it, you’ve done it, we’ve all done it. Lying down in bed at night right before you’re about to go to sleep, imagining your life after 15 years when you are an independent, practicing physician. We all know what it’s going to take to get there – working your butt off, passion for the field, etcetera etcetera. However, given the people of science that we are, it might be worthwhile to look at it from a more objective lens. In other words, here’s the question that I want to try to answer – what are the factors that contribute to the decision you make when choosing a specialty?

Inside the OR vs. Outside the OR vs. Somewhere in the Middle

I would encourage you to reference an earlier article I wrote where I described the process that every first year medical student should consider going through, trying to shadow in as many specialties as possible in order to figure out between medicine and surgery. In my opinion, this is the most important decision that you need to make while you are still in infancy for the long road ahead.

If you like being in the OR and nothing else, then you should do something in surgery. If you can live without the OR, but still want to do something procedural, then you should look into something along the lines of critical care medicine, interventional radiology, interventional cardiology, or something like that. And if you never want to see the inside of an OR and never want to cut open your patient’s skin, then explore the many different medical subspecialties.


Source: Wikimedia

Team/Attending on Rotations

I can recount so many instances where currently practicing physicians have told me about how a particular mentor, attending physician, or even resident influenced their outlook about a specialty. Sometimes, it’s about seeing how happily someone practices in a particular field that can affect you and make you want to follow in their footsteps. Then, it doesn’t matter whether it’s dermatology or neurosurgery, you just have to do it.

L0040163 Medical staff and female patient Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images A crowd of medical staff standing round a woman patient in bed in a hospital ward. Murals of foliage and allegories painted on the walls. Photograph 20th century By: and Seeberger FreresPublished: c.1910 Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images,,

Life Outside the Hospital

Think back to when you applied to medical school. The thought probably crossed your mind – “I want to be the most badass doctor there is!” And this is what keeps your motivation fueled as you go through the grueling process of medical school applications, the first two years of medical school, your USMLE Step 1 exam, and eventually starting rotations. However, once you start working and practicing medicine in the flesh (aging gracefully along the way), you start to realize the importance of a life outside the hospital in order to maintain your sanity (unless of course you are a megalomaniac, or a neurosurgeon, which are pretty much synonymous). Furthermore, this is the time when you are likely to be in your late 20s and 30s, finding a significant other and starting a family, which of course has a significant influence on your career choices.

Christmas Day 2009, Family ski day at Sun Peaks...Joan, Robin, Scott & Murray

Source: Wikimedia

Type of Future Career

This is perhaps one of the most difficult yet most crucial factor. Sure, every one of us would like to do it all – clinical practice, groundbreaking research, teaching young physicians, and volunteering internationally. However, given that there are unfortunately only 24 hours in a day, we can only do so much. However, at the same time, the constantly changing landscape of medicine and the degree of flexibility that can be exercised has transformed what was once thought about some specialties that put constraints on what one could do.

For instance, a career in vascular surgery was once considered a gruesome specialty that most likely required a complete dedication just to care for your patients. However, in today’s day and age, vascular surgery is one of the most sought after fields with high-power research, clinical education, and much more. Nevertheless, if you choose to do something like neurosurgery, it might be worth taking a hard look at yourself in the mirror before overcommitting if you would like to lead an active life outside the hospital.


Source: Wikimedia

Related Link: Five Tips For Choosing The Right Medical Field

Featured Image and Body Image Sources: Wikimedia, Unedited

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Yash Pandya

Yash Pandya is a science writer at The "Almost" Doctor's Channel. He is a rising third-year student at the University of Pittsburgh, majoring in Emergency Medicine with minors in Neuroscience and Chemistry. Yash plans on attending the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Fall 2016 with guaranteed admission. In addition to the usual humdrum of academic involvement, Yash loves to play Ping Pong, catch up on the latest "Big Bang Theory," and travel. Having lived in India for half his lifetime, Yash aspires to expand his horizons into international healthcare by practicing medicine globally.