A choice (noun) is an act of making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities. For the last few months, I have prayed, asked God for guidance and spoken with mentors and friends about which direction I should take in my medical career. As a 1st year medical student, one of my professors broke it down succinctly. When making a career decision, one should think about 4 things: Money, prestige, lifestyle and passion.
For example, if one chooses to become a Neurosurgeon, which is an extremely competitive field to get into, he or she will have the prestige and respect of almost every physician and make tons of money ($500k to >1 million/year) sacrificing family time and neglecting lifestyle. He or she will make lots of money but will be working so much that he/she will not be able to enjoy it. He will most likely miss those baseball and basketball games for his son and most likely miss nightly dinner times with his family. Conversely, one who decides to go into Pediatrics will sacrifice compensation (they are some of the lowest paid physicians averaging around $125k-$150k/yr) for lifestyle (you will have more time off) and prestige (not very prestigious).
As I start to plan my last year of medical school and pick a specialty to practice medicine, all of these factors must be considered. For me, lifestyle plays the largest part in my decision making process. Compensation, a little less so. Choosing a specialty based on how much money you will make is highly discouraged by our predecessors . Changes in the US health system, which will take place over the next 5-10 years, will dramatically change how much physicians are paid. Medicare payments to physicians are predicted to be cut by nearly 30%. That same physician who made $400k 5 years ago may easily see a 100k pay cut. So basing your decision on how much you will get paid is not the way to go. A Chinese philosopher and teacher named Confucius once said “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Those words made me realize that you really have to pick a specialty in which you have passion for. I have come to realize that I work well in chaotic environments and love working with my hands (doing procedures, surgeries). I vividly remember those years working in the ICU while in the military and getting an adrenaline rush when my patients were brought into our ICU shot up from gun shot wounds, very sick and on the verge of death. Those critical minutes and decision making moments meant whatever decision you make, can mean the difference between life and death for that patient. Most would argue that being in a situation like that for years on can eventually lead to physician burnout and unneeded stress, something I must keep in mind when making my decision.
So, I would like for each and everyone of you reading this to pray for me as I close out my final year of medical school and make this life changing decision. I pray that I will be able to not only enjoy whatever field I choose to enter but also make a difference in whatever community I choose to practice in.
Thank you and God bless!Antonio J. Webb
Candidate for M.D. 2014