Money, prestige, lifestyle, or passion?

Some students start medical school off knowing exactly which specialty they want to enter. But most don’t decide on a specialty until their 3rd or 4th year of medical school. While I was in medical school at Georgetown, one of my professors broke down what to consider when choosing a specialty during lecture one day. He stated, “When making a career decision, one should think about 4 things:

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Money, prestige, lifestyle and passion.” For example, if one chooses to become a Neurosurgeon, which is an extremely competitive field to get into, you will have the prestige and respect of almost every physician and make tons of money ($500k to over 1 million/year) but sacrifice family time and neglecting lifestyle. You will make lots of money, but will be working so much that you will not be able to enjoy it.

You will most likely miss those baseball and basketball games for your son and most likely miss dinner times with your family. Conversely, one who decides to go into Pediatrics will sacrifice compensation (they are some of the lowest paid physicians averaging around $125k-$150k/year) for lifestyle (you will have more time off) and prestige (not very prestigious).

For me, lifestyle and passion where the two most important factors that influenced my specialty choice. I did not make that decision until the end of my 3rd year of medical school. I initially was interested in Emergency Medicine and then Urology. I finally decided upon Orthopedic Surgery because I loved working with my hands and I fell in love with the complex bone surgeries the moment I stepped foot in the operating room.

The recent lottery was for 1.6billion dollars. The other day, one of my coworkers asked me, “If you won the lottery, would you still continue to train as an Orthopedic Surgeon?” To be honest, it did cross my mind what I would do if I did win but it donned on me that I absolutely love what I do and wouldn’t trade it for nothing in the world. Point being said that you should choose a specialty that you can wake up each morning and love going to work each day.

I currently work with three Orthopaedic surgeons who are over 70 years old, with the oldest being 81. When choosing your specialty, ask yourself, “Will I still enjoy being a Neurologist at 70 years old?” Or, “Will I still love getting up day in and day out to work in Anesthesiology after 40 year of practice. If that answer is yes, then that specialty may be for you. Don’t choose a specialty because it makes lots of money, has a short residency, or because you can work shift work hours. You will regret it years later down the line. Instead, ask yourself “What is more important to me–money, lifestyle, prestige, or passion?

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