Picking a Medical Specialty

Picking a Medical SpecialtyHello my excited readers! Before you start medical school, when people ask you what you’re going to be when you grow up, you answer with the phrase, “a doctor.” Once you get into medical school, the question gets more specific and people ask what “kind” of doctor you’re going to be and what medical specialty you’ll focus on. My standard response, since I’m a sassy-pants by nature is, “a good one, hopefully” but they’re getting at an important question. At some point within the next three years, I’ll need to decide which residency program to apply for. Fortunately, I don’t have to commit any time soon since there are a lot of factors to consider.
Sidenote: This may be on my mind because Match Day is quickly approaching for the fourth year students. I’ll write a post soon about the craziness that is involved with Match Day too.
Today, I would like to elaborate on the fact that there are a few stereotypical types of medical students when it comes to thinking about what “kind” of doctor they’re going to be.
Type 1: Certain Sally
When you ask a Certain Sally which specialty they’re considering, they answer without hesitation. Derm! Surgery! Ortho! They’re generally going to commit to the more competitive specialties and the more highly paid specialties. Certain Sallys been waiting their whole lives to say, not only that they’re a doctor, but that they’re a dermatologist. To them, it’s painfully obvious which career they should have. For these folks, hanging around in a primary care clinic, as we’re all required to do during our first year, is a waste since they plan to avoid doing a complete physical exam for the entirety of their professional career. For the record, you can also get Certain Sally’s who choose more accessible specialties, but they’re less common.
Type 2: Waffling Walter
Whereas a Certain Sally knows exactly which specialty they want to go into, a Waffling Walter will oscillate between a few specialties. He may like family medicine this week, but surgery the next. Any time he goes into a clinic, he immediately loves the new specialty and cultivates a passion for it. Generally Walter’s preferences will tend toward whatever you happen to be studying that week. We’ve been studying dermatology and rheumatology over the past few weeks and I know that several several of my classmates who were previously gung-ho about infectious diseases like TB and the flu three weeks ago are now considering looking at rashes and moles or hanging out with lupus patients.
Type 3: Negative Nancy
Negative Nancy will generally have some idea of which specialty she’d like to choose, but more importantly she knows what she does not want. Things like- OB/Gyn: too many pregnant women and babies, Surgery: no awake patient interaction, Radiology: too much potential for napping while you’re supposed to be working- quickly get crossed off the list as soon as they’re considered. Nancy will keep a running list of previously rejected specialties. For a Negative Nancy, the specialty selection process is basically composed of the five or so specialties that don’t get immediately rejected and deciding which of those five is the most acceptable.
So, I’ve made it to the end of this column and haven’t yet alluded to what “kind” of doctor I’d like to be. I’d love to do something in pediatrics. The common response after I say that is, “Oh, I can see that” or “That makes sense” which I suppose means that other people think peds is a good place for me too. Until recently, I thought that I wanted to do general peds, but somewhat like a Waffling Walter, I am intrigued by rheumatology and am toying with the idea of combining the two specialties and becoming a pediatric rheumatologist. Also, like a Negative Nancy, I have a good list of specialties that are populating the no, thank you bin. If you see me talking about becoming a surgeon, dermatologist, radiologist, oncologist, urologist or psychiatrist, I’m clearly joking as those have been summarily crossed off my list.
So, how about you? What kind of physician would you like to be, besides a good one of course?
Happy studying,
  • Abdallah

    Either Family medicine or An ER doctor, I love both specialties but each has it’s own issues.. I want an ER doctors adrenaline but I want to work with families and have a lot of free time as a family doctor :/

  • Guest

    Either a neurologist or a psychiatrist for now

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