This is the question that every premed student must answer. It is the automatic query that follows after you have informed someone of your future goal to become a doctor. It is also the question many med school interviewers will ask in an attempt to gain their first impression of you.
“Why do you want to be a doctor?”
Everyone who poses this question has their own intention behind it. Your follow-up answer will be very telling. I do not believe there is one answer which will satisfy everyone but it is important to know your audience and understand motives behind them asking you this question so you do not fall into any traps. Let’s dissect a few of these motives.
- Are you doing this for yourself or for someone else? Warning! Be true to yourself and make sure you are doing this for you. The medical journey is not an easy one but it can be enjoyable. I have crossed paths with medical students and even medical doctors who remain bitter or quit because medicine is not what they truly wanted to do with their lives in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, being a doctor is an amazing career but when the sleepless nights come around, knowing you are doing it for yourself (not your parents, your spouse, or anyone else) will help carry you through the storms.
- Do you know what you are getting into? I do not believe anyone fully knows what they will encounter in medical school but it is good to have a basic understanding of how you can achieve this goal and challenges you will face. Have you set goals for when you will take your prerequisites and MCAT exam, how you will afford your school, or know what age you will be at completion of your training? You do not need to know the details at this point but you should know the basics of anything you are truly serious about.
- Are you passionate about this? Your passion for medicine can easily be conveyed through your response to this question. If you are passionate about medicine you will likely also be passionate in providing this answer. When you are excited about something your body language tends to show while your answers tend to be free-flowing and authentic. Give it some thought but allow your passion to speak for you. The listener will appreciate this.
- Why not another career? You will get this follow-up question anytime you give the infamous answer, “because I want to help people”. You can help people by being a nurse, or a teacher, or working at a fast food restaurant. Why be a medical doctor instead of a physician assistant or nurse practitioner who cares for patients? Make sure you know the difference.
- Is this an attainable goal for you? The pessimistic and realistic questioner will automatically think of your weaknesses. This may be one’s financial limitations, GPA, MCAT score, personal responsibilities, or lack of role models. They may doubt you initially but how you answer this question may allow them to understand that you have thought about this already and have a way around these potential weaknesses. It will be beneficial to know how to turn your weaknesses into your strengths.
By Dr. Daniel – PreMed StAR Blogger
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