It’s the first question any premedical/medical student is asked. It’s THE question – the one that will tell you a lot about a person and their motives for pursuing medicine. Although there are answers to the “Why do you want to be a doctor?” question that we may prefer to hear, I caution you to not judge or compartmentalize someone based on their answer. There are amazing doctors who may have stumbled their way into medicine by chance.
For me, being a doctor was a calling. Sometimes, in life, we are called to do things, and we may not always realize it or may even try to fight it. Thankfully, I was always interested in science and medicine, and when I realized that I was truly called to become a physician, I was already on the path there.
My father’s passing when I was younger was my first exposure to death and grief. As I grew older and learned about public health and disease, I began to ask more questions about his death. Only then did I get the full context and learn that he:
- died of heart disease, a preventable illness,
- was not compliant with his medications, and
- did not change any lifestyle factors and continued to eat an unhealthy diet against the doctor’s recommendations.
I was infuriated. Didn’t he care about himself… about me? To know that he could still be here today and that I would not have had to struggle so much was devastating. However, these were selfish thoughts. Instead, I started asking myself about the reasons why he didn’t take his medications or change his lifestyle, if he was possibly afraid to die, or if there was pride or hyper masculinity involved. Once I started thinking in this way, I became a lot more empathetic. I realized that there are many reasons why each of us do the things that we do, and it may not always be understood by onlookers. One thing that I did know was that I wanted to play an active role in preventing others from losing a loved one prematurely as I did. I have a natural inclination to help others, and I find fulfillment in making a positive impact on the lives of other people.
I am not sure of the exact moment that I realized that I was called to medicine, but it was within the last few years. Surprising? Slightly. I have always known that I wanted to be a physician and have aligned my studies to do just that. But choosing a career path is not always the same as answering your calling. For example, many people are in a career that brings them much success, but that doesn’t mean that they are fulfilled or that is what they are destined for. Somewhere between my studies and working with patients during my gap years, I had the realization that: I am great at this, and it brings me and other individuals joy. I truly care and bring passion and unique qualities to this field. Most importantly, if I were not to do this, there are patients who would suffer.
That was more than enough for me. For once, I had absolutely no doubt that I would become a doctor, despite the many obstacles that lay ahead at that time. Fast forward to now.. the obstacles are still here, even bigger than ever, but the doubt is not. I would not have been called to something that I cannot accomplish.
I encourage you to explore what your calling is, if you have yet to realize it. As for me, I want to be a doctor because I got the call. Thankfully, I picked up.