Growing up in a family that emphasized education, I had trouble staying on mark as I wanted to be a baseball player. At the age of 11 though, I underwent surgery on my left leg as doctors thought I might have osteogenic sarcoma. The tumor was removed and benign, so my leg was not amputated.
The overnight stay in the hospital influenced the rest of my life. From the nurses and doctors I realized the extraordinary skill needed to provide compassion and encouragement to an athletic yet dismayed 11 year old. With that inspiration, I signed my first baseball contract at the age of 15 (actually, my parents signed it), and played until I was 26, when I went to medical school.
Becoming a physician requires intellectual agility intertwining book-learned material with hands-on training. Therefore, admitting medical schools developed prerequisites to sort out the best and brightest usually through grades and test scores (MCATs).
Surviving this gauntlet may be motivated by an inherent goal to serve mankind, or even an overnight stay in the hospital. Unfortunately, it sometimes comes from mama and papa desires for their babies to fulfill parental dreams.
You’ve heard stories of the proud mom glowing “My son, the neurosurgeon.” Now, neurosurgeons operate six hours in the middle of the night saving a patient’s life, but are denied payment from insurance companies because an “i” wasn’t dotted, and a “t” not crossed.
The overall perception of physicians by the public is doctors driving fancy cars and living in mansions. Certainly some do, but let me surprise you. Others are barely surviving economically as their profession has been taken over by business. I’m not writing to make you feel sorry for doctors, but their troubles and losses impact a vital healthcare resource separating many Americans from life and death.
Those mamas and papas knew a career in medicine for their babies meant always having a job, financial stability, intellectual responsibility, and independent decision-making. So some were pushed, even at 11 years old, to strive for good grades, going to prestigious universities, and aiming for high MCAT scores.
Unfortunately, the game-plan didn’t work. Doctors now don’t make medical decisions, business people do. Job satisfaction amongst doctors is at an all time low; paperwork inundates every physician’s desk; medical education debt takes decades to pay off; job security no longer exists as “performance metrics” grade time, not quality; physician suicide rates are up; and as a doctor, you are now a commodity being used and manipulated for your medical degree to make money for those business people who are in charge.
Don’t believe me? Just ask your physician, or their mama and papa.
Your doctor visit is now 10 minutes; you get whisked out of the hospital to a nursing home even when you are still sick; medical bills are impossible to understand; you are “nickel and dimed” for drugs and “not-covered” care; and before you know it, your trusted physician has retired (or quit), and you must find a new one.
And for you mamas and papas, your babies are under stress and not happy. They are forced to make business instead of medical decisions contrary to their Hippocratic Oath, and change jobs constantly picking up their families and moving (sometimes away from you). So if you have an 11 year old, why put them through the demands of being a doctor?
Instead, let ‘em grow up to be cowboys or cowgirls and such.
Gene Uzawa Dorio, M.D.