Dear Future Doctors — Jim Sansone, MD
Dear Future Doctors,
Congratulations on your decision to practice medicine and completing the seemingly endless journey to get there. I wish you continued success and a lot of happiness in your future endeavors. Despite the many challenges I truly believe there is not a more rewarding profession. Yes, you will face hardships and trying times but given the opportunity and a good attitude, you will also be rewarded with the knowledge that you can positively change other's lives.
As an engineer switching to medicine, I found it difficult to accept the “need” to memorize volumes of information to take a test. Although the hours could be grueling, I enjoyed the clinical phase of medical school much more than the first two years. Choosing a specialty can also be challenging but for me, Pediatrics was an obvious choice. Residency had its unpleasant moments but working in a children’s hospital provided for a lot of teamwork with a common goal. To be able to comfort and care for a sick child and their family is incredibly fulfilling.
Does the practice of medicine have its issues? Sure. In my tenure probably the biggest change was the explosion of electronic information. The promise of electronic medical records is still unfolding, but in general, I believe it has improved medicine. Do I curse all the extraneous requirements that have come with the change? Yes, some days more often than not. But having all (or most) of a patient’s information a click away is very handy. The difficulty is using all of that information effectively and securely.
Of perhaps a bigger concern to you (and those of us watching it happen) is the extreme cost of a medical education and training program. This needs to be corrected yesterday. I don’t have a good idea of how to correct this, but society will need to recognize the advantage of having well educated and trained medical professionals that are not overwhelmed with debt.
Another issue that I believe needs to be corrected is the current method of recertification. Again what could possibly be the benefit of testing the ability to memorize information that is readily available in the palm of one’s hand. I believe it would be much more beneficial to test the ability to take a good history, perform a good physical and then be able to analyze the information gathered and formulate a plan. But what do I know?
Despite those issues, I wouldn’t change my choice of profession for any. I hope that in the long-term future of medicine we are still “laying our hands” on patients, interacting one to one. I’m sure there will be more and more internet medicine, but it cannot totally replace face-to-face contact.
It is all-important to find ways to remove oneself from medicine to stay fresh. I find travel as my way to decompress. A strong support system is important in medicine as in most all professions. Find ways to have fun. Exercise. Try to eat well. I know, sounds great, but very hard to do. But it can be done.
So, work hard but remember to play also. Try to choose a specialty that that warms your heart not just your pocketbook. Be happy with your choice. But if you find that you may have chosen incorrectly, don’t be afraid to change. Enjoy life. Keep your friends and family a big part of it. If you find you are having a difficult time, please be aware that there are many support systems and people there would be happy to lend a hand.
Jim Sansone, MD