Dear Future Doctor of America - Zachary Fulton, MD

Dear Future Doctor of America,

Welcome to the most challenging and rewarding career available. Medicine today, much like medicine of the past, involves caring for individuals who are ill, putting others’ needs before you're own, and helping to diagnose, treat, and cure disease, as well as advancing the scientific knowledge of medicine. Many physicians before you have paved the way with research and knowledge to help pass on the skills needed to care for the sick patient. Throughout your career you will find amazing opportunities to help those in need and develop very rewarding relationships with patients who trust in your knowledge and skill.

You will, however, also find many overwhelming challenges and obstacles in your way. You will learn that despite your best efforts, disease and death will always win in the end. You will find that others blame you for bad outcomes, even when you do everything possible to help them. You will find that many in society hold you responsible for the high cost of medicine. You will find that you are an employee that will make a lot of money for others, who will then look to replace you with cheaper labor as you age. Many other healthcare professionals will work together with you as a team, and you will see the accomplishments and great care that can happen when the team works well together, however you will also see that others on the team will resent you, or try to replace you. At times, you will see society turn against you simply because you have a high income. At other times, you will see that society automatically relies on you to help with things far outside of the field of medicine that you studied, simply because you have a high income and very deep and knowledge of one subject and a very deep personal connection with many individuals. You will be asked to sit on boards and committees that you barely understand.

Although many others will help you with treating patients, you will find that none of the others developed the true doctor-patient relationship. You will need to be the leader of the team. You will need to help other providers who simply follow flow charts and guidelines. You will need to be the one to create the guidelines. You will need to be the one to handle the patient who does not fit on the flow chart. You will need to be the one to teach other members of the team what they do not know and do not understand.

Throughout your career in medicine, you will learn many new facts. You will learn many new procedures. Facts that you think you know now, you will find to be wrong in the future. Procedures that you love to perform, will become obsolete. In order to keep up with the constant change in medicine, you will have to commit to lifelong learning and study. Over time, you will question year own abilities. You will fail. You will make mistakes. You will need to pick herself up and move on and help the next person in the next room immediately after feeling like a complete failure. You will do this again, and again. You will find yourself overwhelmed with paperwork. At times will question why you ever went into medicine in the first place. You will miss out on some family time to care for a sick patient who needs you urgently.

Thankfully, the reason you chose this field in the first place is that you enjoy helping others, you enjoy the challenges, and you find pleasure in the personal connection of the doctor-patient relationship that develop with each patient at each visit. You will have the opportunity to work with some of the best people in the world. You will have a chance to help some of the neediest people in the world. You will find that some people respect you and attribute miracles to you, although you will not be able to explain why. You will make correct diagnoses and you will cure many diseases. In the end, you will find the most rewarding part of your job will be holding the hand of a loved patient at the time when both of you know there will be no cure this time. Somehow you both find comfort in the relationship you have developed. You will again feel the love for this job that makes all of the stress worthwhile. You will be a physician.

Welcome new physician,

Zachary J Fulton, MD


Maria Patterson