The Long Road to Becoming a Doctor
There’s no shortcut to becoming a doctor. There are ways where you can shave a year or two here or there. You might apply to a combined 6-7 year BA/MD program in the states. You can save a year if you apply abroad (either in the UK, Ireland, Australia, etc) right out of high school. You might end up doing only 2 or 3 years of undergrad and get accepted to a Canadian school that doesn”t require applicants to have a degree. Hundreds of people graduate from 3 year programs at McMaster and Calgary each year. You may even be the youngest graduating medical student of your year, but to become a doctor, and not just someone who can pass licensing exams, takes a lifetime.
What I mean is that graduating in the shortest amount of time or at the youngest age doesn’t make you a doctor. It’s not about how many letters behind your name you obtain or how many hoops you can jump through quickly. To become a “doctor” is more than just having an MD behind your name.
You can’t know what being a doctor is until you have been at it for a while. Some people may take ten years, some twenty, before they are comfortable and aware of what being a doctor means. Your view of medicine and the role you play evolves as you go through your medical training. Your patient encounters shape who you will eventually become.
My view of what being a doctor means four years ago, two years ago and today is constantly changing, and will continue to do so. You began to appreciate and understand life and death in new ways. You meet many people that will alter the way you see the world. You will take care of society’s forgotten and marginalized: drug addicts, people suffering from mental health, homeless citizens, people who have never known what being healthy means.
As I reflect back on the last few years, I remember a time when I was impressed by people who had graduated earlier than their peers, perhaps achieved some big shot position soon after and had a distinguished career established sooner than expected. Now I realize, that’s only a small part of the bigger picture.
I guess my main point is you shouldn’t care about how long it takes for you to become a doctor. Some people have to apply several times before they make it in to medical school. Lots of people have had other careers before they decided to become a doctor. Others have been in school their whole lives and have never known anything else. Whatever the case is, each person becomes a doctor in their own time. And even if a person takes the shortest route (straight from high school, graduates early, chooses the shortest program, etc), it still adds up to a long time. So don’t worry about how long it takes for you to become a doctor but focus on becoming the best doctor you can be.