Like many aspiring doctors, my life for the past 20+ years has been guided by this straight and narrow goal of one day of becoming a physician. This translated to working hard throughout grade school, crying over A-s/B+s in high school, slaved over undergraduate courses of organic chemistry/ physics/ biology/ biochemistry etc while still juggling fifty extra-curricular activities in hopes that my application could stand out just enough to get the attention of medical school admissions officers. Even after I was admitted to medical school, my life just revolved around trying to master the umpteen tests thrown at me while still maintaining a chipper attitude when I was thrown to do scutwork or yelled at by either attendings, residents, nursing staff, or patients. Needless to say we are a very driven bunch.
While many of us have our unique stories to tell, I will say that my drive was fueled not just by the prestige that came with the title but the idyllic belief that I provide the healing hands to cure my patients AND make them happy. When I was growing up, my pediatrician was placed on a pedestal and I aspired to be just like him. My decision was affirmed when my family was afflicted with the death of my grandmother, who died suddenly of unknown causes. In hindsight, it could be an asthma exacerbation but I could not truly recall the details. All I remembered was how helpless as a pre-teen and how I wished that there was something, anything, that I could have done that could have prevented her death.
But let’s step forward to present day. Reality has finally sank in. Being physician is not just about curing people. That is almost too easy. I admit, I get that orgasmic pleasure of figuring out what is wrong with a very difficult patient, but is that thrill really worth it? Reality is, I had spent my whole childhood and a good part of my adulthood thus far to be where I am now. The opportunity cost for me was the opportunity to enjoy life, ability to fuck up and still be ok, to carelessly travel around the world as a carefree twenty something, to party like a rock star once I hit legal age. I didn’t do any of that; don’t get me wrong, I wonder but I don’t necessarily feel bad for not having the opportunity to do these things. But in giving up such opportunities what do I physically get? I get a mortgage size debt, almost $300,000. By the time I pay that off, it would be close to half a million. In residency, I get paid a meager salary. If translated per hourly basis, I get less than $20 per hour on a good week of working 50 hours (and that is a really good week), to $12 per hour on a really bad week (and to be honest, most of of the time my hours have been teetering on the bad side). This is gross pay. With taxes deducted, I get $12 and $7 dollars per hour respectively. And unfortunately no time and a half. Who in their right mind in this day and age would take on a mortgage size half a million dollar debt making $7 dollars an hour? The only comfort I get is that there is light at the end of this tunnel, but even that is slowly flickering away. For those who think attending physicians, full fledged trained physicians make bank rolling in $$$, that is completely false. I met many that are struggling to make ends meet, but are too proud to admit it.
So now comes to the purpose of this blog. It’s for me to vent. Hopefully aspiring doctors who stumble upon this will think long and hard before going down this path. And those already on this path, I would appreciate your support and input.
Now…. back to work. till next time!