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Professional Columns -
Letter from the Chairman by John May





WOULD YOU RECOMMEND YOUR PROFESSION?

 

I am not a doctor, but as a trustee of a hospital, I talk to doctors all the time. I see a cross section of opinions and attitudes. So when our Publisher, Jean Loxley-Barnard, asked me to write this column, I thought about the many conversations I had about this subject with doctors.


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The basic stats paint a picture: according to CBS Philly Medical Editor Dr. Brian McDonough, 42 percent of doctors say they are ‘dissatisfied’ or ‘very dissatisfied’ in their medical practices, and 59 percent say they are unlikely to encourage a young person to go into medicine; only 16 percent report having a generally favorable outlook about the future of their careers. The least satisfied physicians were more likely to be female, younger than 45, and internists or family physicians. Wow.

So: Would you recommend
being a doctor
to your
children
or grandchildren?

Heard on the street:

It is still a privilege and worth all the necessary sacrifices to become a physician.

I would never do this again. I am over worked, underappreciated and frustrated by the lack of support from our government. It is a hassle to be a doctor now.

It has been a great career, but I wish I had thought more about…

I have heard that if you are smart enough to become a doctor, you should be smart enough not to become a doctor.

What a great profession — I can help other human beings by relieving their pain and suffering.

If students want to become physicians, then encourage them.

STOP! Think about this last one. Encouraging anyone to become a physician is complicated. Perhaps, by recommending being a physician, you are trying to validate your own choice. This is about someone’s future. Not everyone who wants to be a doctor now should become one later, and it has nothing to do with intelligence or capabilities.


Consider

Does your child or grandchild have other interests that are pushed below the surface because of the allure of being a doctor? We all have expectations about different choices in life, and most of the time we make decisions with incomplete information. What would you do differently if you had to do it over again? What competing interests and opportunities should be evaluated before choosing a medial career?

Will your child or grandchild love being in med school? When our hospital was under merger discussions with John Hopkins Medicine, our board members were given a tour of their hospital. We went to the dissection lab and were asked if any of us were queasy about these things. All I could think of was my high school days when we worked on frogs. I was shocked to see medical students working on actual bodies. I was amazed, but I turned my gaze on the students. I have never seen so much intense focus on what they were doing. They looked up at their HD screens that helped guide them through the process of learning about the human body right in front of them. Theses students were not thinking about Medicare reimbursement, HIPAA, or tort reform. They were dedicated to learning how this most complicated system worked so they could use their knowledge to help others. These students loved being there. It was in their blood. Is it in your child’s or grandchild’s blood?

Will your child or grandchild love the business of being a doctor after graduation? Then your family member enters the real world. Will reality of our bureaucratic health system create so much frustration that they will regret their choice?

Will your child or grandchild love practicing medicine? Even the thought of making a mistake which can cause physical harm is scary. This enormous responsibility can take a toll on someone who is not emotionally equipped. During my career, I got a promotion that included a big change in responsibility. I was scared. My boss said he picked me because I was better than anyone else and would make fewer mistakes than his other choices. This advice helped a lot; I was forgiven if not perfect. This advice does not apply to medicine. It will not help doctors who cannot forgive themselves if they make a mistake and hurt someone.


Perspective

Mind over heart. Our mind imposes certain visions among choices. It allows us to jump ahead and look at our decisions in an idealized light. Being a physician is one of the most honorable professions. It is a selfless calling with great rewards and humbling reality. Our mind yearns for pride and service but it can shut out what our heart is telling us about our true passions. Many fifth grade children already know what they would like to do. How could they? They do not know enough yet; dreaming is not knowing. But as their personalities develop, we can get a clearer picture of what they would not want to be. This gives a framework to at least ask the right questions to form the next generation of physicians…or artists.

So why did you become a doctor? Knowing what you know now, would you make a different decision? What would you be?




Along with a career in innovative technology, John was a Trustee in the Johns Hopkins Health System for 15 years and earned a master’s degree in Computer Science from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. This combination of experience and education allows a broad perspective on healthcare, software and how the transfer of software platforms between industries have had a transformational impact. He believes the healthcare industry can, and should, be next.


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