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My Eighth Grade Daughter Wants to Be an MD

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My daughter started the 8th grade this fall but has already expressed an interest in joining the medical field.

Of course, as a parent, there is a sense of pride that swells when hearing that for the first time.

Education is highly emphasized in many cultures and many view obtaining an MD degree as the pinnacle of success for both the family that raised the physician and the physician themselves. There is a particularly strong expectation that a child follow in their parents’ footsteps, particularly if one or both parents are physicians as well. My father was a physician (Internist) and there was a strong push for me to become a doctor myself.

Luckily it was a career path that I would have followed without this "strong encouragement," as I naturally gravitated to and excelled in the sciences (although I wonder how much of that was due to the environment I was in, as my father would be a great source of information for the main science subjects giving me certain advantages).

I do feel that my daughter is at the same stage I was when I first expressed my desire to become a doctor.

But she (and I) only saw the trappings of a physician life and had no inkling of the dedication, commitment, and sacrifice needed to achieve this. We both grew up in beautiful homes, traveled in nice cars, ate nice food, and took nice vacations.

Who wouldn't want to continue this lifestyle?

My daughter is smart enough already to recognize that this lifestyle requires a certain income to achieve it and that there are only so many professions that would make this a viable option (she unfortunately has also inherited my lack of physical prowess so I'm afraid being the next Tiger Woods or Lebron James would be a longshot).

So why do I feel hesitant giving her my full endorsement in her chosen career path?

Yes, her becoming a physician would give me a deep sense of satisfaction. It would indicate that I raised her right and gave her the opportunities/advantages to succeed. It would mean that I truly would not have to worry about her economic future as she would be in possession of the skills necessary to secure a high paying job for as long as she needed and there will always be a demand for her talents.

But I also consider the shadows that cling to the medical profession that could consume her: Physician burnout. Depression. Physician suicide.

The amount of sacrifice not only to achieve an MD but the subsequent three to five years working less than minimum wage, sleep deprivation, and the expectation to assimilate large volumes of knowledge constantly.

The likelihood that she will be carrying student loans from graduate school that, by the time she graduates, would dwarf mine (and I know what a struggle it was for me to get that beast off my back). I do hope to fully fund her undergraduate education to pass along the same financial headstart my parents gave me.

I know that as a female she will have tougher choices trying to maintain a proper family and work balance that society expects, which, as a male, I get let off the hook some.

Even as a practicing attending, the headaches do not stop, with increasing paperwork, declining reimbursements, and increasing costs that have created a medical environment where doctors are looking for alternatives to earn a living (FIRE community being a direct result of that).

Though I worry medicine will change my daughter, no matter what she chooses, medical or non-medical, I will support her decision fully.

If she does try to follow my footsteps I will do my best to offer insight of what it truly is like to earn that MD degree (I feel this conversation will come when she's a bit older). The tiebreaker in this thought process was if I myself had to do it all over again, knowing what I know now, would I still become a radiologist? The answer is yes (as I mentioned before, being Lebron James was out of the question).

Even though it was a tough journey, the point where I am now has more than made up for it. I hope that the medical climate does not change too much so that she too can enjoy the privilege of being able to practice medicine.

Image by kdshutterman / Shutterstock.

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