MDs: Advice for the Next Generation

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to meet with local medical students as part of an American College of Physicians (ACP) mentorship brunch. I sat with a small group of second year medical students ready to impart my “wisdom.” Mostly, I wanted to be available to answer questions the students had for me. But I knew there were certain thoughts (a few of many) I wanted to share:

  • You may not recognize the medical field you once knew when you first decided to embark on this path. After all, several years pass between the time you make the decision to become a doctor and when you actually start practicing medicine. When I first went into med school, I knew of wealthy primary care doctors who spent 30 minutes or an hour with each patient. Keeping your mind open and not getting too hung up on expectations of what medicine should look like will serve you well and help curb future burnout.
  • Think outside of the box. This has nothing to do with the least likely diagnosis in a case and more to do with the practice of medicine. It’s ok to think creatively. Medical training, at least when I went through it, does little to encourage innovative ideas. If doctors don’t get creative, other interested parties will be eager to impose their ideas on your care of your patient, often with their own self-interests in mind. This can be great (for example, a useful new device or protocol). But it is often done with less knowledge of the unique complexities of the actual practice of medicine. Doctors know what doctors do better than anyone else. As a group, we are incredibly bright, but we can’t make much progress with our heads buried in the texbooks.
  • Balance it out. It is easy to fill 24 hours a day (or more) with medicine. If you can learn to balance school with other positive activities you have always enjoyed, you won’t feel overtaken by this life of medicine later. Even if it is just dabbling in that activity now and again when you find some time, it will be worth it.
  • Watch your digital footprint now. I was – luckily – never faced with this worry as a student. Following doctors who exhibit professionalism online can give you a better understanding of how to use the web in a productive manner and avoid the pitfalls of a web presence. Sometimes you just need good examples.

What words of wisdom do you have for the next generation of MDs?