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Aug. 16, 2011

Recipes and Road Maps — Guides to Becoming a Doctor

by Linda Brodsky

No matter how high your grades in chemistry and biology, no matter how solid your MCAT scores, no matter how many activities you join, you still might be missing the important “stuff” to become a doctor.

Okay, now for the truth. Being a doctor is hard. Expectations, details, and enormous pressure. It seems to get worse all the time. New things to learn: medical technology, medical knowledge, business know how, rules/regulations multiplying like bunny rabbits. For example, the soon to be released new 3 volume set of disease classification (ICD-10) has almost twice as many diagnoses as the two-volume old ICD-9. Getting the information into electronic health records which we all must master is no easy feat!

So while you are writing your kick butt essay, think about where you are going to find the right amounts of these 6 ingredients that one needs to become a really good doctor:

1. Commitment — one large cup of putting aside your own needs to tend to others who are not your family.
2. Confidence — a heaping tablespoon. It takes a lot of guts to embark on a journey where your own skills in so many areas have such huge consequences for others.
3. Curiosity — two dashes. What we think we know today will be replaced by a different understanding tomorrow. Be curious, always challenge and ask questions of what you know and believe. Your patients will help a lot!
4. Conscientiousness — mix with precise measuring tools. The details of the patient’s life can crack the code. The details of the physical examination, the x-ray that was taken, and the details of how you communicate will get you into and keep you out of trouble.
5. Communication — 2 large cloves. One for listening and one for explaining.
6. Compassion and caring — as much as needed.

These 6 ingredients are not found in the books you buy or the courses you take. They are found inside yourself. They are learned from your family, your friends, your teachers. They are more important than the Krebs citric acid cycle or even knowing the four basic nucleotides that make up our DNA.

Find ways to acquire these critical ingredients. Make them part of your daily habits in everything you do. When you finally get that green hood (the cowl that you get when you graduate medical school), you will truly be ready to be the doctor the MD degree says you are.

Next month: Roadmaps on the way — Dana’s turn.

About Linda Brodsky

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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