Dr. Laura Hester, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, knew from a young age she was interested in how the human body works and read many books that had doctors as the main characters.
As Hester did, when a student becomes interested in a field, it’s a good idea to explore whether the career fits the student’s personality, attributes and interests.
High school students thinking about a career in medicine can begin by taking as many math and science classes as possible. Along with an interest in science, they should enjoy challenges and be willing to work hard. They should be empathetic and be able to work well under pressure, often while lacking sleep.
Dr. Suzanne Bertram, a Fort Collins parent who specializes in preventive medicine, said, “Despite all the advances of medicine, there is still much we don’t know, and it is important to be able to be comfortable with making decisions — especially knowing that those decisions may be imperfect and to be able to handle the responsibility of the outcomes of those decisions.”
Students should know there are multiple paths and options for a medical career, be it as a doctor, nurse or researcher, to name a few. Other recommendations for students interested in medicine are to shadow doctors or researchers, conduct informational interviews and seek internship opportunities.
Exposure to college coursework and various medical positions will help students understand the field before undertaking the commitment. Becoming a doctor takes 11 to 16 years and includes four years of college, four years of medical school and three to eight years of residence training, depending on the specialty.
When it comes to undergraduate studies, Hester said, “students can major in any subject they want; they do not need to major in pre-med programs such as biology. … However, students should take general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, calculus and physics during their undergraduate studies and try to earn A’s in each.”
She also recommended that potential medical students take prep classes before taking the Medical College Admissions Test, or MCAT.
For students wanting to improve their chances of acceptance to competitive medical schools, a few undergraduate programs are available. One such program at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine reserves a student’s seat at the top-ranked medical school while they pursue their undergraduate interests.
The long, often-grueling educational path to a medical career generally leads to a high-paying profession; yet, being a doctor can be demanding. A student should fully understand the time, effort and commitment involved, both in school and in the field, before pursuing a medical career.