Youth – Do you think you want to be a doctor?

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There are many different kinds of doctors, doctors who specialize in taking care of kids (pediatricians), doctors who fix broken bones (orthopaedic surgeons), doctors who deliver babies (obstetricians) and family medicine doctors, who do all of these things, and many more.

Some doctors help people without ever meeting them. These doctors look at x-rays, work in laboratories interpreting blood tests, or look under a microscope at samples (biopsies) of someone’s skin or liver and then report what they see back to the doctor who is meeting with the patient.

What these doctors all have in common is:

Do you love to learn?

virus Medicine is a rapidly changing science. Just in the last 30 years, we have learned many new things about viruses that cause infections, how these infections spread, and how to prevent people from “catching” them.
We have discovered how some diseases are related to what we eat and how much sun we get.  Other conditions are genetic and run in families. baby
Brain PET Scan X-rays have been around for awhile. MRI is relatively new and allows us to see muscles, liver, brain, and other organs that don’t show up on x-ray. PET Scans, such as this brain image, allow us to see some organs in action.
There are also new ways to do surgery and to fix something inside the body without cutting it open by using tiny instruments attached to cameras with special light sources called “fiber optics.”
Because medicine changes all the time, doctors have to be eager to keep learning. They can do this by going to special meetings, taking classes, or reading about the latest discoveries in medical magazines (called “journals”).
Once doctors graduate from medical school, there is no one who assigns certain things to read or do. Doctors keep learning because they want to, because learning new things is interesting, and because new knowledge helps them take better care of patients. medical conference
scientist To get the Medical Doctor (MD) degree in the first place requires successfully finishing high school, then college (usually 4 years), and medical school (usually 4 years). After that, doctors have additional supervised training while taking care of patients.
This is called residency because these doctors used to live (“take up residence”) in the hospital during these training years. Now-a-days residents training in some specialties still stay overnight in the hospital a few nights each week, but in other specialties they can sleep at home and can answer calls from the hospital. Residency can last from 3-8 years depending on the specialty. Residents take care of patients and are paid for their work residents break 
sports injury Some doctors decide to do sub-specialty training after residency and do another year as a “fellow.” An example of this might be someone who wants to be an Orthopaedic surgeon taking care of a sports team. Orthopaedic residency lasts 5 years after medical school. The one-year sports medicine fellowship after residency teaches the doctor to really understand the kinds of injuries that athletes get and how to prevent them as well as treat them. Under supervision, the fellow helps take care of a team and even learns to work with the coaches, trainers and reporters!
Clearly, someone who wants to be a doctor needs to be willing to work through a long training process. How old are you likely to be when you are ready to go out on your own as a doctor? Do the math! 6 years of elementary school + 6 years of middle and high school + 4 years college + 4 years of medical school + 3-8 years of residency! young boy chemist
Many future doctors take a year or more off from school to work or travel or do scientific research. All of these activities ultimately help them to be better doctors. Although this seems like many years of hard work, if you like to learn, the time will fly by.

Are you curious?
Clearly you are or you wouldn’t be reading this!

curious boy with magnifying glass

  • Do you wonder why you catch a cold 2 days after all your friends in school start coughing, but your teacher doesn’t get sick?
  • If we told you one possible reason your teacher didn’t get the cold everyone else in the class had, would you be satisfied or would you want to check around and see if you could come up with other reasons?
  • Have you ever wondered why you have to get some shots to go to school?
  • Do you ask questions when you go the doctor?
  • Do you ask questions in school?
  • Do you like to figure out how things work?
  • Have you ever taken anything apart and tried to put it back together again?
  • Do you like puzzles?
  • Do you like mysteries?
  • Have you ever wondered why everyone makes such a big deal about brushing your teeth?
  • Do you notice changes in your body when you exercise like your heart beating faster and your body getting warmer?
  • Have you noticed that you can smell a flower better when you close your eyes?
  • Have you ever wondered why your bruises change colors before they disappear?
  • Do you ever think about why you look like some people in your family but not like others?
  • Have you ever asked how your body knows when to grow and when to stop growing?
  • Do you enjoy watching “The Discovery Channel”?
  • If you go the zoo or the aquarium, do you wonder why some animals are awake during the daytime and others are awake at night?
  • Do you wonder how your body makes either muscle or fat from the food you eat?
  • If you’re walking through the woods, do you notice the difference between the leaves of different trees? Do you ever wonder which berries are poisonous and which ones are ok to eat? Do you want to know what poisons actually do to you?
  • Have you wondered why “allergies” make some people’s noses run, some people get a rash, and some people have trouble breathing? What makes you have an allergy in the first place?

If you answered yes to more than half the questions,
you are a curious person.

Keep reading. Here are some things other people have said about being curious:

“There are no foolish questions, and no man becomes a fool until he has stopped asking questions." ~Charles Proteus Steinmetz

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” ~Dorothy Parker

You can find more quotes about curiosity at: Quote Garden website.

Do you like to help other people?

All doctors want to help their patients live better lives. Sometimes this means teaching patients ways to stay healthy. Sometimes this means curing an infection or figuring out what caused the infection. Sometimes this means prescribing a brace that will help someone walk or run better. Doctors who meet with patients have to be good listeners and interested in helping solve the problem that is bothering the patient. Other doctors who don’t meet with patients still help them by doing research that discovers why some infections cause fever and others don’t, how some types of fat in food are good and others are not, or why some babies are born with problems and what could be done during pregnancy to prevent some of those problems.

How do you know if you like to help other people?
Generally if you are concerned about other people you will already have started doing some of the following things:


dad in wheelchair with son

  • Helping around the house or at school
  • Helping take care of other family members
  • Caring what family and friends feel or think
  • Taking care of pets
  • Helping someone in your neighborhood
  • Participating in service activities at school or in your community
  • Making friends with someone who doesn’t seem to have too many friends
  • Helping an injured teammate off the field or the floor
  • Collecting food, clothes, school supplies, or money for people who have less than you have
  • Listening to friends who want to talk about a problem
  • Appreciating people for who they are and what they do, and letting them know it.

If helping other people is an important part of who you are, you will not only have done some of these things, but you will have discovered that doing them makes you feel really good, even when you aren’t thanked for what you did.

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