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Six Myths About Medical School

Jun 1, 2012 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

There are several common misunderstandings about medical school—and the medical profession as a whole—that give people the wrong idea about what it takes to get into med school and thrive as a doctor. Here are just a few.

Yes, medical school debts are high. But don’t worry—you’ll be rich as a doctor

It’s not unusual for medical students to incur as much as $200,000 in student debt—frequently on top of existing debt for an undergraduate degree. And while it’s true that careers in the field are fairly stable and you are likely to make decent money, you also may not discharge your debt until your 40’s or later.

That debt could keep you from doing things that may not be lucrative but that you always wanted to do with your medical education—like practicing in a third-world country or opening a family practice. As a doctor, you don’t necessarily escape the student-debt traps that other students fall into. In addition, if you run your own practice, you’ll have malpractice insurance to buy—which can cost hundreds of thousands per year—in
addition to all the costs of running a business and hiring staff.

Med Students

Becoming a doctor isn’t easy. It takes approximately eleven years—from undergraduate studies to residency—to make it through the training required.

You have to major in the sciences to get into med school

Not necessarily. Although American medical schools require students to fulfill certain requirements—two years of chemistry, a year of biology, physics, and English, and a strongly encouraged year of calculus—you do not have to major in biology or biochemistry or any other science to be a doctor. In fact, your humanities or online human services degree may be an advantage with some medical schools.

You need a perfect 4.0 average to get into med school

Surprisingly untrue. It certainly doesn’t hurt—there’s no question you’ll be competing against students with a 4.0 average, and if you don’t, it helps if you’ve overcome some kind of adversity, are from an under-represented minority, or have something else to make you stand out. But medical schools will look at students with GPA’s as low as 3.0. If you’re from a minority that’s under-represented in medical schools, such as black, Latino, or American Indian, you can be considered with a GPA as low as 2.0.

You have to go straight from college to medical school

Actually, people who have some life experience between college and the time they apply to med school can look more attractive to some medical schools. For many medical schools, the average age of entry is around 24—and it’s not unusual to meet first-year medical students in their thirties or even older.

Being smart is all it takes to be a good doctor

Not true. Being a doctor also frequently requires strong interpersonal skills. As a doctor, you’ll need to talk with patients about aspects of their lives that are deeply personal and sometimes extremely painful—with care and sensitivity. You’ll need to establish a strong rapport and build patient trust—so they can feel comfortable telling you about some of the most intimate aspects of their lives. While it’s true that some subspecialties require less human interaction than others, this is an important quality for most doctors.

Becoming a doctor isn’t easy. It takes approximately eleven years—from undergraduate studies to residency—to make it through the training required. Sometimes it takes more, depending on your specialty. But for those who feel the call to serve others in this way, it can be worth it.


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