My childhood dream career was to become a medical doctor, and not just any type of doctor but a cardiologist. I patched the “wounds” on my dolls, attended summer camps for those interested in medicine, and during undergraduate completed the designated coursework for an application to medical school. One thing that I recognized attending academically intense middle and high schools is that there exists an archetypal medical school prospective student. Due to the prestige and earnings of being a medical doctor within the United States, becoming a medical doctor is a highly competitive field.
Doctors have an undeniable significance in the process of healthcare distribution; however, within the United States and likely other Western countries there exists a type. Growing up in my small town in Georgia, I attended some of the best public schools. I will never understate the value in the quality of education that I received, but I will speak on my peers. I was a member of the Nationally Gifted and Talented Association, and had been inducted into the program at six years old. Being a gifted student meant that we were given extra courses on a variety of subjects, and within secondary education our classes were tailored to be more challenging than even honors’ courses.
Being in a challenging and competitive academic environment meant that every single grade, test, and exam was a competition.
Being a highly observant and quiet person, I studied my peers. Many of them were obsessed with grades and status. When I say status, I mean comparing and ranking one another based on the following: GPAs, SAT/ACT scores, test scores, etc… And yes we were all stressed out, seeing a regular counselor, and cheating occurred frequently. There were also many instances in which these same peers displayed racial and ethnic biases (amongst many other biases).
Regardless, I noticed that the path to becoming a doctor lacking certain moral development. I know that I’m a human who has made many mistakes and will continue to do so in the future, but many of my peers were lacking in key moral principles. Obviously, the path to medical school (mostly within the United States) is rife with tests, CV boosts, internships, post-bac programs, money, and plain-ole luck. Undoubtedly, competition is a common aspect within many industries. I understand that not everyone is the same, but it’s important for me to disclose this information because some of these people are or will be your doctors. The question remains: Is the United States system to produce quality medical doctors truly conducive to a diverse, complex, and ever-evolving world?
I ask this question only because the moral capacity of a doctor literally encompasses helping and serving people. Are we actually allowing those who are altruistically willing to dedicate their lives to the role of being a doctor? Or those who’d rather compare lists and CVs? Would you rather a doctor who dedicates time and effort into your health care? Or a doctor who is trying to jam as much patients as possible into one work day?
This is in no way to paint a broad brush for every prospective or medical school student. But I’m going to be honest, some doctors still have discriminative views about people which translates to misdiagnoses or mistreatment. Some doctors view each patient as a number rather than a person. This shows as the United States has one of the highest rates for maternal mortality compared to other developed nations. In addition, access to quality health care is not easily accessible for people in certain demographics within the United States. We also see health disparities predominantly within the poorer, less educated, rural, and/or nonwhite populations.
For comparison, Cuba is well-known for producing some of the best doctors in the world. The reason is that there being a doctor will not enhance your life by status or earnings. I am aware that Cuba’s socioeconomic system is very complicated, but my point is that within this system people who are dedicated to living a life of healing join. I don’t expect the system to change over night, nor do I believe that the system is inherently wrong. I just implore people to have more honest discussions about the way in which society is evolving, specifically within healthcare and medicine. Although doctors are just a fraction of the administration of health care as a whole (I will delve into that at a later date), they comprise an important role within healthcare. We need better doctors who can understand the complexities of their patients and the society that we live in.