[ Medical School Resources | Appendices | Discussion ]
"The medical student is likely to be the one son of the family too weak to labor on the farm, too indolent to do any exercise, too stupid for the bar and too immoral for the pulpit." - Johns Hopkins University President Daniel Coit Gilman
James Hinton, shortly before this eminent English surgeon-to-be became a medical student, 1841:
I feel sometimes a deeper desire than I can express to be in some way or other the benefactor of my species, and yet I cannot help but suspecting that pride and ambition have far more to do with that desire than philanthropy. I do not find in myself the same willingness to be useful in a way of unnoticed - perhaps despised - toil as I do in ones that should procure me respect and esteem and be gratifying to vanity.
One investigator concluded that the 640 doctors she interviewed had decided to become doctors either because they had been good at science subjects at school or to fulfill the aims and aspirations of others.
Ask if your next act is of any value to the poorest person you know - Gandhi
Some think it's for the money. Physicians were asked why they thought medical school applications were down again in 1998. One replied, "Income of physicians is falling; there are easier and faster ways to earn money."
In these times, why would anyone (except the terminally uncreative) enter a profession that guarantees a decade of impoverished, undignified servitude, followed by an increasingly uncertain future, with incomes practically legislated to decrease? Only if the stock market goes down, will medical school applications go up.
Others think it's for deeper reasons.
From 'helping the needy' to 'needing the helpless'
From the British Journal of Medical Psychology:
Knowing that one is a physician allows people with a very shaky self-esteem to find a niche... it becomes a crutch to their self-esteem.... Being needed by their patients may reinforce a sense of grandiosity, but it is [an extremely fragile mechanism,] a process which has to be endlessly repeated, and being so dependent on one's patients to maintain a sense of self may generate feelings of anger and resentment towards them.
From an article entitled "Physician Heal Thyself":
The factors that motivate us to become doctors are often those which later lead to a kind of stoical and compulsive unhappiness. The inordinate need for prestige and power and the poorly controlled aggressive and hostile drives lead inevitably to professional and emotional disaster.
 Bardella, IJ. Letter. AAMC Reporter 9(1999):3.
Froehlich, JB. Letter. AAMC Reporter 9(1999):3.
 Johnson, WDK British Journal of Medical Psychology 64(1991):317-329.
 Zigmond, D. "Physician Heal Thyself." British Journal of Holistic Healing 1(1984):63-71.