The more interesting title would be “deal with the devil?” but that’s just too vague for search engines and the like. So I have this lame title instead, but rest assured, this post will not be lame—I hope.

So the other day I was at lab (where else would I be?) and my major professor (who is a PhD by the way) waltzes into my office and plunks down in a chair, which is never a good thing because that means he wants to talk. And when talks, he only talks about himself. But that day was a little different.

Major Professor: I remember you were interested in Dermatology. Are you still?
Me (to self):
Uh, no. I was only interested because I briefly fell into that whole comfy lifestyle with lots of money crap. I’m over that now.
Me (to him): I haven’t eliminated the possibility.
Major Professor: The chair of Dermatology pulled me aside the other day and we had a long talk. He really regrets that not a single one of the residents that he has recruited so far in his time as chair here has chosen to stay in academics.
Me (to self): Duh. If I did Derm, I wouldn’t stay in academics either.
Major Professor: He thought that MD/PhDs would stay in academics, but they didn’t. Now he just wants someone who can guarantee him that they will stay in academics. He asked about you, since you’re an MD/PhD.
Me (to self): Wha?! Can I really be guaranteed a spot here, in Derm no less, if I sell my soul to academics?!
Me (to him): Well, I’m not really interested in Dermatology right now, but I’m not eliminating it from my options until I get on the wards. Besides, that’s still three years down the road. Things may change. He might find people who will stay in academics by then. He can’t guarantee me a spot, can he?
Major Professor: You know that Dermatology is the best specialty for a good lifestyle, don’t you? And let’s put it this way—if you commit and you do all the right things, then your chance will be super super high here.
Me: I don’t know if I can guarantee that I will stay in academics. Right now, I’m not in it for the money or lifestyle. But who knows what might change in three years?
Major Professor: Well, you decide. But if you’re interested, let me know and me and him will set everything up for you.

Now, this conversation didn’t really go like this because in between his statements about me and Derm, there were many many statements about how great he is at recruiting residents who stay in academics, which I left out to prevent from boring you to death. So there you have it. The offer of a lifetime—for those of you out there who are dying to get into Dermatology that is. Too bad it was offered to someone who’s only so-so about the specialty. I’m sorry but I am of the opinion (and I know it’s wrong so please don’t flame me) that being a dermatologist is a waste of the torture I put myself through in medical school. I have too much ego for that. I’m sure I’ll be respected and admired by medical students who know how hard it is to get a spot in Derm, but I won’t be by my family, friends, or most of all, my in-laws, who have absolutely no idea how hard it is to get into derm and will think I copped out. And yes, I don’t live my life for them, but I do have to deal with them. And myself. How can I just abandon my love for Neurology simply because I have a better chance of staying here if I go for Derm (wait, did I just say that? Because it doesn’t make sense. A better chance with Derm than Neuro?! I guess I just don’t have a lot of confidence in myself even when it comes to a much less competitive specialty, but then again, this is a desirable place to be, even for Neuro…)? Really, the only thing that makes me give this offer any thought at all is the fact that I want to stay here for residency. This fact makes me want to jump at any offer (within reason now—no Internal Medicine, Family Practice, or Pediatrics for me) that will make that happen. And Derm’s not so bad. But specializing in Derm to stay in academics? I’m already leaning away from academics, thanks to my major professor and others who have done nothing to help cultivate and everything to discourage my interest in it. That’s the real problem here. What’s the point of specializing in Derm if only to make a meager academician’s salary when I can make at least twice as much (a very conservative number there) out in private practice? Which explains exactly why Derm is having such a hard time keeping people, even MD/PhDs, in academics—the lure of private practice is just too great.

Decisions, decisions… Can I just date them both a la Meredith on Grey’s Anatomy?

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2 Responses to “let’s talk about specialties”  

  1. 1 officiallyover

    Arch Dermatol. 2006;142:911-913. “Academia Is the Life for Me, I’m Sure”

    Choice excerpts:

    “Of the 115 applicants, 85 (74%) had predicted an academic career in 1989-1990; however, only 7 are employed at a university (8% of the 85 who had predicted an academic career)….”

    “[A]pplicants feel pressure to portray themselves in what they predict is the most appealing way, that is, as a future researcher….”

  2. 2 mylifemypace

    That’s a great reference!!

    I’m sure that many people say they want to go into academics to help their chances. But I think there are others who really do want to go into academics at the time who later change their minds, like me (though I haven’t changed my mind quite yet) and maybe programs need to do more to prevent that from happening. I can definitely say that my MD/PhD program needs to do more to keep their students in academics, especially since they invest so much in us!

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