in response to my dear reader post…

Ages ago, I noticed an onslaught of new user registrations without much in the way of comment-posting, so I wrote a post requesting that readers give me some input about what they want to see on this blog. I am now finally getting around to responding to loyal (I hope so still…) reader 314’s questions listed below.

1. Did you ever have any dream careers as a child?

When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a scientist. I even went so far as to draw a picture of myself in a labcoat working with chemicals at a lab bench when I was in second grade or so. So I’ve always been interested in the sciences. In high school, I wanted to be an astronomer until my mom told me that I’d never find a job (she was probably right). Not very interesting, huh?

2. What did you think being a doctor meant when you first decided to go to med school?

I lived a pretty sheltered life until my mom passed away when I was in high school. Even afterwards, I remained pretty sheltered (thanks to a psycho possessive ex-boyfriend). I had never really been exposed to what it is that doctors actually do except for what I saw whenever I went to my own doctor, who was invariably either a family practician or a pediatrician. So I thought that being a doctor meant having my own general practice and that was what I wanted to do. I thought that being a doctor meant seeing sick people and making them better, even after watching doctors fail to cure my mom. To put it simply, I was pretty naive and idealistic about the whole thing.

3. How/why has that changed as time passed?

Well, the first thing I learned when I started med school was that there were all these different specialties that I could choose from that I had absolutely no idea existed before. Then I learned that I do not, under any circumstance, want to go into a general field of medicine (e.g., family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics). Then along the way, I learned that being a doctor isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. I don’t like seeing sick people. I don’t want to see people die under my watch. I don’t like the long hours and being treated like crap. I’ve been lucky to have pretty pleasant patients so far, but I’m sure the day will come when I get abused by a patient who thinks that I’m not good enough for them (and they would probably be right). I haven’t yet been yelled at either, but I hate living each day in fear of the time when I will finally get yelled at. I’ve also learned that a large part of medicine is about how well you get along with people, which I utterly fail at. I make do and plenty of patients like me, but when you put me next to Mr./Ms. Extrovert, I look like an utter failure. So what’s changed from my idealistic vision of everything is that med school is full of abuse and that the long, hard road is seldom worth it. And that contrary to what I had hoped, I cannot change who I am and be good with people. Which means that I have to hide in the shadows in Radiology instead of becoming a brilliant diagnostician (because, unlike TV, I’m pretty sure I can’t be an ass like House and still have a job).

Wow. How utterly demoralizing. But you introverts might as well know that med school and being a doctor is 100x harder if you’re an introvert before you jump in.

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  1. contrary to what you may think…I'm not an uptight know-it-all. Yes, I preach a lot about making sure you know what you're getting into when you decide you want to become a doctor. But that's because I didn't quite know myself (*gasp*) and because I see far too many people naively thinking that the junk on TV actually even comes close to portraying what it's really like to be a doctor. Yes, it's obvious that doctors treat illnesses, injury, and other health conditions. But what may not be obvious is that it's not quite that simple. Every patient is different--some may listen to you, some may think they know more than you, and some just want to look for any excuse to sue you. You may want to become a doctor to help people, but many times, your hands are tied by bureaucracy and you can't do anything about it but feel bad. Oh yeah, and the income to amount-of-work-you-have-to-put-in ratio kind of sucks when it comes to doctors (unless, of course, you go into derm or some other lifestyle specialty). Also, despite my ragging on and on about how it's not fair that people get ahead by kissing ass instead of working hard, I'm the biggest slacker you'll ever meet. I never studied in high school and made it a habit to never study in college until 1-2 days (at most 2.5) before any midterm or final and graduated summa cum laude with more honors and awards than you care to read about here....
  2. dear readerI've noticed that there have been quite a few new user registrations on my blog as of late, but no new comments (which is pretty much what registration is for). To those of you who have registered lately and to my loyal readers, is there something more that you are looking for here? Would you like to better be able to interact with me and/or each other (e.g., a forum)? I'm open to mixing things up a bit, so feel free to leave me any suggestions or thoughts in the comments here or privately by sending me a message here....
  3. how can an 18-year-old know that s/he wants to be a doctor?!But that's exactly what select schools believe because they offer BS/MD programs.  I remember being coerced to apply to these schools during my senior year of high school by an uncle who never believed that I would be able to get into medical school if I did it the normal way.  Boy was he wrong.  And I didn't bother applying either.  Basically these schools offer an accelerated program where you finish your BS in three years and then move on to med school, finishing everything in seven years. What I really wonder though is how these kids know for sure without a doubt that an MD is what they want.  Even though I knew I wanted to go into medicine by the time I applied for college, I wasn't 100% sure.  And how could I be?  I never had any opportunities to shadow physicians and see what it was like.  I had no idea what it involved and didn't even know that academic medicine existed.  Or that doctors did anything else besides family practice.  Yes, I was quite naive.  And even though I wanted to pursue medicine, there was still the off chance that I might go to college and decide that I wanted to do something else.  In fact, I was quite torn between engineering and science and biomedical engineering didn't quite exist at the time.  Most importantly, I don't think teenagers are mature enough to make this choice at all.  Sure, they might have the numbers, but good...

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6 Responses to “in response to my dear reader post…”


  1. 1 tired

    Hehe. As a fellow introvert, I’ve found that a lot of careers suck for introverts. Working in research has been my best job so far, as long as you don’t have to do a crapload of teaching or presentations, it’s okay.

  2. 2 mylifemypace

    Yeah…that’s what I thought too. But I’ve found that research involves making a lot of connections and getting your name out there…which is quite hard for me since I’m so bad at making conversation. And the few presentations I make per year are pure torture. At least I got myself out of the teaching requirement…

  3. 3 jeekyu

    I’m an introvert… I love being alone, but at the same time, I can handle: Crowds, talking to people, socializing, and leading them.

    I attribute my ease of being able to talk to people to being a tall and handsome bastard. It is a good tool to have in this world—It leaves you on the short end of the awkward moments stick. It’s also a great people wall/mover…they stay away from you, and they do what you ask of them with less hesitation.

    Then you have the other end of the spectrum: My best friend.

    My best friend is a 5′6 Korean guy who is the most charismatic person you’ve ever seen…if you ever see him, you’d probably scoff at his appearance (pudgy, wears clothes the models of Golfer’s Digest would be wearing…etc–he’s no Boy London let’s say).

    He’s also the most introverted person I know ( he’s on a self imposed sabbatical from human contact– including from me– for 2 years for his dissertation. I haven’t seen, or heard from him in almost a year). He won’t back down from a fight from a guy who outsizes him, he won’t be pushed around, and he is a ladies man. The dude is a genius, and he has an endless supply of charisma. He always makes me laugh…funny as hell. He does what I do, and a lot more without the benefit of looks. Now that’s what you call confidence and self assuredness. He’s your archetypal small big man.

    So, what I’m saying is you don’t have to let your introvertedness weigh you down in a public/social setting. All it takes is real confidence and a plan. I mean, it’s a hell of a lot better than getting paranoid, anxious and scared all the time.

    A lot of social situations/events don’t have the same meaning for us as they do for everyone else; we’re strictly business and we don’t do the whole people pleasing thing with a real smile on our faces….but for the sake of an unassuming image, sometimes pretending isn’t such a bad thing.

  4. 4 mylifemypace

    I love hearing from fellow introverts! I think being a tall introvert is much easier than being an average-sized one who looks like she’s 16. It doesn’t really help me exude fearless leader…

    I totally agree with what you’re saying. I really try not to obsess over it in social situations, but it’s really hard to not be self-conscious when everyone around me is so effortlessly extroverted. Not only that, but I’ve also gotten so much negative feedback that can all be attributed to my introverted nature. These evaluators just didn’t take into consideration my introverted nature and that my best will never make me look like a true extrovert. They made me feel like my efforts were not even being noticed and that as long as I’m not 100% extroverted then I fail. It’s really hard to not obsess about it when I’m told time and time again that I need to work on my empathy even after I’ve tried my hardest and have made improvements.

    But I have learned not to take it personally. I take my patients’ words over those of my attendings who have only watched me in one patient encounter. If my patient tells me that I’m doing a great job, then that counts more than any negative feedback from an attending ever will. I’ve also been taking steps to pretend and I think I’ve been making progress (e.g., this post: http://www.mylifemypace.com/2008/09/26/i-took-the-plunge/). It’s just very draining and sometimes I wish that I didn’t have to think so hard about things that seem to come naturally to almost everyone else. But, despite the challenges of being an introvert in an extrovert’s world, I’m happy with who I am and I wouldn’t want to be an extrovert even if I could make it magically happen by flipping a switch somewhere in my brain.

  5. 5 jeekyu

    I doubt it’s the patients who have a problem with your perceived introversion. I never expect my doctors to be cheerleaders. All I want from them (and what I usually get) is an objective diagnosis, and a plan–this is just me, though, I’m not emotionally dependent–the exception and not the rule. Honestly, as I look back on all my visits, I see how caring the doctors were with all things considered.

    However, being chipper is very reassuring to the patient, and it does go a long way to relieve their anxiety and puts confidence in them. It may not be a listed pre-requisite to being a doctor, or necessary, but I bet you anything it’ll make YOUR life at least a hundred times more enjoyable at work :) Practice it like an actor practices their lines. It’s part of the job, so you might as well get very good at it…you got very good at everything else by practice, right? Don’t limit yourself in the field, because of your real personality, leave that one at the door, and bring your work version in.

    At school, and at work, I go out of my way to be accommodating to almost everyone, and make it a point to remember all their names and say hi whenever I see them. Really, though, it does nothing for me personally/psychologically. It just portrays me as dependable, reliable and perceived as caring. That’s the whole point. It makes life a bit more fun helping people out with whatever. A lot of connections are made, and a lot of good impressions are created. It takes a lot of self discipline to brush a lot of things off and not react the wrong way. Be cool.

    I only started coming out of my shell in the last few years as a little social experiment. I realized that being an introvert is extremely advantageous for social situations simply because deep down we don’t care what others think :)
    We have emotions like everyone else and are subject to the same inner turmoils, but I believe that we have a greater awareness and better self control than most others.

    If I sounded preachy, or self righteous, or anything else, I apologize. I’m just passing along some tidbits that have helped me survive comfortably with my aloofness :)

  6. 6 mylifemypace

    You didn’t sound preachy at all. :) You actually affirmed what I’ve only recently discovered and started practicing myself. It’s hard to get over that initial inertia, but once I got over that, I find that it’s coming a little more easily. Practice makes perfect, I guess.

    Yeah, I don’t know why my med school emphasizes empathy so much because in real life, doctors don’t have the time to think about being empathetic and it really just comes naturally. I’ve had plenty of patients tell me that they trusted me and confided in me things they haven’t told anyone else, so I know that I’m not completely lacking in empathy (and God forbid, I might actually be good at it!). I just hate the fact that it never comes across when I’m being evaluated. I’ve learned not to care and to fight back when I believe I’ve been unfairly evaluated.

    These are things I probably should have figured out long ago, but I guess I always managed to scrape by because I was never evaluated on my social interaction skills. When I did start running into problems, I never had any time to figure things out and realize for myself that I can fake it until I make it. Now that I have all this free time, I’ve figured it out and am trying to adapt. Better late than never, right? Thanks for your tips! Introvert-to-introvert tips are rare! :)

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