Inside Doctoring: Stages and Outcomes in the Professional Development of Physicians

By Robert H. Coombs; D. Scott May et al. | Go to book overview

Pre-Med: A Personal Perspective

Karen Axelsson

I came late in life to the desire for doctorhood. At 25, when I returned to school to fulfill pre-med requirements, I felt light-years removed from my fellow med school aspirants. In college, I had always despised pre-meds, imagining them ruthless and competitive to the core. Returning to take pre-med courses, I felt like someone who had stumbled into an enemy camp, only to find it manned by children. The fresh faces around me from NY and LA and Cincinnati were only 18 or 19. They seemed naive and confident, already at this tender age planning careers in medical research to be conducted at the top institutions in America. In contrast, I had spent years girding up to announce my desire to be a doctor--years of working in low-paying human service jobs, years of questioning whether I was wise enough and sensitive enough to be a helper, years of imagining that only people more intelligent and accomplished than I would be considered for admission to medical school. It was a point of existential reckoning that sent me back to do pre-med, knowing that not to try would be a demoralizing admission of defeat, yet unable to imagine my quest would ever be successful. Thus it was not surprising that the easy self-confidence and ambition of my fellow students was mysterious to me. What motivated them, I wondered, and what did they dream of as they thought of their future careers? Did they worry at all as I had at their age about whether they would be good enough helpers to people who had sustained tragedy? Would they grow into their roles as physicians naturally and gracefully, or would the sadness and strain of medicine be too much for them to accomodate right out of college? I pondered these questions, and decided there were no generalized answers. I met lovely and sincere students, as well as some who mainly seemed to

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