Why did you decide to study medicine?
Updated: Jun 15, 2020
This is a question you will be asked many times in the lead up to your medical school interviews, throughout medical school and even when you are a doctor. Being a doctor is not just a job but a life commitment. So why did I decide to study medicine? What made me want to be a doctor? And how can you start thinking about how to answer this question?
I think every medical student can agree that the consideration of a medical career in its very early stages stems from your scientific interests. I was always good at science at school and it was the only time I genuinely felt excited to learn. I also always felt that I could learn more or there were more unanswered questions. The thing I liked most about the science subjects was that I felt that they mattered and related to my day-to-day life. I could link them to what was around me and I think Science helps you understand the world better. A personal story of mine is that I am born from IVF and I took extra time to understand this when I first learned about it in my Biology lessons. If it wasn’t for scientific technology and medical professionals, my parents wouldn’t have 4 children – which they never thought they could. I wanted to be able to improve people’s quality of life in ways like this. I then achieved 10 A*s at GCSE which allowed me to pick from a range of A levels that I may want to pursue in Sixth Form. I decided on the Sciences and Maths as I felt those were my strongest subjects and I liked them in secondary school.
During that summer, I undertook some work experience at veterinary practices. I loved animals and I knew I wanted to be a healthcare professional, so I decided to see what working as a vet was like first. I sat in on consultations and witnessed procedures like castrations and births. But… I realised this definitely wasn’t for me! I missed the sense of connection you would have with a patient in a consultation and found myself feeling distanced from the whole process.
So, my next steps were to find work experience at a hospital to compare to my veterinary experience. I managed to get work experience at a hospital and a hospice during Year 12 which allowed me to experience both ends of the spectrum: when lives can be saved and when they cannot. The multi-faceted nature of the NHS excited me and solidified my decision to study Medicine. In my personal statement I said:
I learned about the practicalities of working in a busy city hospital, including the intense public attention on healthcare colleagues. From the patient’s perspective, whereas in the hospital the focus is on general health, this contrasts with the hospice’s palliative care, including pain management and giving patients the tools with which to cope with the burden and stress of a terminal illness. I recognised that the duty of care extended to families as well as patients; tending to their social and psychological needs as well as the biological.
Furthermore, other factors that influenced my decision to study Medicine were the fact that it is a challenging career path to embark on. Not only is it hard to get a place at medical school but having other people’s lives in your hands is not easy! I am a person who loves a challenge, so I was attracted to being able to rise to the challenge of medical school. Throughout a medical career, you are also constantly learning. As a doctor you will never know everything and part of climbing up the ladder of the medical profession is gaining knowledge from all of your different experiences and colleagues. You will get the chance to share your knowledge with others such as your patients and their families when you diagnose and treat them or work experience and medical students (e.g. Once you’re a doctor and have students shadowing you). I decided that I wanted a career that encompassed all of these aspects.
Sit down and reflect on why you want to study medicine (and one day, be a doctor). You may find it helpful to jot down your thoughts and speak with family members – ask them why they think you’d make a good doctor. These can all inform your decision better and help you to reflect on your reasons and your personal qualities/attributes, helping you come across more confidently and authentically at interviews.