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Sunday, June 12, 2005

I'm Supposed to be a Doctor

When I started applying to medical school there were questions. From my parents. From my interviewers. Was this really what I was suppose to be doing?

I mean, it's not everyday someone with a background in screenwriting decides he's suppose to be a doctor. I'm sure it is. However, all of my life I've loved politics and there is no doubt as a physician I want to be tightly involved in healthcare policy and politics. Here's a neat looking Health Policy Fellowship Program through the AMSA.

I applied to Texas' only MD/JD joint degree program and didn't get in. A close family friend who is a practicing academic physician has decided to go back, more than 10 years into his practice of medicine, and get his JD so that he can become more involved in the policy aspects of the academic health center. I think it's noble and it's a role I aspire to and it's got me back to thinking. Despite the fact it's four years away I wonder about two things -- 1) If a graduate degree, a JD, or an MPH, or an MPP; would actually help me get my foot in the door and my voice heard on healthcare policy and 2) When such a degree should be pursued.

Take this physician who I look up to, he is older and his place in this academic practice established and will be waiting for him when his JD is complete. Yet, on the downside the man will, for all intents and purposes, almost not practice medicine and receive no income from such for three years.

I think the worst time to pursue such a degree would be, say after your residency. In such a case you would have no established career, and your clinical skills and knowledge would likely degrade to some extent over the your years away as you studied.

If I'm going to be a full time student pursuing a graduate degree beyond my M.D., then it seems like the best time is either immediately following graduation, so that you postpone your residency training and lose none of those skills; or after you've settled into a career.

I have four years to ponder this. It's more than likely I'll come out of medical school understanding I don't need a degree to be involved in healthcare politics. But maybe...

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