Shawn the medical student asked Doctor D:
As a medical student, I am constantly wondering what type of physician I will become. So my question is, what kind of doctor are you, and how did you decide that field?Doctor D is a Family Medicine doctor. He chose this career because he is a glutton for punishment! Actually, D chose Family Med because he likes people much more than he likes the technical aspects of medicine. As a jack-of-all-trades doctor I can usually help anyone no matter their age, gender, or medical history, but my knowledge on any specific subject is limited. I can sew up lacerations, give end of life care, deliver babies, prevent future illness, and educate people on how to handle most common medical problems. I did this because I enjoy working with human beings and want to help people with their physical needs.
Should you choose Family Medicine as your specialty you will be constantly looked down upon by other physicians. Even though you probably store more knowledge in your brain than any other doctor, specialists assume you are slow-witted because you don't know as much about their particular disease of choice as they do. You will make much less money than other doctors because insurance doesn't think keeping someone healthy is nearly as worthwhile as doing big tests and procedures. You will constantly be pressed to see more patients in less time because the reimbursement for your work is continually dropping.
After his training Doctor D chose to work in a community health clinic to provide primary care for underserved patients. He absolutely loved his job and the amazing people he cared for. He also learned to hate the medical system and the bean counters that were constantly pushing him to cut corners on patient care. In the end the bureaucrats won and Doctor D quit that clinic rather than choose to hurt the patients he cared about. He is currently working odd shifts as an ER doctor in a tiny hospital in the middle of nowhere to pay the bills till he returns to Primary Care. He blogs about patient-doctor relationships because he misses having patients of his own and still has those crazy ideas about "helping people" with his medical knowledge.
Of Course there are days Doctor D wishes he would have never signed on to be a general doctor (or a doctor at all for that matter). But when I realize I can help nearly every person that walks through my door I am certain that I chose the right career. Family Medicine is one of the most frustrating and rewarding paths in all of medicine. I advise med students to seriously consider general primary care—it is the fullest embodiment of the ideal of doctoring—but only select it as your specialty if you are certain you will love it, because it will probably get harder for primary care doctors before it gets better.