In my previous post, I’ve written An Unofficial Guide to Admission to Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. This is somewhat a continuation from that post. In this article, I will discuss a bit about my personal experience with my application to NUS for Medicine, and explain my reasons for eventually choosing to reject the honor to study this prestigious course.
Early Days – An aspiring doctor-to-be
When I was in school, I was dead certain I would eventually become a doctor in future: I loved human physiology and anything medically-related, I performed quite well academically, and I was aiming for a high-paying job in the future. Throughout the time when I was in high school, I did everything necessary to create a strong portfolio so that I could be considered favorably for the course, from scoring straight A’s for sciences to getting an attachment at a local hospital. I pull out all the stops to get it done right, but there was something I couldn’t change, and that was my character.
Turning Point – Attachment at SGH
Looking back, I guess the point where I started doubting my decision to do medicine was during my short attachment (or rather, job-shadowing) at Singapore General Hospital in June 2008. I was attached with a neurophysiologist for 2 days, and got to witness what life is like as a doctor. To keep this article as neutral as possible, I will not disclose the details of what happened during the attachment (you may, however, sieve through my old blog for posts in June 2008 and see if I have written anything about my attachment). After those two days, I learned a couple of very crucial things about doctors: 1. you spend more time with the sick than you do with yourself. 2. You are working in a clinical environment, not an office environment, or a laboratory environment. The feel is different. 3. The ‘responsibility’ of being a doctor is much higher than that of any other profession, since you have the lives of patients in your hands.
It got me thinking if I was prepared for such a lifestyle in the years to come. Since then, I started to reassess and weigh my options again.
What it Takes to be a GOOD Medical Doctor
I’ve narrowed down the traits of a good M.D. into these couple of points (I’ve used ‘he’ for the subsequent points. So sorry girls):
- He must be passionate about the human body, illness, and anything medically-related. He must love what he studies, otherwise he will be suffering together with his patients for the rest of his life, like a chronic disease that refuses to go away.
- He must place his patients’ welfare and well-being before everything else, and dedicate his all to not only curing the illness, but making it as bearable as possible for his patients. A doctor without a heart for his patient will bring more harm than good.
- A good doctor must be able to handle immense amounts of psychological and emotional stress. In a span of 5 minutes, the doctor can determine the life and death of an accident victim that has been rushed into A&E. A good, stable head coupled with a high tolerance against panic and mania
- A good doctor must be optimistic! Nothing kills a patient more than a doctor who keeps telling him that he is not going to live past tomorrow because his cancer is in its terminal stages.
What you should NOT join Medicine for
- Prestige. Seriously. If you want prestige, go do something extraordinary and win an award for it.
- Money. If you want more money, go do business. More green, less effort. And guess what? Most of the people around you will be doing the work for you!
- Status. If you want social status, you get more being a politician.
- Because you don’t know what else to apply for, and Medicine sounds cool. If you fall under this category, I STRONGLY ADVISE you to get an attachment at a local hospital, or do some volunteer work before you make the decision.
My Eventual Choice
I knew that I loved science – particularly biology, and human physiology. I always knew with certainty that science will accompany me for the rest of my life, along with a life-long exploration for knowledge. But medicine will not fuel that thirst for knowledge. It won’t keep me satisfied. I knew that if I were to become a doctor, I would no longer have the time for myself, and the freedom to pursue the different types of things to learn in the world. I loved biology, but I also wanted to learn more about physics, cosmology, maybe even history, economics, and theology. I want to indulge in education, and medicine was definitely not the best choice for it. Also, I knew that I did not have much compassion and love for the patients I will eventually deal with (though of course what I said in my interviews was the more ‘politically correct’ answers, but that I preferred to stay in the research labs to do clinical research), hence I wouldn’t make a good doctor.
In the end, I rejected the offer from NUS. Instead, I decided to pursue a life of scientific research by taking up a scholarship from the Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and going to Brown University to study biology. Hopefully, the time I spend there will allow me to broaden my intellectual horizons and experiment new things. I know I am not going to regret this decision for the rest of my life.