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Saudi Journal of Kidney Diseases and Transplantation
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DOCTORS DIARY Table of Contents   
Year : 2008  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 485-487
Careers in Medicine or what do you want when you grow up?


Division of Nephrology, Hypertension and Renal Transplantation, King Abdulaziz Medical City, Riyadh; Clinical Professor of Medicine, King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

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   Abstract 

This paper is in the form of a letter to a medical student advising her/him on how to choose his/her future specialty

How to cite this article:
Al-Sayyari AA. Careers in Medicine or what do you want when you grow up?. Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl 2008;19:485-7

How to cite this URL:
Al-Sayyari AA. Careers in Medicine or what do you want when you grow up?. Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl [serial online] 2008 [cited 2019 Aug 22];19:485-7. Available from: http://www.sjkdt.org/text.asp?2008/19/3/485/40520
Dear Medical Student,

You are taking your first steps in great journey in life -that of being a doctor. Medicine is not just a job; it is a profession and a vocation. It is a craft that combines science, art, human endeavor and a require­ment for sensitive and well developed com­munication skills. You might be exposed to the early components of all these skills at the Medical School but you will continue to learn new things everyday of your profe­ssional life- such is the nature of this great profession.

Ibn Khaldoun, the great Arab scholar who lived over seven centuries ago described your profession as;

"… Medicine is a craft that deals with human body as it becomes ill and when it is normal. (The doctor) tries to preserve health and to cure illness with medicines and diet after discovering which organ is affected (by the illness) and the causes of the illness and what medications are suitable for that illness.."

This statement remains true today. He also added that;

".. the craft of medicine is one of the noble crafts that enables the craftsman (doctor) to be held in high esteem in society and to be welcomed in the company of the kings and the powerful"

You are amongst the brightest students in the country. You are indeed the "creme-de la-creme" and deserve the best of education that will enable you to be competitive enough to choose and pursue any of the career fields in Medicine

One of the most fascinating and appealing aspect of doing Medicine is that there is almost endless specialties and avenues you can pursue following graduation everything to suite every taste, so to speak- There are over 100 subspecialties you can choose from­from animal-based medical research- for the basic research-minded doctor, on the one hand, to daily dealing with patients in an emergency situation for those of you inclined towards medical dramatic events, on the other. For those interested in healing and helping the unfortunate people suffering form psychosocial trauma, there is always psychiatry, family medicine or community medicine. There are also famous doctors who went on to become accomplished politicians, world-renowned authors, actors or even comedians. It is possible that being a doctor helped them in these endeavors but here I am not talking about these rather rare occurrences

It is most likely that when you start your training in Medicine, you would not have a clear idea what you want to do after quail­fication beyond becoming a doctor. As you progress in training the first thing you will notice is that you will start recognizing what specialty you don't want to pursue - a process of exclusion. Eventually you will choose what we want to do. This often happens at the end of your internship.

Let me tell you about my own experience to illustrate this. When I qualified I knew that I was not particularly interested (or good) at using my hands so all branches of surgery were out. I also found that I wanted to see patients and I liked clinical approach and so pathology with all its subspecialties were also out for me. I also noted that I loved the diagnostic decision process and puzzle solving steps and so until I started my internship I was still pondering whether I should do family medicine, paediatrics or Medicine. What made me finally choose medicine was a combination of a number of factors

  1. I got high score in Medicine in the final exam
  2. I found that I got distressed whenever I saw a child in pain or suffering so pediatrics was out
  3. I really liked emergency cases and emergency setting so family medicine was out
  4. My internship in medicine was with a Professor of Medicine (Oliver Wrong) who was a good role for me.


The same professor was a nephrologist - he described the Wrong and Davis test for renal tubular acidosis-, which meant that I saw many renal cases and that, got me interested in pursuing a career n nephrology after I completed my Medicine residency. So your choice may be influenced by a mentor, by an interesting clinical case that left long lasting impression on you (including that of a relative) by an elective you did in the community or in a libratory etc. These, however, are not rational ways of choosing your career. You should base your choice in a more reasoned fashion. So how do you do that?

  1. Know all the available options. You can go to an Internet search engine and type "careers in Medicine" and you will find over 100 possibilities. You can draw short list of those that appeal to you most.


  2. Know yourself

    a. Do you like practical procedures? If so you may think of a branch of surgery or branch of medicine that has practical procedures such as car­diology or gastroenterology. Alter­natively you may think of inter­ventional radiology If you don't like practical procedures then avoid such specialities

    b. Do you want to work in the com­munity and see the family dyna­mics, Think of family and com­munity medicine

    c. Are you more interested in human nature and psychopathology, then psychiatry or bioethics is for you

    d. Do you like to be involved in emer­gency medical situations then emer­gency medicine, trauma; ICU may be the thing for you. If not, may be family medicine, pathology or der­matology may be your cup of tea.

    e. You maybe interested in Academic edicine/research. So think about doing a research PhD and stick to research

    f. Perhaps you don't want to deal with "men" patients (this usually applies to female doctors) then pe­diatrics or obstetrics is the thing to pursue

    g. You may be a person who finds it difficult to deal with people in general So the thing to do would be pathology or diagnostic radiology

    h. You may want to work in private sector and earn more money- in this case seek specialties which allow for more income

    i. You may want to do only day work - no nights on duty. You will find that medical education, primary and family medicine may fit the bill


  3. Know the needs of the country and community


  4. Know what is involved in any specific speciality in terms of duration of the training program and what it involves The best way to know about this is to spend some time speaking with some­body who specialized in this field or better still tag on to him/her for a day or two


  5. You may want to take up a specialty that has very few specialists in it already in order to increase your chan­ces of getting a good job in a major hospital. Find out what specialists al­ready exist. Some of the specialties, which has but few people in them at the present time. Include clinical genetics, interventional nephrology clinical phar­macology, adolescent medicine et. These are just examples but there are many others and the playing field could well change in the future. You will notice that I did not list "an easy specialty option" or an "important specialty option" because it is my strong held view that all spe­cialities are equally important and no one is easier than another if you really want to be good at it. You can be an outstanding and well-known doctor in any speciality you choose provided you worked hard on it and love it. In this connection you may well ask what makes a good doctor. It is my expe­rience that this results from a combi­nation of things


  • Being good at his speciality
  • Being up-to-date in his specialty
  • Works well as a team member
  • Loves people generally
  • Thinks his speciality is the best
  • Is kind hearted and caring for his patients and being their advocate within his area
  • Is humble with his patients and truly believing that his primary function is to serve them


A good competitive doctor is also:

  • Better as a critical thinker in diagnosis decision making
  • Better as a communicators
  • Better at achieving and practicing evidence based medicine
  • Better at appraisal of published lite­ rature
  • Better at handling getting the best of the expanding IT


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Correspondence Address:
Abdulla A Al-Sayyari
Saudi Journal for Kidney Diseases and Transplantation, Saudi Center for Organ Transplantation, P.O. Box 27049, Riyadh 11417
Saudi Arabia
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PMID: 18445919

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