Doctors’ Diaries: 7 People’s Journey from Medical School to Doctorhood

If I gave you the opportunity to follow a person as she progresses from medical school to life as a doctor, would you take it? I know I would. It is much better than shadowing. You would get to see the person’s struggles and triumphs. You would get to see how they ultimately turn out.

The question I just asked is not a hypothetical question. I am giving you an opportunity to follow not just one person, but seven! From the comfort of your room. For free!


Two words: Doctors’ Diaries.

Doctors’ Diaries is a 1 hour 41 minute documentary by NOVA and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) on the lives of seven people as they begin their first year in Harvard Medical School to getting into residency to life as a doctor.

After 21 years of experience in the medical field, they will tell you if being a doctor is worth it or not. You will get a glimpse of just a couple of opportunities that is available to you as a doctor.

If you want to know more about each person, reach or watch the interviews with each doctor. In the interviews page, you will get to see which specialties they chose, what they are doing now with their life, and more. And after you’re done, hopefully you would know the doctors a bit more. And once you got their story, make sure you watch the documentary.

Doctors' Diaries

Click on the picture to watch Doctors’ Diaries. I highly recommend it.

After Three Years, I Still Remember Doctors’ Diaries

Three years ago, when I was fulfilling my medical school requirements, namely, the second semester of organic chemistry, I stumbled across Doctors’ Diaries. I remember spending hours and hours watching the documentary, reading the interviews with each doctor, and taking notes.

If you have watched the documentary, you will know that just because you are a doctor, there is no guarantee there will be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Your life can still fall apart as a doctor. Several of the doctors were divorced. One even had a hard time finding work.

Just as a reminder, these are Harvard Medical School graduates, the cream of the crop, and yet they struggle too.

Watching Doctors’ Diaries was a real eye-opener. And yet, after seeing their problems, I still wanted to pursue medicine.

The two doctors I most deeply connected with were Dr. Cheryl Dorsey and Dr. David Friedman. In a way, I could see my future somewhat similar to the lives they lead.

Dr. Cheryl Dorsey

What stood out to me about Cheryl was that she was not afraid to branch out from the common path, meaning she did not practice as a doctor after her residency. She tried out many different things:

  • started a mobile health clinic (called The Family Van) to reduce African-American infant mortality
  • worked in the corporate world (and left)

And now, she is a CEO.

One thing I really admire about her is that she follows her passion. And in the same way, I hope that once I am done with medical school and residency, I am still able to live a well-rounded life — one that is not totally consumed by medicine. Oh yeah, I want to be a CEO too.

Dr. David Friedman

It is evident from the documentary that David is a very intelligent man. He made it to one of the ADORE paths: ophthalmology.

One part of the documentary showed him volunteering in China. And he was able to speak Mandarin! I was really impressed with that much more than him getting into ophthalmology.

It is my goal to volunteer my medical services abroad, whether it is on a missions trip or with an organization like Doctors Without Borders. I hope to do this once my business is set up and running.

It is also my goal to become fluent in Spanish and Mandarin, so that between the three languages (English, Spanish, Mandarin), I can treat 90% of the world’s population when I volunteer.

Did I Convince You to Watch It?

Anyways, if you have not done so, I would advise you to watch Doctors’ Diaries. (Scroll up and click on the picture to do so.) I am sure it would be a good use of your time. You will get to see what medicine is like during medical school, during residency, and beyond.

And who knows. Maybe you will get a glimpse of your future as I did.

And after you watch it, I would be interested in hearing what you think. So definitely leave me a comment!

This article is part of the Get into Medical School series. Click on the link if you want more tips and hints about getting accepted into medical school.


  1. I live outside US and I can’t watch the video. It says ‘this video is not available in your region due to right restrictions.’ 🙁

    • Hey Claire,

      Sorry, it’s up to PBS to determine what countries can watch and can’t watch the video. Try YouTube. It might be there.

  2. Courtney Hill says:

    I thought that video painted a accurate picture of the struggles, frustrations, and rewards
    of the journey of not just graduating Medical School, but also becoming a gifted doctor that has the capability of changing the world.Even after seeing all of the negatives of being a doctor,(very long work hours,pressure when caring for patients,etc) I believe in my heart that becoming a doctor is what God put me on this planet to do. Although, having such so much responsibility that comes with human lives being put in your hands is very stressful no doubt. However, it’s just as rewarding to know within your lifetime you will have helped and encouraged so many people(some are not patients) that felt they didn’t have any hope.Those people will never forget how you never gave up on them when they felt they had one foot in the grave.They will never forget you holding their hand and comforting them when they were scared out of their minds when they about to go into surgery.They will never forget how much you show your kindness and love to them when they felt no one would care if they fell of the face of the earth.People don’t always remember what you said to them, but they will always remember what you did for them.

    Thank you Alex Ding for sharing this amazing video that helped me to not only gain insight of the world of a doctor but also to make my final career decision.

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