Will You Survive the Real World of Medicine?

A few days ago, I gave a presentation to a small group of fellow medical students. The title of my presentation was The Future of Doctors: Adapt or Die.

(If you read the linked article above, you’ll get a very good idea of what my presentation was about.)

Short summary: Change is inevitable. Because of change, there is no guarantee that doctors will have a stable, six-figure job in the future, largely due to technology and outsourcing.

My presentation definitely hit the right spot (by hitting where it hurts — their wallets). People called it “provocative” and “depressing.” I received the most comments and questions out of the whole group. Most of the questions were based on protecting doctor’s current turf:

  • Are there laws against technology or outsourcing? Not likely. States and countries can try to implement laws, but if you don’t like it, you can always get your care in another time zone, where the laws are different. No law is global.
  • Will insurance companies pay for them? Possibly. If insurance companies pay out less money, it would be in their best interest to do so. And they are all about the bottom line.
  • Can you sue for malpractice if you get medicine abroad? Yes, you can try to sue. But you most likely would not get anywhere. The real question should be: Would you rather be bankrupt and have the option to sue, or would you rather be solvent and not have the option to sue? With the exponential growth of medical tourism, people have already voted with their wallets.

The 2 Mindsets: Sheeple and Leaders

Presenting to my peers solidified my suspicions:

The general mindset of medical students and doctors are very conservative. They actively resist change, rather than embrace it. They prefer to be part of a broken system, rather than create a new and better one. No wonder we have doctors complaining about their current situation — that the “good ol’ days” are gone — instead of doing something about it.

It is even worse for newly-graduated doctors. The system is stacked against them from the start. With the crazy debt, insane amount of time in training, and decreased reimbursements, they have it even worse than any old-timers. Would the young ones make it in the real world by trying to play by unfair rules?

But then there are a self-selected few … the rebels, innovators, and leaders. They embrace change. They look forward to a new environment, because the possibilities are endless. They don’t reminisce about the “good ol’ days,” (like a has-been thinking about his faded, glorious past). They think about the future, because it will be even better than anything that has happened before.

For the sheeple, the people in the first category, medicine will be your grave. When politicians tell you to jump, you’ll jump. When insurance companies reduce reimbursements, you’ll take it lying down. When administration gives you more paperwork, you’ll work an extra 10 hours a week to complete them. Of course, people will praise you with empty words for being so obedient, but they won’t praise you with money. You’ll go the way of the dodo.

For the few leaders, the people in the second category, medicine will be new, exciting, and fun. You won’t be shackled by “obligations” and rules set by people who have no personal skin in the field. You’ll follow your convictions. You’ll make grand discoveries and uncover new horizons has you pave your own way. You will do meaningful, well-paid work.

Only when there are more leaders than sheeple will the climate change for the better. But knowing my peers, I wouldn’t put my hope on it.

Welcome to the jungle — the medical world — where only the fittest, strongest, and nimblest will survive. Will you live or will you die?

For thoughts about medicine and its future, visit the About Alex section and look for “Musings (My Philosophy on Medicine).”


  1. Samuel T Farfaglia says:

    The problem is that medicine breeds sheeple by it’s nature. The rhetoric that a physician “should not worry about the debt of medical school because it is their passion” is a perfect example of BS sheepery. Lawyers, special interest groups, and insurance companies, will never produce the same value that people like doctors, engineers, accountants do for society, yet they are the ones who control medicine (and economics) more so than the doctors. This control then impacts the people like the engineers and accountants as well.

    I have no trouble coming up with the problems, but I do have a lot of trouble coming up with the solutions, which are more important.

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