By Robert R. Ramirez, MD
The answer to “Why I Became a Doctor” is as complex and multifactorial as it is individual and personal, but there are some common elements. An obsessive interest in the life sciences at an early age is a must, of course, in order to plant the seed for further exploration of biology, biochemistry and, ultimately, medicine.
Also essential are the competitive drive and endless commitment and dedication needed to rise to the ultimate personal challenge of completing the long and arduous training necessary to earn that all-prestigious medical degree, often overcoming difficult obstacles in the process. (Not to mention the many years of residency and, in many cases, fellowship training, that follow.) As the saying goes, “Ad astra per aspera.”
But it is the answering of a calling, whether divine or otherwise profoundly metaphysical, that, in my opinion, best characterizes the desire of aspiring physicians to achieve this profession of ultimate altruism in the advancement of healing and in the betterment of the human condition. It is a calling not only to never stop learning, which is inevitable in the always rapidly-changing field of medicine; but also to use that knowledge, and any and all skills acquired along the way, to heal. Because only a calling, as with many other professions of customer, community, and public service, can justify the incredibly long hours, unselfish devotion, mental taxation and personal sacrifice that medicine demands.
Furthermore, the reward, of course, lies not so much in the remunerative aspect, as in the ability to make a difference in the lives of others by helping to save such lives, stamp out disease, provide palliative care, alleviate suffering, or otherwise aid in healing just by listening.
For me personally, being a doctor ranks among the most heroic, noble, and selfless undertakings of humankind.