Are you smart enough to be a doctor? Take a quick minute to think about that question. Got your answer? Now answer this question, what criteria did you use to define smart enough? Did you think about a medical doctor and attempt to compare your intelligence to his or hers? If you did, I bet you thought of someone you think is really smart. How about trying this, think of the least intelligent physician you know. Are you as smart as that person? If the answer is no, then it is likely you just don’t know enough doctors. As a matter of fact, I bet many of you reading this are smarter than me. The point is, there’s a lot more to being a doctor than intelligence.
Students (and medical school admission committees) often fail to realize that you do not have to be as smart as the guy to your right or the girl on your left to be a doctor, you just have to be smart enough. You need to be smart enough to take in and process information; smart enough to ask the right questions, and smart enough to pull on available resources. Once you reach that threshold of intellect, being a good doctor is completely dependent on other personal characteristics such as discipline and passion.
So, instead of asking yourself if you are smart enough to get into medical school and become a doctor, ask yourself if you are passionate enough to dedicate your life to this; to dedicate your life to that of others. If the answer to that question is “no”, then this isn’t the field for you. If the answer is “yes”, then the next question is “Are you disciplined enough to be a doctor?”
That indeed is the real question! Are you disciplined enough to be a doctor? You don’t have to be a genius to practice medicine in this day and age (afterall, it’s probably more important that you know how to find the answer to a question than having that answer stored in the back of your brain), but you do have to be disciplined.. You’ve got to be disciplined to get up every morning to make it to class on time, Disciplined enough to study every evening and stick with it until you know the subject matter cold, and Disciplined enough to go to sleep at a reasonable hour so you can get up and do it all again the following day. ALL doctors are disciplined!
My experience as a mentor has shown me that underrepresented students as a whole tend to be discouraged much too easily. Over the years, I have witnessed many potential doctors do poorly on one or two tests early in the academic year, and thereafter lose all confidence. They go from saying they want to be medical doctors, to saying they are not smart enough. And sadly, outside encouragement from others (including many academic advisors) persuades them to believe that they are not cut out to practice Medicine. The students who don’t have a mentor to tell them that it is okay to struggle on a test as long as you are disciplined to learn what mistakes you made and refocus that for the next test, inevitably veer away from medicine without giving it a fair attempt.
So, to all of the DiverseMedicine future doctors, I am telling you today, YOU ARE SMART ENOUGH TO BE A MEDICAL DOCTOR! That’s not even the question. The question is, Do you really want to be a Medical Doctor, and if so, are you DISCIPLINED enough to stick with it??? Ponder that!