As a first generation Nigerian, I was expected from a young age to go to college, and get some type of graduate degree. Nigerian Americans tend to value education very highly, and if you only have a bachelor’s degree, you’re not finished with school yet! Many parents favor “prestigious” degrees, such as medicine, pharmacy, law, or nursing. There have been several times where parents have asked me to convince their child not to go into their chosen field, be it psychology, mathematics, or elementary education, but to pursue a pre med and then medical school degree. And each time that I have been asked, I have quickly declined to intervene.
Medicine is a marathon, not a sprint. There are between 11 and 17 years of training after high school. These years include sleepless nights, hours of studying, dealing with difficult patients and their families, becoming all too familiar with death, being berated by attendings, all while reading daily to keep up with the constant stream of new information on drugs and medical conditions. And every step of the way (undergrad, medical school, even residency), people drop out to do something they like more.
If you enjoy learning about medicine and the human body, by all means, jump headfirst into the medical journey. But if you are interested in medicine only because it is what your parents want you to do; or you like the prestige that comes with the title of physician; or because you think it is the best way for you to become wealthy; I encourage you to stop and take a breath. Introspectively look into what your career dreams are. Shadow a physician(s) to see if you truly can see yourself in medicine as a career. And if your heart is telling you to go in another direction, don’t be afraid. The earlier you come to this realization, the happier you will be. I truly love my job, and hope that you all will find a career that you similarly will grow to love.