The Wrong Reasons For Choosing Medicine as a Career – How to Be Truly Happy as a Physician

Here’s a secret you might already know – your motives for choosing medicine as a profession will decide if you’ll rock or suck at being a doctor.

Franz Wiesbauer, MD MPH
Franz Wiesbauer, MD MPH
19th Nov 2014 • 3m read

Here’s a secret you might already know – your motives for choosing medicine as a profession will decide if you’ll rock or suck at being a doctor. Here’s why…pre-med folks, listen up! In my experience, 99% of colleagues chose medicine for one or more of the following reasons. First, there are the “Weak Reasons”. If all your motives live in this group, you are doomed and it’s highly unlikely that you are going to attain a state of true mastery and fulfillment. Then there are the “Strong Reasons”. At least one of your motives for choosing medicine should come from this latter group. So here they are:

Weak Reasons For Choosing Medicine As a Profession:

Interest: If this is your only motivation for going into medicine then…good luck. The inner workings of the human body are fascinating beyond belief. No doubt. But a mere interest for medicine won’t get you over the bumpy stretches like death, pain, vomit, weekends on call and sleep deprivation.

Money: In some countries (like the US), being a doctor still guarantees financial success. However, in most other countries, this ain’t so. But let’s just assume for an instant that you could turn your medical expertise into lots of money. Admittedly, money might strengthen your resistance to vomit, pain and death. But I’ll insinuate that it won’t instill and grow in you a love for medicine. You just won’t spend the extra (unpaid) hour to hone your skills and thus be happy.

Prestige: Your mom will be so so proud of you if you go into medicine. Your entire family’s status in the neighborhood will skyrocket just because you are going to be an EMDEEE! Initially, you like the thought of it. You like being perceived as super smart. The goddess in white, right? But BEWARE because the need for social approval and prestige will make you feel miserable for sure. It will lock you into a profession you might not like. Your fear of disappointing your relatives will lock you into a career you might not like. Plus, the need for prestige is a very weak motivator to put in the extra hour in order to become the kick-ass doctor your mom thinks you are.

Power: Interestingly, power is one of the stronger “Weak Reasons” for choosing medicine as a profession. I’ve seen it over and over again. There are folks who choose medicine for the power that comes with it. Power (some may call it “might”) over patients, patients’ families, colleagues, nurses or students. These folks can rise all the way to top-level positions within hospitals or scientific communities. You’ll know when you see a doctor who’s exclusively power-motivated because people are going to say “He’s a good manager but not a very good physician.” Understand however, the political prowess of people in this group combined with one of the “Strong Reasons” creates true medical legends.

Strong Reasons For Choosing Medicine as a Profession:

Desire to help: This might seem like a no-brainer. Of course a physician should want to help others. However, if you ask people if they like helping others, almost everyone will say “yes”. However, most often than not it’s a superficial and self-serving “yes”. What I’m talking about here is a deep-rooted desire to help. A desire that transcends any self-serving feelings. Ask yourself if you would get a deep sense of satisfaction from helping others even if nobody ever knew about your altruism. You have to be very honest with yourself on that one!

Manual dexterity: I know a lot of surgeons who are extremely talented with their hands. For many of them their main source of satisfaction does not come from their desire to help but from the flow that comes with their craftsmanship. Combined with a strong interest for medicine, a drive for power or a need to help others, this motive can jumpstart your medical career all the way to the top.


Combine a Strong Reason for going into medicine with any other motive and you’ll have a decent chance for fulfillment. However, choose from the Weak Reasons exclusively and you’ll be miserable most of the way. PS: Be really true to yourself. It’s your career, your time, your life.

This post was originally published on Medcrunch