Of Doctors, Kids, and Careers

Gregory J. Kelly, Editor-in-Chief

Physician's Money Digest, January31 2004, Volume 11, Issue 2

My eight-year-old daughterLauren is a treasure. Even abad moment for me caninstantly change after a briefcontact with the thoughtful and genuineinner and outer beauty that she radiates.

The other day, much to my delight,she told me that she wants to be "a doctorjust like grandpa." That would be afirst in our immediate family. Of the 25direct descendents of her paternal grandfather(8 children and 17 grandchildren),there are no physicians. We'll see whatthe future holds, though. It's still too earlyfor some of the grandkids, and, besides,Lauren said she also wants to be "asinger, gymnast, and figure skater."

Other Courses?

Sadly, many of our readers say theyare actively recommending other careersto their children. Recently a NorthCarolina physician told me he is "stronglydiscouraging" his University ofVirginia honor-student son from pursuinga career in medicine. "For the next 20 to30 years the costs, hassles, and threats ofpracticing medicine will far outweigh therewards—both intellectually and financially,"says the 30-year doctor.

A while back we surveyed our physician-readers and found that about 60%would not recommend a medical careerfor their children. Personally, the consensusamong my brothers and sisters wasthat our physician-dad's 24-hour-a-daycareer took him away from us too much.

Another North Carolina doctor (wemust play well in the Tar Heel state)wrote me a poignant letter. Although hiscareer was "wonderful," he stated, "Iregret working too many hours and notspending enough time with my childrenwhen they were growing up."

In a bit of good news, according to anOctober 2003 Harris Poll, the occupationof doctor won top marks from America'syouth—nearly 85% of US teenagers saythat physicians had either "very great" or"considerable" prestige.

Pollsters found an interesting divergenceon how teens and adults evaluateprestige, however. The cornerstone ofprestige for adults is respect. With teens,it's celebrity status and high salaries.Actor, entertainer, and athlete all made theteen top 10 list; none made the adult cut.Meanwhile, nurse, teacher, and engineermade the adult top 10 but not the teen.

Caring Counts

In the end, I hope that my daughterbecomes a physician. Not because I wanther to or because she'll represent anothergeneration in our family to practice medicine,but because I think she possessesthe vital quality that makes for the bestphysician. She cares about people.