Simply put, becoming a physician takes an extraordinary amount of hard work, dedication and sometimes a sense of calling that may have started at a young age. The physician is a vital member of the health care team. Their work allows for the care of the most vulnerable people—the patients. When asked, “Why am I a physician?” responses typically include:
The journey to becoming a physician is challenging, yet rewarding. Most physicians complete at least four years of undergraduate school, four years of medical school, and, depending on their specialty, three to eight years in internship and residency programs.
Most medical school applicants have at least a bachelor’s degree and many have advanced degrees. Although no specific major is required, all students must complete undergraduate work in the following areas:
Medical schools are highly competitive. Most applicants must submit transcripts, scores from the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and letters of recommendation. Schools also consider an applicant’s personality, leadership qualities and participation in extracurricular activities. Most schools require applicants to interview with members of the admissions committee. A few medical schools offer combined undergraduate and medical school programs that last six or seven years.
Students spend most of the first two years of medical school in laboratories and classrooms gaining practical skills by learning to take medical histories, examining patients, diagnosing illnesses and taking courses such as:
During their last two years, medical students work with patients under the supervision of experienced physicians in hospitals and clinics. Through rotations in internal medicine, family practice, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry and surgery, they gain experience in diagnosing and treating illnesses in a variety of areas.
After medical school, they become a resident for three to eight years and learn all aspects of patient care while preparing for practice in a medical specialty. After residency, they may became board certified in a specialty, which involves a rigorous process of testing and peer evaluation that is designed and administered by specialists in their specific area of medicine.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physicians diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. They examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications and order, perform and interpret diagnostic tests. They often counsel patients on diet, hygiene and preventive health care.
Physicians are typically responsible for the following: