"Would I Do It Again?"
"Would I do it again?"— I would hope that I would. I bet I am not the only physician that has pondered that important question. With our intense training and extensive commitment in time, money and energy, I have more than once wondered whether I could be happy doing something else. My associates and I have joked that if the “medicine-thing” doesn’t work out, we are going into party planning.
I have to believe that a higher power drove me into medicine, in particular pediatrics. I have wanted to be a pediatrician since I was 8 years old. I had a goal. I was driven. Four years of college; four years of medical school, then residency. The residency did not go quite as smoothly. My son, Andrew, was born with VATER’s Association when I was a fourth-year medical student. He had numerous complications and was in the hospital quite a bit. All in all, my pediatric residency ended up being about four years, instead of the usual three. There were so many times it would have been easier to quit or take an “extended break,” but something in me, as well as the support of family and friends, pushed me on. Little did I know that my medical training would play such an important role in my everyday life, having a better knowledge to help my son. On the flip-side, my son and daughters have taught me so much as well.
I do believe that medicine still offers men and women a wide range of career options (full-time vs. part-time, private practice vs. hospitalist vs. academics, solo-practice vs. small- or large-group practice). There are not many professions that offer such a diversity of options. Up until about five years ago, I had the luxury of working part-time (in a clinical academic setting and in private practice), both by personal choice and somewhat out of necessity. This was so that I could maximize and enjoy my most important role as a mother. It has been important to me to be able to take my children to dance, piano, soccer/softball, etc. I have enjoyed having the opportunity to be involved in their classes and activities. I know it will not be long before the youngest does not want me around. This work schedule also afforded me the ability to be available to schedule and attend most of my son’s doctor and therapy appointments, not to mention being able to be there when he was in the hospital or going through recovery.
Ironically, at this impasse of health care reform, I recall a time when our office had two college students shadowing my colleague and I. These two young ladies were trying to decide which path in medicine was right for them. One was sure about medical school, and the other was trying to decide whether medical school or physician assistant school was the right choice for her. It was an interesting time of reflection for me. How do you encourage them to go through what you did and not really know what is going to happen with our healthcare system? With the presumption that there is going to be a tremendous influx into the healthcare system of individuals, there is definitely going to be a need for both physicians and mid-level providers (PA’s and NP’s). It is both an exciting and somewhat frightening time to be in the field of medicine.
As an aside, I have to mention my involvement in organized medicine. I got involved when I started medical school in the Summer of 1990. I joined the Texas Medical Association (TMA), and the American Medical Association (AMA), as well as BCMS (Bexar County Medical Society). I felt that it would give me a better understanding of a different aspect of medicine-politics, public policy, etc., as well as afford me the opportunity to meet a variety of physicians and mentors. I have continued to be active in organized medicine and feel that it is important that we all get involved at some level, especially at this important time in health care reform. I would like to continue to encourage all physicians, in particular the women, to get involved! It can be through your specialty society or your main hospital and at the local, state or national level. Everyone counts!! You can’t be heard if you don’t say anything!
In closing, I can honestly say that I would choose medicine again. It is a part of me, and while it doesn’t completely define me, it is definitely a big piece! I cannot imagine not having this background to aid me in my everyday life. The field of medicine and how we practice has definitely changed since I attended medical school, and it will continue to evolve over the next several years. I will continue to stay involved in medicine and I hope you will too!
Leah Jacobson, MD, is the 2017 president of the Bexar County Medical Society.