One of the most vital components of your medical school application process is an interview with the admissions committee, where you get to sell them on your academic excellence and your suitability for the profession. However, regardless of how many well-articulated speeches you prepare to leave them mesmerized, when the much-dreaded question of “why medicine?” rears its ugly head, even the best of preparations fall through the crack and students find themselves stammering and hesitating, thinking of finding just the right answer.
Despite how convincing an applicant you are or how outstanding your test scores and other credentials are, medical schools want to make sure that you have all the right reasons for choosing to enter the medical field, before they offer you a position with the university. While this seems like an innocent enough question, we suggest that you pen down and practice an answer in advance after careful reflection, so that your admissions committee sees the passion that you harbor for the profession and your commitment to staying rooted to the spot even in the face of adversity.
While you shouldn’t memorize a response, it pays well to develop an overall strategy and brainstorm all possible responses prior to the actual interview. So that when the time comes, you are not caught unawares. Here are a few excellent points to help you prepare for this extremely important question that may decide your fate.
While undoubtedly, people may have their own reasons for wanting to go into medicine, at times applicants neglect to state theirs explicitly. Instead, they go into unnecessary details about their clinical volunteer experiences that made a mark on them, the loss of a loved one, or the encounters they have had while receiving medical care.
Fascinating they may be, such stories leave interviewers having to read between the lines, trying to understand what actually pulled you towards the field. Before you pepper your responses with such anecdotes, why not make their jobs easier and include very clear and unambiguous reasons as to what drew you to the field. Your answer should be limited to “I want to become a doctor because”, followed by a valid reason which justifies your interest in the profession.
Only after you have narrated your reasons, can you recall experiences that became the basis for each. Associating your reasons with a background helps the committee see that you are not leveraging clichés, but are actually making an informed decision after much foresight. For instance, if you cited your passion for medical science as a reason for entering the field, you can back your claim up with past experiences where you came upon this revelation. Perhaps you were fascinated with how various organs functioned during a physiology course and became intrigued with the field, or maybe a shadowing experience with a famous primary care physician led you to want to comprehend the treatment approaches and the underlying causes of common illnesses.
You need to convince your interviewer that you have all the right reasons for going into medicine. As such, you shouldn’t limit your reasons to all the altruistic ones. If your only motivation for wanting to become a physician is to make a difference for the “greater good” or to help others in your community, it might leave the admissions committee wondering why you couldn’t have chosen some other medium to help others, out of all the ways! After all, social work, law enforcement, nursing, or teaching would just as aptly have fulfilled your mission! So the question remains, “why medicine?”
While wanting to give back is a worthwhile reason to pursue the field, it is not good enough by itself to put you as the right contender for the career. While this can be your secondary reason, you can cement this with more solid primary reasons, such as your interest in research, to show why you are a right fit.
In addition to citing all your reasons for going into medicine, ensure that you put your devotion to clinical care in the best possible light. Think carefully about what it takes to become a practicing physician and shed light on reasons that back up your interest in clinical care. Being a physician entails that you provide care and counseling, apply medical knowledge, and interact with diverse people on a daily basis. You need to convince the interviewers that you are ready to tackle all the challenges of clinical activities that come with becoming a practicing physician.
A lot of applicants state reasons that are not exactly related to patient care. For instance, some may assert that they want to become a physician because they aspire to find cures to diseases or to bridge the gaps in access to health care. While being altruistic goes in your favor to some extent, medical training isn’t the only answer to these problems.
Your primary reasons should center on the privileges and opportunities that patient care allows for. This is why it is wise to shadow physicians before you apply to a Caribbean medical school, to learn much about patient care. If your worry that your answer will come across as generic, remember that while your response may not be very unique, you can make it impactful enough, based on how you draw on experiences.