Why Medicine?

They say that there are only two things that are unavoidable: death and taxes. For the Future Health Professional, we probably need to add one more thing to the list – a question. This question is asked, I assume, in every interview from a local HOSA chapter officer election to the application process to become the U.S. Surgeon General. It is unavoidable, as it should be, and it’s important to be able to answer not only to perform well in an interview, but also as an exercise – that is, you need to be able to answer this question for yourself more than for anyone else.
“Why do you want to go into the health field?”
The truth is, health is not an easy field to be in. For starters, the body is an incredibly complex system that we know relatively little about, and the practice of medicine is largely a process of trial and error. What works on one patient is just as likely to fail on the next, and although our advancements in understanding are vast, they’ve mostly just revealed to us how little we know about things like the nervous system. Health can also be an incredibly emotionally intense field. You are dealing with the basis of people’s happiness. I spent a (thankfully) brief time as a student caller asking university alumni for contributions, and I got into a lot of nasty conversations; as it turns out, people really don’t like giving away their money. But even the subject of money pales in comparison to the sensitivity that people have concerning their health. I recall Dr. Ben Carson, in his keynote at NLC 2013, talking about CEOs, kings, and presidents being willing to give everything away for the return of their health. Passions run high in the health field, and this is (at least in my opinion) one big reason why it is such a difficult conversation for politicians and voters to have. I suppose this third complication could be considered a symptom of the second. As the legal and financial aspects of the U.S. healthcare system change rapidly, I’m reminded of the many players in healthcare – regulatory bodies, insurance companies, and powerful health systems and pharmaceutical companies (not to mention the rise of HOSA – Future Health Professionals). So health is not a simple field to go into, nor is it a job that requires only the hours clocked in. Health and healthcare must be a way of life for the modern health professional, taking as much emotional and mental space as it does space in a weekly schedule.
I’ve always struggled with my answer for why I’m going into health. There was never one moment or experience that told me that I should take this path. So often I hear from friends that they or a relative suffered an illness or injury that inspired them to pursue health as a career. Some saw the incredible work that parents or mentors were doing as health professionals. But I can’t give any of those answers. Truthfully, I was simply put into a class about health careers because in my freshman year of high school all of the “normal” health classes were full. I found that I had an interest in the material, and I became hooked on it the more that I learned.
The textbook answer, I think, is that we want to be health professionals “to help people”. And while that’s undoubtedly true, I’ve never thought that statement alone told anyone much. At the same time, my passion for high school health careers curricula and distinct lack of any inspiration lacks a certain panache in an interview. So I’m left wondering if it’s wrong to be doing this if I can’t justify it in a way that people might consider truly meaningful.
I came to a realization that changed this thinking during an interview while recounting my boring but true high school health careers story. Interviews are, in general, a bad time to come to a realization, and an even worse time to express it without proper consideration. But I’ve never been great with filtering my thoughts. (So this blog should be fun!) I realized this: I may not have had one specific experience that drove me to this point, that instilled in me a passion for health and for helping people in their most desperate times – but I’m here anyway. Knowing all too well the challenges mentioned above, I chose to be a health professional.
You’ll undoubtedly be asked why you want to go into health, and maybe the best answer is one that checks off all the boxes – personal experience, drive, and challenge. But I don’t think you should have to justify this choice of career. You’ve chosen to help people at their most vulnerable, working long hours after what is likely to be even longer schooling while being pulled in a million different directions by the forces at play in healthcare today. You’ve chosen to make people’s lives better and to serve as a role model for everyone who strives to do the same. I don’t think that we’ll ever have too many people who live like that. You showed up to interview to be a health professional. You’re here. I say, let’s get to work.