How does future earning potential factor into your career plans? If salary were not a factor, would your plans change? How?
I think it would be dishonest to say that future earning potential does not have any influence in my decision to pursue a career in medicine. In order to have the privilege of donning a white lab coat, you must graduate with a 4 year degree, attend 4 years of medical school, and then 3-10 years of residency, all the while taking on hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt in the process. However, if I was only motivated by potential income rather than the desire to help others and make a difference in people’s lives, a degree from Duke University affords me the opportunity to go into Wall Street banking, consulting, tech, or any other high-paying profession. Many of these professions require much less of a time commitment and are far less risky as well, as doctors are exposed to infectious diseases, potentially dangerous bodily fluids, patient violence, medical malpractice lawsuits, and high levels of stress. Through many conversations with physicians and other healthcare professionals, I have learned that if one goes into the medical field solely because they are enticed by its lucrative reputation, they will be severely unhappy and unfulfilled. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with wanting to have an influential career with prestige or wanting to earn a lot of money, but there is a problem when you go down a career path and sacrifice what you are passionate about for materialistic reasons.
Therefore, if salary was not a factor at all, I do not believe my career ambitions would change drastically. My ultimate goal is to do what I love and to look back at the end of each work day fulfilled with the job that I accomplished. I do not think that there is any other field that interests me and excites me more than a career in medicine. There is no other profession where you can make such an immediate and drastic impact on a fellow human being. Realistically, as Duke students, we are ambitious and smart enough to go into any field we choose, but I am choosing to pursue a career in medicine to dedicate myself to helping others. It is a career that will foster and encourage my deep sense of intellectual curiosity, allow me to form meaningful relationships with patients, and allow me to continue to learn and be challenged throughout my career.