In September, I will be entering my fourth year of a five-year Kinesiology program at the University of Waterloo. In other words, I’m 80% done university. You might be tempted to ask me what I am planning to do after I graduate, and I am asking myself the same question. There is so much I want to do, and I feel daunted by the idea that my next few choices could butterfly into massive differences for my future.
I find myself bouncing back and forth between “I want to go to medical school” and “I’m afraid of the work-life balance that med school entails”. Cheesy but true – I’ve always loved science and helping people, so the idea of med school has appealed to me since I was little.
Now, however, as my friends apply for (and are accepted into!) med school, I’m questioning whether or not it is the best option for me. I have the entire Kaplan set of med school preparation books, so I can study for the entrance exam, the MCAT. In fact, I’ve sat through the 8-hour mock MCAT. But the issue is that I like to cook my own healthy meals. I like to sit down for my meals, uninterrupted, and fully enjoy my food. I like to get enough exercise every day, and to sleep at least seven hours a night. Will med school interfere with that? If it doesn’t, how about residency? I’m also having some doubts about med school because it is a major financial commitment, and I’m worried that I will dislike it or change my mind once it’s too late.
Aside from med school, there is a number of other careers that I am looking into. I’m curious about them and would like to know more, or even better, to dip my toes into these occupations before I make any major decisions.
In no particular order:
- Travel Doctor: I can see myself being a travel doctor because I love learning about tropical diseases, especially those known as “neglected tropical infectious diseases”. I think it would be great to meet patients who are planning to go to other countries, and tell them which vaccines they need, and which precautions they should take before their trip. The problem is that I don’t know how to become a travel doctor. Do they specialize in med school? I looked at a Canadian list of specialties and there is nothing about specializing in emporiatrics (travel medicine). I think I might have to do a Masters in Tropical Diseases or International Health before med school, but I’m not sure. I wonder if it would be a “waste” to do a Masters before med school. There are some great Masters programs in London, England, which relate to public health and tropical medicine. I looked into the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, both of which offer world-famous Masters programs in this field. Even Oxford has a cool program on tropical med and international healthcare. But my question is – do I have to do a Masters to become a travel doctor? Or just go to med school? Do med schools allow people to specialize in this? Or, more broadly, what is the “education pathway” to becoming a travel doctor?
- Sports Medicine Physician for Artist-Athletes: By “artist-athletes”, I’m referring to people who perform in artistic or aesthetic sports. For example, divers, gymnasts, figure skaters, circus artists, dancers, theatre performers, and cheerleaders. There are many more, but I like this field because I think it is more interesting than working with the general population and seeing a lot of people with low back pain.
- University Professor: I worked as a tutor at Centennial College, a Scarborough nursing school, from September 2017 to December 2017. I have always enjoyed tutoring and teaching people. During that time, I realized that I LOVED teaching anatomy and physiology, especially human physiology. I had an excellent time working with dedicated student nurses and helping them with foundational biology. I think being a teacher or professor would suit my personality, because I love talking, teaching, and sharing my knowledge in the form of presentations. I think professors can make a big difference in their students’ lives, as much as a doctor would make a difference in his or her patients’ lives. If I became a professor, I think I would teach human physiology or biology.
- Dermatologist, Endocrinologist, Ophthalmologist: If I go to med school and have the opportunity to specialize, I would choose one of these. I’ve heard that dermatology, especially now, is incredibly competitive. One of my friends in BC just started med school with the goal of becoming an ophthalmologist, which I think is cool. I can’t really spell that word, though. For endocrinology, I think it’s interesting because it’s like a puzzle. I learned a lot about hormones in school and when I was working as a tutor, plus I see an endocrinologist for some hormone queries, and I find it a fascinating field. I cannot see myself becoming a surgeon or anything too “intense”.
- Physiotherapist for Artist-Athletes: I don’t really want to be a physiotherapist because (a) I learned, when I worked at the Toronto Health Centre, that physiotherapists are quite low on the “medical hierarchy”, and (b) physiotherapy school is now even more competitive and selective than medical school. In my opinion, if I am going to go to an expensive school, compete with thousands of intelligent, hardworking students, why would I do physio school instead of med school? On the other hand, though, there is no MCAT or entrance exam (that I know of). I think being a physiotherapist would help me learn so much about the body and accelerate my training in aerials. That would be a great benefit.
- Optometrist: The University of Waterloo is associated with an optometry school, and in fact, many of my courses take place in the Optometry building (or, as my friends and I call it, ‘optom’). In my mind, optometry would allow for a good work-life balance. Someone once told me that I should go into dentistry instead of med school because it pays well, but is “cleaner” and “easier” than med school, but I would certainly prefer optometry to dentistry. I don’t know that much about optometry school. I’m not sure if it is a long program, if it’s clinic-based, or mostly theory-based. I am also curious about their scope of practice and pay in Canada.
In summary… I don’t know. I’m a confused twenty year-old who is probably having a quarter-life crisis right now, but I’m glad I wrote everything out. This will probably be a funny read in another ten or twenty years.