Medical Training Advice: How Do I Decide What Specialty to Go Into?

Here’s the first of the posts I want to do to address commonly asked questions I get about the medical process. If I collect enough of these, I’ll make a separate FAQ section. Enjoy and thanks for reading!

How Do I Decide What Specialty to Go Into?

After your decision about Christ and your spouse, this is probably the next most important decision you will make. Well, maybe the decision to have a kid is somewhere up there too. This is a question I get pretty often, but unfortunately there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer.

Besides going through rotations with an open mind and heart to get the most out of each experience, the best advice that I received is to talk to as many physicians as you can about their daily practice. You might love certain things about a specialty, but you might come across those diseases or procedures once in a blue moon. It might seem cool to be a surgeon, but are you ok with taking out gallstones and appendices the majority of the time? Find out what the bread and butter is in each field and ask if you can see yourself doing that day in and day out.

Having said that, you can do a lot with medicine with a little creativity, flexibility, and perhaps a willingness to sacrifice some monetary compensation. I didn’t want to do patient care everyday so I split my time up between my clinic in Long Beach seeing patients and Harbor-UCLA doing some teaching. If salary is a big deal, here’s a general idea of how much physicians can make in different fields.

If you are wondering what field would be best to serve the Lord with, that one is easy: any field. The question is what do you want to do to serve the Lord.  Do you want to serve the Lord overseas or in a rural area? Then a surgical field, obstetrics (or family medicine with emphasis on high risk OB) would be super helpful.  Realize, though, that certain specialties are more volume dependent so you might not be as free to do ministry work in order to keep your skills up (even more of a concern with residency work-hour restrictions).

But you can really do anything and be used by God to impact his kingdom. There’s a tremendous need for medical education to train up native physicians so even if you are a super sub-specialty, you can meet  needs overseas. Of course, specialty services are much needed for those without insurance or access to care. And not to mention the day-to-day ministry opportunities that you have with your patients, whatever field you re in. The moment they step into the office and particularly the hospital, they become more aware of their mortality and more open to thinking of things of eternal consequences.

If you are interested in how I chose to go into family medicine, check out the free preview.

If there are particular questions you would like to see addressed, please leave me a message or email me at jacktsai@unfailingspring.com.

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