I don’t usually like to talk about myself, and I especially don’t like to so obviously brag about past accomplishments, being the good Asian that I am. And even worse is bragging to people who don’t know me. But at the risk of sounding conceited, I have to say that growing up I was the model Asian boy. If there were some sort of Asian poster Gerber baby and I were better looking, it would be me.
I was one of those kids who loved to be good. You know, obedient, didn’t talk to strangers, and did well in school. My music instrument of choice? The violin. (This is a requirement of being Asian; piano and maybe the flute are acceptable choices, too.) I performed in all the orchestra concerts, recitals, and competitions. My parents fortunately allowed me to participate in sports, so I played tennis (surprise!) throughout high school.
And I didn’t mind school so much. Test-taking was actually enjoyable. Literally, I felt a sense of joy filling in Scantron bubbles. (Yes, I’m sick. I have asthma.) I probably wasn’t as ambitious as I could have been when it came to picking colleges. Proximity to home was important, so I applied mostly to a handful of schools in California. The decision came down to UC Berkeley or UCLA, and UCLA won out because it was closer. Since I was quite the mama’s boy (still am!), I wanted to be able to visit often. I ended up coming home almost every weekend throughout college. And the grand finale? I eventually got into medical school, fulfilling every Asian parent’s dream.
Up until that point, I did everything right in the eyes of my parents, and in the eyes of the world. I was on my way to what many would consider a successful and secure future, to obtaining the American Dream . . . until I decided to take seriously God’s command to die to myself and follow in obedience after Jesus.
Although I became a Christian in high school, my personal plans did not come in conflict with God’s call to discipleship
with Jesus until I was in medical school. Choosing God’s will over my own ambitions, I ended up in one of the least respected fields of medicine as my specialty in order to serve the uninsured. After finishing my training, I decided to work part-time (making even less), enrolled in seminary (actually paying money), and got more involved in church ministry (not being paid at all).
What’s this book about?
This book is about that journey and what I learned about the values of this world, the state of healthcare, and what it really means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It is a reflection on my medical training, what I had hoped to gain, and the hidden costs I discovered along the way. This road will demand of you not just your money and peak years of life. If you let it, it can consume your soul.
Many well-meaning Christians wanting to use medicine for God’s glory are side-tracked somewhere along the way because of the academic pressure, the false promises of this world, and the spiritual and emotional burn-out, just to list a few pitfalls. If you are thinking about embarking on this journey, the big question for you to consider is first, is this all worth it? Then, if you still wish to proceed, you have to think through how to avoid neglecting your soul in the process. I present in this book answers I have found helpful.
What this book isn’t about is how to get into medical school, although I threw in some pearls along the way. There are plenty of resources out there about all the gory details of the entire application process. Rather, this book is a guide on how to think about making a decision to pursue medicine (or any career for that matter), and how to integrate your relationship with God into that decision.
If you join me in this adventure, you might laugh, maybe cry, but probably not. My hope, though, is that in reading, you will pray. And not just pray, “God, please get me into medical school.” Pray that our God, who desires that we partner alongside Him in His salvation plan, would give us wisdom and courage to choose His will over our own. If we had more robust prayer lives, we probably wouldn’t need books like this. But that’s not good advertisement, so pretend I didn’t say that.
In Part I, we will explore some major reality checks I experienced going through the medical training process. It definitely wasn’t all puppies and rainbows. Hopefully it will help you think through your motives for pursuing medicine and weigh the costs involved. Before you make the decision to become a physician, life has some bigger questions you have to answer first, particularly about God and what He has to say about His Son, Jesus.
If you feel God calling you into medicine (or any other field), Part II will address the question, “What now?” Figuring out God’s calling for your life is one thing. Actually carrying it out is another thing altogether. What do we need to do to prepare so that when we are actually on the other end, ready to do God’s work in whatever field, we still want to? How can our faith not just survive as we endure the rigors of training, but thrive as we grow deeper in relationship with God and in our understanding of His heart?
Lastly, Part III offers some final thoughts and words of encouragement to embrace the calling God has for you, rather than unintentionally (or intentionally) settling for a life chasing after empty promises. This world offers plenty of those. I’ve included reflection questions at the end of each chapter intended to help you think though how God is working in your life.
Who should read this book?
When I started this project, I had in mind mainly those wanting to jump on the medical bandwagon, or who are in the middle of applying. But a big question I want to address is how we can keep God’s convictions throughout our training
so we will actually carry them out when we finally have the skills. If you are well into your training, this is important for
you to consider. So, whether you are just thinking about applying or paying off your medical school loans, my completely
unbiased recommendation is that you should read this book.
And just so I don’t get in trouble for false advertising, this book ultimately is about Christian discipleship, what it means
to follow after Christ. As much as I want success in your professional endeavors, I care much more about your relationship with your Creator God. Even if you are not interested in medicine, you can replace “doctor” in the sub-title with your career of choice and these truths can still apply. I’m simply using the medical career as an extreme case study to point out principles for Christian living and stumbling blocks that can trip anyone up as you seek to carry out God’s will.
Having made that disclosure, if you are not a Christian and could care less about Jesus, don’t throw this book away just yet. Perhaps God is using this opportunity to draw you closer to Him. What do you have to lose? Chances are someone bought this for you. Even if you did buy this not realizing it was actually a “Christian” book, you already paid for it so you might as well read it. It might take away a few hours of your life. Not a bad investment, though, if it helps you figure out where you will be spending the rest of eternity.
Parents should read this, especially Christian parents. Chapter 9 is specifically for you. Unfortunately, a big barrier to Christian obedience is well-meaning Christian parents who understandably want the best for their kids, but are confused about the meaning of “best.” To all the tiger moms and dragon dads out there, please don’t get mad at me if your kid doesn’t end up going to medical school.
I suppose if you are just bored, you can read this as well. Or if you are my friend, I will be personally offended if you didn’t read this and buy three copies to give to your friends. At least.
Taken from the Preface of Worth the Cost? Becoming a Doctor Without Forfeiting Your Soul