Medical Training Advice: Find a Mentor

Everyone needs a hero. If you read the free preview of my book, you know that one of the biggest influences on my medical career has been Dr. Nick Yphantides. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, here’s an excerpt:

After I accepted Christ… I went happily on my way to college at UCLA, majored in physiological science like a good little pre-med, and researched and volunteered my way into medical school. In medical school, I just looked for Christian things that I should do. So, I started volunteering at the free clinics, as well as going down to Mexico on weekend mission trips. I was a medical student who happened to be a Christian.

Then I met Dr. Nick Yphantides, a mentor who would change the trajectory of my medical career. Growing up, my heroes were Jackie Chan and my dad, and I quickly added Dr. Nick to that list. He was one of those superstar students who made medical school look like child’s play. He graduated high school and college early, and rumor has it he got top marks in every class and rotation in medical school.

This was a guy who could have done anything he wanted. But he was also a devoted Christian who loved the Lord, and was convicted by God to serve the indigent poor of San Diego. Because of that, he chose to go into primary care and spent the first decade of his career on the front lines serving exclusively patients without insurance.

In Dr. Nick I found a Christian who happened to be a doctor. He understood that God’s heart beats for the poor, oppressed, and marginalized. For Dr. Nick, medicine was simply a means in which to carry out that heart. As I spent time with him and saw that passion lived out, God began to put a similar conviction on my heart as well.

Worth the Cost, Introduction: My Story

If you are pursuing any career, not just medicine, an important thing you need to do is to find someone who has gone before that can mentor you. And especially if you want to do it for the Lord, you need to find someone who is living that out. Things can get really hard, and we need the experience of those who have gone before to follow after and a glimpse of faith lived out.

If you want to be inspired, here’s a cool video that shows a snapshot of Dr. Nick’s life.

Who in your life can you ask to mentor you in what you would like to do? Who in your life can you be a mentor for?

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.