4 approaches to answering ‘Why Medicine?’

Whether you’re writing your personal statement or gearing up for a medical school interview, you are probably trying to figure out how to answer the dreaded question, “Why medicine?”. To make matters worse, it always seems to make room for itself in the conversation. Throughout your whole application process, they may never ask you “why medicine?” directly. I know I certainly wasn’t. But the premise of it is sure to come up at one point or another. Why not nursing? What about medicine appeals to you? Why do you want to go to medical school? Each question is an indirect way to get you to explain why you want to study medicine. And these did happen to be the sorts of questions they asked me at my interviews.

You will need to know how to answer it for these sorts of situations and also for yourself. It’s important to know why (even if you can’t quite articulate it… yet) to keep yourself grounded. Answering with uncertainty or because you ‘just do’ is not going to cut it, ever. Simply because it’s not easy going through 5+ years of medical school. Sometimes you’ll need to remind yourself why you even applied in the first place. So, in this post, we are going to find out your motivations to study medicine and how to explain it.

Why I wanted to study medicine

Let’s start with my reasons since it’s always nice to hear other peoples thought processes for things like this. 

My approach at all my interviews was the fact that I like how medicine is a very rewarding career. And it worked for me. Being a doctor ties together science and having a caring role, both are aspects that I love. But when I reflected on this, I realised that was only the surface level reason. At the time that was the way I chose to articulate it but it didn’t get to the root of why. 

There were a few reasons why I decided that medicine was the perfect career for me. One being TV programmes! This was surprisingly a big thing that sparked my interest in medicine. Shows like Grey’s Anatomy made me admire doctors, their attributes and their lifestyles. It’s pretty obvious that this isn’t a plausible reason that I could have used. But it was my reality and one of the reasons I sought out work experience. I wanted to see doctors lifestyles with my own eyes and it ended up being the final piece to the puzzle. I was able to see what a doctor does in real life and I could literally see myself in their shoes. My reasons for choosing a career in medicine isn’t very interesting, but it’s my story and what I go with. 

1. It’s the Only pathway available

There are certain careers out there that you need to have a degree in medicine for. I’ve heard of applicants who for example want to become pathologists or anesthesiologist so need to study medicine. 

This is what I like to call tunnel vision. They have a destination and want to get there at all costs. This is a perfectly good reason to want to study medicine and will hopefully carry you through your applicant and your degree.

2. Inspiration from Family members

Often people with doctors in their families find themselves following in their footsteps. And that’s great, you can use that! Although with this reason, you do need to take the extra step to consolidate it. Especially when writing about it in your personal statement or talking about it at interviews. Being influenced by your family member or even family friends is fine, but you need to back it up. What I mean by this, is having work experience or extra research into the career to validate your reason. 

Being so motivated that you set out to pursue relevant work experience and enjoyed it sounds considerably better than “my mum is a doctor.” It shows you took the initiative to make sure that medicine is a career that really interests you and hasn’t been chosen for you.

3. Anecdotes: using Own experiences

Anecdotal responses are also great ways to express why you want to study medicine. If you have ever had an experience with the NHS or been inspired by a doctor, you can use that story in your approach to answering the question. Many applicant’s own medical histories were the factors that sparked an interest in medicine within them. For example, one may have a rare heart defect when they were younger so spent a lot of time in the hospital. They saw how the doctors worked hard on their case and showed them great compassion. Causing them to want to be able to do that for others. 

Another example is an applicant with a family member with a disease that is currently incurable. Their drive to become a doctor would be so they can contribute to researching a cure for the disease. As well as wanting to treat patients with the same condition.

Whatever it may be, tap into any experience you may have had (or are going through) and use it to answer why medicine.

If you don’t have any anecdotes, please don’t make one up! The person listening to your story may tell that you’re being disingenuous. Or, worse still, you might be caught in your lie.

4. None of the above

This is a common one. You can’t relate to any of the things I mentioned above. If you have a hunger to study medicine but doesn’t stem from any of these reasons, you need to reflect and determine why. Maybe get a piece of paper and start writing, see what comes out of it. I’m sure that there is reason deeper than “I just want to” that you can tap into. As long as you have a genuine interest in medicine, you should be able to express this in some way or another.

A quick mention of why Not to study medicine…

I wanted to briefly go over why not to study medicine. A common situation that many applicants are in, is feeling pressured by others. It could be social or cultural pressures from friends and family causing you to feel this way. But this isn’t really the best reason to go through years and years of hard work. Nobody is going to attend your lectures or write your exams for you. My point is, do it for yourself. Never let anyone pressure you down a career path that isn’t for you. Chances are, you will be miserable. If you are finding yourself in this kind of situation, be sure to explore other career paths first. Find what’s best for you.

Another reason to not pick medicine is if you’re doing it to be ‘rich’. To put it quite frankly, there are many other careers that make the same or more money than doctors. Some with way less effort might I add. So, if being a doctor is your get-rich plan and only driving force, you should probably rethink this.

I hope this post helped you figure out how to answer the infamous why medicine question. It seems like a simple question at face value but as we now know there are many layers to it. I wish you luck on your journey to find out why medicine is for you. It really is an exciting career path filled with so many opportunities. 

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