Between the costly flights to interviews, the awkward nights spent sleeping on a host student’s futon, and the anxiety-filled hours doing what felt like selling myself to admissions committees, I reminded myself that eventually this would all lead me to the bedside, where I would be able to help real patients. I was lucky that I had a supportive network of people who were encouraging; however, with health care having become such a politicized and even toxic subject, I encountered many who asked, “Really? Even now?”
Some questioned my intelligence for wanting to become a doctor in the midst of the laundry list of alleged crises vexing medicine: a government takeover, the inability to make a living wage, the endless lawsuits, and a loss of autonomy. People reminded me that, when asked if they would choose medicine again, 49% of physicians say they would not. And to all these people with all of their worries, both real and hyperbole, I say — I cannot wait.
I cannot wait to get out into practice and be able to make a real impact on patients’ lives, to be able to diagnose and provide compassionate care, to try to make patients’ encounters with health care the most positive experiences they can possibly be. While those things alone are enough to draw me to medicine, I am also exceedingly motivated to be a part of the solutions to the many problems facing health care in America.
With the advent of accountable care organizations, patient-centered medical homes, an impending shift from volume-based to value-based payment systems, and the many other inevitable innovations to come, we are clearly in the midst of a major shift in medicine. Contemporary health care providers are at the forefront of this wave of change, which offers the possibility of improving the health of patients, while lowering costs for both consumers and the government. This change will certainly not be easy, and just like with anything new, there will be a need for readjustments and reconsiderations. Solving these problems will require an ability to be flexible, and a willingness to scrap things that don’t work and experiment with alternatives. Most importantly, solutions will require open minds of health policy experts, consumers, and providers.
I sympathize with physicians who have been in practice for years, only to have the rules suddenly change on them. I understand the frustrations they must feel in having to adapt to new systems that require learning new skills and abandoning practices that may have worked for them in the past. To these physicians, it is because of the incredible work you have done that my fellow students and I have the ability to stand your shoulders, and look for innovative ways of providing care. However, the current system is not fully sustainable in its present incarnation, and it may be possible to further reduce incidents of patient harm, and provide greater equality in service delivery.
American health care is facing a slew of challenges that are large and extraordinarily complex, but also solvable. Successfully tackling these issues will require all health care providers, payers, regulators, and patients to work together with a willingness to try new approaches. Change is both necessary and unavoidable, and I encourage those who are critical of pending reforms to channel their energies into helping innovate and fine-tune solutions, rather than protect the status quo. We are at a unique moment in time where we have both the will and the ability to change our health care system for the foreseeable future, saving lives, reducing costs, and promoting social well-being along the way.
For me, there is no greater honor than to be a part of these changes; I cannot wait.