How to Answer the Age-Old Question: Why Medicine?
The age-old question of ‘Why medicine?’ is one that every medical school applicant cannot escape. When writing your personal statement, your introductory paragraph must explain to the reader why you chose to apply to medicine. Furthermore, once you have progressed to the medical interviews, you can almost guarantee to be asked this question. This question at first glance seems straight forward, however is notoriously difficult to articulate. In this article, we will explore how to best answer the ‘Why medicine?’ question required for your personal statement and interviews in four steps.
If you’d like to find out how to choose the right university, make sure to take a look at our article on How To Apply Tactically To UK Medical School.
Medicine is a long and arduous career path requiring commitment and motivation to pursue. The decision to pursue the career must not be one made hastily over a singular decision. Therefore, the first thing to put across to the interviewers is that this is a thoroughly thought-out decision, made over time, as a result of all of your experiences. This, however, is not to say you should state ‘I’ve always wanted to do medicine’ as it comes across as a very naïve and basic answer. Most people would not have known they have always wanted medicine. For those that did know from a young age, they are unlikely to have experienced the nature of the career and its challenges, therefore making it an uninformed decision. This highlights the importance of using your collection of experiences to reinforce your decision to study medicine.
Identifying what sparked your interest in medicine is always difficult and may not one from one singular event. You must take the time to think why the idea of medicine crossed your mind in the first place; perhaps talking to friends and family can help figure this out. For those that are unsure on what sparked their interest, it is likely to be from one of, or a combination of the following: your studies in biology/science, work experience in the NHS, personal experience with healthcare (for example caring for an ill family member or exposure to the profession from family), reading medical books, attending medical conferences, or research.
Let’s use personal experience as an example. One may state their initial spark in medicine occurred from their experience with a family member receiving a medical diagnosis. With your background interest in science, you were intrigued to research the condition, its management, and the role doctors have played. Following this, you have pursued work experience shadowing a doctor to further understand their role and gain a realistic insight into the profession. As a result of these experiences, you continue your research into the profession and decide a career in medicine is one for you. This is just a brief example that puts across how a decision to study medicine is due to several experiences made over time.
Once you have explained what sparked your interest in medicine, you must explain why you want to be a doctor. Your reasons for this will usually come from your work experience and research into the field. Such reasons include, but are not limited to:
Desire to help others & have a positive impact on their lives
This is usually the biggest attracter for applicants. It is very rewarding to see your decisions having a positive impact on a patient. It is still important to note that you understand this is not always possible.
The profession offers many specialities. The field is always changing, providing an opportunity for life-long learning.
Apply science to clinical practice
Understanding the science is one thing but getting to apply it in real life situations is very rewarding and interesting. For example, seeing an A&E doctor rapidly diagnose a patient using their knowledge. There are also opportunities to be involved in research in clinical settings.
The profession requires you to work with many different professionals to develop a management plan for patients.
Doctors have a large voice in the NHS which provides healthcare for the majority of the UK population. Having this kind of influence can be very fulfilling. They are also ultimately responsible for patient care, driving the patient care decisions
Medicine is an ever-evolving field, constant research identifies new treatments, disease knowledge, and technology. There are always conferences to attend.
You will not have time to mention all of these points so choose 2 or 3 of these points. It is then important to further explain your reasoning, possibly with an example you saw on work experience or from your research. For example, witnessing the improvement in quality of life in a patient following surgery.
Once you have given these reasons, you may be asked a follow-up question of why doctor over other healthcare professions such as nurses, pharmacists, or dentists? It is very important not to talk badly about the other professions, explaining you understand they are very valuable. Some reasons include:
Get to diagnosed patients
Not every healthcare profession is able to diagnose patients rather than just helping them.
More responsibility and leadership
Doctors drive the decisions for patient management and assume overall responsibility for patient care.
Wider depth and variety of science
Doctors require knowledge in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, pathology, and more. Other professions such as pharmacy do not require that. There is also a greater emphasis on science compared to a profession in nursing.
Variety in career
Many specialties are available. There is a possibility of surgery.
Finally, once you have given all your reasons for pursuing medicine, you must show the interviewers that you have a realistic understand of the career by addressing the challenges of the profession. Such challenges include the high pressure and workload, dealing with difficult patients, and breaking bad news. Despite understanding these challenges, you are still motivated to pursue it.
Forming your answer with these four steps in mind will provide you with a comprehensive and engaging answer to this age-old question. It is important to use your personal experiences when explaining your reasonings as this will make your answer more unique. Lastly, whilst it is important to prepare an answer, you must ensure you do not memorise an answer and recite it verbatim in the interviews. This will be obvious to your interviewers, and you will score poorly. Make some brief bullet points of your top reasons and make sure you are comfortable talking about them. The reasons given in this article are not exhaustive, if you have any of your own then mention them.
If you want help getting into your dream university then also be sure to check out our Elite Coaching Programme. As part of this programme, you will get in-depth help with the entire application process from whatever stage you join at till you get into the medical school of your choice. This is done through 1-on-1 mentoring and the founder of the course, Dr Ashley Hilton is always available for any questions. You can find out more about the Elite Programme here.
Written by Mohamed Morgan