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Information for people contemplating
a career in emergency medicine and
other medical specialties

By Kevin Pezzi, MD


Why your online postings may end your dream of becoming a doctor

by , MD

My Mom's experience with two new doctors was figuratively "the straw that broke the camel's back" in convincing me that medical schools are not adequately screening applicants for psychological problems that will affect the quality of care they later deliver. I'm going to do something about this by creating a proprietary technique for developing psychological profiles on people by analyzing their forum postings on a wide variety of Internet sites. This information will then be provided at no cost to medical schools, who can use it to assess whether a given applicant is psychologically fit to practice medicine. If the person in question is already in medical school, the information will be passed to residency hospitals. If the person is already in residency, the information will be made available to prospective employers (hospitals, physician groups, etc.), state medical boards, and even malpractice insurance companies and patients. In short, my goal is to thwart the career aspirations of people who are immature, mean-spirited, brusque, vile, or otherwise unacceptable.

If you're not a nice person, you may now be comforting yourself with the notion that you're safe just because you hide behind a fake screen name and possibly take other steps to camouflage your identity (such as masking your IP address). If that's what you're thinking, I have some bad news for you: You're wrong. My technique of figuring out who you are and indelibly tying all of your postings to YOU cannot be fooled by such simplistic methods. Some of you wonder what I do with all of my free time now that I practice medicine only part-time. One of the many things I do is developing new Web technologies. I do not intend to personally profit in any way from this one; I am doing it solely as a public service. High intelligence is a necessary but not sufficient ingredient to make superb doctors. Medicine is and always will be a "people profession." If you're not a nice person, you're not going to be a great doctor; your patients will suffer. You will also antagonize too many nurses, making their jobs harder than they should be.

Woman crying because her dreams of becoming a doctor were dashed
Don't say that I didn't warn you.

Medical schools and residency programs receive far more applications than they need to fill their available positions. If they receive a red flag indicating that a given applicant may be a jerk, why take the risk of accepting such a person?

The screening methods that medical schools and residency programs now use is woefully incomplete and inadequate. It's too easy to put your best foot forward on your interview day and adopt a mature, conscientious veneer. Whenever you're on a first date or job interview, your dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is working overtime to ensure that you say only the right things. Admissions Committee members therefore cannot always weed out the bad apples. I'm going to make their jobs much easier. If you're one of the jerks that I target . . . well, too bad. Now that medicine is a much more desirable profession, society can afford to be very selective in choosing only the best applicants.

Incidentally, I believe in redemption, so if your postings indicate that you've matured over time, that will be taken into consideration. Many of the ones that I will target no doubt think that there isn't anything wrong with them. Good! If you believe that, you are less likely to try camouflaging your true personality. Keep doing what you've been doing—just don't expect to be called "doctor" years from now.

With rare exceptions, the vast majority of people who write to me are good, diligent folks. However, when I read many postings on forums dedicated to prospective medical students and doctors, I am stunned by how many people there are sophomoric jerks. With such a high signal-to-noise ratio, I'm going to have a field day dashing their dreams.

BTW, if you are smart enough to figure out how my profiling technique works, I want to hire you. Inside-the-box thinkers, even ones with PhDs in computer science, will be scratching their heads, trying to figure out how I do it. Most will incorrectly conclude that it cannot be done.

One of my greatest joys in life is figuring out how to do things that most people deem to be too hard or utterly impossible. Inside-the-box thinkers never impress me, no matter how well they do in school, because few teachers truly challenge their students. Instead, students typically just parrot what they heard from the teacher or read in a textbook. Not very impressive; even rocks can echo information. To conceive of something that no one else has is considerably more difficult, so if you possess the requisite brainpower, please don't waste your talent working as a doctor. Practicing medicine is an inherently inside-the-box activity, which is one of the primary reasons why it doesn't appeal to me very much. Others are drawn to inside-the-box occupations because they derive comfort and security by following pre-made "cookbook" scripts. Building robots is fun; being one is boring.

If you enjoy challenges, try solving some of these.

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