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

By Kevin Pezzi, MD

1. Is she ER doctor material?
2. The futility of worrying
3. What can you do if a 100% effort isn't enough?
4. How to increase intelligence

Q: Hi Dr. Pezzi,

My name is Natalie and I'm a sophomore in high school. I've wanted to become an ER doctor for most of my life but I also considered anesthesiology. What it comes down to is this: I want to know, in your opinion, if I am ER doctor material and if I will stand out. My average is in the 90's, I volunteer at a hospital and I love it. During the summer I spend about 8- 10 hours a day volunteering (that's how much I loved it). Even though our jobs were simple and limited to certain clerical work, I made friends with doctors who let me do more. I interacted with patients and still do, mostly by translating (I speak Russian). I came to America six years ago and tried my best to get where I am today but I am also very stressed. My school requires a lot of time and it interferes with my free time. I spend my days studying and worrying. I really want to get into medical school and I am willing to go beyond my limits but I don't know if I have what it takes. Here are some other things I like to do: play my keyboard/piano, all kinds of sports, especially snowboarding, online activities, watching medical shows like ER or Grey's Anatomy, etc.

Can you please tell me if I am ER doctor material? I want to know because I try my best in school and still I feel that my potential was reached, but it's not good enough.

Thank you so much for your time!

Answer by , MD: I receive questions and inquiries from all sorts of people, ranging from students to doctors, television producers, writers wishing to interview me, etc., and of all the people who contact me, few of them can write as well as you do! Writing ability reflects intelligence, so I know that you are intelligent. To put it succinctly, you seem to have "the right stuff" to become a physician.

You are definitely impressive, and you certainly seem intelligent and diligent enough to become an ER doctor. If you want me to help you, I will. My first bit of advice is to not worry (you mentioned that you spend your days studying and worrying). As long as you know that you are giving a 100% effort and are conscientious, worrying about your future is not going to help you. In fact, it is counterproductive. I was quite a worrier when I was your age, but now that I am older, I can see that it didn't do me any good. On my first day of medical school, I was convinced that I was going to flunk out, but 4 years later I graduated in the top 1% of my class.

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Worry and other emotions are productive only to the extent that they motivate people to do what they should be doing in life. If you are already doing that—and you are—then worrying won't help. If you are giving a 100% effort, you can't give any more. Worrying will just cut into your time and impede the realization of your goals.

What can you do if a 100% effort isn't enough? When most people conclude that they do not have what it takes despite giving their best effort, they lower their expectations and aim for a lesser goal. Rather than becoming a doctor, they might instead switch their career objectives to being a nurse, nurse practitioner (NP), Physician Assistant (PA), paramedic, or med tech. There's nothing wrong with those jobs, but if being a doctor is what you want to do, then you shouldn't settle for something else. But again, what can you do if a 100% effort isn't enough? Everyone has 24 hours per day. If you cannot work more, you must work and study more efficiently. Sounds great, but how do you do that?

Want more tips? I could fill a couple of books with more information on this subject, but few people are willing to pay for it, even when a trifling sum (say $20) could make the difference between attaining your dreams or struggling through life regretting what you wanted to do, but never did. The abundance of free information on the Internet makes most people reluctant to pay for more, even when the information you need now is not available on the Internet, or is so buried in billions of web pages that you could spend years trying to find it. If you aren't already a smart doctor, you might not even realize the value of the information if you do find it unless someone like me with a gift for this subject tells you that this is something worth paying attention to.

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