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What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up?

Kendracampbell572x721Kendra Campbell -- I’ve recently been thinking a lot about what I would have done with my life had I not gone to medical school. So, I was inspired by Colin's post to make a short list of what I “could” have become:

1. An Artist: I’m not sure exactly what type of art I would pursue. However, given my inclination for incorporating the viewer into the art itself, I think I’d probably lean towards some type of performance/street art.

2. A Veterinarian: If you’ve read many of my posts here on The Differential, you probably saw this one coming. I’m an animal maniac. I can easily see myself in 20 years living on a ranch somewhere with hundreds of animals running around inside and outside my house. It seems that it would have made good sense for me to choose animals over humans!

3. A Musician: Unfortunately, this one exists as a possibility only in my mind. Although I am incredibly passionate about music, and think I have the heart and performance abilities to put on a good show, I am completely and utterly lacking in talent. I can’t sing or play a single instrument with any level of skill.

I could continue the list for pages, but I shall not. Since I am in my third year of med school, and I have a monumental level of debt hovering over me, my dreams of pursuing other fields have been all but extinguished. Now, I have a new decision in front of me. Which specialty should I pursue?

Some students know from the time they are 5 years old that they want to be a pediatrician or a surgeon. But there are many of us who really don’t have a clue. The third- and fourth-year clinical rotations are intended to expose us to the various specialties, and they do, in fact, help most students narrow down their choice.

There are also numerous quizzes, tests, and scales that students can use to help them decide which specialty fits them best. Here are just a few:

1. The AAMC’s Careers in Medicine website

2. The University of Virginia’s Medical Specialty Aptitude Test (MSAT)

3. Test of Attractiveness of Medical Specialty by Temperament via Myers Longitudinal Study

Of course, if all else fails, you can use this very technical flow chart to figure out which specialty fits you best.


I am currently leaning strongly towards either emergency medicine or psychiatry. My MSAT results revealed emergency medicine as my best match, and psychiatry as my worst. The highly technical flow chart was actually great for narrowing my choices down as well. I am definitely crazy, so it confirms my hunch that emergency medicine and psychiatry are best for me!

I think what it really comes down to is letting your gut decide. Of course, that’s way easier said than done. Perhaps some of us never really decide what we want to be when we grow up!

January 7, 2009 in Kendra Campbell | Permalink


Go for psychiatry! The world needs kind people like you in psychiatry! :)

Posted by: tb | Jan 8, 2009 7:21:14 AM

Hee, i love the flow chart, by the way!

Posted by: tfb | Jan 13, 2009 10:19:17 AM

Ack! OB/GYN is not on your flow chart. I think it would go something like this though...

Crazy? --Yes--> Hard Working? --Yes--> Really crazy? --Yes--> OB/Gyn

OB/GYN is my intended specialty, and I really believe you have to be a little crazy to do it!

Posted by: J | Jan 13, 2009 12:43:13 PM

Great flow chart! Give Emergency Medicine a try.

Posted by: Germaine | Jan 13, 2009 12:49:38 PM

Loving the chart! Awsome! Hmmm...I a 3rd year and haven't figured out what I want to do either.

Posted by: Alexandra | Jan 13, 2009 2:21:23 PM

Dear Kendra,
To read about the abundance of your ideas does make me feel connected and happy. I have been involved in the field of medicine, art, and psychology for many years. As the water needs the shore, as one needs the other, we all are in need for what keeps us in balance, what is meaningful, and brings happiness, for the benefit of ourselves and others.
You will find your way. You seem to embrace life to the fullest and have the privilege of searching for different ways as well as are bestowed with the gift of questioning yourself.
I would say that psychiatry certainly would need you, given you are strong and enthusiastic enough to keep up with the walls of "every-day-bureaucracy," and still feel passionate about wanting to reach out, connect, and be there for patients, who so very much need an ear to listen, an eye to watch, the skills neealso ded to be able to give others the feeling of being well guided and cared for, and the heart to empathize, the feeling of being taken seriously, no matter what happens,even if patients might not be in the position to show how much they do appreciate your true interest, your devotion, and your affection.
Look at the painter "Balthazar Klossowski de Rola, known as Balthus," who had been institutionalized, and the sculptress and graphic artist "Camille Claudel," who had been institutionalized on the initiative of her brother and spent the rest of her life in an asylum,which could have been -at least in my opinion- be handled differently.
There are numerous examples of people who got trapped in asylums, just because they were "inconvenient" in their desire to stand up for themselves, in their "being different," and who got simply locked up. Of course, there are patients who are in need for protection and for a safe place.
Art needs medicine, manifested in highly trained, good and honest, friendly and loving human beings, in my view. There was a fantastic magazine called "Music and Medicine" focusing on the importance of creativity in life and the positive affect thereof on body and mind.
I think we are in need for a holistic approach that allows us to view and embrace life with all its facets.
Narrow mindedness and focusing in only one direction might have a blinding and distorting effect.

Times have changed, for the better. It takes people who are able to differentiate, to question, and to view every patient in her or his own right, I think.

Good luck with your endeavors (and your ranch, sounds like a fantastic idea)! You will make it!
With sunshine greetings,
Elke :o)

Posted by: Elke | Jan 13, 2009 10:14:32 PM

hey kendra u didn't included ent
but chart is good
any how i would suggest u decide ur speciality when actually u start working in the hospital tht is when u do ur internship rotation and u decide what to do

Posted by: amit kumar ahuja | Jan 14, 2009 7:42:47 PM

its a good one.

Posted by: umer | Jan 14, 2009 9:47:29 PM

Hi Kendra
Why not incorporate your 'alternative careers' into hobbies. You still need to have a hobby, even if you have hardly any time for it :)

Posted by: Tabitha | Jan 15, 2009 12:24:21 AM

OMG kendra! This is the flowchart i've been looking for, for ages! I'm strongly leaning into Emergency Medicine (Which I've been planning to do) I'm lazy and crazy, just like what the chart tells! BTW, i think forensic medicine should be included as well (in the crazy-lazy-afraid of the dark kinda medical student). I don't know about you guys in the west, but us indian medical students have to take up forensic medicine as early as 2nd year. Zzzzz

Posted by: Aidid | Jan 15, 2009 5:34:45 AM

Hmmm...I love your flow chart keep it up.

Posted by: Emah | Jan 15, 2009 1:50:26 PM

Hi Kendra...
Really like your chart.
I want to a pediatrician, but apparently I'm not that sane...not that hard-working..but extremely nice... haha :D

Posted by: Madeleine | Jan 15, 2009 10:59:15 PM

hi kendra
really a nice flow chart really i m a hardworking and mean also but i never read this chart before taking surgery as my speciality

Posted by: harish kumar | Jan 17, 2009 12:16:01 AM

i would suggest to include anatomist in crazy column as very crazy and those who like to play with dead bodies :).Your chart very nice and usefull too mam

Posted by: gopinath | Jan 18, 2009 11:26:52 PM

Really Lazy and crazy = pharmacist

Posted by: macinsleads | Feb 4, 2009 1:08:49 AM

thats ok. but what should be our study schedule i am a commerse student and going to give my 12th boards i want to score wonders . please help me guys ?

Posted by: kanika | Apr 17, 2009 3:41:31 AM

You write so well, I blame you souly for keeping me from my bed LOL Very good reading! Keep it up.

Posted by: Kerry | May 15, 2009 5:46:26 PM

Hi, Kendra !
The "flow chart" is just ingenious !
I am an ENT, so i was thinking about the question were to place my speciality.
Maybe: Sane => Hard working => mean => manic vs depressive:
manic = surgery, depressive = ENT


Posted by: Tom (Austria) | Aug 30, 2009 6:22:59 AM

Your chart forgot "Fence Sitter" -> Family Medicine.

-From one who never did decide

Posted by: Jared Frandson, MD | Oct 20, 2009 1:05:41 PM

The OB/GYN flow chart would be very hard working=>mean=> then sadistic=>surgery vs. masochistic=>OB/GYN

All depends on whether you like to punish yourself or others....

Posted by: okobgyn | Dec 1, 2009 1:38:54 PM

The Differential, you probably saw this one coming. I’m an animal maniac.

Posted by: Top Online Universities | Aug 4, 2010 9:49:39 PM

Loved reading your blog, Kendra. Glad to hear you are getting along so well.

Posted by: Paul Jolly | Oct 6, 2010 12:42:05 PM

Like to read your blog. Career choice in medical field is very tough.Field should be taken according to your interest.So that you can be expert.

Posted by: Wrong Diagnosis | Oct 25, 2010 6:11:11 AM

Hi, such a cool website I found at http://www.google.com . I'll will comeback soon I need to go now otherwise I will google it again. Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Tobias | Mar 25, 2011 10:11:56 AM

n1ce diagramm and graph!!!

Posted by: essay writing | Nov 21, 2011 10:16:28 AM

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