SARAH LINDE is the very model of a modern premedical student, the kind of applicant who is causing anxiety among medical educators. Sarah is a gifted student with an outstanding academic record, months away from college graduation, and she is reconsidering medical school.
The ambition to be a doctor sustained her through rigorous premedical studies and helps to account for her 4.0 (or straight A) average and top MCAT scores. A senior at the University of Maryland, Sarah has recently been weighing her future and reflecting on some of her concerns about medical school.
She is prepared to take out loans if she goes, and her interest is in family practice or Third World medicine. But she confesses, "I'm tired of grinding out this work, which will just go on in med school and internship and residency. Every hour that I'm awake during the day, something is scheduled. I see others sitting around socializing and they don't look at their watches. I never feel I can do that."
Sarah puts in about five hours a day studying, in addition to class time, and some days as much as eight to 10 hours. And after all that, she laments the "lopsidedness of my education -- lots of science, but very little knowledge of the humanities and arts." She knows she wouldn't enjoy engineering but thinks about teaching, maybe biology, or joining the Peace Corps.
Ever since high school she has thought about medicine, she says, because "I thought it was the most challenging work I could put before myself and accomplish and be satisfied with." Family and teachers invariably reinforced the idea, saying as she recalls, "Oh, how wonderful. A doctor." But now, "I'm thinking about my life, and I ask is that what I really want to do -- or is it what I was told was good to do?"
Other worries include trying to combine a career in medicine with raising a family eventually, because she believes "strongly that children should be raised by a parent." As she waits for word of acceptance from medical schools, Sarah intends to do some more thinking. Perhaps she will compromise, taking a year or two off before plunging into medicine. "I have a feeling deep down," she says, "that I would never be satisfied with myself unless I tried." ::