So, what do the people who will help shape the future of medicine have to say about their future in medicine?
Last week, Thomas Jefferson University graduated its 190th class of medical students. In the echoing halls of the Kimmel Center, students talked about facing the transition from the classroom to residency.
“As of today, I’ll officially be a doctor,” said Kushan Radadia of Phoenixville, Pa. But that hardly means his training is over. “Five years of residency and then I’ll be a urologist,” said Radadia.
After graduation, Carlos Ortega, 27, will be a starting his own residency in anesthesia. “I’m really excited about the potential to have a meaningful impact on people’s lives; that’s really why I went into medicine in the first place,” said Ortega.
But starting to practice medicine, Ortega noted, also means facing down mountainous debt. “I’m less excited about starting to pay back all of my loans. That’s one of the realistic things that we sort of have to start thinking about now.”
And there are some jitters, Ortega said: “As a student starting in the hospital, there’s this sense of ‘What have I gotten myself into, did I bite off more than I could chew?’.”
Leann Tu, 26, of New Albany, Ohio, also worries about getting her feet wet.
“I’m definitely anxious just because now that I do have a degree, now that I’m responsible for patients, it’s definitely really scary,” Tu said. “And I think everyone is scared to start and make that first mistake. My greatest hope would be that I could create the best relationships with my patients, especially since I’m going into a surgical field and it’s hard to keep that balance.”
Looking at the big picture of health care, several students pointed to high cost and barriers to access as areas with the greatest room for improvement.
“I think the biggest problems are the cost and the fact that we aren’t covering all Americans,” said Paul Leonard, 26, from Chicago. “Other developed countries are doing it for far cheaper. It’ll be nice to see where this Obamacare’s going to go, but hopefully better.”
At the end of the ceremony, assistant professor of medicine Joseph Majdan invited the graduates to join in reciting the Hippocratic oath – the symbolic ritual for entering the field of medicine.
Committing to “exercise [their] art for the best care of [their] patients” and to “hold themselves aloof from wrong,” these students embarked on a quest to become true professionals.