‘ Why do you want to be a doctor ?’ When you chose to apply to medical school, you will hear this question multiple times. Parents, friends and strangers will all question your reasoning for wanting to become a doctor. At first a mumbled ‘I want to help people’ or ‘I like watching Scrubs’ may be all you can muster, but the answer to this question is important. It is not just people you know who will be curious to the answer, but it is something your chosen medical schools will be keen to ask too.
You will have to show that you have thought about your reasons for why you have applied to medical school in your personal statement and one of the most popular interview questions is ‘why do you want to be a doctor?’ Perhaps more importantly, it is something you should be willing to be honest to yourself about as you are committing to at least 5 years of study followed by a lifelong career.
There is no right answer to the question, but there are some which are worrying. Being pushed into it by your parents or school is hardly a reason for applying to a demanding and lengthy course. A selfish answer such as wanting money or respect is likely to be a red flag to any interviewers or people reading your personal statements. It is true that doctors are respected, but this should not be your primary reason for wanting to be a doctor.
However, there are common reasons for wanting to study medicine at university: wanting to help people, being interested in science (particularly biology) or having a personal involvement are often cited. Simply saying ‘I want to study Medicine because my brother broke his toe last year and I wish I could have helped him’ is unlikely to stand out on your personal statement. This is a rather generic answer and does not help the people reading your personal to understand your true motivations.
Instead, it is important, especially on your personal statement, to give time and thought to your answer to this question. If it is indeed because you enjoy science at school and desire to help people then bear in mind that there are plenty of professions which involve this. Thus, you need to think about what in particular about medicine attracts you; it could be the opportunity to work directly with people, the leadership role may entice you or perhaps the opportunity to get involved in research. If you wish to be a doctor due to personal experiences of medicine in the family, then it is vital that you can explain the impact that it has had on you and your desire to study medicine. You may have witnessed and illness affecting a close friend or relative, or have been inspired by a doctor in the family. The key is to make your answer personal to your situation and show how it impacted on your decision to become a doctor. It is highly likely that you will not be able to come up with a single best reason, but will end up with a combination of reasons.
If you are lucky enough to be invited to interview, then you will probably be asked to explain your rationale in a bit more detail. This will require you to think more about your reasons, as you may be challenged on them. For example, if you say ‘I want to be a doctor because I want to combine my scientific knowledge whilst directly working with people’, the interviewers may ask ‘why not become a nurse then?’ This provides a particular challenge as your answer has to be respectful towards the nursing profession whilst emphasising that you are aware of the differences in responsibilities that a doctor has to a nurse.
In summary, it is important to spend time considering your personal answer to the question ‘Why do you want to be a doctor?’ This will help you in your personal statement and is a common question at interview. At the same time, it is important to be able to back up your statements and explain your reasoning. Good luck!