Saturday, April 6, 2013

DO or MD?

I wasn't sure whether I should write about my decision to apply for MD and DO programs.  My concern was that people would misunderstand and that maybe it could come back and bite me later.  But, well, these are the things that I thought about to make a personal decision and I don't intend to slander anyone, so here goes.

I applied for both MD and DO schools.  Initially, I wasn't planning to apply for DO programs, but the majority of my college friends are currently attending DO schools and seem to be doing alright/having fun.  I figured, why the hell doesn't hurt anything but my wallet.  I made most of my college friends at a student-run clinic, so we have fairly similar ideals/experiences with patient care.

During the app process, I was also working at a pain management clinic and met a variety of elderly patients who struggled with chronic pain of the musculoskeletal variety.  Some of them relied on meds, but the majority of patients I worked with eschewed meds in favor of trying other methods like physical therapy, using topical pain relief creams, and participating in exercise workshops that I ran.  It seemed like a lot of people would observe more improvement in their mobility and a decrease in their pain levels if they just tried these three methods (or at least tried them first before using prescription pain meds).  Working with older patients was occasionally frustrating because they would show up to the clinic with a ziploc-bag full of various meds from various doctors.  There wasn't a lot of oversight, and most of the time the patients weren't really sure what most of them were for, beyond the standard maintenance meds for high blood pressure or cholesterol.  I wanted to be that kind of doctor who could maintain the big picture of a patient's well-being.  The DO philosophy matched my ideal, which is always a good thing, so I applied.

As an aside, I think my secondaries were a lot better by the time I go to my DO apps.  I had gotten much better at explaining why a particular school was a good fit for me.  Up until that point, my essays focused a lot on why I liked particular aspects of the school, but I wasn't great at explaining how all these contributed to make a specific school the only place for me.

I really liked two of the DO programs I visited during my interview season.  The faculty were great, I liked the curriculum, and the student body seemed cool.  The schools also had an emphasis on community health, which is something that I was interested in exploring further.  The Deans were down to earth too.  I interviewed and was accepted into my first choice DO school before I interviewed for an MD program.  I was fairly receptive to attending the DO school.

So why, if I was open to the prospect of a DO degree, did I ultimately choose to attend an MD program?

I wanted to be in a city and the program I will be attending is located in a city.  I had reservations about the DO rotations in 3rd and 4th year, as well.  I wanted to be at a major hospital, and the school I will be attending gives me the opportunity to be exposed to patients at a county hospital and large private hospitals.  The DO schools I looked at tended to form affiliations with smaller hospitals and community clinics, which probably more accurately reflects what it's like to be a doctor, but being at a big city hospital seemed more exciting to me.  Growing up as a city girl was probably a big influence.  Some DO schools have you pick a regional campus for your 3rd/4th year rotations.  I had mixed feelings about that.  On one hand, moving always sucks.  In college, I moved from one end of my apartment complex to the middle, and it still sucked.  I would also probably leave my med school friends.  While we can keep in touch, it just won't be the same. On the other hand, going to a new environment is exciting and challenging.

Another thing that I wasn't too excited about is that, among my DO-school friends, a lot of them were planning to take the USMLE and the COMLEX, which are national exams required of MD and DO students, respectively.  My friends plan to take the USMLE in order to apply for MD residencies and I would probably do the same.  It seemed like a pain to take two exams, even if the act of studying for the exam is a relatively small span of life as a med student/doctor.  Supposedly there will be a move to combine the licensing requirements for MD and DO students, but I'm not too well-informed of that and nobody I talked to knew how that would affect students.

There's also the part where I fell in love with the school.  The students and faculty were very enthusiastic and it's easy to get caught up in and feed off that energy.

I still maintain that DO programs are good and legit programs.  I've had a DO as my eye doctor for a while and she's so awesome that I wish she was my PCP instead.  In the end, I just picked the program that was the best fit for me and what I wanted.  I'm thankful that I was fortunate enough to have options, because it's always good to have options.

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