GUMS | 5 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do With A Degree in Medicine
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5 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do With A Degree in Medicine

01 May 5 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do With A Degree in Medicine

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“Medical students tend to tunnel vision towards clinical practice, but some of us may not be suited for it.”

“What kind of doctor do you want to be?”
This is the question that crops up at every social occasion when someone discovers that I’m a medical student.
And the only reason I sound so confident professing my interest in general practice, paediatrics, or psychiatry is because I’ve regurgitated my memorised answer countless times.
At best my answer is an ill-informed guess and at worst it’s a complete lie, because I know I would most likely thrive in non-clinical jobs which are relegated to the backbench of our minds.
Did you know that according to The Physician’s Foundation in 2010, 40% of doctors planned to drop out of patient care to retire or seek a non-clinical job? And yet these jobs are hardly made aware to students who may potentially be interested.
The reality is that not all high achievers who successfully enter medicine and complete it are suited to be clinicians. So whether you tense up at the thought of human interaction, or get queasy at the sight of the slightest gore, here are 5 things you didn’t know you could do with a degree in medicine.

1. Expert Witness

Present day physicians are constantly under legal scrutiny and a simple misstep can land you in the hot seat of the courtroom. Save yourself the added pressure of medical indemnities and potential law suits – just earn a living being an expert witness who uses their specialized knowledge to carry out justice.
Expert witnesses use their medical training and experience to help the court come to a decision. They are most commonly required for civil cases to give their opinion about whether the defendant provided an acceptable standard of care.
Why are expert witnesses a thing? It’s because as part of the process, witnesses have a lot of legal paperwork and procedure to follow, and this can be very time-consuming for them, the court, and the legal team.
Expert witnesses who are familiar with the legal process can perform these jobs efficiently and are therefore in high demand.

2. Freelance Writing & Medical Editing

If you’re an aspiring writer and would prefer to do it full-time, a medical degree is not necessarily a wasted investment. Being a doctor opens doors for writing and editing newspaper articles, clinical papers, quality improvement initiatives, and medical publications – think the likes of Paul Kalanithi, Atul Gawande, Henry Marsh, Siddhartha Mukherjee etc.
Experience as a doctor teaches you the interviewing and organisational skills needed for a writer. More importantly, it develops the critical thinking skills needed to identify key points of discussion in any writing piece.
Above all, freelance writers can work at their own pace – a paradise in comparison to the rigorous hours in primary care roles. It does mean though, that you have to build up your business by developing a client base.
With an established set of clients, income can be on par with some clinical jobs. It would, however, be a poor comparison to higher-end primary care jobs such as specialist physicians. But for those with a passion in writing, it can be hard to do anything other than that. Or why not balance both a clinical and writing role!

3. Computer Technology

As we make strides through the digital era, computer technology is becoming increasingly important in medical practice. Doctors with a background in programming can consider a job in electronic medical record (EMR) advising and developing medical software.
If you are particularly ambitious, you may think of developing your own health start-up to serve patients or healthcare organisations. We are constantly blurring the boundaries between artificial intelligence and healthcare, seamlessly intermingling them in a myriad ways.
Do you have the biggest idea for early stroke detection or a method to sift through the mess that is medical administration? Start-ups may just be your thing!
Having your tech company, just like start-up in any business, can be a feast or famine experience. Working for a tech company as an advisor may be safer and more fulfilling for those who no longer wish to work in the clinical setting.

4. Enter the Corporate Sector

The most obvious attraction of entering the corporate sector is financial reward. Medical graduates who “go corporate” can potentially earn much more than they would as a practising physician. These firms are particularly interested in doctors who also have an MBA.
Management consulting firms such as Mckinsey & Company help institutions solve any range of issues. They recruit doctors because the healthcare industry is one of the fields that requires most consulting and physicians have the problem-solving skills required to analyse the problem at hand.
Another example is venture capital companies which recruit doctors to help them analyse start-up companies in healthcare and determine whether they are worthy of investment.
The downside to corporate fields is that they are generally difficult to break into and the level of competition and workload can rival or surpass clinical practice.

5. Independent Medical Examiner

IMEs are physicians who perform insurance exams on behalf of independent insurance or medical companies.
You might think, “How could you, that’d be like working for the other side!”
The other perspective is that you would be involved in preventing overuse and exploitation of healthcare services.
As their job only includes assessment and reviewing, IMEs have little potential liability and require next to no resources. Their job includes viewing medical records, performing an examination, and writing a report. They may also be required to testify in court.
IMEs can also schedule their examinations to bunched together, significantly reducing their work hours compared to a clinical physician. In fact, many practising doctors supplement their income by doing insurance reviews.
Medical students tend to tunnel vision towards clinical practice, but some of us may not be suited for it. Regardless of that, it’s a relief to know that with a degree in medicine, there are a plethora of pathways that you can choose.
I’d encourage everyone to be more conscious of these opportunities and give them some thought. You never know if one day you’ll wake up and find that primary care is just not for you.
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