Have you ever had trouble making up your mind? I have. Leaving the personal life decisions out of it (should we make this relationship work or move on?), I’m thinking back on my education and career decisions. Which college do I want to apply early to? (Penn versus Brown.) What do I want to be when I grow up? (Scientist/Health care provider versus Politician/Economist.) Should I transfer colleges? (A fairly confident ‘Yes.’) Where do I hope to transfer to? (Wesleyan versus Brown.) What do I want to be when I grow up? (Physician versus Physician Assistant)? Where do I want to go to medical school? (OHSU—a no brainer.) Where do I want to do a post-bacc master’s program? (Loyola University Chicago versus Georgetown.) What do I want to be when I grow up? (Family Medicine Physician versus General Surgeon.) And now, where do I want to go for residency? Of course, there is uncertainty in clinical decision-making too, but Atul Gawande tells a much better story than I do.
Forget U.S. News. Look at their evaluation metrics: are they measuring what’s important to me? Not really. So define what’s important to me, how important it is to me, and add it up. If I don’t like my list, or who’s on top (that’s the gut feeling coming in), I ask myself what I don’t like about it, adjust my priorities accordingly, and add things up again. It’s worked every time.
I didn’t need to be at the medical school with the most NIH dollars in oncology research—I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be an oncologist. I wanted one in a great community (Portland), with great people (Oregonians), an active, reform-minded legislature (Salem), strong primary care (OHSU), and early clinical exposure (OHSU). I was lucky enough to to get accepted. What did I find here? All of the above, plus (and they don’t tell you this on the website) amazing physician mentors, leading healthcare reform efforts at the university, academy, and state levels, and impressively accomplished classmates and colleagues.
The bottom line: go with your gut. What do you really want?