UMHS Medical Student Jasmine Rivas.
Jasmine Rivas, chooses to pursue a career in medicine at UMHS St. Kitts.

So I already booked my flight to St. Kitts – August 23, 2012. If someone would have told me last year, or any year prior, that I would be on a flight to study medicine in a Caribbean medical school in St. Kitts this Fall (at UMHS to be exact), I would have looked puzzled and then probably had a good laugh. As I’ve stated before, I have always been interested in medicine but there were times that negative thoughts crept in and discouraged me…there were times when I believed I would never go to medical school and would choose another career! These are some reasons why:

  • Western medicine is a narrow road with little room for “thinking outside the box”.
  • Medicine in the United States  is a long career, 4 years post-bachelor and 3 or more years of specialized training.
  • Insurance companies are making more and paying doctor’s less (especially primary care physicians). Causing them to over book appointments and see more patients in less time = less quality.
  • An increase in malpractice lawsuits with lack of evidence which leads to a loss of time and money, and even worse: loss of trust between the patient and physician.
  • Increase in tuition costs: Increase in debt.
  • Most doctor’s seem to have hectic jobs that leave little time for family.

Granted, those are all credible reasons that should be factored in. Wanting to help people and bring them to good health won’t get you through medical school, it probably won’t even get you through pre-med. When asking yourself why you want to study and practice medicine, dig deeper. When asking yourself why you want to do anything that entails such a deep level of commitment and dedication…dig deep. That’s not to say that helping people achieve health isn’t a solid reason, because it is. What I am trying to get across is the notion that there are far more personal, deep-rooted reasons why we choose certain routes. For instance, when you meet someone and spend time with them, you begin to learn about them. The more you learn, the more you recognize traits that you like or don’t like. Sometimes it is love at first sight and you are made for each other, no questions asked. But, this isn’t the case most of the time. Usually, it takes time to fall in love with someone. And before you commit to a relationship with another person it is your responsibility to have solid, deep-rooted reasons as to why you are doing so. This is coming from someone who has always been in love with … love. Which makes it quite easy to love someone else. However, dedicating your time and energy to anything, whether it be a personal relationship with another person or a career (as with medicine), you should have a list of solid reasons. This way, when the going gets rough, you have that list to back up your initial decision and you won’t walk away. I know plenty of physicians and I work with them on a daily basis, if there is one thing they ALL have in common is the understanding that a career in medicine is a challenge that never gives in. Like a lasting relationship, it will always need your attention, dedication and energy.

I’m not sure how I will deal with every obstacle listed above if and when the time comes, but I know I’ll find a way…I always do. Below I’ll list my reasoning in regards to the list above:

  • I’m unsure of which specialty I’ll choose when the time comes, but I do know I’ll be delving into certifications or fellowships that entail holistic, eastern healing modalities so that I can offer my patients the most comprehensive healing process. I’ve always been one to think outside the box and being a medical doctor in the U.S. won’t change that … nothing will.
  • Well the good news is most of you have already completed or are completing your bachelors degree, leaving the 4 years of med. Good news for me is I’ll be done in 3 years going the UMHS Caribbean route. As for the residency…residents get paid on average $45,000-55,000 while they are in training. The salary varies, however, it’s not so bad and only temporary. We’ll be underpaid and overworked, but still in training so it’s not so bad.
  • This is a huge political issue right now. With obama-care and all the other political nonsense, it takes a lot of the pleasure out of being a physician. Nevertheless, even if we’re making less, we’ll still be making enough to pay our loans, meet our needs and then some. Besides, we didn’t become doctor’s to own yachts and houses in Belize…if that’s what we really wanted, we’d get into acting and be the next Dr. Grey, Dr. House, or Dr. McDreamy.
  • The relationship built between a physician and his/her patient is up to the physician. Creating a relaxed, comfortable and judgement free environment is paramount to building a trusting relationship. Not to mention, staying current with medicine and up-to-date with studies and new treatments. I guess, being the kind of responsible, caring and knowledgeable physician you would want for yourself and family. You can’t control everything, specially misrepresented lawsuits. However, being organized and taking solid notes will help your case so this isn’t a reason to stray from the field.
  • I don’t know of one doctor who doesn’t have debt for several years after medical school, and I don’t know of one doctor who doesn’t live a great life regardless of debt from medical school. We’ll manage.
  • The lifestyle you want is something to consider when choosing a specialty. And I am sure the same goes for every specialty, if you work more, you make more and you have less free time. My parents run a pediatrician’s office and 12 years in is when they are finally able to get away, have a few days off during the week and relax a little. On the other hand, there are part time physicians who work here and they both have young children; they each work three days a week 9-5 and live well.

Everything has two sides to it. It’s up to you to choose which side makes more sense and fits YOU best. Every choice in life is a personal one; the big ones and small ones alike. Use your best judgement, rid your mind of what others may think, say or feel, and take the time to arrive at your decision. Regardless of what you choose, time will pass…it’s up to you to decide what you will be doing while it passes.

Jasmine Rivas is a recent graduate of UMHS. She went through the ARP pre-med program. Read about some of her other experiences and her residency

About UMHS:

Built in the tradition of the best US universities, the University of Medicine and Health Sciences focuses on individualized student attention, small class sizes and recruiting high quality faculty. For these reasons, UMHS is quickly becoming the school of choice among Caribbean medical schools.


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