Dear Doctors,

I am curious about your thought process. How did you decide to become a doctor?

– Contemplating Medicine


Dear Contemplating Medicine,

Preface: I was not the kid that knew from an early age that I wanted to be a doctor. It was a slow realization. I do think the lack of societal images of black doctors made it hard for me to visualize myself in that role. I’ve always loved science and found enjoyment helping others, but being a doctor wasn’t something that honestly clicked as a viable option until the second half of college, after I saw a black female doctor, in person, for the first time in my life. So seeing a black female doctor made it real.

It sounds cliche, but it is very true that medicine is not a “job” but a calling. It is a lifestyle. For the best doctors, I think it becomes an extension of who you are. For example, I am naturally empathic so practicing medicine is fulfilling for me because it allows for true connection to other people. There are other layers to it, such as me loving learning and growth, which medicine requires you to do for your entire life. But at the core, I love medicine because healing and uplifting others feeds my soul.  I feel like I was put on earth to do it.

I also chose MD in particular because I wanted to know it ALL. I wanted to be presented with and master the full extent of medical knowledge. That is just something that I find personally fulfilling, again as en extension of my genuine love for learning.

I’ll also add that while of course there are a lot of equally important ways to heal and help others, realistically, society rewards and values MDs disproportionately compared to other helping professions (teachers, nurses, etc.). I’m definitely not saying its right, but its the reality. Knowing that, I wanted to position myself to be the best possible advocate for patients, and I knew an MD would afford me that privilege more than any other advanced degree. Real talk, as a black person and a woman, those extra letters give my voice that extra weight in conversations and it has been important.

I hope that helps! Best of luck to you!

– Dr. Brittani


Dr. Brittani James

Brittani James, MD is an Academic Family Medicine Physician who teaches medical students and residents and practices on Chicago's South Side. She co-founded Med Like Me with her twin sister Dr. Brandi. Read their inspiring comeback story From Self-Doubt to MD. Feel free to send Dr. Brittani a message here.

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