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    Are medical students happy?

    Data show some residents, graduates walking away from medicine

    “The most important thing is to enjoy your life—to be happy—it’s all that matters.”       —Audrey Hepburn

    By Peter J. McDonnell, MD

    Many, many, many years ago, when I was but a young trainee doing my fellowship year in Corneal and External Diseases, my professor called me into his office on multiple occasions.

    “Sit down,” he would say, and I did. “So, are you happy?” he would ask. It struck me as an unusual question at the time.

    Today, I wonder if my professor might have been on to something. According to a recent editorial by Rich Joseph, a medical student at Stanford University’s medical school, a lot of medical students and residents simply aren’t happy.

    More from Peter: How would an ophthalmologist respond when faced with death?

    As a result, I was shocked to learn that a large number of medical students pick up their diplomas at graduation and simply walk away from medicine. According to the article, only 68% of Stanford’s medical students go on to perform a clinical residency. At six other medical schools, even fewer graduates pursue any clinical work.

    Given the difficulty that great undergraduates have securing a slot in a U.S. medical school and the need for more well-trained physicians in this country, the fact that about one-third of medical school graduates (at least of some schools) don’t practice comes as a disappointment.

    Why is this the case? According to the medical student who wrote the article, the young interns and residents aren’t happy. He says that “hospital cafeterias sell greasy foods, sodas and candy scarfed by sleep-deprived residents to allay mounting stress . . . rooms where residents nap during overnight shifts look and feel like jail cells.”

    Sound familiar?

    Peter J. McDonnell, MD
    He is director of The Wilmer Eye Institute, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and chief medical editor of ...

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