I am a medical doctor. If you are one too or you are close to one or two, you’d be aware of the trajectories that form the usual career paths for doctors, especially in Nigeria.
I. Graduate from medical school: This is after 6-10 years (plus 5 more in some cases😨). Years in which scoring 50/100 is as prestigious and maybe even more intoxicating than scoring 90/100 in tests and exams.
II. Housejob/Housemanship: Once upon a time, as we’ve been told by medical elders, one could finish exams, get inducted and commence housejob all in two days and still get a car and petit la maison all to yourself. These days, people are unable to get housemanship placements six months post induction. Anyway, when you eventually get, that’s one year of houseboyship.
III. NYSC: No need for long talk on this🙄.
IV. Now, here, this is where paths start to diverge and spread like tap roots. I’d like to mention five paths;
- Primaries: into Residency in Nigeria.
- PLAB/USMLE/MCCQE: into Residency outside Nigeria.
- Locum Jobs: into private practice as a medical officer in Nigeria.
- Graduate Studies: in Nigeria or outside.
- Entrepreneurship: both intramedical field or outside that.
Up until housejob, I thought I was going the way of paths 1 or 2, maybe with a dash of 3. However, for some reason or the other, I had to reflect and understand why I was choosing those paths and what other options I would be letting go of in favor of those three.
I realized that I was focused on those options because those were the ones peddled my way all through medical school and a major part of Housemanship.
The question was almost always,
“So… PLAB/USMLE? Or would you be writing primaries? You know you can do locum jobs to save up for exams (PLAB/USMLE), right ?”
It’s always been that kind of conversation. Everyone wants to know what next even though… They know what’s next.
It’s like that part of wedding ceremonies where the officiating minister goes, “You may now kiss the bride.”
Eskiss sir, I know I may. I know this is the point where I may. But sir, ma, what if I want to lift her up and twirl her in her cute white dress like a pretty Cinderella? What if I want to dance skelewu with her? No? Not here? Oh, okay.
So, yeah, it’s almost like a fixed routine and without really, really thinking about it, many of us just fall in line and walk the paths.
So, how did I come about taking path 4?
I’d say the primary factor was trying to understand my own path, orchestrated by God, outside of what others were doing or expecting me to do.
I see Residency as a huge chunk of my life that while I’m excited about, I’m in no hurry to walk into. The way it goes, it’s like an unending hike… Up, up, up and on it goes and before I know it, I’m a consultant, a professor or something like that and all I remember is that, I was once a bloody houseofficer or medical officer and beyond that, everything else is a blur.
That’s one; the need to be sure that the path I’m choosing is what’s best for me, irregardless of what is expected or what everyone else is doing.
While I’m an advocate of seizing the time, I’m also a lover of savoring every moment.
For instance, the COVID-19 lockdown gave me a breather (well, too long a one though) between housejob and NYSC. I was able to invest my time and energy into other profitable things; Online courses, virtual internships and volunteering opportunities, learning languages, photography, cuisines and kitchen experiments, podcasts and movies and time with my housemates beyond, “hello, hi, can we put our ₦2000 together for electricity, please.”
So, yes, I don’t want my medical professionals lagging in terms of moving up the ladder of medical practice. At the same time, I’d want us to “live a little”.
A normal ladder has spaces between rungs but that of medical practice is like a mesh, each rung tapered closely to the next with little or no space. Unless… You create one for yourself.
The opportunity to do something not totally unrelated to medicine and medical practice but still distinct enough from the norm. This is my breather.
But, does that mean I’ll wait till I’m done with the MPH before thinking of Residency? Of course not! I’m already working on that but I also believe the MPH would help clarify my decisions between the viable options.
I know that I enjoy clinical medicine ❤️ and I would not want to be separated from it. But, I also know the project ideas I have that are outside of core clinical medicine. I know I need to build a network of people around me necessary for the initial execution and continual working and maintanance of these projects. I’m also aware that apart from my “not pale, anicteric, afebrile” knowledge, I’m a writer, public speaker and photographer.
I’m not confused about these areas of my life. No. I just need to get them synchronized towards life saving ventures for people out there and career paths I’d be proud of. Forever.
So, lessons, shall we?
- There are ‘safe paths’ for every profession out there. It’s what majority of people are sure of. And for all intents and purposes, can be trusted.
- Don’t follow paths just because of their presumed safety and certainty. Your ability to choose means you can explore options outside of the usual. It may be risky, scorned at, advised against but they may be the best for you and your future.
- Explore opportunities life has to offer you outside of your niche. Don’t do this just because, “multiple streams of income”. Do it because once you settle into one niche, that’s it. That’s all you may ever know, experience and enjoy fully. Use those adventures as breathers between the different levels/phases of your niche. Let them be the spaces between your rungs. Make them your way of savoring the moment before seizing the next thing.
- Don’t make mockery of those not on your path. Life is interesting because we aren’t all Zombies swaying here and there and headed towards one same cliff. Even Zombie movies have some variety in them😏😏.
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I’ll be talking about “Applying for Graduate Studies During a Nationwide Lockdown and an Indefinite ASUU Strike.”
See you then! 😍