Two kids visited us some weekends ago. They both are lovely, balanced, charming, and well-educated young ladies that we have known since they were so so small. Habitually, we still call them kids. In fact, these are applicants to the residence programs in Seattle’s prestigious medical facilities: U of Washington and Virginia Mason.
The supply side of America’s medical profession is highly controlled. Medical schools are strategically distributed and limited to ensure good income for this profession. Since there are so few, medical schools are highly selective. All who attempt are bright scholars, but only the perseverent can get in. Once in the program, they labor hard for 4 years, including the internship, to study medicine. Then, they apply for a residence program that lasts 3 to 5 years. As residents, they become “real” doctors that can prescribe drugs and cut people open. Residents earn roughly $70k a year, a paltry sum compared to their engineering friends who have been working 4 years prior and now make 50% more, and without incurring that expensive 4 years of medical schooling.
At the end of the residence program, many simply start their practice. Some continue for fellowships, some pursue the “MD/PhD” route. This is another 2 to 4 years.
Adding these years up, a medical doctor is at the beginning of her career probably 10 years later than her engineering peers. I couldn’t help wondering at the financial and human costs of such long journeys. Is there an easier way?