There’s an old joke regarding different cultures’ interpretation as to when a fetus is considered alive.  

The broadest definition of the beginning of life pinpoints the date at conception.  

Others target a later date – namely, viability outside the womb.  

But, the longest delay for the ‘beginning of life” is when the “person” graduates from medical school.  

I hear two stories from doctors.  

Some believe medicine is still a noble calling. A career in medicine delivers significant professional satisfaction. It pays well. And it comes with significant social stature. 

Others believe medicine hit its peak years ago and today is a formula for frustration and professional burnout. And the pay and stature are pittances compared to what similarly situated smart people can earn in the marketplace. 

These two narratives inform doctors in recommending what type of careers their children should pursue. 

About half of us are still recommending a career in medicine for our kids. 

The other half are arguing to steer clear.  

There’s little doubt medicine has changed over the past two generations. And some specialties are experiencing higher burnout than others. 

What is inarguable is that getting into medical school is hard; really hard.  

According to the most recent data from U.S. News & World Report, the average acceptance rate for medical school hovers around 5.8 percent in the U.S. At the country’s 10 most competitive medical schools, meanwhile, this number drops to 2.6 percent.  

Which begs the question: What is the admittance rate at the hardest school to get into? A staggering 1.8 percent: Just 86 of 4,802 applicants got in at 2016-2017.  

Even schools with comparatively “high” acceptance rates reported staggeringly low numbers. Specifically, just 14 percent of applicants were admitted to the medical school with the most favorable acceptance rates.  

Of course, prospective students submit applications to more than one program. And that improves the odds of getting into at least one school

Now let’s look at the mathematics behind applying to medical schools. Let’s assume a particular applicant applies to 15 medical schools and has an 8% acceptance chance at all of them (8% is pretty reasonable for a qualified student). Given those variables, the student has a 71% (1-.92^15) chance, at getting into at least one medical school. If that same applicant applied to 20 medical schools, the chance would jump to 81%. Furthermore, if the applicant applied to 25 schools, the chance would rise to 88%. 

Still, unless the applicant is reasonably qualified, he/she will not get past the gate.  

So, insiders are not as enthusiastic in recommending medical school as we have been in the past. Nonetheless, more and more people are working hard to become insiders. 

What do you think? 

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Jeffrey Segal, MD, JD

Dr. Jeffrey Segal, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Medical Justice, is a board-certified neurosurgeon. In the process of conceiving, funding, developing, and growing Medical Justice, Dr. Segal has established himself as one of the country’s leading authorities on medical malpractice issues, counterclaims, and internet-based assaults on reputation.

Dr. Segal holds a M.D. from Baylor College of Medicine, where he also completed a neurosurgical residency. Dr. Segal served as a Spinal Surgery Fellow at The University of South Florida Medical School. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa as well as the AOA Medical Honor Society. Dr. Segal received his B.A. from the University of Texas and graduated with a J.D. from Concord Law School with highest honors.

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