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Jane Doe, MD–My Mid-Life Medical Sabbatical


This is one in a series of posts about returning to training at mid-life and mid-career.  I am in the second month of a yearlong fellowship in a technical area of my specialty.

uniqueIt is the middle of July and I have met most of the people who will be my peers for the next eleven months.  A few more will arrive in August and a few holdovers will be gone.  I am not so rare as I flattered myself to be.

There are about fifteen of us and most are on”the traditional path.”  For many, residency is just behind them and subspecialty training is their next step.  A few came to medical school or US medical training after a more circuitous path.  There are two others who have been in practice for longer than a year or two.  Both are women.  I am one of them.

I do not yet know my new colleagues well enough to understand their motivations but what conversation there has been leads me to believe that mastery and marketability are near the top of the list.  As I earlier revealed, mastery is certainly near the top of my list of motivations.

Many articles in the popular press over the last decade or so have discussed the effect of the increased pace of change on workers, how most people will have more than one career in a lifetime, and that formal training will occur throughout one’s working life.  It is my impression that doctors think themselves largely exempt from this trend.

To me, this seems doubtful.

We all know of “physician over achievers” with an MBA or JD added to the MD degree later in life to increase their “marketability”.  This is often a step towards non-clinical medicine.  Most of us, though, are in medicine for the clinical aspects.  Perhaps myself and my new colleagues are in the vanguard of a larger percentage physicians who will choose, through formal training, to deepen their clinical knowledge in their primary specialty or broaden their knowledge into other clinical areas of medicine to remain masterful and marketable in the world of emerging medical practice.


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