On our paths to becoming doctors, we learn in-depth details about many things: the Krebs cycle, how many bones are in the human foot and how to tell the difference between bronchitis and emphysema. But we get very little in the way of learning how to prepare for a career.

There’s no instruction in medical school about how to create a 3-5 year career timeline, how to find and use the best tools to get the right job or how to manage our own personal wellness so we can avoid career burnout.

Growing up, I wanted nothing more than to become a doctor. The science of medicine fascinates me — the way the parts of the human body work together and how one part influences another, like a chain reaction. In medical school I was a member of the honor society. I got good grades, participated in community service activities, served in leadership roles and ran marathons. During the clinical years I picked up on the cynicism and despair of some doctors, both young and old, and noticed this was manifested by anger and mistrust of everyone around them and lack of personal wellness.

It was hard to describe the reasons why I identified with the reactions of those doctors. It was a combination of many forces, both internal and external, that was hard to articulate. But I was surprised by my own unhappiness because I never thought I would be that way as a doctor and I felt very alone. I worried this misery would become my permanent disposition. All I could do was get through each day, getting angry at little things and losing a little more of my sense of humor and my perspective on everything.

As I began to envision my career with 40-50 years ahead of me, I saw myself going down this vast road with very little control over what happened to me and disaster waiting around every corner. It scared me to death. The only thing that kept me going was fear. I didn’t know what to do. Financial concerns were largely what kept me going to work every day.

I wrote about my anxiety in 2006.  Back then, I didn’t know how much I could do with my medical degree and how exciting it could be to take control of my own destiny and career. So much has happened since those days. I’ve been able to take my medical knowledge and experience and use it in non-traditional ways through my work as director of wellness at a brokerage firm and then as a consultant and an entrepreneur. I’ve also had the opportunity to help more than a hundred doctors face their own challenges, overcome their fears, answer their own questions and feel empowered to drive and shape their careers as doctors. Even physicians who are generally happy with their daily lives can benefit from some career strategy and planning for the future.

You can take control of your career and your life as a physician.  I’ll be offering practical and tangible ways to take charge of your own future.  The New Year is the perfect time to get started and here are some things to consider right away.  Write down your responses.  The act of writing will help you think and reflect.

  • What have you achieved professionally and personally in the past few years?
  • What did you want to achieve in 2013 but weren’t able to?
  • What habits or patterns can you identify that you would like to change?
  • What do you want to achieve in 2014?
  • What needs to happen to get you to where you want to be?

Don’t waste precious years worrying about your future.  Now is the time to start planning and prepare for career success.


Though the views expressed above are solely the writer’s, University of Maryland Emergency Medicine Network supports “The Dose with Dr. Goodhook” and is partnering with Adventures in Medicine to create an open, inspiring and insightful community for residents and physicians. Click here to learn more about ways that University of Maryland Emergency Medicine Network is making practice purposeful.

About the Author:
Michelle Mudge-Riley, DO, MHA is the Founder of Physicians Helping Physicians (www.phphysicians.com).