In a time when the United States needs new doctors more than ever, the nation's youngest doctors offer a less-than-ringing endorsement for the future of medicine.
As reported by FierceHealthcare, a survey by nonprofit The Physicians Foundation reveals that 57 percent of doctors age 40 and younger don't have high hopes, worrying that recent legislation will hurt their practices. Only 4 percent were "highly optimistic" about the Affordable Care Act.
In addition to the challenges of navigating the new healthcare law and managing the ever-present threat of malpractice liability, a leading reason new doctors have trouble being upbeat is the tremendous debt they face before their careers even begin, according to a recent article in the Sacramento Bee, which noted that the median debt for medical students who graduated in 2010 was almost $160,000.
Brittany Lewis, a third-year student at UC Davis Medical School, told the newspaper that she expects to owe about that much when she graduates, but that she considers herself lucky compared to some of her classmates who owe even more. Nonetheless, she conceded that needing to repay that debt will influence the type of medicine she eventually will practice, and that she will probably specialize.
According to the Physicians Foundation survey, Lewis is hardly alone. When asked to name the factors that influenced their choice of current practice arrangements, 65 percent of the young doctors surveyed cited income/cash flow, Medpage Today reported, followed by employment security (53 percent), family life (46 percent) and other physicians (36 percent).
But even knowing the challenges ahead, Lewis, also a single mother, has already gotten too far not to persevere. "It hasn't been easy, but I think all this work is going to be worth it," Lewis told the Sacramento Bee. "Being a doctor is all I've ever wanted since I was a child. There's never been a second choice for me."