Cardiologist Shares Lessons on Medicine and Life

by Jason

Had my last day in the cardiac cath lab today. The place patients go when they're having heart attacks and need their coronary arteries opened up.

But the cardiologist told me and my classmate a lot of things about life and what to expect going forward in our careers and lives.

He started by saying right now is the best time of our lives. We're medical students who are young and have every opportunity available to us. We're in a very special position to set the trajectory for the rest of our lives. But also need to enjoy life because now is the time to have fun.

Dr. K said once you're a doctor your life changes. He goes you have more responsibilities to patients, work and also typically begin to have a family. Families are great but they're going to take a toll on you.

Families mean childcare, diapers, planning for everything in advance and you just can't be as spontaneous as you once were. Also tuition becomes a huge factor because you're going to want to send your kids to the best schools possible.

Dr. K, said because of how expensive it is to have a family you really need to consider the earning potential you will have in whatever specialty you choose.

My classmate is female and he goes for her she needs to consider specialties like cardiology, gastroenterology and avoid peds, family medicine and rheumatology. Those last three pay horribly. I was surprised to see a doctor so open about how money needs to be a factor when choosing a specialty but it does make sense. Plus as a cardiologist I know this guy is doing great as cardiology and ortho are the top paying specialties.

I asked him about OB/GYN and he said that's a good one too but if he were to do it he would become an OB/GYN who only works in the hospital. He said that way malpractice insurance won't be as high. I'm actually seeing a trend where more OB/GYNs are becoming hospital employees not only because of the malpractice insurance but also to have more control over their hours.

Do you know the number one cause of divorce in America?

It's all about finances.

Dr. K, the cardiologist said be sure as a female doctor (to my classmate) to marry someone who is on equal footing with you. He goes right now you're focused on medicine which is great but there may be a time when you want to have a family and medicine may not be as important. If this is the case you want a specialty that will allow you to have the freedom to have reduced hours if you want but the caveat being you'll have less income.

You don't want to start out as the breadwinner and have a husband who isn't able to support your lifestyle if you decide to only practice medicine part-time. Besides, Dr. K said once you have a family your expenses are going to skyrocket.

He said, marriages are usually fine at the beginning but after 4 to 5 years and kids arrive, have more expenses this is when the trouble begins to start and leads to divorce down the road. The easiest way to prevent a divorce is to be economically stable as a couple.

Now I'm not saying money and earning potential should be the main factor when choosing a spouse but you should certainly keep this at the back of your mind and discuss what are your life goals and what lifestyle will you want to have going forward.

Switching topics to learning in medical school.

Dr. K, saw me and my classmate struggling to review a topic and he came over and goes, "this is important, you have to know this really well because you'll come across this all the time."

Dr. K, then proceeded to give us a lecture on the topic and show us how to learn it in a manner that stuck and made complete sense. I was surprised to see that this doctor could take one look at what we were studying and have answers for all of our questions. These doctors sure are smart people I must admit. Kinda reminds me of a cardiologist back home when I asked him about why he chose cardiology and he goes, "It was one of the hardest specialties to get into at the time."

Talk about being confident.

But Dr. K, said his secret to academic success was simple: use MNEMONICS.

Mnemonics help you remember things not only in the present but long term. Dr. K, proceeded to share some of the mnemonics he had for the topic we were studying and wow they were good ones.

If you're studying and having trouble learning try making mnemonics and see what happens.

The only caveat to using mnemonics is you have to remember what they mean otherwise, making a mnemonic will be useless.

Also the life of a cardiologist can be really fun too.

We started the day in the cath lab. Then had to cardio-convert a patient who was in atrial fibrillation aka afib. Then go next door and conduct a stress test with another patient. Back to the cath lab to cath another patient. Get called to see another patient in another part of the hospital. If you're into excitement, doing a lot of different procedures then cardiology may be the specialty for you.

I will tell you this field is heavy on research studies. You can't do anything in cardiology without there being a study which outlines best practices or illustrates clinical indications for the best course of action to take with a patient. Algorithms, decision trees and massive research studies are the rule in cardiology.

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