7 Reasons Why I Couldn't Be a Human Doctor

Dr. Patty Khuly holding her cat
Courtesy of Dr. Patty Khuly

Back in vet school, I recall a family reunion at which more than one relative asked a surprisingly common (and rude) question: “You’re so smart! Why on earth didn’t you become a real doctor?”

Having to tolerate relatives en masse is one thing. Having to endure unsolicited, desultory pronouncements about my choice in career is another animal altogether.

Nonetheless, there is a silver lining to this cloud: Not only does it offer me a reason to evangelize on the subject of my profession, but it also serves as a great platform from which to describe exactly why human medicine is not for me.

To that end, here are seven reasons why I could never be a human doctor:

Humans Are Gross

I know this sounds bad, but how else to explain my feelings on the subject? I’m not in any way averse to seeing human blood and guts, but I can’t abide by the concept of human filth or waste. When dogs vomit, I can pick it right up and not bat an eye. When a person gets sick, however, not so much.

The Kid Factor

I have no idea why, but I can’t handle tragedy when it strikes children. If I had to be a pediatric oncologist, I’d have a gun to my head by the end of my first year in practice. With animals, it’s all about alleviating suffering, which undoubtedly tempers the tragic.

The Euthanasia Solution

It’s a corollary to the kid factor. Since I can offer euthanasia as a solution, I do not have to endure suffering to the same extent that many human medical providers are forced to experience.

The Politics of the Third-Party Payment System

Having to deal with a moving target when it comes to income is bad enough, but practicing medicine knowing that a medically unqualified administrator has the power to second-guess your decisions must really and truly suck.

Defensive Medicine

Is there anything worse than knowing that you will be sued at some point in your career for something you did not do wrong? The injustice of it all has got to get to you.

And when it does, it means that you can’t practice medicine the way you believe you should. Instead, you’re forced to offer inefficient excesses and expensive redundancies that do nothing but tax individuals and the health care system, along with your conscience.

The Company We Keep

I have several physician friends whom I adore implicitly. But let me be honest: Having lived uncomfortably in the company of the pre-med crowd while in college, I well understand the differences between the average veterinary student and the average medical student.

Just as smart. Just as competitive. Just as dedicated in some ways. But, on average, in my opinion, nowhere near as passionate.

Is it the prospect of riches that poisons the well? Parental expectations? A search for status? Not sure. Let’s just say that in my view, human medicine takes all kinds, and leave it at that.

Working With Animals

Knowing you’re helping the innocent, the defenseless and the adorable offers its unique set of rewards. For all the challenges, I don’t think any human medical job on the planet could best veterinary medicine’s daily entertainment factor.

So why didn’t I go to medical school? Why would anyone when the alternative is so alluring?

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