“…And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely..” (Surat Al-Ma’idah, ayah 32).

Fun Fact: I started off my essay for my application to medical school with this ayah and used it to explain why I chose medicine as a profession.

A timeless classic asked at every medical school interview. Friends and family have questioned this at every party or gathering. You’ve even pondered it yourself in your darkest moments when you feel like you can’t take it anymore. Yep, its the most popular question, without a single right answer. Why do you want to become a doctor?

As a freshman in college, I remember the premed advisor discussing the fact that this question has a correct answer but it is up to one to find it out for themselves. However, I disagree. Just as we go through several phases in life, my opinion is that the answer to this question undergoes an evolution of its own and the answer will vary depending on one’s motives. For instance, if you decided at an early age that you aspire to become a doctor, the basic reason why was “to help people”. Although it seems like a childish answer, in reality, that is what most applicants reply (but with a much larger vocabulary) when asked this question in interviews. It’s not a wrong answer; in fact, it forms the framework of what you expect as the role of a physician in society. Another answer may be, “to have six figures on my paycheck”. Before you storm about and argue that is an inhumane way to go about studying medicine, the harsh reality is that some people really do become doctors to reel in the big bucks. Some do change their perspective once they enter practice, but many will continue to maintain the same mentality throughout their career. Will they become great doctors? Allahu A3lam (Allah knows best).

Later, once you begin enrolling in premed courses and start to become serious about studying medicine, you may start to modify your previously simplified answer. Its not just about helping people, its about making a difference in the world. Whether you genuinely are excited about joining Doctors Without Borders or just heard that it seems like a nice way to impress the interviewers, working for a cause is usually what most students add to their reasoning as to why they would like to become physicians. When I was in that stage, my answer was something along the lines of wanting to benefit the community and to use my skills as a physician to benefit third world countries. An acceptable answer, but the past two years have taught me better and challenged me to modify my answer again to reflect what I have learned.

In the middle of your dry basic science courses in your first semester (why are they making me take biochemistry again!?!), you get a rare treat called your first clinical medicine course. Although your first “patients” are actors and not ill people that need to be diagnosed, learning how to communicate with people under your care really changes your perspective. You learn to ask how you can make this patient better, or to maintain their health. You become more concerned with addressing issues of community health rather than curing a a celebrity patient miraculously or saving the world from a deadly parasitic infection. The idea of practicing medicine becomes your lifestyle rather than an occupation, and you live altruistically to serve people to make them feel better without expecting fame or a lump sum.

The reason why you choose to study medicine is entirely up to you and differs from one individual to another. Over the years, my own idea of why someone would dedicate their lives to the practice of medicine has undergone extensive reconstruction. The basics are still there, and I still want to visit impoverished and war torn areas to surgically repair their club feet and save their limbs from amputations, but I want to be able to make a difference in my community as well. The Ummah needs me as a Muslim to help care for my fellow human beings and I want to be the one there for them. It’s a beautiful feeling when you are able to help bring someone relief, and it is the greatest blessing of all if its someone who will remember you in their duaa for the rest of their lives. I want to become a doctor because it is the profession in which I can serve both my religion and humanity, a rewarding and fulfilling career that brings new challenges every day and provides with the chance to positively influence someone’s life forever. These are my reasons, what are yours?