Wondering how to expertly convey your motivation to become a doctor? Read on to learn how to formulate your answer!
It might seem obvious—even self-evident—but the question “Why do you want to be a doctor?” is an essential part of your medical school application. Admissions officers at institutions give this question immense weight, and your answer is not only indicative of the research you have done or the grades you have earned.
These are the usual aspects you’d expect, but it also speaks to your commitment to medicine’s art and science. Beyond MCAT scores and your GPA, your answer to this question gets at the heart of your commitment to being in the healthcare world and can improve your chances of getting into med school.
This guide will provide advice that should help craft an excellent response and give a sample answer that you can use for inspiration.
The reason medical school admissions officers ask this question goes beyond checking off a box or making small talk. It is not the same as a friend or relative being polite and inquiring after your education.
Instead, this interview question is used to gauge your commitment to the art and science of medicine, the hard work ahead of you, and the reasons why you want to be in medicine in the first place. This question can show up in any type of med school interview, from traditional to MMI.
Studying to be a doctor means long nights, hard days, countless unforeseen obstacles, setbacks, and unexpected events. This is not to dissuade you but to get you thinking about your true motivations and inner drive.
Then you must consider the actual being a doctor part. What do you envision your future practice looking like, and who would be your prospective patients?
It’s this thinking and follow-through that the question is designed to gauge. Admissions officers want to see your passion and commitment to becoming a doctor.
Unlike other jobs or careers, this field is truly a calling and requires you to understand the duty of care. Honesty and integrity are vital to being a doctor. This question is designed to see if you are answering truthfully and have considered your decision to attend medical school.
Beyond meeting the necessary prerequisites, med school can take four or more years, and then at least three years of residency are required, too. Your answer matters because a full seven years of your life lie ahead of you once you begin.
We will discuss a few hypothetical scenarios below to help you understand the “why” in particular.
This is a good start, but it does not quite get to the heart of “why?” This thinking might work at a cocktail party or with your family, but let us think through it more. This thought process is limited primarily because of two reasons: it is cliché and inward-looking.
By cliché, we mean that, of course, you want to help others; admissions officers have heard that before countless times. That is what doctors are expected to do. Healing, by its nature, means you help others. What you should be considering is the patient experience.
That is, what can you do to make patients’ experiences better? What can you bring to medicine that makes care better, more empathetic, considerate, or thoughtful? Your answer should go beyond clichés and consider that patient care can be demanding, so your commitment to medicine must go beyond platitudes.
You must consider the context and environment you will be in— much like the points discussed above. Picture a busy emergency room or a crowded waiting area: these are the places and people you will face and who will be relying on you.
Let us set up another thought experiment: say you were ill as a child—a broken bone or a bad case of tonsillitis, perhaps—and you had to spend many days or weeks in the hospital. This experience weighs heavily on your mind as you apply to medical school.
This is a good start, but again we must go beyond the surface level here. What did the doctors do that stood out to you? Why do they remain in your mind even now? How did they affect you as a patient? Why not the nurses or technicians?
In considering these answers, we can understand why this question is essential: what is the impact you want to make? What will learning new medical science and technology mean for the care of your patients?
Focus on the patients and their needs, and frame your thinking and responses to these sub-questions around that idea.
It is a good idea to have a structured, well-thought-out response to the question, “Why do you want to be a physician?” You can also take some tips from our guide on writing your personal statement for further inspiration.
Begin by discussing how and why your initial interest in medicine developed. Explain your narrative and touch on outstanding patient experiences you may have had, inspiring moments or stories, and your initial contact with the world of medicine.
Remember to focus on specific aspects of what stood out to you and made the initial moment of contact memorable. Relate it to patient experiences and how you would improve them or how going to medical school would help you care for patients better, given what that contact showed you.
Speak about how you developed your curiosity for medicine and the specialty you aim to be in when you are a doctor.
For instance, if you had a great family doctor, speak about why that impacted you and what it means for how you will help take care of patients. Remember to tie back these experiences to how they inspired you to help patients and enter healthcare to further that goal.
After you have spoken about your first instances of contact with medicine and your initial sparks of inspiration, you can move on to how you took your passion further and began your education.
Speak about what you did to learn more about the world of medicine and being a doctor. That includes any hospital or other healthcare volunteering experiences or extracurricular activities related to healthcare.
You can also include other clinical experiences, research involvement, or times you’ve shadowed a physician. Be specific and highlight one or two instances in particular. Again, focus on how and why they inspired you to pursue medicine and how they inspired you to take care of experiences.
It would also help to explain how these experiences reinforced or challenged your initial assumptions and how you adapted to these circumstances.
Remember, being a doctor is full of unexpected experiences, so if you have specifics to highlight that show how you can adapt and change, be sure to mention those specifically. Everyone pursuing medicine has initial reasons for entering the field challenged; keep that in mind and explain how you overcome adversity.
Once you have explained your initial spark of inspiration and your first steps into the world of healthcare, you can go on to speak about the reasons you are committed to going further. Use this time to emphasize how you came to know this choice was right for you.
This includes specific reasons and examples that showed you medicine was the path you wanted to pursue, specifically being a doctor rather than, say, a nurse or aide. Explain what drives you to care for patients and why being a doctor will help you do that, and why medical school is the path to reach this goal.
Remember to mention the introspection you have to do and the things you have learned about yourself. Be sure to speak about what you have learned about yourself, the assumptions you made that were challenged, and how you adapted to changing circumstances and experiences.
Whether your interview is online, in person, or follows a different format (such as an MMI), remember to make eye contact and exude confidence! This also includes dressing to impress; you want to show the admissions committee that you’re driven and professional.
The following are sample answers to help inspire you and get you thinking about how you can prepare for this question in your interview. Make your answer unique and specific to you and your experiences, and do not feel you have to follow these examples directly.
In my first year of high school, I had gotten a little ambitious with my soccer playing and decided to go for a new move I’d watched a pro player do. Unfortunately, I tore my ACL. I remember feeling so anxious before my reconstructive surgery and assumed I’d never run or live an active lifestyle again. The surgeon I met calmed my worries, and I’ll never forget the gentle way he spoke before and after my surgery was complete.
After recovering, I left the hospital with a newfound fascination for gratitude for the man who had given me another chance at sports, running, and activity. I used that fascination to dive into books; I wanted to know how the human body works, especially our musculoskeletal system. One bad play in high school paved the way for me wanting to become a surgeon who could also improve or restore the quality of life of my patients — every time I put on my cleats, I remember why I have a second chance at the hobbies I love.
I was in the middle of dissecting a frog and encouraging my peers to participate (although most looked a little green at the prospect) when I was awestruck by the complexity of the inside of living things. Exploring the intricacies of life during that one biology class ignited my curiosity and led me to start consuming more media about the human body, its systems, and disease.
This exploration only further fuelled my passion for science. As I see the rapid progress of medical technologies, I know that I want to conduct research to ultimately better the lives of those in my community and the world. I yearn to be part of this transformative journey, applying my knowledge and skills to improve lives.
Ultimately, my longing to merge my love for biology with cutting-edge medical advancements propels me toward a career as a doctor. I believe that through medicine and research, I can contribute and make a meaningful difference while always putting patient care at the forefront of every interaction.
When I was eight, I had to go in for a routine checkup with my family doctor. While I was not a child afraid of the doctor, I did not really enjoy these checkups. Once, when he measured my height, he mentioned that the average raccoon standing straight up would be shorter than me. I found this quite funny as a child, and it showed me that doctors were people too and understood what it was like to be there in a cold office when you did not want to be.
On that particular appointment, an X-ray showed a strange lump near one of my ribs. Instead of trying to deflect attention away from it, my doctor calmly explained what happened. He covered what an X-ray was and the various reasons they might see something unusual. It turned out to merely be a blemish on the film, but the experience stayed with me.
After this initial spark of curiosity was triggered, I wanted to learn more. In high school, we had a field trip to a local hospital, and while other students seemed to have found it boring, I was excited at the chance to ask the doctors there even more questions and find out more about what it was like in their day-to-day lives. These experiences.
One day, I hope to be like that family doctor who inspired me while improving medical care for all of those that I come into contact with as a medical school student and as a doctor.
Keep your answer succinct yet detailed. Also, don’t forget to send your interviewers a thank you letter after your interview!
Now that you know some things you should include in your response to why you want to become a physician, we can discuss what not to say. There are some things to avoid mentioning, or that would be detrimental to bring up during your response.
Namely, do not mention money or profits in your answer. If your primary drive in becoming a doctor is making money, that likely means you will not be putting patients first. Remember, being a doctor is more than a job or career. It is a lifetime commitment to help and care for others.
Also, while it may sound good, mentioning “being challenged” isn’t always the best answer. There are many challenging career options, and doctors are expected to encounter complex problems daily. Instead, explain how and why being challenged is something you can handle and how you’ll care for patients despite the daily grind.
Don’t focus your entire answer on only yourself. Be sure to explain how and why your experiences have helped inspire you and driven you to help patients. Remember to mention what drives you to keep going despite adversity and how these reasons go on to inspire you to care for others.
And while having medical professionals in your family is excellent, this is not reason enough by itself. Instead, tie it to specific reasons they inspired you to keep going and pursue medicine yourself.
How did they care for patients that made an impression on you and made you want to pursue being a doctor? Remember that medical school can be challenging and bring blows to your self-esteem at times, so mention what it is about having folks in your family that keep you going.
Lastly and certainly not least, do not state you want to go to medical school because it means you will get a “Dr.” in front of your name. This is not only a weak reason to go, but it also shows selfishness rather than compassion and care for others.
Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions concerning how to explain why you want to become a doctor in an interview.
No, these pieces of information are already in your AMCAS application, and the admissions officers can see them in your submission. It may come off as bragging or self-promotion, which is not desirable.
Additionally, sharing your grades and test scores when asked why you want to be a doctor doesn't provide insight into your motivation to become a doctor.
The only time this is beneficial is when you are undergoing a closed file interview and are encouraged to speak on highlights of your application.
Yes, but try not to sound too rehearsed or as if you are reading from a script. Make sure your answer sounds natural and authentic to your experiences, but do not feel as if you need to get every single word perfect or that you must speak as if you are reading from an essay.
You could also participate in mock interviews with physicians to boost your skills and ensure your preparedness!
The question, “why do you want to be a doctor?” is anything but easy to answer, but in thinking through how you will respond, not only will it help your chances of getting into medical school, but it will make you a better doctor, too.
Remember to be open, honest, and thoughtful while mentioning how you will care for your future patients considering your weaknesses and strengths. Remember to send a thank you note to your interviewers after to keep you fresh in their minds!
With a little practice and some introspection, you will be sure to answer this question in an excellent manner that genuinely reflects why you want to be a doctor.