It is a well-known fact that becoming a doctor is a long and difficult process. However, there are plenty of opportunities down the road that may make the pain well worth it.
Once a medical student graduates, passes the board exams and becomes a doctor, what medical careers can they go into?
- Residency. This is the traditional path of the medical doctor right out of medical school. It provides you with the clinical knowledge that you need to become a medical consultant, which also opens a lot of possibilities for you in starting a medical practice. Check out our article on 10 things to consider in choosing a medical residency in the Philippines. Taking a medical residency abroad, most commonly in the United States, is a topic better discussed by this article. After residency, you can start your private practice, become a hospitalist, or do a fellowship. Or do a lot of other things related to your specialty of choice.
- Research. Now not everyone likes doing statistical analysis and data gathering. But for those who fancy seeing their names in journals after discovering a new drug, or setting a new standard of care, this is the career choice for you. The opportunities for funding may be local or international, and may involve collaborating with doctors in other countries or regions. You will need a medical degree to apply as a primary investigator, and will require building up your research portfolio to be successful. Some researchers have grown their trade by having their own research team in a university or private setting to assist them in their research, allowing them to publish more as a primary investigator and get funded even more. There are plenty academic, private and government institutions that are continuously looking for research assistants – it is a good place to start. There is plenty of room for promotion depending on how much work you can handle as well as if your leadership skills are up to par. The advantage of research is that you can work on a part-time basis while doing clinical work, all the while beefing up your resume as you make money.
- Teaching. Teaching can be very fulfilling. You can do this right after graduation, depending on the openings in medical schools and review centers, and how you market yourself during your job interview. As a young graduate, medical schools may perceive you to be easier to get along with, and having greater energy than older colleagues. Some departments may allow you to train for masters degrees abroad for free. You can do this on a full-time or part-time basis. Your ranking as a professor goes up the longer you have taught, and the greater number of research papers that you have created or even better, published. Nursing schools and review centers will also have openings and will pay you on an hourly basis.
- Moonlighting. Moonlighting allows you to earn money at your own time, depending on how much money you want to earn. In moonlighting, it is important to do a background check on what the company is about, how much the hourly rate would be, incentives for additional cases and procedures, whether they pay on time, and the volume of patients that you would expect. You are not considered an employee but rather as a professional, thus there is no security of tenure. Should you choose to moonlight in the hospital, you may work in an OPD setting for a set amount of hours, in the hospital doing ward work or ER posts of different departments, usually for 24 hours straight. Income would comprise of base pay and additional pay from procedures and admitting patients. In general, provincial hospitals give a higher base pay because they don’t have as many medical schools nearby. You can also work in a primary care clinic, wherein you can do OPD, minor operations, ER treatment and deliveries with less facilities than you would in a hospital setting. House calls may also be part of the tasks. You can find plenty of moonlighting opportunities on different Facebook groups and websites.
- Company doctor. You can be the company doctor of many different companies in the Philippines. Their task is to administer pre-employment, annual or leave check-ups and to certify sick leaves. Some companies would also require company doctors to undergo occupational health and safety programs, which allows them to inspect the workplace, make safety recommendations, create wellness and nutrition programs as well as emergency drills. The pay will be similar to moonlighting if done part-time but the pay is far greater full-time – and you don’t have to do residency. An Occupational Medicine course is usually required.
- Doctors to the Barrios. Noble? Looking to make an impact? You can also join the Doctors to the Barrios program managed by the Department of Health. You will serve as a Municipal Health Officer to a 5th Class Municipality (that is, the poorest municipalities in the country) for two years. As MHO, you are not just a doctor, but you are also a teacher and community manager. In addition to that, you manage to get a free Masters Degree of Education in Public Management major in Health Systems and Development at the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP), with very good pay of Salary Grade 24 which is (Php 56,610.00), as well as opportunities to travel to different parts of the country. However, you will have to be able to work with the possibility of having no electricity, clean water supply or cellular phone signals. If you think you have what it takes, you may contact the Human Health Resource Development Bureau at the 3rd Floor Building 12 San Lazaro Compound.
- International Health Organizations. If you want to go into global health organizations, you can join international organizations such as the Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders), Global health Council, UNICEF and the World Health Organization. Most of them require a few years of relevant experience (such as Doctors to the Barrios). It is a great opportunity to travel and meet people from around the world to create policies and health projects.
- Residency in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Entry into the AFP allows you to engage in medical residency as well as allows you to become a Second Lieutenant right off the bat. There is a requirement to serve the Armed Forces of the Philippines once you’re done with residency. Afterwards, you can opt for an honorable discharge or you can pursue your career in the military and gain higher ranks. Throughout your residency, you get military training, and that may include skydiving courses, marksmanship courses and all the training to become an officer.
- Start a medically related business, clinic or hospital. Do you want to put up your own clinic or hospital? Your PRC license allows you to open a lot of doors for medically-related businesses. Here’s an article that discusses how to put up your medical practice. Have other ideas? You can also start a company that services the needs of doctors, such as a board review center or consultancy. You can also create innovative ways to take care of patients, such as urgent and emergent care, personalized clinics, wellness centers, etc.
- Health informatics. A career in Health Informatics allows you to assess electronic health records, telehealth software and devices, biomedical data analysis, and epidemiological “big data” gathered using eHealth technologies. This allows you to be a game changer in the Philippines where Health Informatics is only emerging and there are various needs to be filled. Your advantage is that as a doctor and a Health Informatics specialist, you get to see both the IT side and the medical side, allowing you to address problems and create solutions for both ends. This field is only emerging and comes closely with research and public health.
- Government and Health Policy. If you want to become Health Secretary, and implement various health interventions, you might want to try entering into public service. Being in government allows you to implement policies and work hand-in-hand with local government units, Barangay Health Centers, and on a higher scale, the Department of Health.
- Become an MD-JD. Want to defend doctors in legal battles? Go to law school and become an MD-JD. With the population at large now being more Internet-savvy and litigations being on the rise, you might want to consider specializing in medical malpractice cases.
- Start your own Public Health project. I know of several doctors who started their own Public Health projects that eventually turned out to be very well-funded by the Philippine Council of Health Research and Development, the Department of Science and Technology, and international organizations like the Newton Fund and the Wellcome Trust. You could also send your proposals to private institutions that are looking to allocate funds for startup social entrepreneurship projects. The key is to create a team that is willing to help you implement your ideas, and your ideas have to benefit a large population, and it has to be sustainable. You don’t only get good funding from various establishments, but you also get fulfillment that you are helping improve health outcomes in a large scale.
- Become a celebrity doctor. The way to fame and fortune can be paved by a medical degree by showing up on air and giving medical advice. This allows you to reach a large audience, and it increases the possible number of future patients that you will have. Do something out of the box, be good at speaking and engaging your audience, and you might just be able to star in your own TV show.
- Create, patent, and sell medical supplies. Have you invented your very own spinal screws? Your very own non-invasive glucometer? Or perhaps a robotic prosthetic? Being a doctor allows you to design, implement, and market products that will improve patient care.
To those thinking of entering medicine – the future isn’t bleak. There are plenty of ways to make it as a doctor, and plenty of reasons to do so. The value of the medical profession to human life is enormous.
To those already in the medical field, doctors everywhere salute you for your continued dedication.
To the graduates, congratulations! You have plenty of opportunities open to you if you play your cards right.
To the medical students, keep studying!
We would love to hear your ideas!
About the author:
Pauline Del Mundo likes medicine, techy stuff, and dancing her heart out.