About 1 in 200 people become doctors, many of them because they want to cure the sick and generally make the world a better place. Are they making the right decision?
To help answer that question, we’ve produced an exploratory career profile on medical careers.
The conclusion of our research is that most people skilled enough to make it in a field as challenging as medicine could have a bigger social impact through an alternative career.
The best research suggests that doctors do much less to improve the health of their patients than you might naturally expect. Health is more determined by lifestyle factors, and most of the treatments that work particularly well could be delivered with a smaller number of doctors than already work in the UK or USA.
However, medicine is high earning and highly fulfilling, and we expect there are more promising opportunities to help others through biomedical research, public health, health policy and (e.g. hospital) management.
Overall, we think going to medical school would be the best way to have a social impact only if someone felt they were a significantly better fit for medicine than the other options we recommend.
Dr Greg Lewis, a practicing physician in the UK, wrote most of the career profile.
- Having more physicians in the developed world has a surprisingly small impact on the health of recipients.