The medical school personal statement and interview question “why do you want to become a doctor?” is one you need to be ready for. Out of all the medical school interview questions, you can most certainly expect to be asked this common question, along with the med school interview question "tell me about yourself". Below we’ve also provided 5 sample answers to this tricky interview question, as well as tips to help you form your own answer!
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Sample Answer for “Why Do You Want to Become a Doctor?” Question
Here’s a sample answer from an applicant for a BS/MD program.
From a very young age, science has been my passion. My grandfather was a high school science teacher, and he had a bit of a mad scientist streak. He indulged my curious mind with typical kid-friendly experiments, helped me do research for science projects at school and shared interesting journal articles and news items he thought I might enjoy. For many years, I envisioned myself growing up to be a scientific researcher. However, my interest in research turned to medicine, and my scientific leanings became focused after my mother was diagnosed with MS. As I watched her go in and out of doctor’s offices, as she became wheelchair-bound, as we had to install ramps at our house, as she struggled with this disease, I felt helpless. There was nothing I could do to help her, and science, where I normally found the answers to all my questions, had no definitive solution. I attended the Walk for MS in [City] with my family, and listened to Dr. [Name] speak on the subject of MS treatment. This sharpened my focus, and I began doing what I loved: research. I read journals and articles about the disease and the developing treatments for it. I asked to shadow some of the doctors who I had become acquainted with through my mother’s treatments. I was hungry for knowledge, and I knew my new dream was to become a medical researcher, in order to help my mother and others like her find treatments and cures. I decided a BS/MD program would fit my interests and goals the best, since it marries the hard sciences I first fell in love with, with my passion for medicine and research.
Below are more sample answers to the interview question or personal statement prompt “Why do you want to become a doctor?”. These answers will be especially helpful for the non-traditional med school applicant.
More Sample Answers to Interview Question “Why Do You Want to Become a Doctor?”
It’s always good to learn the common med school interview questions and read some sample answers to guide you on formulating your own. Here are 5 sample answers to the med school interview question “why do you want to become a doctor?” from different perspectives!
Preparing for an osteopathic med school interview? Here’s a sample answer for a DO school applicant.
Sample Answer 1
As a child, my family’s doctor was a DO practitioner. He had a side interest in traditional Eastern healing and specifically traditional Chinese medicine. When my siblings and I were younger, he would keep us entertained at our regular doctor’s visits with Chinese fortune telling and interesting facts about traditional medicine from different cultures. As I grew up, I started asking more questions about these traditional treatments, and he would explain how the body has indicators of health. He would do odd things such as look at my ear to see if I had any indicators of digestive issues, and he would often be correct that I had been suffering from stomach aches. When my mother started acupuncture treatments, he explained the philosophy behind the treatment and how it would help our mother deal with her chronic pain. I read at length about the medicinal practices of many non-Western and ancient cultures, curious about the evolution of medicine and healing. In my undergraduate years, I even enrolled in some philosophy and cultural courses, wanting to learn more about how other cultures viewed medicine and treatment. So many cultures have seen the value of healing not just physically but in healing mentally and spiritually, as well as the role of spiritual well-being in overall health. It was fascinating to me how medicine could encompass not only the cutting edge but was built on millennia of evolving knowledge and discoveries. To me, healing was an act that could encompass any type of ailment, not just illness or disease. In my undergraduate years, I was considering applying to medical school, and I was privileged to shadow another DO practitioner like my old family doctor. He was the one who taught me more about the philosophy and values of DO medicine, and it affirmed for me that this was the correct path for me. What solidified my decision was a patient with chronic joint pain, who came in regularly to the clinic to try a different treatment, hoping for better results. Thinking of my old family doctor, I asked if she’d ever tried acupuncture for her pain. She had not, and after a treatment, she joyfully shared with me that her pain was noticeably better. This was one example which affirmed for me that osteopathy was the correct choice. Because to me, medicine should be open-minded, less rigid and more encompassing. It is a discipline which carries both traditional wisdom and ground-breaking research, both the body and the mind.
Applying through QuARMS? Here’s a sample answer from a Queens Accelerated Route to Medical School applicant perspective.
Sample Answer 2
My father used to keep a vegetable garden and planted a small orchard on our property. He grew most of the food we ate, since we lived in a small and isolated community. His favorite prescription when I or one of my siblings was sick was to have us eat raw garlic. But the real beauty of the home vegetable garden was being able to have fresh produce whenever I wanted. There is such a difference between biting into a fresh, sun-warmed tomato versus a store-bought one, and I have always had an appreciation for good, organic food. As a teenager my appreciation evolved into me making a personal commitment to my health and fitness. I started working out regularly and watching my diet. I even started growing fruits and vegetables of my own beside my father’s garden, though I was less successful. I also decided to start a community fitness club, volunteering my time every week to organize activities for different ages and fitness levels of the participants. Our community has no public health resources or facilities, so I felt this was a good way to give back and share my passion for health and fitness. It also made me realize how I could make a difference in communities like mine, as I saw the mental and physical health of my neighbors improve as they attended my fitness classes. Health is something I have always been passionate about, and I have made it my mission to better the health and well-being of communities like mine. I want to become a doctor so I can achieve this mission and further my understanding of public health, nutrition, and medicine.
Would you rather watch a video? Learn how to answer “why do you want to become a doctor?”
Want to make the jump from PA to MD? Check out this sample answer from a former PA.
Sample Answer 3
I worked as a PA for 5 years before applying to medical school, because I loved medicine and was attracted to the ability of a PA to work in any kind of medical environment in any field of medicine. I had developed a holistic interest in medicine as an undergrad and was considering applying to nursing school. However, the diverse work environment of a PA and the nature of the work appealed to me once I began shadowing a nurse at [Hospital]. While there, I befriended a PA and asked to shadow him for a few months. After this experience, I thought being a PA would be the best way to see the “big picture” of medicine. However, in the last year I began working as a surgeon’s PA at [Hospital B] and discovered a new love for the surgery specialty. Watching Dr. [Name] perform surgeries, both mundane and extraordinary, I began feeling a sense of disappointment that I couldn’t take a more active role in assisting him. I was curious about the procedures, and I decided to test my skills in a surgical simulation at the hospital. Taking a more active role in surgery was incredibly fulfilling and exciting, so I began researching whether I could make the jump to an MD. As a general surgeon, I believe I can satisfy my desire for variety and exposure to many kinds of illnesses, but also explore this new desire to test my technical skills and learn more about medical surgery. And, of course, my goal will be to improve the lives of patients’ by helping to alleviate the need for surgeons.
Are you a non-traditional med school applicant? Here’s a sample answer tailored for you:
Sample Answer 4
I come from a humanities background, and I have worked as a social worker for the last 8 years. In particular, I worked with families and children affected by addiction. This is, of course, a challenging field to work in, but since high school I have been passionate about helping others, and children especially. As I grew up in an area that has long been affected by addiction issues, this career path was close to my heart. My desire to change careers came from a realization that many of the clients I saw were coming to me after a pivotal moment in their lives. In general, my clients were seeking help with their addiction or were in recovery and working to put their lives back together. A few of my clients were still actively using narcotics, and it was a close call with a client I had known for years that sparked my desire to approach the problem of addiction from another side.
I went to see this client after he failed to show for a check-in with me. Upon finding him, I discovered he had overdosed and called 911. Thankfully, he was saved through the hard work of paramedics, but this close call made me realize that the first step in treating addiction isn’t through social work. Although social work is critical, there are so many addicts who never make it to that step because they don’t receive the initial medical treatment they need. I want to make a difference for those suffering from addiction who need both initial medical intervention and those who need ongoing treatment. I know with my background I can be better informed on the social and psychological aspects of addiction. But I want to pursue my MD so I can better serve those who need help.
Now, we’ll teach you how to formulate and write your own answers to this question!
Why Medical School Interviewers Ask Why You Want to Become a Doctor
This is one of the most frustrating questions to answer for most premed students, yet it is also the most important question to answer convincingly whether you are a DO or MD applicant. In fact, if you don't answer this question well, you are going to face medical school rejection. Period. You will also be expected to provide a solid, thoughtful reason for why you want to become a medical professional.
Being a medical doctor is stimulating and interesting. Medical doctors have a significant degree of autonomy over their schedules and time. Medical doctors know that they get to help people solve problems every single day. Medical doctors get to witness humanity at its very best and very worst. But being a medical doctor is not easy. This is not a career for people who do not see themselves working more than 50 hours per week and on holidays. This is not a career for people who prefer to move around a lot or travel. This is not a career for people who aren't responsible and focused.
Medical school admissions committees ask applicants this question because first, they want to learn more about you and your motivations for studying medicine, and they want to see if you have given serious thought to your future as a doctor. This question may seem like it has an obvious answer, but it requires deep reflection, self-awareness and thoughtfulness to answer it. And since everyone’s answer to this question will be different, this is also an opportunity for you as a medical school applicant to forge a connection with the reader or the interviewers and make yourself stand out.
When you're in front of the interview panel or when an admissions committee is reading your medical school personal statement, unconvincingly spewing a list of reasons why being a doctor is awesome comes across as though you haven’t really given thought to your reasons for applying to med school. You want to focus your answer on the YOU part of why YOU want to be a doctor and reasons why YOU would be an excellent doctor.
On that note, here is a list of terrible reasons to become a doctor:
The interviewers and reviewers are looking for an answer to this question that is real and genuine and reflects your background and past experiences.
For example, the fact that your parents are doctors may be part of the reason for you, but not just because they are doctors. There is another story underneath that has influenced your path. Perhaps you're inspired by your parents’ dedication to a clinical problem over decades. Maybe you were there when the child of a patient they treated came up to your parent in the street and thanked them for their commitment to caring for their ailing parent. Find your narrative. Answering this question in an honest and unique way could be what separates you from the top 20% of candidates and this will matter when push comes to shove in medical school admissions. It's therefore important that you know how to prepare for your med school interview in advance, so you won't be caught off guard when you're asked this common question. You’ll also need some time to reflect and craft a strong answer to this question, then practice delivering it in a polished but natural way. This is where a mock medical school interview or the guidance of a medical school interview tutor can really help you!
Want to hear from one of our students about the medical school interview process? Watch this video!
How to Figure Out the Answer for Yourself
Knowing why you want to be a doctor is really about knowing your strengths and knowing your best and highest use as a human being. If you don't know your strengths, there is a career counselor, mentor, a brave best friend or self-help book that can start you on your journey.
If you get to know your strengths, then the answer becomes clear. For me, my strengths are in synthesizing a lot of information into higher order ideas, turning theory into action, identifying narratives and helping others figure out their own unique stories and solving problems effectively. At the emotional-social level, I am really dedicated to justice and fairness. I want to be a doctor because it is the best and highest pursuit of a life’s work for someone who loves solving problems, relating to and being encompassed by stories of humanity, and is a curious interrogator of data. That's who I am.
The most awesome thing, though, is that you could have an entirely different set of strengths and being a doctor could still be your best and highest use in society. You could be the most brilliant, precise tactile hand worker with extraordinary geo-spatial awareness and a desire to save lives. Your best and highest use could be as a surgeon.
Once you know the answer to this interview question “why do you want to become a doctor?” for yourself, you can begin spinning this reason into a personal narrative that can then be polished into an interview answer or essay as a medical school personal statement. Your reason for wanting to become a doctor may jump out at you right away, crystal clear. Or maybe it was a series of choices or events in your life which led you to an interest in medicine. If you don’t have a ready answer, it’s time to dig deep and start asking yourself some self-reflective questions.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started on creating your personal narrative:
- What were the defining moments in your life?
- What were your early experiences with the medical profession? Which ones made an impression on you?
- When was the moment you decided to apply to medical school? What spurred your decision?
- Is there someone in your life who inspires you? Why?
- What qualities do you have that you think would make a good doctor?
- What started your curiosity or interest in medicine?
- What experiences do you have that have grown your interest in medicine?
- What about the medical profession most appeals to you? Why do you want to become a doctor over another related profession?
Take some time to reflect on these questions and write down some bullet point notes or try some brainstorming exercises. Once the key events and motivating factors behind your decision emerge, you can start formulating your answer.
Here's a quick guide to more common medical school interview questions
How to Organize Your Answer
Now let's assume you know the answer to this question or have started developing a personal narrative around your answer. And you have discovered your genuine desire to become a medical doctor instead of choosing from an infinite number of other careers paths. Now it's time to have an answer that's concise, coherent and convincing. Here's how to do just that:
You'll have to include a lot of personal details to back up your story and you must remember to avoid cliches such as "because I want to help people" in order to stand out in your medical school interview. This is a highly personal question, so your answer should elaborate on those personal details.
It might help you to write out the key points of your answer or the primary events in your narrative in bullet form. When practicing delivering your interview answer, you don’t want it to sound rehearsed, but it should be natural and hit the most important points of your personal story. Make sure your answer has a logical flow from your initial interest to medicine to the defining moment when you decided becoming a doctor was your goal. Just like with your personal statement, you might have to adjust your interview answer to include the right amount of detail, clarity and engagement.
How to Prepare for Your Medical School Interview
Medical school interview preparation is key for any med school applicant, and answering some of these trickier questions can take some work. If you’re not sure how to prepare for your med school interview or where to start, there are some resources you can use to help you. For instance, mock med school interviews are one of the best ways to practice delivering your answer, since it is a close simulation of the real thing. A medical school advisor or interview coach can help you finetune your answer or guide you on how to craft a narrative once you have your answer. If you don’t want to hire professional interview prep help, ask a good friend to run some mock interviews with you, but make sure they can deliver objective, constructive feedback!
1. How do I answer “why do you want to become a doctor?”
To answer this interview question can be tricky, since it is open-ended and everyone’s answer will be different. To answer it, you need to identity the primary reason why YOU want to become a doctor and how you came to this realization. Take some time to brainstorm and reflect on your past experiences which have led you to pursue a career in medicine, then turn this into a short, personal narrative you can deliver as an interview answer.
2. Why do medical school interviewers ask this question?
Medical school interviewers ask this question because they want to get to know you on a deeper level, but they also want to know your motivations for pursuing a career in medicine. They want to admit students who have a genuine, passionate interest in medicine.
3. What are some good reasons for becoming a doctor?
Some good reasons for becoming a doctor include helping others, of course, and there are many professional benefits of being a doctor. Medicine is also a diverse, stimulating and interesting field which is constantly evolving and has many career avenues for practitioners to explore.
4. What is a good answer to this interview question?
A good answer to this interview question will be different for each applicant, but a strong answer will be genuine, self-reflective, well-structured and passionate. Present your personal reasons for pursuing medicine as a career as more than just a desire to help people or because medicine is an interesting field. Use a personal narrative to explain what has drawn you towards medicine.
5. Does my answer to this interview question matter?
Yes, your answer to this question is extremely important. Medical school interviewers are expecting a strong and clear answer. Any uncertainty or insincere reasons you give for wanting to be a doctor may lead to you being rejected as a candidate.
6. How do I structure my answer to this med school interview question?
Start by sharing what sparked your initial interest in medicine, then explain what you did to deepen your interest in becoming a doctor. Finally, explain what the defining moment was or what solidified your decision to become a doctor.
7. Who can help me prepare for my med school interviews?
There are many resources to help you prepare for medical school interviews. One of the best ways is to use mock medical school interviews, as they are the closest simulation to the real deal. You can also seek help from medical school advisor or medical school admission consultants, who can give you personalized feedback on your interview answers and interview performance.
8. What should I avoid in my answer to “why do you want to become a doctor?”
Avoid naming money, prestige or job security as reasons why you want to be a doctor. If your parents were doctors or pushed you to become a doctor, this will not be viewed as a good reason by admission committees, either.
9. What are the 3 most important qualities of a good doctor?
There are many qualities that make a good doctor, but above all, doctors need to be excellent listeners and communicators and empathetic and caring to their patients. Doctors need to be advocates for their patients, be able to work well as part of a medical team, and have a desire for lifelong learning.
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