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Healthcare Technology Consultant
San Francisco, California
I am not a physician, so take my input with a grain of salt... However, my wife is a GI physician, and her perspective on the entire field of medicine (and especially specialized medicine) is that it is an incredibly rewarding field for those who pursue it for the right reasons.
If you are pursuing a career in surgery, you should be driven by a passion for resolving people's problems and, potentially, saving lives... but less interested in engaging with those people on a personal level. If you are pursuing a non-surgery path, you'll likely have more interaction with patients, so you need to be passionate about patient care. In both cases, your desire to improve the health of others (and, in the case of research tracks, your desire to advance the science in your field) should FAR outweigh a desire for great compensation and prestige.
It's undoubtedly true that physicians are well-compensated and well-respected. However, most physicians will quickly tell you that there are other respected career paths that will deliver great compensation in fewer years and with far lower investment in education.
TL;DR - Do some soul-searching and determine why you want to be a trauma surgeon... If the reasons are based upon the type of work and sense of fulfillment you'll get from doing the job, it's likely worth it. If it's cash and prestige, possibly not!
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Marketing and Sales
Johns Creek, Georgia
I am not a physician, though I was previously a Paramedic at a level 1 trauma center and as such, worked closely with many trauma surgeons for several years.
The value that people assign to anything varies. A vacation, a car, or in your case the opportunity to serve as a Trauma Surgeon, may each be worth different time, effort or money to different people. We make these very personal assessments of value throughout our lives. Whether this career option is worth 12 years of undoubtedly intense education is an answer uniquely yours. That you are asking this question now says that you're making that assessment. Good for you.
Two observations. Few professions require the educational diligence and endurance of medical school, regardless of the kind of physician one becomes. That's pretty universally understood, right? Trauma surgeons in practice live a life that's uniquely sacrificial and demanding. Traumas occur around the clock and surgeons often find themselves committed to lengthy surgeries at inconvenient hours, sometimes coming in quickly from home while on-call. This also applies to these Physicians in their residency. Trauma doesn't book an appointment and schedule surgery.
Second observation, treating trauma is also a team effort involving providers of a multitude of disciplines including other Physicians, nurses, imaging specialists, social workers, therapists and prehospital providers like Paramedics. The Trauma Surgeon provides leadership to the whole team, making critical decisions and providing guidance to the team. The ability to work well with others, make swift, clinically-sound decisions and lead a team decisively is very important.
Those are but two observations. Deciding whether the role is "worth" the education requires more information and then a personal assessment that's uniquely yours. Arm yourself with as much information as possible because Trauma Surgeon is an atypically demanding role, though I'm sure the experience is rewarding in many ways. I suggest talking to people who have committed to this path already. Contact a medical school and ask to speak with some students at different stages of their journey, especially those who aspire to trauma surgery. Contact a teaching hospital that's a trauma center and ask to speak with a trauma surgeon. Perhaps a trauma surgery resident and an attending physician. Explain that you're weighing a career choice, have some smart questions prepared for them and I'll bet you'll find generous people glad to offer their insights.
Also remember that no matter the career, you can always shift gears mid-journey. Your time in college will also find you learning about yourself and often, a few undiscovered interests and aptitudes. Career paths are often quite fluid.
Prepare a brief list of smart questions about the education and profession of a Trauma Surgeon. Avoid "yes or no" questions. Ask open-ended questions that give a person room to talk.
Contact a medical school and a teaching hospital with a trauma center. Explain your quest and ask if there's a way to speak to a student or two and a Trauma Surgeon. These are busy people so ask for just a few moments.
If you have the opportunity to speak with someone, ask questions clearly, be a great listener and take notes.
Get each person's email or mailing address and promptly send them a thank you note afterward.