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What steps I'm supposed to follow to become a cardio thoracic surgeon? Is it too hard?

I'm interested in cardio thoracic surgery, but I'm not sure if it's for me because I'm also interested in dentistry (I already asked a question about it too) and I want to be sure I want this for me.

Thank you comment icon The question is comparing a career in Dentistry to Cardiothoracic Surgeon. After reading the input from Dr. Brooks. Which is quite elegant and to the point with demands upon yourself and family. I feel a reality check is the best I can offer as I have had friends go through heart transplants. To get to the point....in Dentistry, for most cases you will not have a patient die. Then question yourself to be sure you did all possible without any mistakes by you. I also just thought that your medical insurance premium will be much less than as a thoracic surgeon as compared to Dentist. David Clark

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Subject: Career question for you

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Michel’s Answer

I personally don’t believe any type of schooling is outside of the realm of possibility for anyone. That being said it is not going to be easy going into cardiac surgery or dentistry both schools are hard to get into and both are competitive. If you are stuck between the two it can be helpful to join clubs in college for both of these careers. This will give you opportunities to see what pathway fits your needs in a career. Coming up with a decision for this will come down to your interests and it is hard to decide. I would keep both doors open for right now and look into shadowing physicians in the community and seeing what they do on a daily basis to get a little bit of an idea of what you will be doing when you do go down this path. You are shooting for two difficult fields and I want you to know how amazing that is you seem extremely capable. If you have more questions make sure to put them out there and I will do my best to answer them for you. I went towards medicine because I like the responsibilities of medicine but either career you will be helping a lot of people out.

That being said the steps you will need to take is getting a bachelors degree in whichever field you like. Most people get a bachelors in Biology because it satisfies the requirements to get into medical school. You will then take the MCAT a 7 hour exam and you will need to perform well on this. After that you will apply to schools. The schools that are interested in you will send out a second application fill that out. If you meet the mold you will get interviews. Attend interviews and then you will get an acceptance, rejection, or waitlist and start the cycle after. Then you will do well in medical school and apply to residency.
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Midwest’s Answer

Both of these are great but very different careers. In terms of the steps to becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon, there are two main pathways:

1) Traditional pathway
-Medical school
-5 years general surgery residency (+0-2 years of research time)
-2-3 years cardiothoracic surgery residency (some programs are 2 years, others are 3)
-0-1 years specialty fellowship (e.g., aortic surgery, heart/lung transplant, and others - not required)

2) Integrated pathway
-Medical school
-6 years of integrated cardiothoracic surgery residency (+0-2 years of research time)
-0-1 years specialty fellowship (e.g., aortic surgery, heart/lung transplant, and others - not required)

The total length of training will largely depend on the type of practice you enter, but will generally take 6-10 years after medical school, which aligns with most every other medical and surgical subspecialty length of training.

Whether it is too hard is a difficult question to answer, because both cardiothoracic surgery and dentistry will be challenging! The most important thing to gauge when choosing a career is finding an occupation that you enjoy and are invested in! Working 100 hours per week doing something you love will always beat working 50 hours doing something that is difficult for you to continue doing day in and day out and that is why finding the correct career is so incredibly important. The way to do that is EXPOSURE. That is how you will be as sure as you can be that either of these careers are for you. I would encourage you to aggressively pursue shadowing or volunteering opportunities with both dentists and cardiothoracic surgeons to get a first hand experience and glimpse into their lives. Please do keep in mind you will only be experiencing a snapshot, so I would also recommend speaking to multiple of each to gain their perspectives on their careers and lives in these careers.

Hope this helps!

Midwest recommends the following next steps:

Shadow a cardiothoracic surgeon
Shadow a dentist
Set up conversations with 5 dentists and 5 cardiothoracic surgeons
Make a list of your priorities in choosing a career and find what aligns with these
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Katherine’s Answer

The statement "Nothing worth having is easy" is particularly true when it comes to pursuing a career in the medical and dental fields. Both medical school and dental school are demanding, requiring immense dedication and perseverance. Even though you may not have personal experience in either school, it is widely known how extensive and intensive the learning experience is for both of these professions.

In terms of duration, both medical school and dental school span over four years. These years are dedicated to equipping students with the foundational knowledge and skills required to excel in their respective fields. Nevertheless, the journey doesn't end after graduation; additional years of training and residency are necessary to specialize in specific areas of expertise.

In the case of dental school, upon completing the four-year program, students can opt to undergo further training in various areas of dentistry. Some options include pursuing a residency to become an endodontist, pedodontist/pediatric dentist, periodontist, oral maxillofacial surgeon, dental anesthesiologist, or specialize in dental public health, among others. This additional training typically takes an additional 2-4 years, depending on the chosen field.

On the other hand, after completing medical school, those looking to specialize in cardiothoracic surgery have a couple of options. One path is to complete a 5-year general surgery residency, followed by a 2- or 3-year cardiothoracic surgery residency program. Alternatively, students can enroll in a 6-year integrated cardiothoracic surgery residency that combines both general and cardiothoracic surgery training.

In summary, embarking on a career in medicine or dentistry is by no means an easy feat. From the rigorous academic demands to the long hours spent practicing and honing one's skills, both fields require immense dedication and commitment. However, it is important to remember that pursuing a rewarding and fulfilling career often comes with challenges, and the satisfaction of helping others and making a positive impact on their lives makes the journey worthwhile. Regardless of which path you choose, remember that "nothing worth having is easy," and believe in the value of hard work and perseverance to achieve your goals.
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Brianne’s Answer

One thing you can do to help figure out which direction you want to do is to shadow a dentist and cardiothoracic surgeon and see which one interests you more. You can likely get a job in a dental office in your area to see if that interests you.

Both of these careers will likely require similar undergraduate courses before going on to medical or dental school. One comment I'll make about undergrad - consider getting a major that you can get a job with without going to medical or dental school. I've known a number of people who have thought they wanted to go to medical school, but once they started undergrad, realized they didn't want to anymore. Having a degree that can get you a job in undergrad serves as a good backup plan for the advanced degree. Engineering could be a good way to accomplish this.

Best of luck!
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