Should you go to a brand-name medical school? I didn’t. Here’s why.

Pamela Wible Med School ID

Is the doctor-making “factory line” the same everywhere? Yep. Pretty much. Here’s why you may not want to attend a big-wig school. Listen to today’s podcast inspired by a letter from this amazing premedical student. Enjoy!

Pamela,

I have shared your work with so many of my premed and physician friends! Thank you, so much! There is not a day that goes by that I don’t dream of my “Ideal Clinic”… thanks to your inspiration!!! I have a strong entrepreneurial background… I think I just needed permission to merge dreams! For now, I’m still a premed. Actually… only three more weeks, and I will have completed all my premed classes, with straight A’s and then some. 

I would love some advice: I am a mom (of three boys). They are all taller then me now, which is why I’ve allowed myself to go back to school towards my longtime dream. Dear husband is scheduled to retire in 5 years (quite a bit early)… I haven’t applied to med school yet. The school I’m at has a direct “in” to my local University med school (as long as score well enough on the MCAT). 

PROS: * 2-minutes from my house * I don’t have to move (myself, my husband, my children) * weekly clinical hours from day one * I’d be serving my very own community * huge refugee women’s population and hispanic population * tons of familiarity (with the schools, the doctors, the hospitals)

CONS: * not well ranked * not real impressed with a lot of the doctors that come off the med school factory line * facility is not well funded/old tech * I have the grades, the background, and the ability to go to a “big wig” school, but I am feeling pressure to stay local. (Not sure if the pressure is within me, or familial—mom is old, my only brother is here, my boys are here, my husband doesn’t want to move, we’ve spent years renovating our house). 

BUT… Am I missing out if I don’t apply to “something better?” Is the doctor-making “factory line” the same no matter where I go?  Is where I do my residency more “important” than where I get my MD? (and by “important” I mean: will I get a better education, will it be more effective out in the world, and maybe a little bit of “will people respect my ability to heal” more if I have a fangled degree on my wall)

OR… Do I just have “grass-is-greener-itis?” 

I would love your take on this. Thank you so much for any insight you can give me!

All my love and light,

~ Michelle

Physician Retreat - Join Us!

 Hey Michelle,

To answer your questions:

1. Am I missing out if I don’t apply to “something better”?  NO.  

2. Is the doctor-making “factory line” the same no matter where I go?  YES (pretty much). 

3. Is where I do my residency more “important” than where I get my MD?  NEITHER ARE. What’s important is what you DO with your degree and whether you live your dream.

4. Will I get a better education, will it be more effective out in the world, and maybe a little bit of “will people respect my ability to heal” more if I have a fangled degree on my wall?  Michelle, people don’t care what you know unless they know that you care. You need TIME to care (which you can’t get in big-box assembly-line medicine). SO . . .  your best bet is to cruise through and open your dream clinic ASAP. I’ll totally help you! If anyone else out there needs help just have them contact me here and I’ll walk them through how to do it 🙂

Ok. And here’s some more commentary: Brand-name schools may be helpful if you are trying to climb your way up the ivory tower or become surgeon general or something. When it comes to patient care, no patient that I can remember has ever asked me where I went to medical school, where I did my internship, where I went to residency. Here’s what patients ask, “Can you see me today? I think I have strep throat.”  “Do you do Pap smears?”  “Can you remove this mole on my shoulder?” I can’t recall any patient ever asking if I’m board certified. I’m not sure patients even understand what my specialty is, whether they know the difference between a general practitioner, a family physician, and an internist. They do know the difference between an assembly-line visit and a doctor who takes time with them. 

The MOST important thing you can do for your future is to have a clear vision of your dream clinic and stick with it. Align yourself with others who are living their dreams in medicine. Med school just gives you a little extra tool kit you can use in your practice, You are already a healer. Your heart, your soul, your love, your care is what patients are coming for. With your medical degree you can give them an antibiotic for their strep throat too, prevent cervical cancer, remove a melanoma, save a life. That’s a bonus.

When you practice medicine off the assembly line you’re a better doctor. Healing takes time. Medicine is an art not something you can do in 5-minute increments on a production line. Follow your heart. Be true to your calling. Plaster your vision statement—your dream— on your wall. That is your North Star. 

Plus think of all the money you’ll save if you don’t go to a big brand-name school! My medical school (University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston) was $900/year when my mom went there is the 1960s, and when I was there in the 1990s it was $5000/year. Now tuition is $16,612 per year now. Still a great deal. Dartmouth, Columbia, and Tufts are all more than $60,000 just tuition (including living expenses in places like NY – that’s $80,000 per year! – over $300,000 just to get a medical degree. Michelle, go with a cheaper school and you’ll save like $200,000. 

P.S. Oh, and here’s what a $20,000 diploma looks like 😉        (about the same as a $200,000 diploma)

Pamela Wible Med School Graduation

Pamela Wible, M.D., leads live teleseminars and hot spring retreats to help medical students and physicians live their dreams in medicine. She is author of Pet Goats & Pap Smears and Physician Suicide Letters—Answered.

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69 comments on “Should you go to a brand-name medical school? I didn’t. Here’s why.
  1. Douglas Tice MD says:

    I have worked along side many big name school graduates…….I can work circles around them….thank you West Virginia University School of Medicine for an excellent education….and WVU DEPT of Orthopedics for superior training…..and only $30k of debt!

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Yep. I knew it!!

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Also I’ve noticed that schools is less litigious regions offer students more hands-on experience. My mom said that when she started her intern year in NYC (after UTMB Galveston) she had WAY more experience that the docs that went to brand-name expensive schools!

  2. Pamela Wible MD says:

    “I went to Texas A&M, only 60 in my class, cheaper than daycare for one child here in Portland. I was lucky.” ~ Dr. Leslie Nobles

    “Sadly many state sponsored schools, like OHSU, are as expensive or even more expensive than the big name private schools. I actually had two offers at other schools that would have been more expensive than my “state” school here in Oregon.” ~ Eric Eddy

    Eye-opening comments from Facebook I had to share. Whoa.

  3. Trace in KC says:

    FANTASTIC ARTICLE!!
    You speak straight to my heart.
    Thank you!

  4. Victoria Codispoti says:

    Totally agree with Pamela! I went to small medical school…and thanks to that, they worked with me when I went through my depressions and “failures”…Don’t think it would have happened at a big name school.
    I think I’m a pretty good doc….and my patients are not impressed/nor do they ask where I went to school! they like me because I LISTEN to them….and I care.

  5. Will Hsu says:

    I am curious. Is there a way to easily look up which medical schools are the cheapest in terms of tuition? Or do I have to literally look at every school in the nation to figure out the numbers? Also, what you exactly mean by brand-name schools? What comes to mind for me when someone says that are institutions like Ivy league schools and state universities.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Brand-name meaning prestigious and wanting the status of the brand. That would mean different things for each person so I’m leaving it up to the reader’s interpretation of what they consider a big-wig school. Regarding tuition pricing you can google “cheapest medical schools” and narrow the field a bit though you may, in fact, need to look up each school you are considering.

  6. Magda says:

    What do you think about IMGs? I’d love to know your opinion.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      IMGs are awesome. Of course, I can’t generalize to all IMGs. I do believe that IMGs working in US are as highly skilled as our US-trained docs.What do you think Magda?

  7. Excellent answer Pamela!
    Real care has nothing to do with school attended. The less you owe upon graduation the better for you and greater the possibility of fulfilling your dream.

    I went to medical school in St. Petersburg Russia, finished residency at Conemaugh Memorial Johnstown PA, started a solo family practice right out of residency in Buffalo NY 2007, 10 years this year. So,how is that possible?
    Mainly because I didn’t have a student loan.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      You are amazing Frances and it was so great to pick up the phone this morning and hear your voice. We haven’t spoken in more than 8 years!! So looking forward to seeing you when you visit Oregon. 🙂

    • R C says:

      Oh my gosh you are my idol! I have a year of residency left and I’d love to start my solo practice right out of residency (not FP) but getting a lot of discouraging comments from people in my residency and even people in my family who seem to think I’ll need more experience under my belt first, and to find patients to follow me! 😣 It’s starting to grate on me and make me think it’s true!!! Would you mind being my mentor? I would love to hear how you did it!

      • Pamela Wible MD says:

        Happy to help. Contact me here and I can add you to my email list and also cal you today. I have a ton of stuff to email you 😉 And Frances is AMAZING! I helped her jump ship like 10 years ago . . .

  8. Kristin says:

    Great words of wisdom. I went to a state school in the 90’s and tuition started at about 3k per year and was 7k by the time I graduated. The school was pretty supportive of students and geared towards primary care. I biked to school and watched jackrabbits in the fields near the school… Played ultimate frisbee and learned to rock climb and went to Our nearby National Park frequently. Graduated with 38k debt that I paid off in a few years. Oh and I was only a couple of hours from my parents who were a huge support. I’d say, hands down, that being in an environment that is supportive for you is a huge plus, possibly the most important factor to consider. It helped my stay as whole as possible, and I was able to get into my first pick for residency, probably due to the strong clinical skills I learned. So don’t be afraid to go with your heart! I now have a small IMP in a town I love and can bike to work.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Kristin so great to hear from you!!! I’d love to see some pics of your practice in Colorado. Hope family and your son is well . . .heading to the retreat with another 40 docs this week. So fun to watch everyone blossom. xo Pamela

  9. Suger says:

    How about if you have to choose between top 5 carribean medical schools and farely new medical school that have produced good amount of doctors with prices that you can just pay out of pocket (5000/semester)

  10. Donald Turken, MD says:

    I think I was asked about the medical school attended twice in my career
    and was asked to wear a white coat once or twice. You got an acceptance?
    yay, sign up, and make the best of it. Ivy Leaguers are hype and little more.
    wherever you go, pay attention, be aware, learn, and get some joy from life.

  11. George Lundberg, MD says:

    Hi,
    My response.
    Once given a choice of medical school to attend in the USA, here is what to consider:
    1. If you plan to be an academic, go top brand name if at all possible
    2. If you plan to be a clinical practitioner, go to a medical school near to the geographic area in which you hope to practice.
    3. You can receive a “fine” general medical education at any accredited US medical school, if you work hard .
    4. Your residency will be more important for your career than your medical school.
    5. Keep your costs as low as possible; work for money part-time during school as much as possible without endangering your academic success; take as few student loans as possible; try to stay single and not have kids (if you want them) until much later.
    6. Expect success; keep looking up; do not be surprised by adversity; it helps (up to a point) to toughen you.
    7. Do not be fearful of seeking professional help with your mental situation, if needed.
    8. Good luck. Try to attach to an older mentor, if available.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Thanks George! That is an very comprehensive and sensible response! I’m sure Michelle is loving all this feedback 😉

  12. Yusuf Abdulaal says:

    My university is a rip off 🙂 I pay 40k USD a year for 6 years (no pre-med needed). I got one more year to go so ill just cruise it. Totally not worth 240k for a degree

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Which school? US or offshore?

      • Yusuf Abdulaal says:

        Its in Bahrain. Royal College of Surgeons Ireland – Medical University of Bahrain. They tell us our degree is prestigious, but when I see the graduates, they dont receive any benefits, and its not even recognized in Ireland to be exempt from liscensing examinations, even though our curriculum is identical to that of the Royal college of surgeons in ireland.

  13. Helen says:

    Michelle, I can honestly answer your question:
    I was accepted & elected to attend Texas Tech Medical School which is not considered a “brand name”.
    It was an excellent decision & here’s why:
    (1) smaller class size (100) which was split into thirds for the clinical years~1/3 of us remained in Lubbock & therefore fewer students on each rotation meaning more one-on-one instruction
    (2) Texas Tech at the time was trying to make a name for itself & therefore I felt the administration bent over backwards to make Med School as pleasant an experience as possible
    (3) patients don’t really care where you went to Med School (only academicians in their ivory towers do) & they certainly don’t care about your class rank, only that you graduated!
    (4) after all the student who ranks last in their graduating class is still a recipient of MD & called “doctor”

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Thanks SO much Helen! This is really turning into a fruitful conversation. Totally agree with you. I think Texas is the most amazing state to go to med school. Affordable. Lots of appreciative patients. Low-key no-too-intense atmosphere. CHEAP tuition. Kind of a dream-come-true scenario!

  14. Heather Shelton says:

    Michelle,
    I went to the more prestigious of the options in my state and surprisingly patients do seek me out for it. Maybe they would be even more impressed if I had gone to Johns Hopkins; I don’t know. So it can help in getting patients in the door. However keeping patients is way more important and has very little to do with where you go. Also where you go can have a big impact on your residency options- if you graduate in the middle of your class from a regional school the big national names probably won’t look at you unless it’s one in your region. However if you graduate in the top of your class your chances are pretty good if having a full range of options. Personally if I had kids I would lean heavily toward the local option where I would have family support. By the same token it might make sense to stay local for residency. If you KNOW you want to do primary care and have an ideal clinic, stay local. If you want a competitive residency like dermatology etc or an academic career you need to either stay local and be at top of your class or take a look at the big names. Keep in mind your ideas of what you want may change too when you get more experience. Cost is a huge factor too especially if you already have kids. You really don’t want a huge debt if you are going into primary care. Probably the biggest challenge is staying healthy in medical school – emotionally and otherwise- staying local you have the advantage of family support. So it can matter where you go, but may not be the most important factor when you look at all of the issues, depending on what you want to do after medical school.

  15. Gary Levin says:

    I think you already know all the answers. 1. Family first 2. Don’t move 3. It is the student, not the university or hospital. 4. If you are known locally you are way ahead of the game. Sounds as if you will not have to take many loans. Welcome to the ‘battle’

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Gary, it’s not a battle. It’s a labor of love. All we have to do is demonstrate by example the joy of medicine. No more fighting and war metaphors. What do you think?

  16. Chee says:

    You can’t ever underestimate the impact being with your family/away from your family can have on your studies and mental/emotional wellbeing.

    Before you choose, you have to know what’s essential in (and out of) your life, then decide based on those.

    I don’t know about big Med schools being non-US trained.
    But I know the toll Med school has and I wish I had my friends and family around at the time.

  17. Suz says:

    I’m going to be the voice of dissention here and say I wouldn’t rule out a brand school. I’d suggest applying to both and looking at both, keeping all of these wise commenters’ thoughts in mind. And see what your gut tells you.

    I went to a “brand” school. Very famous etc etc. It was a wonderful choice for me. In no particular order here’s why:

    -It was the most inexpensive private school in the US. It was on a par with my state school. Tuition was heavily subsidized for all of us and cost me less than my son’s daycare per year. And there was great financial aid.

    -Of all my 29 years of formal education, med school taught me most how to love learning and how to be a lifelong learner. I learned how to organize my thinking, how to go to primary source data, how to ask advice, how to let go of my clinical assumptions.

    -I also went to med school slightly older and had my priorities straight. I never missed a friend’s wedding or a special event. I stayed home when I was sick. I hiked and travelled and went to the gym and learned to salsa dance. I made lifelong friends.

    -Some students had struggles, and the school stood by them mightily. Once you were part of the family, you were taken care of.

    In sum, I agree you can get a great education at many schools. I just wouldn’t a priori rule out brand for brand’s sake.

    Some other thoughts:

    -I have no clue where my primary care doctor went to school or residency. I’ve been seeing him for ten years and he’s awesome and who cares where he trained?

    -where I went to school seems to impress acquaintances socially for whatever reason, but my patients don’t care a bit. Absolutely they care that I care. That’s all

    -a procedural specialty where you don’t develop long-term relationships with patients is going to be more sensitive to brand than a primary care specialty. Same with research and academics.

    -I think it’s helpful to do your residency where you want to settle. But med school you can go anywhere. And there’s value in “growing up” in more than one institution. You learn a lot from seeing different models and philosophies.

    -Is “brand” school is in an awesome city your kids would like to be in for a few years? You could rent out your current home and come back to it…

    -maybe “brand” will give you better financial aid? I wouldn’t assume either way

    -if you already think know what you want to do, it’s good to look at that Department at your various options and see what they are up to

    My final advice is just to consider multiple options and see what feels right. follow your instinct and your gut. Listen to your inner voice about where you feel at home intellectually and emotionally. Pat attention to what makes sense for your family. You’ll make the right choice!

  18. Laura says:

    The best doctors are the best because they want to be the best not because they went somewhere fancy. I did some 4th year rotations near Boston where all my attendings were Ivy League grads. They raved about my work and I’m DO from Kansas City.

  19. Mindy Miller says:

    Great advice! I went to UT Health Science Center in San Antonio. I could have gotten into a number of other more prestigious programs but where I lived was important. I completed family practice residency in Austin, Texas and feel I was very well trained. I was able to deliver babies where I currently have a practice. I have a good reputation. My patients never ask where I went to school. I have been voted “best doctor” and have been runner up a few years in my community. In some of the smaller programs you may actually get more hands on experience because you may not be competing against other residents. Family practice residents in smaller programs may be treated with more respect than they are in the ivory tower. An education is what you make of it. Good luck in your search!

  20. Jeanette says:

    Wow. I’d like to answer as a person who went to med school already being a mother, such as this woman.
    1. ABSOLUTELY DON’T MOVE. Stay home, in your house, with your family. Do NOT disrupt your life or theirs.
    2. Embrace your community.
    3. You’ve got an “in”??!!! TAKE IT.
    4. Us “small-town” docs usually run circles around big wiggers. They’re not allowed to touch patients. We have no choice but to, LOL. I’m from Massachusetts, I’ll let you deduce the rest, LOL. Actually, to be fair, they’ve taken the example and in the last 10 years or so have started to emulate (ahem) “small-time” schools and letting their students “touch patients” in year one.
    5. As far as not living off campus alone: Those of us with families don’t have a choice: not exactly gonna live in a dorm and party it up, are we? Lol. Better to be around family and friends in a town you know (and that knows you). Trust me, you’ll feel it when you’re in the middle of med school.
    Hugs and Cheers,
    J.

    • Jeanette says:

      One more thing: Ditto for residency!
      I did my residency in a small hospital where we were the only residents. We took call for all the local docs overnight, and were the only ONE resident on call at night for the whole hospital (about 140 beds). We handled codes, labor and delivery, neonatal resuscitation, ICU, talking to families about their loved ones, assisting in surgeries of every kind, and YOU NAME IT, in addition to regular admissions and patient management (in every department: cardiac, med surg, pediatrics, everything). If you weren’t a creative person when you started out, you sure were when you finished! In bigger hospitals, everything is compartmentalized. You would not get this breadth and depth of experience. Yeah it was hard, but we got great training, knew ALL the nurses and physicians in the hospital and community, and as a result had our pick of the litter even before we were finished. I’m glad that’s how I trained. Wouldn’t trade it for the big name schools.

  21. Mary VANKO MD FACOG says:

    I agree with your analysis totally. As long as you do well at an American Medical School, pass your National Boards, get licensed, get into an American residency, you will do just fine.

  22. Helen says:

    WOW! I just read the article & viewed this video! –> http://www.idealmedicalcare.org/blog/how-to-graduate-medical-school-without-killing-yourself/
    We have very similar thoughts (I was actually on the “waiting list” at UTMB when I applied)
    Another recommendation I have for Michelle (& others who are considering a “lesser” Med school) is to select elective rotations during the 4th year at residency locations which are “upper tier”
    This will accomplish two things:
    (1) prove that the “lesser” Med school education/experience is on par with (or exceeds) the “upper tier” school’s curriculum and
    (2) enables the prospective candidate to have a shot a gaining a residency spot at the “upper tier” program
    Case in point:
    I did a Gyn Pathology elective at Baylor College of Medicine and a Maternal Fetal Medicine elective at UTHSC/Houston during my 4th year
    At that time, the UTHSC OB/GYN residency program was chaired by Dr. Robert Creasy (author of Maternal Fetal Medicine textbook) and considered to be one of the top OB/GYN programs in the nation
    I proved to myself & others that I was worthy of being a part of that program & ranked it first
    On Match Day, I opened the envelope & was stunned to see that I had matched there!

    As always, thanks for what you are doing
    I have forwarded your article & video to my youngest daughter (who sat the MCAT last week)

  23. Bernie Siegel MD says:

    it aint the school it’s why are you becoming a doctor and why would you want that school
    is it ego or meaningful

  24. Pamela Wible MD says:

    A few other comments worth sharing:

    “Actually I went to a DO school in Maine because when I went for the interview, I really liked the program. I was in graduate school at the time and wanted to learn how to care for patients as a physician, not do medical research. So I advise students to think about what they want to do and find a program that fits in that. If they want to do primary care, find a program that is good at that. If they want to do research, find one that has MD/PHD degrees.” ~ Mary Callahan

    “I went to state school in NY. I don’t think I missed out on anything, we had some great faculty and some awful ones, just like everywhere. I think one of the most important things is to have solid, comprehensive exposure to each specialty. I think my school did pretty well in that regard. I still left with $200,000+ in debt, can’t imagine if I had gone to private!!!” ~ Kathryn Little M.D.

  25. DC says:

    Funny that you mention Tufts in the article, Pamela. That’s where I went! Now, not saying that I didn’t like Tufts, it was great, and in the end I was supposed to be there because the Universe needed me to have those experiences, meet some important people, so really there are no wrong decisions. BUT. Big BUT. Here’s the thing. Michelle: I went there because I was afraid to go to school in the rough city near where I grew up (would have been great experience but I do not have street smarts), and I was afraid that the more ‘small town’ state schools wouldn’t offer me much of a social life or the ‘name.’ Guess what. It was med school! What kind of social life would I have anyway? But I also wanted the ‘name.’

    If I’d sucked it up and gone to those other perfectly good, safe neighborhood state schools, I would have had a fine education, gotten to live near home, probably have met some great classmates, and ended up at the same place I did residency because it fulfilled a very specific need I had (feel free to get my email from Pamela and I’ll tell you more). Plus, a certain conversation with an interviewer at my first job out of fellowship revealed that it may have been better for me to go to a lesser name school! It’s a pretty funny story actually. And most importantly, I wouldn’t have been financially handcuffed by those school loans. My gosh. To have years of financial freedom would have been amazing.

    Only you know what will deep down be the best decision for you, but I’m very happy to talk things out with you if that will help you gain some clarity.

  26. Karen Chase MD says:

    Having not gone to a brand name school, I wonder if I may have been better off not going to the big name. First off, my school was focused on DIVERSITY! That’s certainly different than the white boy big name schools. I learned a lot from people of different color, culture, gender, age, sexual orientation, religious preference, and economic class. That learning allowed me to be a better physician because surprisingly many of my patients are not rich, straight, white men. Second, my school had a biopsychosocial approach and supported CMDA (Christian Medical Dental Society) which changed my education to a biopsychosociospiritual medical education. (When we objected to watching the sex videos… basically porn but with the idea of teaching various sexual techniques, we were just excused with an alternative assignment with no fuss. Not the experience you had with being labeled as having Bambi syndrome.) Having not attended any other school, I can’t say how well they were prepared for the non-“medical” rigors of medicine, but I was DAMN well prepared and I don’t see that in other doctors when they first get out. Lastly, my school had a DO and DVM school at the same campus and we shared many classes the first 2 years. None of the big name schools can give you that, as far as I know. It sure served me well my first year in practice when my medical director said, “We really don’t have any vets around, do you mind helping me I&D an abscess on one of Mr. Smith’s cows?” (Eventually it was pink eye, leg wound, stuck calf, stuck lamb, vaccinations, and sunburned pig [nope, not kidding]) And certainly helped me to learn that multiple types of healers can work collaboratively and that we can ALL learn from each other. I went to Michigan State College of Human Medicine.

  27. James says:

    As a patient I can say it doesn’t really matter to me or anyone I know where a doctor went to school as long as you graduated and are current in any required ongoing training. I would talk to students and recent graduates at the schools you are looking at and see which has the best “culture” of supporting students, keeping a positive an atmosphere, and meeting your goals.

  28. Pamela Wible MD says:

    I was asked to share this by a doc who wanted to remain anonymous: “I would advise going to a school that respects its students and doesn’t give them AS MUCH ptsd. I went to ohsu and was happy with that aspect. I was only in a nearly-abusive rotation for 3 weeks out of 4 years. I think that’s better than typical. The cost of ohsu doubled the year I graduated though so obviously cost is a factor. Geez, what a conundrum to become a doctor. It’s almost like we need to reinvent medical education.”

  29. David Rivera, MD says:

    Once you are out in practice, no one will give a shit that you went to Harvard Medical. They only care that you know what you’re doing.
    (University of Illinois College of Medicine-1979).

  30. Anisha says:

    Pamela, I think you gave this person the correct advice for them. However, if the person wants to stay academic, do any research, OR (something not mentioned above) is a minority or a woman, it may help to have a brand name behind you. It does open certain doors especially if the goal is employment at a big institution rather than an independent micropractice. I went to well-known state schools (UC system) and some patients raise their eyebrows at the petite brown woman and then realize I went to a big name school and relax. It’s sad but true. That said, you will sacrifice clinical acumen/experience for research training at a big school.

  31. Karen Tschanz says:

    Patient view seems underrepresented here. On choosing a physician, the first things we look at are credentials, certifications, hospital affiliations and practitioner and hospital ratings. If these prove out, we look for good bedside manner. J’est sayin’

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      I think in some urban areas with educated patients these questions may have bearing. Here in Eugene, Oregon where I live I have never had a patient ask me where I trained or if I’m board certified.

  32. Mary Anderson says:

    I absolutely ask my doctors where they went to med school, or investigate their backgrounds before I consult with them; especially specialists. It takes emotional maturity to concede others may be more intellectually capable. I work with pedigreed PhDs, and they out think others. More and more, Ivy Leagues favor well rounded, relationship savvy candidates. These individuals are left and right brained, often gifted with quantitative and artistic talents that help them in their practices. Anyone lucky enough to gain admittance generally accepts. They typically have better job offers and professional networks. Of course we need doctors from other schools to meet the demand for healthcare. I just don’t understand the benefit from denigrating this group and their schools.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Makes sense when evaluating a specialist who may be doing risky or invasive procedures. I’ve never had any patient (that I can recall) ask me directly as a primary care doc where I went to med school and residency. I don’t even have my diplomas on the wall. They literally have no idea where I’ve lives, trained, or anything. Seems they choose me based on word of mouth a great referrals from current patients who like me.

  33. John Watkins PhD, MD says:

    I often have premed students and residents ask about the importance of where they go to medical school or residency. My advice has always been the same for past 20+ years: I query them on where their family doc went to medical school and residency. Without fail, none of them know. So I ask them why continue to see that particular provider. The reply? Because they spend time with you; because they are caring; because they know their stuff; because they treat you as a person and not a number or dollar sign. My reply? There’s your answer.

  34. Cynthia Bush says:

    Having attended Grad School and the first year of Medical School at Georgetown University, not because it was a big-name school, but because I was 43yo with 7yo twins and considered “too old” to get into the University of Florida.
    After 2 years of outstanding performance, UF finally took me rather than face an age discrimination lawsuit.
    It was pure good ole boys… not a great situation following the student empowerment at Georgetown.
    I went on to graduate as the oldest student to receive a Degree there.
    Finishing a Residency at 52, I’ve gone on to have a successful practice for the last 22 years.
    Georgetown was clearly a better school.
    The bottom line is; however, that you can learn what you need to know to be an excellent physician if you’re willing to put out the extra effort to find the best teachers possible…

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Congratulations Cynthia! Impressive accomplishments with twins! Wow! Anyone who can parent well amazes me. Plus med school too? I’m amazed! And you are correct that those who want to learn can do so at any med school.

  35. Paul says:

    I choose the prestige. Big mistake. When I taught medicine to interns and residents in Atlanta I noted that the best adjusted and most empathetic students were from state schools without the bling factor. They even said things that I thought were impossible like “medical school was hard but I enjoyed it”. Enjoyed was something I didn’t think was possible in relation to medical school. You have given grand advice.

  36. Regina Bahten, D.O. says:

    I went to an osteopathic medical school (talk about NOT brand name). They were teaching things thirty years ago that are “the latest thing” at the MD (University of California) school near me. “Brand name” schools are typically focused on research and specialties. I have always been a generalist clinician. IF I want to shape research, I email the researchers. Really, I can’t think of a time when I was questioned about my medical school, much less any test scores. I have always gotten jobs by personal connections (people who knew me hired me for my character) or by talking to peers. You’ll be a shortage commodity when you graduate anyhow, so try not to stress too much about this.

  37. Eric in Northwest says:

    Thank you everyone for your remarkable stories. Each of us has a unique journey, and each of us thrives in different environments. In my case, the medical school I attended was good, but certainly not in the Top 20, more like the Top 50; whatever that means. I agree that all accredited medical schools in the US provide a very similar learning experience, at least for the most part. However, upon entering residency (a so called Top 10 program) I felt considerably behind academically, which forced me to read constantly. The training at this program was nothing short of spectacular, and in combination with my ongoing reading, has served me well throughout my career. Following residency I attended fellowship at a Top 20 program. Although the training was once again excellent, I didn’t thrive as much in this environment, and therefore my learning was somewhat blunted in comparison to my residency years. Finding the environment (school, city, culture, etc) that you thrive in is important for your success. I do feel that your residency/fellowship years play a much greater role in how you practice medicine. Ultimately, many factors determine how well you practice the art and science of medicine. The quality of your medical training is just one factor. Lastly, the friends that you make while in the trenches are typically lifelong. Cherish the friendships that you make throughout your medical training. These are the people that you can turn to for the rest of your life.

  38. Hersh says:

    Completely, completely, completely agree. Brand names only matter if you are trying to get into a top residency or fellowship program. Your patients will never ask you where you did your training. Your patients care about how much time you spend listening to them and fixing their problems. If you do that, your patients will love you. And there is nothing more satisfying than that; when your patients call your practice and ask specifically for you and just you to talk about their concerns and refuse to see anyone else; when you are on leave etc.

  39. I had no idea what I was doing, and I didn’t even know that they had a name for it.

    But I “snapped” and created (it took a few years, but it was worth it) my “Humanistic Clinic”.

    I’m a full scope solo Family Physician and Office Surgeon in Calgary, Alberta. I started practice working in the ER, the Hospital and my own clinic – to the tune of a minimum of 90 hours a week.

    The myth of “Free Health Care” in Canada continued to be championed by Governments, that only downloaded the inevitable problems of an under-funded medical system onto the backs of Physicians.

    My office operating costs went up, along with patient demands and expectations. It was a continuous front line assault, made worse by ineffective advocacy and a Professional College that seemed to abuse the profession more than it helped it.

    Then on my daughter’s first birthday, I noticed when watching the video of the 1st year of her life – that I was almost never in it, and I didn’t remember anything in it – even when I was clearly “present”.

    I felt ashamed and then I snapped. I quite my huge call group, dropped all my nursing homes, tossed my hospital privileges and “retreated” into my solo practice (I bought my partner off, who always sacked me with his responsibilities – he left after I paid him to). My wife quit her job as a teacher to support my efforts, and we took the clinic down to bare concrete, and we built something beautiful. The office is warm and welcoming, modern and classy – a nice place to be, with a comfortable and inviting decor.

    We decided to focus, not on “medical practice”, but on “patient care”. I started doing surgical procedures in our own suite rather than at the hospital, and we spend time getting to know folks, to make them feel welcome and cared for.

    Little kids that needed surgical procedures were introduced to “Higgins”, our resident emotional support puppy. Higgins has a magical ability to keep nervous people calm – even the PTSD K9 police officers were have treated in the past year.

    I take all my own call – even on vacation, and patients now “look out” for me! They show up with a tea, stay for a chat, and often inquire about how I am doing. It is literally like waking up every morning to go and chat with my 4000 best friends!

    I almost never get called when on call – because patients are truly looking out for me. In return, I always accommodate their needs without exception. What a GREAT feeling it is to be able to do that!

    And I make more money now than I ever did, previously killing myself for >90 hours a week of constant torture!

    I took a course recently about “Humanism in Medicine”, where I learned that there is a name for what my wife and I built! You can imagine my dismay! And then I came upon this article about you! I had no idea that there were other Docs that “thought like me”!

    Well done! Thank-you for shedding a light on how “not to do Medical Practice”!

    I don’t count the number of hours I work anymore…..because to me, it isn’t really “work”!

    Must be okay with my Family, because both of my daughters want to be Doctors! The eldest writes her MCAT in 4 weeks and she is determined to “practice medicine properly – like Dad does”.

    Brings a tear to my eye……..

  40. edita falco says:

    love your comments,,but have a question(must say that am not living In USA) how do you manAge when your patients need surgery, CT scan, medications etc if they have no insurance or you do not beloong to any insurance’
    g

  41. Cindy says:

    Medical technology and care is changing rapidly in the digital world. Although I wouldn’t say, “brand name schools are better,” learning from top instructors and being alongside other highly motivated students can improve your education.
    To the original question, I would say only you can determine the importance of staying with your family and being in your home environment & save money. Weigh it with your desire to excel.
    The response emphasizes important points about current medical education & future practice but it’s not the whole story.
    Look around & compare.

  42. John Fuhrman, M.D. says:

    I am a third-year resident in Family Medicine in the U.S.A., an American citizen who graduated from a Polish medical school in 2015, and I agree with Pamela’s response. Michelle asked, “Will I get a better education, will it be more effective out in the world, and maybe a little bit of ‘will people respect my ability to heal’ more if I have a fangled degree on my wall?” My experience (and that of my classmates and co-residents) shows me that the quality of your education and your effectiveness depends mostly on YOU, your drive, and your motivation. Success academically and clinically depends on you more than the school you attend.

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