What if? #illumedati

Hey everyone, it’s Medicine Mondays again, and today is the followup to the post “Prelude to Next Week” and we’re going to talk about “What if?”

What If?
Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

What if?

So the post I wrote was to think about a series of questions:

What would you do if you didn’t go to medical school? The opportunity cost of 4 years of medical school and 3+ years of training (6 for me). What would you have done with that decade of your life? How would it be different?

Well, I’ve kind of talked about this before in my previous posts about “Would you do it again?”, “Would you do it again? (Revisited)” and “Talking to Med Student Me”, as well as other places sprinkled throughout the site.

However, time has passed, and I’ve had more time to reflect, as old people do. So I thought it was probably time to give a more detailed reflection on things. Anyways, let me kind of just talk a bit about how my life would be different if I wasn’t a physician.

What would you do if you didn’t go to medical school?

I’ve spoken about this a lot. I think I may have ended up going to optometry school or pharmacy school. However, if we exclude medical school, then we should probably just exclude other health-oriented professions as well.

The likelihood is that I probably wouldn’t have become an engineer since my father told me “don’t be an engineer”. Since I was drawn to computers, I think there is a pretty good chance I would have done some work in Computer Science.

Some of my friends from Berkeley finished their degrees completely outside the realm of Computer Science. However, they found themselves involved in jobs that required learning about programming. As such, they were kind of self-taught computer languages like Javascript and PHP. I would imagine something similar would have happened for me regardless of which degree I had.

What would you have done with that decade of your life?

If that was the case, I would have stayed in the Bay Area after graduation and probably ended up living in SF or South Bay. I would imagine I would probably be in the Bay Area today, 15 years later. Most likely would have kept in better touch with my friends from college since the majority of them stayed in the Bay Area.

I still talk to them once in awhile, but I would imagine we’d be much closer since I would have seen them more often. After leaving for medical school and then residency, I was kind of Missing In Action to most of my college friends at that time. That is something that you don’t really think about when you leave for medical school. However, I think happens more than people like to admit.

How would it be different?

Well, the major difference in my life is that I wouldn’t have met my wife.

If I didn’t go to medical school she would have finished medical school and stayed on the East Coast. The likelihood of us ever meeting was virtually zero. From this, obviously my daughter Kylie and my son Lucas would never have been born.

I can’t imagine my life without my wife and kids.

For this reason, I wouldn’t make any changes to my particular path in life. So in a sense, while sometimes I feel like “I wouldn’t do it again” in regards to medical school, the choice of medical school was still the overall right choice for me. However, it wasn’t just to “be a doctor” and career choice and happiness. It was more of the overall picture of how my life played out. It may not be “perfect” by many standards, but for me, I wouldn’t change anything.

Life is kind of funny.

There are these moments in your life where you make these decisions which may appear relatively simple at the time, but change your life completely. For me, there are a few of these moments:


I think the first such moment for me was choosing to go to UC Berkeley for college. It forced me outside of my comfort zone of Southern California, away from my high schools friends. It forced me to become more responsible and self-reliant. There was no one to fall back on easily when you’re 6 hours away from your parents by car. I think that experience really helped me grow as a young college kid, more so than if I had stayed closer to home and gone to UCLA or UCI.

Medical School

The decision to go to medical school, a Caribbean one, was probably a decision I made too hastily. However, it turned out to be one of the best decisions I made in my life. This wasn’t because it was great experience or the school itself was great — it was more because it pushed me to a sense to “discomfort” and “desperation”.

This was “my chance” to become a doctor and I was going to run with it as far as I could. More so than that, I met my future wife there, and you can see that the world as I know is different specifically because I went to medical school.


It doesn’t stop there though. The decision to pursue radiology rather than neurology for me, and psychiatry instead of pediatrics for my wife really changed our paths in life as well. Who knows what would happened if I had done neurology and my wife had done pediatrics. Maybe we wouldn’t have made it through residency together.

However in this life, we did radiology and psychiatry and stayed together. We did this while away from each other for 5 years — after being apart for the majority of our 3rd and 4th years of medical school. While not impossible, I think for many this is something that is considered improbable.


Then, after moving to Rhode Island and thinking that we finally would establish some roots, I was handed the news that our group was being bought out… and I’d be out of a job within a year. Switching gears and applying for jobs again, this job in Hawaii came up. After moving here in 2014, it’s been 5 years and we’re kind of set down roots here.

If you had asked me at anytime in my life prior to finishing residency whether I planned to move to and work in Hawaii, I’d probably laugh and say no.

Yet here I am…

The first house that we’ve ever bought is here in Hawaii, and I don’t see us going anywhere anytime soon. I hope that my children or grandchildren keep this house in the family for decades to come.

Anything else?


I’m sure everyone has their own story on why they ended up somewhere at the same time to meet the love of their life.

However, for me, it was pretty amazing that I met my wife on a little rock in the Atlantic Ocean, named St. Maarten. A place where we both happened to be at for a fleeting 2 years. We didn’t even know each other for most of 1 of those years. Then to be away from each other for clinical rotations and most of residency, only to live together for the first time in fellowship — after we had already been married. Then, to welcome our first child during fellowship and move to Rhode Island for our first jobs. Only to move to Hawaii less than a year later — and welcome our son soon after it.

It’s kind of an inside joke between my wife and I… but whenever I’m driving and we managed to get lost she always says:

“I guess we’re going on adventure!” with a smile and a laugh.

She probably won’t read this post for awhile, but when she does, she’ll see this:

“Everyday with you is an adventure!”


No real TL;DR, just me talking about my life and decisions.

I think it’s a good thinking exercise to reflect on how your life would be different… and with any change, a cascade of other changes would occur.

You may be surprised when you realize that you wouldn’t change anything.

Everyday with you is an adventure!

Medicine Mondays Sensei


Agree? Disagree? Questions, Comments and Suggestions are welcome.

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