So… You Have Decided to Become a Physician: Advice to Aspiring Young Doctors by Dr. Dimitrios Linos, an internationally acknowledged pioneer in endocrine surgery, offers valuable advice and insights for aspiring medical professionals, in particular for young people from around the world who are hoping to attend one of the great medical schools in the U.S. or the UK, such as Harvard or Oxford.
In clear, concise language, Dr. Linos explains the necessary steps to get into a top medical school, succeed as a resident, and become a board certified doctor. Drawing on his many years of experience, Dr. Linos also discusses career paths for practicing physicians, how to avoid burnout, and the importance of finding a work-life balance.
An honest, engaging, and thoughtful book, it is written in an encouraging manner from someone who personally knows the struggles and triumphs of being a doctor and who wants to help others become “the best physician in the world.”
Dr. Linos is Emeritus Professor of Surgery at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, and Lecturer in Surgery at Harvard University. He is married to Dr. Athena Linos, a professor of Epidemiology. Together, they raised five children, all of whom were accepted at Harvard University.
Dr. Linos graciously took time from his busy schedule to speak with The National Herald about his new book and how the pandemic has affected his work.
TNH: What made you decide that now was the time to write this book?
Dr. Dimitrios Linos: Over the course of my career, I have met physicians at various stages of training and happiness. For example, I have met smart medical students who are eager to take the next step towards becoming specialized physicians, but do not have the information or know-how to make the best choices. At the same time, I have met many established doctors all over the world who are suffering from “burnout syndrome” and have never tried to overcome it. This book is for physicians at all stages of their career. Given what I have learned over a half century of being a doctor, I felt obliged to share my experiences and mistakes with others.
TNH: How long did the book take from idea to publication?
DL: I’ve been thinking about this book for a while. It took me several years to think through the exact structure I wanted to use, about two years to prepare the first draft in Greek and another year to add chapters for the final English publication. I purposely kept the book small in length and appearance in order to make it more accessible to the busy prospective reader. I must admit that I was lucky to meet the professional team of the Chinese University of Hong Kong Press which made the publication of this book easier and have managed its distribution worldwide.
TNH: What was the most surprising thing you learned in the process of writing the book?
DL: I was indeed surprised to realize that what makes for good medicine (and what makes for a good physician therefore) is the same across countries, socio-economic classes, and cultures. The more I wrote, the more I realized that in medicine we have so many more common ideals and concepts that unite us than individual topics that divide us. I firmly believe that to improve medicine, we should invest horizontally — that is, improving the basic level of medicine across the board, rather than investing vertically, where we focus on more and more niche and expensive procedures that require expensive technology.
TNH: What has changed the most over the years for students going into the medical field?
DL: Although the costs of going into medicine and some of the financial benefits have changes over the years, I feel that at a fundamental level, few things have changed over the years for students aspiring to become physicians.The main motive for the majority of students going to medicine has always been the desire to help the sick patient. This may feel naive given that many people around the world still receive poor quality healthcare today. I believe physicians have a role to play to continue to use their underlying intrinsic motivation to improve healthcare outcomes, and I discuss this challenge in the book.
TNH: How has the pandemic affected your work?
DL: The pandemic has affected all of us in many ways, both professionally and personally. For health care workers, the crisis is dual: first we want to take care of our patients in the best way possible, while navigating uncertain territories. Many were redeployed away from their main specialty to handle the crisis response, without much support or resources. Second, like everyone around us, we want to protect our families and loved ones from the risk that our job creates. I feel for the families of physicians with young children who are navigating home challenges while also trying to be present and available for their patients.
TNH: What are you working on next?
DL: The pandemic has forced us to start thinking “out of the box” and discover other possibilities or even new pathways for each of us. I love being a physician and want to think of new ways to use my experience to support other doctors around me. The book was a first step in this direction. My next steps are still unclear, but I hope that we can combine individual-level advice with systems-level advocacy so that physicians around the world are supported to do their job well.
So… You Have Decided to Become a Physician: Advice to Aspiring Young Doctors by Dr. Dimitrios Linos is available online: https://amzn.to/2NX4dY3.