Monday, January 11, 2010

Engineering vs. Medicine

When I was accepted into medical school, many people congratulated me with a "dude, you're leaving a good job to go back to school, med school's tough, why would you bother?!"

Friends who had graduated from engineering like I did responded a little differently, "dude, you're leaving a good job to go back to school, oh well, med school can't be that much tougher than engineering."

Having been through 1.5 years of medicine, I can certainly say that the engineers were very wrong. Conceptually, I don't think any single topic covered thus far in my medical education is any more difficult than the topics covered in electrical engineering. In fact, I would argue that courses on quantum mechanics and nanotechnology were probably more difficult to understand than anything I've been taught in med school. However, the major difference is volume of information. A single week in med school seems like at least half of an undergrad course. We have to read, understand, and memorize a ridiculous amount of information.

Which brings me to another difference between engineering and medicine. Engineering required very little memorization. For the most part, in engineering, you only have to memorize first principles and then you can usually derive any other equation you need. There is no way to derive the cranial nerves and their functions, nor is there any way to derive the different pathologies responsible for papulosquamous eruptions...there's no way around it, you have to memorize in medicine!

The workload in engineering is above and beyond that seen in most other university programs; however, the workload is much, much greater in medicine than even engineering. The only consolation med students have is that most schools grade on a Pass/Fail system, as opposed to a letter grade system. So for the most part,in med school, getting a 60% is as good as getting a 90% on an exam (not from the patient's point of view obviously), you don't have to worry about getting A's anymore.

The last difference that became very apparent to me last month is the difference in exams. My engineering exams were almost entirely math based; I don't remember ever seeing multiple choice on any of my exams. Med exams are entirely multiple choice, and there are a LOT more questions asked, which makes sense considering the significantly greater volume of information taught. After completing an engineering exam, most students have a good idea about how they did in that exam. After completing a med exam, most students have no clue how they did in that exam! A number of my classmates have seriously believed that they failed an exam, only to later find out that they aced it.

20 comments:

bsu said...

Hi medgineer.
found your blog by searching fix on my IT trouble. I do IT support.
I think that if I chose medicine instead of IT I'd be a good doctor.
Then found your blog and you r IT and studying medicine. So wondering how is it to be medgineer. how and where I should start if I want to? any advise?
Thanks.

Anish said...

Hi bsu,

Thanks for dropping by. Having an IT background in medicine is interesting and frustrating, often at the same time.

Almost every day I'm exposed to healthcare IT problems that could benefit from an entrepreneurial engineer's work. However, being in med school means I have absolutely no time to be that entrepreneur :)

There is a lot you have to think about before you decide to leave the IT world to become a doctor. After that, there is a lot that you need to do. If you could ask more specific questions, I'd be happy to help you out.

MedVsEng said...

I'm a medical student and I've completed 2.5 years of medicine. It's really tough! And i'm guessing it's gonna get tougher. I can totally understand the memorization part! I didn't imagine we'd have this much info to memorize! Especially that I'm the type of person that prefers to understand the concept and apply it rather than have to memorize it! Having reached this far I'm still questioning my choice.

You see for me it was between architectural engineering and medicine. Two totally different majors! In the end medicine is what I choose. I get ideas like whether or not I should just quit and chase after my other dream?! This usually happens during/close to exam period because of all the stress associated with it. I can't say i'm not enjoying what I'm studying I've learnt a lot ranging from ethics to anatomy and pharmacology. Seeing as you studied engineering and you're studying medicine at the moment, I thought you might give me some advice!

Anish said...

Hey MedVsEng, unfortunately I can't really give you true advice because in the end, nobody else's opinion matters with a decision like choosing between two different careers.

I was a computer engineer, went into medicine, and I definitely made the right choice for me. When I was trying to decide whether or not I should leave engineering, some friends advised me not to do it, some advised me to do it.

The reality is that I can only truly be confident about my decision because I have been able to try my hand at both engineering and medicine.

That being said, if the only time you really question your decision to pursue medicine is during exam season...and you love it the rest of the year. You should probably stick to medicine :)

MedVsEng said...

Thanks! Your right in the end I have to make my own decision.. I'm sticking with medicine for now ^_^

Anonymous said...

hello Anish,
i was accepted to med school but then in the same year semester moved to engineering college, im in second year now and im really think of going to med school once i finish my engineering degree.Can you advice me?

FARIDUDDIN MASUD said...

now a days medical is fully dependent on engineering. basically electronics engineering. most of the doctor don't takes any decision with out any test of the disease. by which machine those tests are done is the contribution of electronics engineers. like ecg, x-ray, ct scan, surgery everything fully depends on engineering. bio tech engineers are involved to research about the disease.. laser treatment is the latest contribution of electronics engineering.. kemo therapy is also the part of engineering.. all the machine and instruments which are used to check up a human body or to test a disease are fully related to engineering.. recent Guinness world book told that engineering is the toughest subject in the world.. since the beginning human body changes nothing.. like heart, lungs , kidney are in same place in body but in engineering technology changes every moment of second. just consider it, 1st we had telegram then land phone then mobile now 3g and 3.5g. we the engineer sends a setelliate to moon or other places and controls it from the earth.. have you ever thought how is it possible.dear doctors even a parrot can mug up anything but failure to apply some thing. here in engineering they make us innovant that we can creat a new things. just think if you remove all the contribution of engineering then the world will go back of 10000 years. every one can mug up biology but only some one can able to show their innovation in field of mathematics and physics which are the part of engineering. so from health to entertainment you can't go without engineering..

shadowfox87 said...

Just ran into your blog via google. I am an electrical engineer too. I have finished basic sciences and have been studying for usmle step 1. It is pretty clear to me at this point that all my education in medicine thus far amounts to memorization. The hard part in medical school is never that something is difficult to understand, the hard part is that it is difficult to remember. Any time I miss a question on a test, it is always that I forgot some fact that I needed to memorize. While the conceptual questions like in physiology, I would never miss as it was common sense.

I do hope one day, that medical education moves away from memorization. As with the coming future, more and more new things are discovered each day and medical education is expanding. This means there is more stuff to memorize with every generation. Doctors are using databases and computers for reference and why wouldn't they? I think it is a waste of brain space to memorize something that can be easily programmed. Doctors should learn how to think and concentrate more on the why and how, rather than the what.

Anonymous said...

you are probably endian(so not too much brains) having easy math exams! no complex mathematics! or you pass exams in engineering easy because nobody asks you to be a very good engineer - seeing the low salary! please remove this post, you make us ashamed of you! i learned a lot in school, was better than any of my medicine coleagues and still had hard time passing exams in ee!

Keith Lucas said...

Do you have a Master's or doctoral degree in engineering? If not, I bet you would find those programs more difficult than medical school, especially if you didn't like engineering. If you liked engineering, I think you'd find them easier. Either way, they're quite grueling and you're studying twelve hours a day to succeed.

Keith Lucas said...

Do you have a Master's or doctoral degree in engineering? If not, I bet you would find those programs more difficult than medical school, especially if you didn't like engineering. If you liked engineering, I think you'd find them easier. Either way, they're quite grueling and you're studying twelve hours a day to succeed.

Anonymous said...

I just noticed that for most people, engineering students can't help themselves but to compare how hard their program is. They'd go to other programs' forum/blogs famous for being VERY hard then start babbling about their worth in the end implying that their program is more superior than the others on terms of toughness. Case in point medicine. On the other hand, all med school people do is to complain how hard and stressful medicine is.

P.S. most engineering students would even go so low by trying to make everyone believe that they took up medicine and had a pretty easy time. But when you asked them tips on how to study anatomy and metabolism, you won't get any answer. LOL! coz in the first place they never studied them -_- poor self-centered kids.

arathy said...

Hi Anish,

Are you doing Medicine in India after completing your engg here?

venkyy said...

anish iam doing mechanical engineering 4th year, i alredy decided to do medicine can you advice me how i can proceed ? can you tell me how you have done it?

Cretu said...

i say for you to be able to make a comment on what is harder you should understand all mathematics and physics, taken the highest mark on all exams and make something never made before - then you can say what you want! till then engineering is the hardest there is! memory is for stupid people!

Anonymous said...

I am ina big dilemma... right now i am doing my 10.. i ahve got computer,physics, chemistry, maths stream for 11. But i badly want biomaths.. and go for medicine.. but now my teachers,friends, and all have discouraged me from going for medicine.. and they say its a very tough life.. why take risk and all..
it was my dream from my very young age to become a doctor..i am someone.. who is good at memorising.. i am fine with maths of 10th.. but dont know about 11.. should i go for engineering.. or medicine.. i am reallyy confused at what decision to take further in my life.. can someone please help me out in deciding the best option.. :(

hari haran said...

Hello! Quantum Physics is the toughest subject in the World.I searched in all sites. They say it only. Hmmmm!!!!!!!! However this is not tough for intelligent people like Albert Einstein.

Anonymous said...

Hi ...can you tell me how did u prepare for entrance exam between ur work?

popeye12money said...

I am an electrical engineer, I have always struggled with the idea of whether or not I should have gone into medicine. I really respect and admire those who are in the medical field. I have heard that there is a lot of memorization in medical school, that was one of the things that discouraged me from studying medicine. I like to learn, understand and be able to derive or figure things out. That would be really frustrating for me having to rely solely on memorization, I have mad respect for those who have gone through such a rigorous curriculum. If I did not love math, physics, figuring out how things work and building things so much, I would love to have gone into medicine. However, there are times that I still struggle with regrets of not doing so.

Anonymous said...

Based on your article im beginning to think it would be easier for me to study medicine since its just simple recall as I understood.. And in recall theres not much thinking...the way you put it engineering seems tougher as theres a lot of mathematics.and thinking which is a lil or none in medicine . Thank you and