So you want to be a doctor? Maybe the prospect of having people call you Doctor excites and tingles you. In Zimbabwean culture a Doctor is considered to be the pinnacle of an academic career. The ultimate goal of years and years of hard work and academic excellence.

If you have just completed your O levels now is the best time to decide what you want to be and medicine is a noble profession. Becoming a doctor or having a career in medicine involves more than a desire though. There is a reason why all those people who wanted to be doctors and nurses in Primary school are not.

So what do you need to consider and know.

There are many kinds of doctors

While the general public calls them doctors not all doctors are alike. Dogs and lion cubs might look a little alike at birth but as time goes on they grow to be different things. The same applies with doctors, you might study the same subjects at A level and even a few years in college but ultimately you might take different paths. Here are some “doctors” and what they actually do:

  • GP-General Practitioner is your typical doctor who diagnoses and treats all kinds of illnesses. They are usually the first port of call when you get sick and go looking for a doctor.
  • Surgeon-these guys operate on people.
  • Neurosurgeon- brain doctor and related stuff
  • Cardio-something- means the doctor deals with your heart
  • Oncologist- cancer doctor
  • Dentist-guy who pulls out people’s teeth using a pliers or something
  • Veterinarian-guy who wanted to be a doctor but now treats animals
  • Dermatologist- skin guy who you call when you have pimples
  • Gynecologist- female issues doctor
  • Urologist– guy issues doctor
  • Pediatrician– kids doctor
  • Pharmacists- guy who sells pills

Lots of other doctors including Psychiatrists who cure people by talking to them. So medicine is a vast field.

You must love Biology

If you hate Biology like I do there is no chance of you becoming a doctor or a nurse. You have to like and excel in Biology because that is the core to every medicine related field. It will not be enough for you to get a B or C in Biology you have to get an A. Even if you find a medicine school that accepts you with your grade you will not do very well and might struggle to complete the course.

And Chemstry

While Biology is the core chemistry is the glue that holds everything together. Without it there is no medicine to talk about. It is as much as a cornerstone to medicine as Biology is. Life is a series of chemical reactions without which we die. So yeah you need chemstry

You will also need Maths

So what does Maths have to do with medicine? Well everything. The thing is Medicine is a Science and at the heart of every science there is Mathematics. It is unlikely you will get to use geometry much in medicine but topics like measurement and statistics are essential.

So what combination to you need to do?

From above it’s pretty obvious what you need. Maths, Biology and Chemistry at Advanced level are a must. Despite what some people will tell you, you don’t need four or more subjects to be a good doctor. You are free to do them but there aren’t going to make you better than these three. I am not calling it a waste of time but …

It takes years to graduate

No matter what medicine course you do you will end up spending years doing the course. You might want to consider if this is something you are up for. Typically it takes 7 years to become a GP and probably more to become a specialist. By comparison it only takes four years to get an honours degree. With ACCA you can get you degree in two years while working!

Be prepared to study far away or abroad

The two Universities that offer the medicine course NUST in Bulawayo and the University of Zimbabwe. There are a lot of colleges and universities for other courses in comparison. With medicine you might have to leave home and go on a far away city.

Another sad truth is that these two Universities often lack equipment, cling to outdated practices and are often far behind developed nations and cutting edge science. There is also the likelihood that you will encounter a lot of disruptions do to national problems such as elections and economic meltdown. The solution is to study abroad. Be prepared to go where the science is.