Nonclinical Careers

The reasons why MDs leave medicine and turn to nonclinical careers are as varied as the physicians themselves.

Some are veterans who are searching for that “something else” to satisfy their career goals. Others are entrepreneurial, eager to branch out into other areas where they can stretch themselves. Some are young parents trying to juggle career and home. And still others are disillusioned with the business side of being a doctor.

Law is a profession that, like medicine, requires years of expensive schooling and extensive mastery of skills and knowledge. But unlike doctors, lawyers tend to leverage all that knowledge they’ve packed into their heads to pursue varied, often lucrative, and sometimes more fulfilling work. Physicians tend to plug along on the traditional career path, whether the work is still satisfying or not.

A look at nonclinical paths

We spoke with a few entrepreneurial MDs who either branched out from the traditional path to pursue other interests or left their clinical practice entirely. We wanted to find out more about what career options are available to today’s physicians.

“I’ve always really enjoyed challenges,” says Dr. Julie Silver, an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School as well as Chief Editor of Books for Harvard Health Publications. “I like to have a steep learning curve and to take on new things. I always knew that I didn't want to just do one thing, and the great thing about medicine is that there are so many wonderful challenges that make for a fantastic career.”

And while Dr. Silver still sees patients, other physicians like Dr. Maria Simbra stepped away from medicine entirely.

“Shortly after entering medical school, I realized I had made a mistake,” says Dr. Simbra, a medical reporter for KDKA-TV News in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “But once you're in the medical education system, you can't get out – the powers that be reel you back in.”

Both MDs have created fulfilling careers around medicine, but their choices are very different.

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