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Why med school?

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Polish medical degrees are transferable to the United States. Not a lot of people know that.

So why med school? From everything we’ve been hearing, it’s a bad time to be a doctor, and a worse time to go to school. According to the British Medical Journal, doctor satisfaction is at an all-time low; half of doctors say they wouldn’t even get into medicine again, starting over, down from 69% just a YEAR ago. That could just be some political grandstanding, but the reasons cited are specific to the increases in paperwork and the corresponding limits placed on actual patient interaction that drives dissatisfaction.

To make matters worse, even their salaries are falling, in some specialties by 10%. That’s especially troubling when you consider the fact that American medical schools can cost upwards of half a million dollars when all is said and done. Doctors in some states might not even make much more than high school teachers. It’s hard to look at those numbers and see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Med school is notoriously difficult. Law students like to think they have it rough, but they need three years of education, whereas med students are in for four years and a residency (3-7) and possibly a fellowship (1-4) and all of those years are likely going to require 80+ hour weeks of reading, studying, and preparing for exams and clinicals. So, why med school?

Poland

As I covered in my previous post about Poland, the two biggest draws are the fact that my wife’s family lives there, so we will have a lot of local support, and med school is far cheaper there than in the US. I will not face the massive student loan anchor that most American students do. If the kiddos get a little crazy, and the wife and I need a break, we will have aunts and uncles to watch them for a breather. That is my fortunate reality, and it is huge.

Finances

Debt aside, doctors still make pretty decent money. My family and I will be pretty much set for life once I get the ball rolling with my career. I have a few connections to physicians and hospitals in the States if I come back here for internships or residency, so I’m not worried about fighting for unwanted spots that don’t get me the benefits I want. It’s a good gig.

STEM

I love science and math. Sometimes it aggravates me to no end, and there have been times in discussions or debates where I want to throw books/objects or commit felonious assault to random strangers who don’t seem to get it, but overall, it’s my passion. I’ve tried a number of different jobs in the STEM fields, but none of them fully caught my attention. I have been working in the medical field in a part time capacity while exploring other options, and I’m now jumping in with both feet.

Status

What can I say? It feels good to feel important. I don’t plan on being one of those asshole doctors who parks a car he can barely afford in the handicapped space just to show everyone that he’s in charge, but I’d like people to know my name instead of being, “Hey you!” I also don’t mind steak dinners, decent wine, and traveling to interesting places, so it all ties in rather nicely.

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Why Poland?

Bottom line: med school. But I’ll cover that in my next post. For this post, I’ll just focus on Poland itself, and the benefits. I know what you might be thinking – if you’re whole reasoning is to go to med school in Poland, wouldn’t it make sense to explain, “Why med school?” Sure, that’s legit, but I have to start somewhere, and since this is Vikings in Poland, I’m starting with the great nation itself.

Family

My wife is Polish. She was born in the States, but has close ties to the old country (I never get to say that about my family, so I’ll say it about her), and has traveled back there to spend time with them frequently. She’s speaks native Polish (one of 5 languages fluently or better) and will be my essential lifeline in the foreign land we are invading this year. Depending on how various interviews go, we could be VERY close to a majority of her extended family, and I will have a great opportunity to spend time with native Polish intelligentsia, which could give me some excellent connections.

Finances

The average cost of med schools in the United States is somewhere around $45,000. This, of course, is after completing a specific bachelors degree and passing your MCAT entrance exams with reasonable scores. When all is said and done, becoming an MD in the States can run you right around half a million bucks if you’re going to private schools, or maybe half that (what a deal!) if you economize. You will be hobbled for years with student loan debt, and your options will be dictated to you based upon your ability to pay it back.

However, in Poland, the cost of a medical degree in classes taught in English runs you about $11,000 per year. The cost of living in Poland is a fraction of the cost of most places in the States. Also, you can opt for a 6-year MD degree without getting a bachelors, actually saving you two years of school. Even with conservative estimating, a Polish medical degree will cost you less than a third of what you will pay in the US, and you can still take the same boards and enter the same residency pools as any US medical school students for jobs in the States. On a side note, both of my wife’s parents are doctors (one a native born American, one not) in the US with degrees from Polish universities, so it can be done. I call that a win.

Freedom

America is the land of the free… right? But is it really? Taxes are on the rise, the government is cracking down on gun rights, and Obama is bombing foreign countries like he’s trying to prove he isn’t a Muslim. I’m not certain I want to be around for the blowback, and I sure don’t want to pay through the nose for the privilege.

I have always loved to travel, and have been to Eastern Europe a few times before. This will give me a chance to really see another part of the world (again) and will be a jumping off point to other parts of Europe, Asia, and maybe even Africa. It’s much easier to visit these awesome historical locations when I don’t have to pay $1500 per ticket to fly coach for 12 hours across an ocean each way. I’ll already be there! This is the opportunity for my wife and me and our budding family to explore the world and have the chance to do things most people only dream about. What’s not to like?

Caveats

So, there are a few thoughts about this that my wife pointed out to me. Before any of you readers out there go jumping at the bit and decide to move to Poland, realize that it’s going to be HARD. Polish is a notoriously difficult language to learn, and Poland is a very exclusive society. More than 99% of the population is ethnically Polish, and immigrants aren’t treated particularly well. I will be somewhat of an exception due my extreme whiteness and the fact that I’m married to a beautiful Polish woman with plenty of high ranking local connections. That said, you won’t get beaten in the street for having dark skin (like you would in Russia) but you won’t have a particularly easy time meeting people or generating fruitful relationships.

The bureaucracy in Poland is a hassle. Everything requires a stamp, or a letter, or a notary. Slackers need not apply. It takes WORK to live in Poland (or a trust fund). The social services are barely adequate, and people are expected to be taken care of by their families, so if you don’t have one, you’re pretty much on your own. The unprepared or unsupported immigrant in Poland soon finds themselves in a world of hurt.

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Pulling the trigger

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…

For one Viking family, the world is very much as Dickens portrayed. This desperate winter season hearkens a hopeful spring, when we will take to the waters like our forefathers and invade Poland with the promise of riches and valor to come. I suppose “take to the waters” might be a bit of hyperbole, as we’ll likely fly coach, but the sentiment remains.

The decision to transplant my family to another continent, to a nation with a foreign culture and language, was not a decision made lightly. Many factors led to this decision, starting years ago; decisions I made as far as my previous education, my wife’s family background, my experiences in the military, and the life my wife and I have lived since becoming one unit. I’ll break down my goals, my progress, and my reasoning that led me to where I am now, and share my experience and ideas with anyone interested in something like what I’m doing, or just interested in general.

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