The Socialization of Physicians
by Katelyn Santoro

One would think preparation of a medical profession would start in college as a Biology major, but not here at the University of Delaware. With the lack of a Premedical major, young eager students interested in the medical field are left at graduation without a clue of what they are getting themselves into. The workings of medical professions should be taught to eager “medical-set” minds, for it has a more significant purpose to their future careers than say…ecology. For these reasons, I believe the Medical Humanities minor offers vital information for students interested in medical profession, as it effected my decision not to enter medical school.

The required classes for the Medical Humanities minor have helped me in many ways. It help immensely throughout my interviewing process for graduate school; they asked what I knew about the new healthcare plan, and thanks to the Philosophy of Healthcare class, they had to cue me to stop talking. If the admission departments to medical related schools believe that knowledge of the field of medicine, besides science-based classes, has a major importance in determining acceptance, than maybe it should be a vital part of pre-medical education. But most importantly the knowledge acquired throughout this minor aided my decision into going into Physician’s Assistant school rather than Medical School, because of the process of the socialization of physicians.

Studies show that most students enter medical school because they have a general want “to help people”; and I was going to be one of those students (Cockerham 197). Then, while taking a class in the Sociology of Healthcare, I learned that because of the socialization of physicians throughout their clinical experience, those idealistic long-range perspectives were soon changed. Besides the responsibility to acquire knowledge in basic medical sciences and procedures, they are required to take on the ethics and morals that come along with medical practice. Studies show that a major principle learned throughout clinical experience is emotional detachment from patients. This results from the way medical students learn to view disease and death through scientific explanation rather than emotional connection. During the process of detaching emotionally from patients, it often leads to the physician depersonalizing them, in which the physician only looks at the patient’s condition or disease and does not reach social levels with them. Some students claimed that the depersonalization of the patients helped them focus more on learning of medical knowledge, instead of focusing on the social needs of the patient. Yet patients claim that this depersonalization does not allow the doctor to fully understand their condition, and also hinders the patient’s ability to understand their diagnosis. This depersonalization also allows physicians to handle the time constraints while handling large number of patients (Cockerham 199).

A study by Jagsi and Surender (2004) showed that resident doctors in a teaching hospital “spent little time asking patients about the impact of their illness on their lives, counseling patients about their health behavior, explaining why they were having certain tests done, or the meaning of their diagnosis” (Cockerham 200). Being a surgical patient once, and falling to the consequences of doctors’ hectic schedules and detachment, I would not want to choose a career that would take this route. I was left “in the dark” and was not adequately informed about specific procedures and tests, being a seventeen-year old about to undergo major spinal surgery. After much thought, I realized this was not what I wanted my life to become, as a result of rigorous clinical studies.Then, later in the Sociology textbook, I came across a career in the medical field that better suited my interests. A Physicians Assistant is a healthcare professional, licensed to practice medicine under the supervision of a practicing physician and handle routine medical procedures and problems (Cockerham 265). James Cawley (1985:79) explains, “There was the problem that physicians were often too unconcerned with the routine illnesses of many patients. [And they] tended to place little emphasis on important elements of primary care, such as counseling, patient education, and preventative service” (Cockerham 265). Here, the PA’s training could aid in patient care, because they can help in the social and preventative aspects of patient consultation, not just in medical diagnosis. Also, it is shown that PA’s spend most of their workday in direct-patient care, and less time with laboratory work (Cockerham 266). This was the deciding factor for me. With my love of medical science and the idealistic goal of wanting to “help people”, I learned that as a result of the socialization of physicians, my original goals will be tainted as rigorous training ensues.

It is from my experience and knowledge that the most common help that can be given to a patient is through basic medical care and diagnosis with time to counsel and explain on their certain condition or illness. With these goals in mind, I found that a career as a Physician’s Assistant would best suit my interests and goals as a medical practitioner. It was because of this knowledge obtained in my Medical Humanities minor, that I changed out of a career path that would have headed my abilities in the wrong direction. This knowledge should be encompassed in all Premedical studies, because it can alter others opinions of what lies ahead of them.


Cockerham, William C. Medical Sociology Tenth Edition. Pearson Prentice Hall. Uppersaddle River: 2007