How does a lay person become a doctor? How is a physician made? These questions have been central to work of medical sociologists for well over a half-century. Despite this abiding focus on socialization, nearly all of the literature on this process in the US is informed by studies of the medical school and residency years, with almost no empirical attention paid to the premedical years. Our study addresses this gap in knowledge. To better understand the premedical years we conducted 49 in-depth interviews with premedical students at a selective, public Midwestern university. We found that students understand and explain decisions made during the premedical years with narratives that emphasize the qualities of achievement-orientation, perseverance, and individualism. We also find that these qualities are also emphasized in narratives employed to account for the choice to collaborate with, or compete against, premedical peers. Examination of premedical narratives, and the qualities they emphasize, enriches our understanding of how premedical education shapes a physician's moral development, and underscores the need to include the premedical years in our accounts of "becoming a doctor."
Lin, K. Y., Anspach, R. R., Crawford, B., Parnami, S., Fuhrel-Forbis, A., & de Vries, R. G. (2014). What must I do to succeed?: Narratives from the US premedical experience. Social Science & Medicine, 119, 98-105. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.08.017