DEAR DR. ROACH: My 7-year-old grandson has a question: "How can I be a science doctor like you? Thank you, Colton Fancher from Florida" -- C.F.
DEAR COLTON: Being a doctor is great -- I wouldn't change it for any other job -- but it isn't right for everyone. It's also a hard road that takes years of dedication.
The first part is the desire, and it sounds like you have that already.
You mention science, and science is the cornerstone of medical doctors' work. Clinical doctors like me (those who see patients) use science, but generally, we don't create science. Research doctors create science, and a few people have chosen to be both clinical doctors and scientists -- but only a very, very few are good at both.
Still, learning your science is something you can start now. But that doesn't just mean working hard in science classes at school. I'd suggest you get some books from your library about science and see what part of science you like. As you get older, you can participate in science clubs and fairs. Colleges, and eventually medical schools, like to see your interest in science. Participating outside of school is a powerful way of both showing your interest and helping you find out what you like.
All doctors have to be good communicators, so that means being a good writer and speaker. This is also a skill that takes practice. My English teachers inspired a love in me for reading and writing that continues. One of my high school English teachers reads my column (Hi, Shannon!), a fact of which I am proud.
Clinician doctors in particular should be good with people. That means being a good listener, showing respect and taking the time to really getting to know people. One of the best parts of being a doctor is getting to know many people and hearing them talk honestly about parts of themselves that they don't usually talk much about.
Do you like sports? Because being a good member of a team is increasingly important for doctors. You want to excel, of course, but you want to help your teammates excel as well. The dean of the medical school I went to, Joseph Ceithaml, was well-known for admitting those students who participated in team sports.
Medical schools also want to see people who are well-rounded, and that means acquiring other skills and passions outside of school and science. Playing a musical instrument, making art of whatever kind you like, and finding other ways to express yourself creatively all are important in becoming a well-rounded person. Reading for fun can lead you into many different worlds and inspire passions, and you will learn a great deal about people from reading histories, biographies and novels.
You might wonder where you find the time for all of this. It takes dedication, but it also means you make the most out of every day. Find worthwhile things to do. Academics, sure, as well as the other things I mentioned, but also develop close friendships. Try new things. And don't waste too much time with things that you don't enjoy and won't help you achieve your goal.
Dr. Keith Roach is a syndicated columnist.