I’m a doctor, I don’t practice, and it’s okay

Thursday, June 16, 2016 Stef dela Cruz, MD 2 Comments

Is it your first time to visit my blog? Welcome! My name is Stef and I’m a doctor.

I studied medicine, graduated with Latin honors from the University of Santo Tomas, and passed the physicians’ board exams. No, I don’t currently practice medicine. Yes, I used to.

I now write for a living. You’re probably thinking, “What a waste! You studied medicine for nothing! And you’re an honor graduate, to boot! Que horror!

non-practicing doctorIt’s such a common sentiment among doctors who chose nonclinical careers that it should be on a shirt. (Thanks to my fellow doctor-writer, Aidz, for this idea.)

I bet you’re clucking your tongue and shaking your head like some telenovela villain, too, and I don’t blame you. Here, let me share with you a common scenario in my ten-or-so years of life as a writer:

New Acquaintance: Oh, so you’re a doctor? What’s your specialization? (smiles broadly)
Me: I didn’t specialize. (smiles)
New Acquaintance: (raises brow) Ah. Where do you practice, then?
Me: I don’t practice anymore. I’m a writer now.
New Acquaintance: (frowns) Really? Sayang naman ang pinag-aralan mo.

At that point of the conversation, a really nasty part of me is generally tempted to say, “Considering what you think of writers and how shortsighted you obviously are, mas sayang ang pinag-aralan mo.”

Of course, I say nothing of the sort. I smile instead and change the topic, choosing to be kind than to be right.

After all, the better, more understanding part of me knows it is normal for people to reject the unorthodox.

We often want the world to be safe and predictable. Anything that isn’t cookie-cutter – anything that does not meet our expectations – is an unwelcome outlier that threatens our peace of mind.


I’m not alone

Perhaps you’ve met other people with a story similar to mine. Perhaps you’ve met other doctors who chose to pursue a different profession.

You see, I’m not alone. There are many more of us, some of whom I’ve met because they’re writers, too. (Kaway-kaway to my fellow doctor-writers!)

Just like me, they’re used to being criticized for their decisions. They’ve learned to smile through the veiled insults they’ve received (“not everyone can cut it and that’s okay” or “it’s great that your parents aren’t disappointed in you”).

I’ve always wondered what I could do to make their (correction: our) lives a little less of a threat to others. I never thought that to do so, I would have to turn to the very reason I left medicine: writing.

Thus, I share with you the eventual upshot of all this – it’s an article that every doctor out there, practicing or otherwise, should read for educational purposes:

Four myths about the non-practicing doctor
(including the ever-popular
“your education has gone to waste” feedback)


Check it out and tell me what you think.

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a vegan doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She is the editor of The Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene Magazine. Get in touch if you want to invite her as a speaker!


  1. Hi doc! It's early in the morning. I went online just to check the status of my blog when I stumbled upon your site and now I couldn't stop reading. I passed the board exam last year. Been trying to look for a residency but none of them excite me as much as writing. I write in my blog even though I think I don't have loyal followers. Sometimes I think I don't want to go to residency anymore. But my parents will surely be disappointed. They've already talked to me about it. So now I'm LOST career-wise. But I'm positive that I'm gonna be okay. I just felt relieved knowing that I am not alone. Thanks to your blog. God bless!

    1. Hello, Sheen! I'm glad this blog post touched you. It's the goal, after all.

      One day, you'll figure it all out. It requires a little bit of painful honesty (what do you REALLY want to do?), but when you finally accept what your heart is telling you, it will get easier.

      Correction: Even if it gets harder, it will feel easier.

      Stay in touch - I'm on Instagram. I love hearing from people who connect with me. Thanks again for dropping by (and leaving comments all over my blog)! <3