“What Shall I Do?”: Paid Employment for Mormon Girls, 1927
Agnes Lovendahl Stewart
The introduction to this series is posted here.
[IX.] – The Doctor
If you like to do difficult things that few others are able to do, you might choose to be a doctor.
It takes generous quantities of grit, and courage, and perseverance, and determination and stick-to-it-iveness for a man to become a doctor. And it takes all those fine qualities of character in double measure for a woman to become a doctor.
In the first place, you must make up your mind to sacrifice quite a number of the best years of your young life getting started. Before you can obtain a license to practice you must have received an M.D. degree at a recognized medical college, and have served at least one year in a hospital as interne.
To get the degree you will need at least four years in a good college for your B.S. degree and two years of post-graduate work for the M.D. Seven years of preparation before you can even make a beginning! Probably you will want to specialize in some particular line, perhaps become a baby specialist, and that will mean at least a year or two longer! It will take a great deal of money, for during several of those years you will have to live away from home. There are no schools in Utah from which you can obtain an M.D.
After you have successfully completed all of this work, you must pass the state examination for doctors before you will be permitted to practice in Utah. Other states have similar regulations.
The more worthwhile something is, the harder it is to obtain – isn’t that true?
To become a doctor, one must not only spend a great deal of time and money – one must also put in sleepless nights boring into ponderous books full of words I could never begin to understand. There is such a great, great deal to learn, before one dares attempt to grapple with disease and death. It is a very important mission!
But even after all the courses of study have been completed and the period of internship in the hospital served, and the necessary examinations passed, your troubles will not be over. In fact, you may think them just beginning.
You will be like a storekeeper who has a beautiful brand new shop, with plenty of stocks, and no customers. But the storekeeper can advertise for his customers, and medical ethics will not allow you to advertise for patients. If you did advertise, folks would think you must be a quack.
You must have plenty of confidence in yourself in order to inspire confidence in others. If possible it will be much better for you to have an office with older doctors who have already established a practice. It helps your own prestige while you go through the difficult beginning years.
Perhaps you have heard jokes about the young doctors just out of college driving round and round through the streets in their shiny new roadsters, hoping that people will think they are hurrying away to the bedside of a suffering patient. Those jokes have more than a little truth in them.
Doctors tell me that after the seven years or more of preparation are completed, it usually takes about seven more years for a doctor to build up a dependable, profitable practice. It is like Jacob who worked seven years for Rachel and got Leah, and then worked seven years more for Rachel because he loved her so. One must indeed love one’s profession to labor so long for success in it.
I said in the beginning that if the profession of medicine is difficult for a man, it is doubly so for a woman. I will explain why.
As you think of it yourself, you will realize that very few men would go to a woman physician. That is just human nature – it is the psychology of the thing, and there is no use denying its existence. And you will find that many women, in case of a serious illness, would not go to a woman doctor. They would not have confidence in her. That is human nature also. No matter how capable she might be, there would be a certain feeling of fear in case of operations or other serious illness.
The reason for this, I believe, is the fact that as yet only a few women, comparatively, have entered the profession of medicine. It is a new field for women, and it always takes the world quite a long period of time to get used to new ideas. As more and more women become successful in this line of work, people’s confidence in them will increase in proportion.
So if you become a doctor, you are being a true pioneer, and you are blazing the way so that more women may enter this profession with less difficulty. The first woman doctor of Chicago found it necessary to cut her hair short and wear trousers and suits like a man, in order to be successful!
Of course the great field for the woman physician at present is in the care of babies. It is her natural interest, and her love of little tots qualifies her better than any man can ever be qualified to study them and learn their needs.
And what a glorious work! To find little babies starving for proper nourishment, and give them the food they need! To take thin little weaklings and make them strong and healthy! To teach mothers in clinics how to care for their babies’ health! To find the pain that a tiny infant cannot tell you about, and cure it!
It is a work of greatness, and of inestimable benefit to humanity. It is a mission one could be very proud of, – a mission worthy of the effort which must be expended.