The Sorting Hat – Which specialty should you take up?

-Written by Dr. Raviteja Innamuri, Consultant Psychiatrist, Ananda Mind Care, Nizamabad, Telangana

Perhaps one of the biggest, challenging, and irreversible decision that every doctor must make in their long-drawn careers – which specialty do I take up? Even choosing a spouse seems easier. A decision on specialty is usually what the doctor identifies himself with and sticks to until his last breath. And therefore, to be making this choice among the many choices after a minimal exposure during the short compulsory one year internship is a hard decision for many. In the past and even today, this choice is simply made based solely on the rank/marks of the MBBS graduate in the competitive exams. However, we are now realizing that this approach may lead to ‘burn out’ and various other psychological issues in doctors and its inevitable effects on the patients as well. Therefore, there is increasing emphasis on choosing the right specialty like in the west (which fortunately provide several resources to students to be able to make this choice).

In writing this article, I reflect on my own challenging journey of taking up psychiatry for postgraduation (PG) being born to surgeon parents, who own a surgical center and having joined MBBS wanting to be a surgeon in the first place! When the 23-year-old MBBS graduate Dr. Raviteja had to decide, I believe he carefully considered the various options and reflected on the various incidents that influenced his life regarding making the choice of PG.

  • One of the earliest incidents that had an impact on me was during final year MBBS when I traveled to Cairo to present my ICMR STS research project findings. I remember vividly the story of a vascular surgeon in Aim Sham university who decided to purse interventional surgery with the use of radiological techniques while his other friends pursued other interests. Little did he know that few years into the future, minimal access interventional procedures would change the landscape of every specialty. Luck is when preparation meet opportunity, isn’t it.
  • Immediately following my graduation, my parents tried their best to guide me regarding the ‘best specialty’ but in vain. My father then took me to his best friend who has become a stalwart of urology. To my father’s surprise, he suggested that I should aim for gastroenterology (that his son his currently pursuing in the US) instead of urology that is currently saturated. I realized that the best branch today may not still be the best branch a decade later when I will be in the peak of my career.
  • I realized that no subject is the best and one must find their best fit. Most importantly, the most successful postgraduate specialty is determined by the ongoing research in the research and development department and their results in the next decade, if and when they are successful with the new drug or technology, if and when that invention/discovery may revolutionize/ change the practice of the given specialty.

In my then research and understanding, oncology and neurosciences were waiting for the biggest breakthroughs. I was passionate about neurosciences with a spectacular interest in psychology and hence psychiatry was my choice. More interestingly, this final decision came out a table made with the help of my MBA cousin which till date I look to if I wanted to remind myself why I decided to pursue psychiatry. This is the same table along with a few questionnaires that we have used for our one-to-one counselling sessions at LexiMeet 2022 career counseling sessions! So, what are you waiting for? Fill your options and crack the case! I am happy with mine!

Name of the specialtyInterest
(out of 5)
Resources to excel (out of 5)Skill/ talent (out of 5)Research potential (out of 5)

p.s. Link to the How to Choose a Medical Specialty based on the book by Anita D Taylor-

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