Why Am I Wearing a Suit?

I write this as I sit in “Mammalian Physiology,” wondering why I find myself preparing for a consulting interview. Our professor just showed us a new biotech development, one that connects a mechanical arm to the somatosensory cortex — a beautiful medical development that elicited starry-eyed astonishment from everyone in the class, myself included.

If it’s so clear to me that I love medicine, why am I wearing a suit?

Everyone knows at least one person at Georgetown who is pre-med, and if not, at least one person who started out pre-med. Everyone knows, then, that it is likely the university’s most rigorous academic path (I took accounting — I don’t want to hear it, MSB). The science departments are not bad — the professors genuinely do the best they can — the curriculum is just hard, as it ought to be.

Georgetown’s undergraduate acceptance rate to medical school hovers around 90 percent, a staggering figure considering that virtually all U.S. medical schools accept less than 5 percent of applicants. Are we really that smart, or is something else going on?

What looks impressive on the surface has a more sobering story underneath. Georgetown achieves this prized statistic by weeding people off the pre-med track, slowly but surely. Does the College really need to require 38 courses, when pre-meds could achieve 120 credits with far fewer classes (given all the labs we take)? Is it absolutely necessary that so many people fail every exam in “Organic Chemistry?” Perhaps these are just questions of merit — the tough doctor attitude: If you cannot handle this, you cannot handle medical school.

The more prominent problem, to me, happens behind the closed doors of a few deans’ offices. I have numerous friends who were quietly advised — not through force, but through subtle suggestion — to drop pre-med and look at other options. More directly, students are compelled to seek a recommendation from the pre-med committee as they apply to medical schools.

The committee responds in one of five ways: highest recommended, highly recommended, recommended, recommended with reservation or they do not send a recommendation at all. But should Georgetown really make anyone show up to a medical school interview empty-handed and have to explain why their own school does not think they should be a doctor?

I understand the concern. By recommending everyone, the school may dilute the importance of its praise; but are four degrees of recommendation insufficient to this end? Even if those non-recommended students are not optimal candidates, the role of the university should be in facilitating its students’ dreams, not in actively crushing them.

This is not an indictment on the administration; most elite schools will weed students out. There is, however, something peculiarly difficult about being pre-med at Georgetown. The glorification of finance and consulting seeps into every crevice of this school, and over four years, gradually into our own veins.

It’s your roommate’s copy of the Wall Street Journal on the dining table every morning. It’s conversation fodder, at parties or at clubs, where so many jokes revolve around market-sizing Natural Light or the potential leveraged buyout of another club. It’s the walk down glamorous M Street, even just to get Chipotle. It’s partying in townhouses worth millions of dollars. It’s knowing that most of your friends will be in New York next year. It’s all of Hoya Career Connection. And it’s that almost-tangible dismissal in the first month of senior year, when people ask what you did over the summer and you respond with “MCAT” rather than “Goldman Sachs.”

My father was a physician, as was his father. Growing up, I remember sitting around the Christmas tree listening to stories of heroic resuscitations and anxiously awaiting my chance to live this life.

After four years, however, Georgetown’s infectious white-collar culture has a way of idealizing a different set of dreams. When I imagine myself in one year, the idea — a nice apartment in New York, happy hour with friends, vacationing all over the world — is inescapably alluring. But when I think of myself in 30 years, the idea of being in business makes me cringe and the idea of being in a hospital makes me giddy.

So I ask myself once again: if I know I love medicine, why am I wearing a suit?


Josh Puthumana is a senior in the College.

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  1. “It is conversation fodder, at parties or at clubs, where so many jokes revolve around market-sizing Natural Light or the potential leveraged buyout of another club.”

    Most of my friends and I are going into consulting too, but I don’t think we’ve ever been *that* nerdy about it…

    “It is the walk down glamorous M Street, even just to get Chipotle. It is partying in townhouses worth millions of dollars.”

    DC’s money doesn’t really come from finance; it’s law and lobbying, mostly. I also really don’t like this pervasive idea that just because Georgetown’s in a nice area we should be ashamed of that, or that every time we walk to get Chipotle we should suddenly be hyper-conscious of our #privilege. The fact that Georgetown is in a beautiful, safe area with lots to do around campus was a huge selling point for me when looking at colleges (compare Georgetown to New Haven, Baltimore, the South Side of Chicago, West Philly, etc…). To suggest that being in a nice neighborhood here in DC ought to be a constant subtle reminder of why we should all go into finance is a little odd, but even if that is the case I much prefer it to the experiences my friends have had getting mugged and burglarized at Penn and Yale.

    “It is knowing that most of your friends will be in New York next year.”

    Don’t ~70% of Georgetown grads stay in DC?

    Anyway, it sounds like you should go to med school. Don’t worry, it’s not like you won’t be able to afford that NYC apartment and those vacations – you’ll just have to wait a few more years. Don’t chain yourself to finance or consulting if you know at the outset that it’s not for you, and especially if you know you love another (also lucrative) career path. Since it sounds like making lots of money is one of your biggest concerns, rest assured that doctors make plenty of money – perhaps not as much as investment bankers, but at least as much as consultants. Ultimately, doing something you enjoy for the next 40+ years has a tremendous value on its own.

  2. you’re wearing a suit because you’re not confident that you’ll get into med school or med school is for you, and deep down inside you’re yuppy scum. If you must, at least don’t come to New York to be yuppie scum, there are enough gtown grads on that track.

  3. Josh Puthumana says:

    Thanks for such a thoughtful consideration of the article. You have a lot of good points, but I’ll try to explain some of my ideas.
    In terms of the jokes, I didn’t mean that every joke is about business, but in my experience the terminology (like LBO) comes up more often — so becomes more relevant to know — in casual conversation.
    In terms of the affluence of Georgetown, it was more about a general culture that shows us how nice it is to have money, and how nice it would be to continue to live in a similarly nice area after graduation.
    I’m sure your statistic about Georgetown grads in DC is accurate, but being an opinion piece, the New York focus has just been my subjective observation (which is inevitably going to be skewed by the company I keep).

    I do appreciate the advice, and you’re right, med school is what I’ve chosen. Just thought I’d share a decision I struggled with for the past two or so years.

  4. To preface, I went through the Georgetown pre-med process not too many years ago, actually a did a stint in consulting for a while and now I’ll be finishing up medical school next year. Josh is right. Being a pre-med is really, really hard. The problem is, training to be a physician is about 10x harder, so making sure people are up for the challenge is a very real, though unfortunate, part of the journey to medicine.

    So, after going through the grinder myself, watching people enter medical school underprepared for the academic/psychological rigor, and understanding the dedication needed for 7-12 years of training AFTER undergraduate…. I actually agree with Georgetown’s pre-med system. My deans were encouraging when they could be, and real when they needed to be, because at the end of the day the sad truth is that not everyone who wants to be a doctor can be a doctor.

    Now, this is all just about the academic piece of the pre-med program. Personally, I was happy to be exposed to consulting/banking etc, because I don’t think I would have gotten to explore that area (which I really love), if I had gone to a school hyper-focused on basic sciences. Seems like you should change out of the suit ;-)

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