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Mammas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Doctors

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Do you know what happened to the last blog I posted? It went viral. In case you missed it, you can check it out here.

It was a wild ride for a few days. And most of the comments were awesome. But some just made me laugh, in an "Are you really going there?" sort of way. There was a bit of debate about which professions had it good, bad, and ugly. Which started me thinking about that ol' country song made famous by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys."

In that country classic, the talk is all about the hard life of a cowboy. As Ed and Patsy Bruce, the writers of the song, suggest, "Let 'em be doctors and lawyers and such."

Now, I love a good ol' country song as much as the next gal. Although you'll find my radio tuned to alternative rock most days, it's hard to get the Texas out of a girl who was born in Amarillo and did a lot of her medical training in Texas, where doctors have been known to wear cowboy boots in the operating room.

So, I hope y'all will pardon me for suggesting a new title for this song.

While doctoring may not involve the hard life of a cowboy, it certainly has its challenges. And those challenges are becoming even more apparent as our health care system changes.

The oft-held perception is of doctors living on easy street, "raking in the dough," and playing golf every Wednesday. Well, mammas, it's time to get real.

Don't let your babies grow up to be doctors if you want their lives to be cushy and problem-free.

Don't let your babies grow up to be doctors if you think they will always love their jobs.

Don't let your babies grow up to be doctors if you envision them having wonderful, high-end lives.

But, mammas, if you really love your babies -- and I'm sure you do -- here's what you need to know as you raise those youngsters:

Let 'em be doctors if you want them to be proud every day of what they can do to help other people, sometimes in small ways, sometimes in huge, life-saving ways.

Let 'em be doctors if you want them to know the deepest happiness of caring for someone, of being empathetic and truly altruistic.

Let 'em be doctors if you are willing to accept that they will sometimes be in the depths of despair: when they receive an awful prognosis for a patient; when they face the injustice of a system that will deny surgery for someone with cancer; when they endure the fatigue and hopelessness that can envelop them after several days of non-stop giving.

Let 'em be doctors if you know that your special child, your most precious one, can grow up and help guide us through the maddening maze of the medical system and find a way to unite patients and doctors, once again, to work together for healing.

Starla Fitch, M.D., is an oculoplastic surgeon and partner in practice in Atlanta. She is also the creator of, an online community for medical professionals who want to reconnect with their passion for the practice.

If you're in the medical profession and you want weekly insider tips and inspiration on how to "love medicine again," click here.

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