Practicing medicine and sports

Bruce Armon

Table of Contents

Practicing medicine and sports – Sharing many of the same themes

VINCE LOMBARDI ONCE SAID, “Football is like life: It requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.”

If you ever played or watched a football game, you have seen this scenario: It’s a playoff game’s fourth quarter, and your team is driving to the end zone. The offense needs to decide to run or pass; the defense is deciding whether to blitz or play zone; the crowd is screaming. The next play could be the most satisfying…or deflating. Before getting to that point in the game and the season, there is lots of preparation and analysis and careful consideration. In many respects, the decision for the next play is analogous to the process a physician goes through when deciding where to take their first or next job.

Summer training camp

This is the time when all the hard work happens. For a job-searching physician, this means thinking about the most important priorities for the prospective job and determining the potential deal-breakers.

Your priorities could include salary, bonus opportunities, promotional timelines and more. Don’t, however, make compensation the only priority, as money can’t buy happiness. There will always be someone who makes more money or gets a larger bonus.

Your deal-breakers could be the converse of your priorities — or entirely different themes. Deal-breakers could include location, on-call frequency or the inability to do extracurricular work.

Probably the most important issue for you to address during “training camp” and through the early part of the season is to develop or update your CV.

The early season games

Careful crafting of a CV can set you up for future success. You will likely write different CVs for different job opportunities. This is just like a head coach having a different game plan depending on the opponent.

If you’re looking to secure a job in an academic medical center, you’ll want to highlight your teaching, research and clinical skill sets and your active engagement in professional societies. If you’re more interested in a private practice setting, your CV may focus on your training, mentors and commitment to clinical excellence.

Getting to the post-season

In football, there is no guarantee that any team will make it to the post-season. Fortunately for physicians, demand exceeds supply. To help secure the best job, you’ll need to do well in your interviews. Just like in football, practice will make you a better candidate. Practice interviewing with a friend or mentor. It is better to be asked the tough or unexpected questions in the practice session first.

During the interviews, be prepared to discuss your priorities and deal-breakers. This is particularly important if you think the employer is a good fit and would like to advance to the next round. You’ll also be well-served to listen to the employer’s responses to your comments regarding the issues important for you to advance your career. Take note of the prospective employer’s responses.

The playoffs

At this point, for those teams who have advanced, the season really matters. The team is likely all-in to achieve the ultimate goal: the championship. For a physician, making the playoffs is equivalent to getting an offer of employment. Some employers use a letter of intent as the precursor to the actual employment agreement; others go directly to the proposed employment agreement. One method is not better than the other.

Ensure you understand each element in the agreement. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from a mentor, colleague or attorney if you need help deciphering.

Just like in the playoffs, the margin between winning and losing may come down to a single play or a handful of decisions. Every employer has their rationale for why an employment agreement is constructed in a certain manner. It could be based on prior outcomes or on anticipation of the future.

The championship

For a football player, winning the Big Game will be remembered for years to come. For a physician, the stakes are also high when the employer and physician agree to execute the employment agreement.

Before you accept a job — no matter what stage of your career—there is a lot of hard work that needs to occur first. Preparation and hard work— and a little bit of luck—will go a long way to ensuring professional success for both physicians — and quarterbacks. •



Bruce Armon

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