Being a doctor is synonymous with making a lot of money. And while it’s true that physicians earn more than most people, there is a big range across specialties. Orthopedic doctors are among the highest paid and pediatricians are at the lower end.
For Cheney Fenn, a second-year medical student at the Georgia Health Sciences University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership, medicine is not about “show me the money” – it’s about making a difference. Her love of children and her quest for personal happiness have steered her toward pediatrics.
“I have always loved children; I think they are so innocent and honest – they will never have a problem telling you exactly what is hurting them,” said Fenn.
In Georgia, the reality is that children in pain can’t always get care when they need it. A parent who has a sick kid on Monday morning may call the pediatrician, whose office is 30 miles away, only to discover that there is no opening until Wednesday.
This is the reality of pediatric care in Georgia, where there are nearly 2,000 children per pediatrician, which is above the national average of 1,750. There simply aren’t enough Fenns out there.
Thanks to increasing tuition rates for medical school, large medical education debt and the changing economics of health care, many students now lean toward higher-paid specialties such as orthopedics, urology and cardiology. As a consequence, fewer med students are seeking training in adult primary care, pediatrics, and other lower-paid fields. But Fenn has a different way of looking at it
“It is important for all people to use their innate talents and share them with society, and mine is caring for children,” said Fenn.
Growing up, Fenn was the little girl who always had a doll in one hand and crayons in the other. By the second grade she had landed her first babysitting job: watching two-year-old twins while the children’s mom did chores around the house. She has worked with children ever since and never outgrown the urge to help those who are most vulnerable.
“In both high school and college I was a summer camp counselor for children with incarcerated parents. I provided the children a “worry-free” environment and gave them a sense of security,” said Fenn.
Fenn is only a second-year student now, and she understands that she will face many tough choices in the years ahead. Guiding those decisions will be her resolve to balance work and life.
“I would rather have more time with my family and friends than make a lot money and have no time for family and friends,” said Fenn.
As baby boomer pediatricians retire and the Millennials begin rearing children, they will probably have to travel further to see a pediatrician, they’ll spend more time in the waiting room and less time with their physician.
But for one lucky community, where Fenn sets up practice, there will be a different story to tell.