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10 Reasons to Think Twice Before Throwing Away Your White Coat


Yes, there are many reasons why doctors have the potential to make great entrepreneurs, but clinicians should think twice before shoving the white coat.

Physician entrepreneurship is getting more traction for many reasons. The opportunities presented by changes are immense. The potential to do well by doing good is big. Some physicians are disenchanted with clinical medicine and are looking to use their talents elsewhere and the ability to start a business using Internet technologies has never been easier.

But, as we all know, the grass is never that much greener. Particularly in sick-care, entrepreneurial failure is the norm and biomedical and health startups have claimed many marriages and personal health as their victims.

Yes, there are many reasons why doctors have the potential to make great entrepreneurs, but clinicians should think twice before shoving the white coat:

1. Most doctors don't have an entrepreneurial mindset.

2. Doctors are trained to be risk averse.

3. Doctors are more interested in being problem solvers than problem seekers.

4. Doctors tend to be unidimensional, unwilling to expand their networks beyond an inner circle.

5. The culture of academic medicine, where almost all doctors are trained, tends to be anti-entrepreneurial and sees "money as dirty"

6. The ethics of medicine frequently are at odds with the perceived ethics of business.

7. While things are changing, most doctors are independently minded and not team players.

8. Some doctors are "know-it-alls" who are not receptive to new ideas

9. Doctors spend a lot of time, money, and effort becoming doctors. The opportunity costs of leaving clinical medicine to pursue an entrepreneurial venture is high.

10. The cost to society of losing a clinician at a time when there is a predicted doctor shortage is high.

Despite rumors to the contrary and a vocal minority of disenchanted docs, the turnover rate for clinicians in the US has remained relatively stable at 6.5-7% and most doctors don't prematurely leave practice. The pipeline in filling with a record number of students who recently applied to the postgraduate training residency match and the number of applicants to medical schools continues to increase.

Whether you wear pinstripes, a hoodie, or a white coat depends on a lot of things. Be careful what you ask for.

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice