Ironically for a profession in which most applicants cite humanitarian or altruistic reasons, the impact of practicing medicine – particularly in the developed world – is limited […] physician density is negatively correlated with burden of disease; the social determinants of health explain more of the variance in health outcomes than physician density; there are steeply diminishing returns between increases in physician density and decreases in burden of disease. Further, the ‘bottom line’ figures (which are likely optimistic) suggest an additional doctor adds four health years for every year they work. This is a lot less than can be accomplished through even modest donations to effective charities, and so suggests the ‘direct impact’ of medicine is pretty modest.


Medical Careers, 80,000 Hours,


2 thoughts on “Choosing an Impactful Career is Non-Obvious

  1. Thought-provoking!

    You can do something meaningful that isn’t impactful – meaning is intensely subjective. In practice, looking around me, I find that the people who are most in touch with their (subjective) meaning happen to be the most (objectively) impactful. It’s just that in terms of causality they didn’t set out to be impactful, they set out to find what’s authentic for them and impact worked itself in naturally.

    Setting out to be impactful irrespective of what resonates with one’s sense of meaning might not be the most satisfying or indeed impactful.


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