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When David Gould, 33, was growing up in St. Louis, his career fate seemed practically sealed. “I had known many older, satisfied physicians growing up,” both relatives and family friends, he said. “There were certainly a lot of people suggesting that medicine was a good field. You could have a tangible effect on those around you, it was a noble profession that was intellectually stimulating and provided autonomy and a good living.” Right after college, Gould entered Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, a prestigious, specialized, private school. “I went to medical school by default because I didn’t have a better idea.”
Medical school has been the default choice for young, smart Jewish kids for approximately 900 years. Yet, today, those same kids are finding that the profession is no longer the cushy, straight ride to respectability it once was. As malpractice insurance, HMO hassles and, especially, staggering student loan debt darken the skies for young doctors, the traditional cultural ties to the profession are weakening. The ultimate Jewish formula for success, handed down from generation to generation, has lost a great deal of its potency.