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Student BMJ Student

Medical specialties—the reality and the myths

BMJ 2021; 374 doi: (Published 12 August 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;374:n1396
  1. Nikki Nabavi, editorial scholar, The BMJ
  1. nnabavi{at}

The stereotyping of specialties has historically been a form of professional banter between tribes in the medical community. Nikki Nabavi asks leading doctors about choosing their career paths

Stereotypes based on innocent ignorance

“I chose psychiatry after my placement at Guy’s Hospital, where I found the psychiatrists were interesting people, and engaged well with us medical students,” says Adrian James, consultant forensic psychiatrist and president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. “They loved their work and were fun too.

“Psychiatry is stereotyped as being unscientific and too casual, but nothing is further from the truth. The stereotype generally stems from innocent ignorance—fear of mental illness and the stigma that goes with it.

“My parents were a little disappointed. I was the first in my extended family to go to medical school and they thought I had squandered the opportunity. But they were lovely people and proud of my choice later.

“The psychiatric profession has long been seen as different. Many in wider society have thought it completely distinct from medicine and some other medical professionals have perceived it as an easy choice. However, this has changed in recent times as it is increasingly acknowledged that psychiatry is one of the most complex …

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