Coronavirus: Jacksonville medical student says COVID-19 pandemic reaffirmed decision to become a doctor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the desperate need for more doctors across the country.

The U.S. is expected to experience a shortage of up to 139,000 physicians by 2033, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

To fill the need, future doctors need to start training now.

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Nicolas Rubel is in his fourth and final year of medical school through the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine at the Jacksonville campus.

“I’m just excited to get started,” Rubel said.

He’ll graduate this May before beginning his medical residency at the University of Wisconsin, where he’ll be practicing emergency medicine.

“I’m looking forward to taking care of patients on a daily basis,” Rubel said.

Rubel said he didn’t know he wanted to be a doctor.

“I wasn’t that 8-year-old with a stethoscope around their neck,” Rubel said.

His career started as a firefighter paramedic with the Henderson Fire Department in Nevada, where he spent seven years. After that, he was an EMT in Los Angeles, California, for two years.

Taking care of patients is in his nature, and it’s what drew Rubel to pursue a career as a doctor.

For medical students like Rubel, the pandemic changed how they learned and practiced.

Rubel made it through the majority of his third year of medical school, which consists of clinical rotations when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

He said some of his coursework switched to online learning.

In June, Rubel started his fourth year and began a clinical rotation with an emergency department right as the pandemic was picking up steam.

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“It was interesting,” Rubel said. “The information was evolving every day.”

Rubel said the pandemic reaffirmed his decision to become a doctor.

“I’m very happy to be entering a system that says no matter what, we’re there,” Rubel said.