Ask A Scientist

How can I make my dreams come true?

Asked by: Rebecca Ruth Reynolds
School: Maine-Endwell Middle School
Grade: 6
Teacher: Kevin Wagstaff
Hobbies/Interests: Field and Ice Hockey, softball, most things that keep you healthy
Career Interest: Professional ice hockey player or a doctor

Answer from Michael A. Little

Distinguished professor of anthropology

Research area: Human adaptation to the environment
Ph.D. school: Pennsylvania State University
Family: Wife, Adrienne, and two grown children
Interests/hobbies: Swimming, choral singing, antique toys and books
Web page address:  

Dear Ms. Reynolds, you do not need a scientist to answer this question, but sometimes scientists can give practical and logical answers to questions like this because of their own experiences.  If your dreams are to be a professional hockey player or to be a medical doctor, then there are certain things that you can do to make it possible (but not certain) for you to reach these goals.  Let’s consider, first, professional ice hockey.  For men there must be several thousand professional players in North America and Europe.  For women there are fewer teams: the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) has six teams (one from Boston) and the Western Women’s Hockey League has several teams, each with 20 players per team.  As a result, there must be 200 or more professional women players and many more in other leagues. Yet if we take a ball-park (or hockey-rink) estimate, there may be a thousand or more professional women hockey players around the world.  Most hockey pros have been playing actively since early childhood and have what are known as “natural” athletic skills, so the competition for professional positions is quite intense.  And hockey players work very hard to maintain these skills.  

Let’s then consider medicine as a profession.  In the United States today there are about 800,000 physicians, which gives us about 2.3 medical doctors per 1000 people in the U.S.  This ranks us about 50th among nations around the world, so we are not bubbling over with doctors in our country.  Now just like ice hockey, becoming a physician requires hard work, talent, and certain skills.  Both require intense motivation and a willingness to sacrifice many things to achieve success.  Also, it is important to choose a profession in which you can make a living, but it is most important to be satisfied and happy with your profession, rather than attempting to become rich!

With all this considered, I would place my bet on the greater likelihood of your succeeding as a medical doctor.  Now if you decide to do this, you must work hard in school and learn as much as you can – take courses in science, mathematics, art, literature, music, history (and anthropology).  And you must try to do very well in your classes.  If you do well, you can be admitted to a medical school and you will be well on your way.  Plus…you can still play hockey for fun.

Last Updated: 3/1/17