Dr. Kirsch: From lawyer to doctor?

June 19, 2020

Dr. Brandon Kirsch and Family

Brandon Kirsch became a lawyer by his mother’s decree. “I had to be a doctor or a lawyer because I was the first son,” Dr. Kirsch explained, “My mom insisted!”

While an undergraduate at the University of Western Ontario, Dr. Kirsch ran for city council promising tax cuts to promote economic growth, better garbage pick-up, and a cleaner river. “It was a landslide loss,” he says. He only got 442 votes. The experience inspired him though to pursue a law degree, and after graduation, Dr. Kirsch continued on at the University of Western Ontario for law school.

Dr. Kirsch loved law school. “You have a lot of independence, only one exam per semester, the cases are interesting, and I could play on my computer a lot during class,” he said. Dr. Kirsch went on to complete a Master of Laws in Securities and Financial Regulation at Georgetown before accepting an offer at a top Canadian law firm, Davies, Ward, Phillips & Vineberg LLP. 

Dr. Kirsch enjoyed his year at the firm. He worked on two major deals, one for the world’s largest gold producer. It was the 5th largest deal in Canada, and Dr. Kirsch got his name in the paper for working on it. His success at Davies Ward soon led to a position at Shearman & Sterling LLP, a New York-based law firm, that was seeking an associate to work in its Asian and European capital markets group in London.

However, a few months after starting work for Shearman, Dr. Kirsch began to realize that he did not covet the position of his bosses. “I didn’t see myself in 10 years being a lawyer at a firm, one of these guys with a belly, a suit, and a Jaguar. That wasn't me.” he said.

Dr. Kirsch had also realized that he didn’t love the law, he just liked it, since he never read about it in his free time. He felt that if he didn’t really love his career, he’d never reach his potential. “It’s like having a girlfriend who is awesome, but just not the person you’re meant to be with your whole life. I could have made it through being a lawyer and not gotten divorced, but it wouldn't have been fantastic. Instead I decided to double down and go for fantastic.” 

Fantastic, for Dr. Kirsch, meant becoming a doctor. The epiphany came when he heard of a huge lottery jackpot and started thinking what he would do with such a sum. “What would I do? Retire in Hawaii or Tahiti? No, I could do that for about two weeks, then I’d want to do something meaningful and important that was interesting to me. I would become a doctor. And then I realized: I don't need all the money in the world to do that.”

But what about the job he had worked so hard for? Dr. Kirsch equated his career transition to destroying a Lego city. “When I was a kid, I had a set of blocks and would build intricate fortresses and castles. But the point of having blocks isn’t to build a beautiful structure. As soon as you build it, you have to destroy it. I called my mom and said, ‘Remember when I did this with the blocks? I’m quitting law and becoming a doctor.’ And she said it was the best idea I’d ever had.”

Once he realized he wanted to go to medical school, he never looked back or questioned it. “It's the biggest privilege there is. There is nothing I’d rather do.  If I could do anything: be a professional tennis player or be LeBron James, I’d rather be a doctor. You could put me on a lie detector. I think that was what I was meant to be,” he said.

His only doubt was fear that he wouldn’t make it to medical school, since he “hadn’t taken science since grade 10, and couldn’t do long division,” but that hardly gave him pause. Dr. Kirsch made up his mind and never looked back. “I didn't ask anyone’s opinion. A lot of my friends thought I was crazy because I had so much going for me. I didn't try to explain myself to people.”

Dr. Kirsch enrolled in a post-baccalaureate program at the University of Pennsylvania at age 26, and at Brown Medical School two years later. He has totally devoted himself to medicine since, reporting that he probably works as many hours as he did at the law firm, but that he loves it. “My first day in anatomy lab I had my arms in this lady’s thorax, and I couldn’t believe I got to do something so amazing. All my friends were at their offices, and I was living the dream. How many people get to do this?  It's the best job in the world. It’s unbelievably stimulating intellectually, and so challenging. It's a cliché, but what’s a better feeling than helping sick people?”

In retrospect, Dr. Kirsch regrets nothing. He believes he has a great deal to contribute to society through medicine. “I’ve had bad experiences and heard bad stories of doctors who were hurried and rushed, missed the diagnosis, and weren’t sympathetic at all. I think the world could use another doctor who takes his time.” Dr. Kirsch has even donated his body to the anatomical gift program at Brown. “I’m going to tattoo little tips like where to find some difficult muscles and maybe a joke or two.” he said.

Although originally from Canada, Dr. Kirsch has always dreamed of opening a private practice in Florida, and purchasing an orange grove. “I love America. It's the land of freedom and opportunity. You can reinvent yourself anytime, anywhere.” 

Over the course of months, Dr. Kirsch and his wife Brittany drove up and down both coasts of Florida to find the perfect place. It is a beautiful state with many outstanding communities. To decide they counted to three and blurted out their favorite choice. Simultaneously, both of them said Naples. In the end, it was an easy choice, “Naples is paradise to us.”