2nd try: should I do med? How did YOU know you wanted to?

Hey guys,

Okay I’m trying to delete my last post as it was way too long, and basically, here’s my situation: I graduated from an Ivy some years ago after doing stunningly average (low 3’s GPA, dropping courses like hot cakes, non science major), swearing off med, and am considering post bac. Do you relate to any of these-- like, how important a factor is hating chem and physics?

Also, how did you decide medicine was for you? Was there a tipping point, a rationale, or simply an intuitive knowing?

WHY MED: positives/upsides of the journey:

–I love bio and neuroscience

–I’ve often been told I have a gift for healing

–I like working with people and have a great ‘bedside manner’

–It’s intellectually challenging (I’ve also considered Ph.D in psych or MSW but I love the bio of med)

–The bottom line, unlike business, is not profit, but healing (or should be, ha)

–Job security

–Freedom to practice anywhere, including underserved communities or even in areas of rural poverty (eg, DWB trips abroad)

WHY NOT MED: negatives/downsides of the journey:

–Took Orgo in undergrad, hated most of it and dropped it twice

–Dislike physics and math

–Don’t like lab in general-- hate swishing around chemicals, seems pointless, measuring stuff, being in a cold lab

–Med school students are kind of competitive and neurotic (I speak for myself too, ha!)-- although, so are students in many ‘overachieving’ areas of life: law school, b school, etc.

–Soo much time

–My work ethic really needs to shape up if I’m going to be successful at this. Any tips on time management?

Thank you thank you!

Honestly, if you have doubts more than likely not for you. The only doubts I have have are in myself. Others chime in please.

I know where you’re coming from with a dislike of certain pre-reqs. When I considered pre-med as an undergrad, calculus and orgo took care of that ambition in a hurry.

But to make this journey work, at some point you have to realize that whatever pain may be associated with those pre-reqs, it is entirely worth it to become a physician.

If you aren’t there yet, don’t sweat it. Despite always knowing deep down that I wanted to be a doctor, it took me five years of undergrad, two years of business school and six years of work in software development to decide I was willing to put up with almost anything to make medicine a reality.

Bottom line: When you want to make this happen badly enough that you just don’t care how many courses stand in your way, you will have already answered your own questions.

James, thanks for your thoughts, and that’s fair. I guess what that makes me wonder is, how much is second guessing one’s interest in medicine a predictor of being a bad or miserable doctor? I’m inclined to say that everyone has bouts of indecision sometimes, but I suppose some more than others.

Verbal Currency-- thanks for your words, they’re inspiring. I guess the desire can be hidden, even to ourselves sometimes. Deep down, I feel like if I know 100 percent that this is what I want, I’ll have the perseverance to push through the prereqs and all the hurdles along the way. The trouble is that I’m so indecisive (I’m an INFP, Enneagram 4, if that means anything), and it’s very tempting for me to flit from major to major or field to field lured by greener pastures. I guess part of being an adult is learning how to navigate this.

healinghands -

Being an INFJ would be helpful but you can’t change that

Just as I (and INFJ - but only a little more J than P) have to cultivate my extroverted and thinking sides as complements to my introverted and feeling sides, you can cultivate your judging side (the healthcare needs to happen and I need to make it happen!) to complement your perceiving side (the healthcare system is broken).

Ok, enough Meyers-Briggs mumbo-jumbo! You will NEED some understanding of chemical reactions to understand drug metabolism and stucture. That’s about it. It’s a hoop. You have to jump thru it to get to MCAT’s. Got to learn it as well as possible. I’d suggest shadowing some doctors, and seeing if your attraction to medicine is truly a passion.


  • In reply to:
Honestly, if you have doubts more than likely not for you. The only doubts I have have are in myself. Others chime in please

Nah, it is human nature to have doubts. I think if you don't have doubts, perhaps you should do some more examining. It would be naïve to jump into any career without completing a risk assessment or considering the impetus for such.

Disliking certain prerequisites is not a predictor of how you will perform as a physician. Your study habits determine your grades, not your attraction or aversion to a particular course.

Interest in a particular subject may motivate you to spend more time studying, which in turn will affect your grade.

In my opinion, the prerequisites are designed to give a very broad, general science foundation.

Ideally, you are getting a narrow glimpse (very narrow) of the type of intense studying that will be needed for medical school.

As someone who got D’s my first trip through OChem 15 years ago, I was really freaked about taking them. I don’t know if it was my new perspective, motovation, maturity or better study skills but I got A’s in both classes, so don’t let your past perdict your future in that regard.

I agree that disliking the pre-reqs isn’t going to make you a bad physician or a physician who isn’t happy with the job. One of my best friends is an oncologist and was a chemistry major. I asked him for help with organic, and he looked at me with a blank stare. “Do you really think me capable of helping you with that? NO way do I remember any of that. Forgot it as quickly as I could, actually!”

Go hang out in a hospital in a volunteer role, or find a few doctors to shadow. Watch what they do all day… ask your questions as appropriate… if you have a bad taste for what you see THERE, then you may want to rethink it.

Thanks so much, you guys. Although you can’t really tell me what I should do, hearing what YOU have done is very helpful.

Shadowing doctors is a great idea-- I’ll definitely look into that. Cheers!

What do you mean by hate? Is it because these courses are difficult and you didn’t seem to get it the first time around? You may find that a few years may have changed your mind and perspective. I know it did for me. I would recommend taking one course at a time starting with organic chemistry. With time, you may find it rewarding to learn such a difficult subject. Remember, you got this!

Time Management? I prefer the do something every day approach. My attention span can be limited so I make a commitment to study every day, even if it’s only for 30 minutes. On the back of the Berkeley Review MCAT books, it states “If you study it, it will come”. Learning is all about persistence. You’ll be surprised how your brain absorbs material and makes connections even when you’re not actively studying.

Lastly, I think everyone’s a bit indecisive. But you need to take it one step at a time. Don’t psych yourself out by needlessly worrying about everything that needs to be done.

Your doubts are heartfelt. I think we all have them.

About shadowing a doc…try shadowing both a doc and a nurse in the ED. Do a night shift (19-07); you see a whole new world out there. Shadowing the doc is obvious; shadowing the nurse will help you see how decisions are carried out, the reason why things aren’t done quickly (IV’s on a dehydrated person are tough to get; some have veins buried deep or too much adipose tissue; pharmacy takes forever to send a med, pyxis breaks and you have to count EVERY med in one drawer; some just yell/demand that you be their personal nurse when you have two go to the OR within minutes and their family member needs to be on a bedpan NOW and go to the doctor to chew out the nurse; your hard-to-get blood draw hemolyzed and need a miracle to get a new speciman or put a foley in an overweight person who smacks at you while maintaining sterile procedure).

Shadowing both are important; the doc for obvious reasons and again, shadow the nurse to see how orders are carried out (your future decisions) and why sometimes things don’t run smoothly.

Leuschner4-- I guess ‘hate’ is a strong word , but yeah, it’s a combination of difficulty, and simply, going against the grain. Chem and physics have never been my strong suit but I think in undergrad my bad study habits just made these things seem insurmountable. I know procrastination and red bull didn’t help. I like the 30 minute studying commitment, and obviously I know sometimes I’ll have to study much more. Btw, do you think a slow start of 1/2 courses per semester is preferable to going full force to try and get all the recs out of the way as quickly as possible?

syr_eng2md-- I never thought about doing a nightshift or shadowing a nurse, the things you describe all sound pretty exciting. Sometimes I hear about people shadowing doctors for a day or two, and others racking up like 60 hours. How do I get the latter? Is one more common or expected (in terms of med schools)? I’m currently in between jobs and blessed with free time.

  • healinghands1 Said:
Also, how did you decide medicine was for you? Was there a tipping point, a rationale, or simply an intuitive knowing?

At the first OPM conference I attended, I asked several of the speakers and participants when did they know that they wanted to be a doctor. Virtually all of them had a epiphany moment. Sometimes they had a long background in medicine. Others never even a conscious inkling. I know in my case i could easily look back to the date and time where I literally nearly fell over in my chair when it hit me at at work on a tuesday morning some years ago.

As for doubts, there are many, many concerns but that if you believe that something is not possible before you try then you already have failed. Rule 10: Beware of FUD -- Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

If your are considering spending 10 or more years in training and effectively over half-million dollars in debt and lost income, then a few years part time in post-bacc is worth the investment. An informal post-bacc allows you to start with a course or two and work on being a student again.

Here are two presentations from past conferences that may be useful

Attached files 1334987054-Practical_Points_to_Prevent_Pitfalls_in_the_Premed.pdf (4.7 MB)Â 1334987203-Ten_Things_Every_Premed_Should_Know.pdf (3.6 MB)Â

I am but a neophyte on this journey myself. I am a strong believer that God, the Fates, whatever you call it in your life, puts you EXACTLY where you are supposed to be. All the planets lined up, and suddenly I KNEW!!

  1. Got hired by a community health center.

  2. Watched a psychiatrist send patient after patient into psychiatric crisis with extremely bad medication management - realized that after my many years in the field I knew more than he did. Thought, “If this jerk could get into med school, I certainly could.”

  3. Became a member of the National Health Service Corps and my 65,000 from grad school was magically paid off.

  4. Became a field instructor for a local university and began being “paid” in free college credits.

  5. All the excuses were gone. Kids were launched, living alone, plenty of time after work to study. No more looming student loans.

  6. Most of the psychiatrists I have worked with have said to me - “You should be a psychiatrist!”

  7. My current boss lit up and said he would flex my schedule so I could take one course each semester.

  8. Ouila!!Everything aligned and I said to myself, “God put everything in place - must be he wants me to be a doctor!”

  9. Began post-bacc - one course at a time. Takcled my deepest fear first ( I have dyscalculia) and am finishing my first course - in Calculus. Tutor, sat up front, studied HARD, never missed a class.

    I am on my Way!!! Don’t know if that answered your question, but it is how it happened for me.

(I never thought about doing a nightshift or shadowing a nurse, the things you describe all sound pretty exciting. Sometimes I hear about people shadowing doctors for a day or two, and others racking up like 60 hours. How do I get the latter? Is one more common or expected (in terms of med schools)? I’m currently in between jobs and blessed with free time)

Go to any local ED and ask the nurse manager if you can shadow a nurse for a couple of night shifts. Pick two to three different nurses because there are different personalities and each will bring a wealth of info to glean from. Reason why I say shadow an RN in an ED is because you see first hand HOW orders are carried out. Also, you get to see how some patients are just down right impossible to please. They gripe, moan and groan, want pain relief NOW at the same time a trauma comes in and cannot understand that the trauma gets first attention when they’ve been there waiting, hitting that call light endlessly. Then follow the ED doc for a couple nights and see how orders are made, why getting doctor “so-and-so” at 2 a.m. isn’t as easy as picking up the phone to get admission orders, etc.

I’d go to the ED during your free time and get that holistic picture you need. I wish you could follow me around; I was slapped in the arm this morning by a patient when I was trying to figure out if they had flank pain or lower back pain (meaning two different things with two different treatments), all while the “friend” is over my shoulder literally in my bubble space, demanding I get pain relief NOW; another told me our service “stunk to high heaven” because they had to wait forever; on and on it goes.

You guys are awesome! (More supportive than SDN by leaps and bounds, by the way.)

Gonnif, those two PDFs were amongst the most helpful things I’ve read so far!

Vicki- That’s really inspiring, and I think tackling the hardest course first is totally right on. Good luck to you, you’re going strong!!

Leuschner-- Do you think I’d have better luck at a hospital system or one of those emergency ERs? I called the hospital where I volunteered in HS and they gave me some kindly worded BS about fear of litigation. I’ll keep calling around, but any tips would be great too. : )

  • healinghands1 Said:
You guys are awesome! (More supportive than SDN by leaps and bounds, by the way.)

Thanks, we try. I was over there earlier this evening on non-traditional forum and some thread looking for inspiration in this journey degenerated into a religious argument that the moderator finally closed the thread. In my time over the past several years on OPM, I think I have stopped two threads and have only ever banned one user. I think the the mostly self-moderating conversations do well, as they should be for adults.
  • In reply to:
I think the the mostly self-moderating conversations do well, as they should be for adults.

Indeed. Unfortunately, age does not necessarily grant an individual "adult" status. Kudos to the 99.99% of individuals on OPM that are capable of having an adult conversation; avoiding infantile behavior.

I think these are all good thoughts. So tackling the first: everyone has the fear and doubts -the question is the overall journey worth it in the end? Only you are going to be answer that for yourself. I had started out premed at 17, got very sidetracked with life etc, and found myself in my late twenties working in a large finanical corp. Unhappy, a co worker and I decided to go to a MCAT seminal by Kaplan…we left and I thought this is still a possibilty and he said - I m going to nursing school. I became a doc and he became a nurse.

I spent time figuring out how to make myself competitive, volunteering, retaking classes, and trying to decide if it is was worth it…and one day I had that epiphany- it wasn’t a particulary bad day at work, but I was mulling over if I was doing the right thing as I walked out. I was about to swipe my card and it just hit me-like a brick wall. I have never looked back. Now, Even on my worst day in medicine I am still more content than on my better days in corporate.

You absolutly need to shadow. First you need to see the good, bad, and ugly of medicine so you can make a decision for yourself if this is right for you. Second, if you decide to go down this path then you need the clinical experience for your application. I volunteered through a local hospital in the ER- every saturday night 8-midnight. I also voluteered at a local clinic for underserved. I also did Big Brothers Big Sisters.

I would say following people in different roles at the hospital is good. you should also, since you said you had the time, try seeing medicine in different areas; hospital/floor medicine vs. Emergency vs. urgent care vs outpatient/private practice. Acute versus chronic, resources vs no resources. All of these make practicing medicine very different. You may find you love private practice and hate hospital medicine or vice versa.

I hope you make it to the conference…I started coming at the very beginning of this journey and would not of made it this far with the support of and knoweldge I got there.