59 and considering Medical School

I came across this site just now. I wish I had seen this years ago. I always loved medicine, but was never able to get really serious about it. Life happened but the idea never left me. Now my kids are all grown up, etc. I am still considering. Does anyone out there think I am crazy at this stage?

Thank you,

You’re definitely crazy…but then so are about 95% of the people on this board!:slight_smile: I think I am certifiably so but that’s a whole different story.

Apart from jesting though, given your age you will need to think harder about making the commitment than the 30 and 40 yr olds on the board. Remember, it’s a marathon and once you’re in it your aim is the finish line and not the medic tents along the way (no pun intended). There are going to be plenty of times when you will want to throw in the towel, as I and others have experienced, and one of your most important pre-work tasks is to find out if you have the fortitude, commitment, and patience to stick things out!


It is great to see other people being “crazy.”

I guess that’s this sort of craziness that brings changes for good to this world.

When I went to the doctor last month and he said he’d not see me because I was 5 mins late (after years of waiting in doctors offices for more than an hour each visit), makes me think very hard that, I still I have a lot to contribute.

So perhaps that’s just what I am going to do. I gave it a long time for this idea to die but it continues to haunt me. So perhaps, that’s something I just have to do.

Yours are good works of encouragement.

thank you,

The purpose of this board has always been to dispel the ageism myth that older premedical applicants will have a less productive career because they won’t work as long as younger premedical applicants: This can’t be further from the truth when you consider cases like the late Michael Crichton who graduated from Harvard Medical School at 26 but never practice medicine and died at a fairly young age. I know personally five physicians who graduated from medical school at 26 who have left medicine entirely before reaching their late 30s. Like our Mary Renard says, this type of thinking is a groundless canard. When putting the canard to the test, it will probably show that younger medical school graduates are more likely to leave medicine sooner than their older counterparts because younger medical school graduates are less able from lack of life and work experiences to balance the stress, demands, and rigors of medicine than older medical school graduates. Also, I remember a study that showed the younger a medical school graduate was the more likely that physician would become a troubled physician who had succumbed to drugs, alcohol, and/or criminal activity in order to cope with the practice of medicine.

In your case, CharlesM you have the advantages that you won’t have the stresses of raising young children during medical training, you’ll most likely be more financially-able to become a physician, and you most like will be more financially-able (I’m assuming you’ll be collecting retirement and/or Social Security) to be a lowly paid primary care physician (a definite critical need because most of today’s medical school graduates go into the more lucrative specialties because of debt).

With that said, remember that age discrimination is illegal:

http://www2.ed.gov/policy/rights/guid/oc r/ageoverv…


Too many potentially older premeds mistakenly extrapolate the Age Discrimination Act exemptions that the military and closely-related military-related government departments (like law enforcement and air traffic control) have as being in medical school admissions. Even with its exemption from the Age Discrimination Act, the military has recently shown a change in its ageist thinking and has been waiving its upper age limit for posters on this board.

Poster Presse entered medical school at 52, poster Kate429 (and a CNM) is entering medical school at 53, poster Linda Wilson just finished medical school at 58. Poster sonata_op53 entered medical school at 53. Bill Conway entered medical school well into his 50s:


Here are some postings that can help you overcome ageist thinking:




I think too many older premeds sabotage themselves by being ashamed of their age. The corollary is also true in that I think many older premeds (especially nurses) sabotage themselves by being too arrogant about their age and experience. With the right attitude, great grades, great MCAT, great recommendations, et cetera, you should be a competitive candidate anywhere you want to apply.

As Dazed points out, ageism as a barrier to you is crumbling. What really matters is you: If you have the inner fortitude to withstand brutal medical training and the “serfdom” (as one physician called it) of medical practice? One-half of all physicians regret becoming physicians. You want to make sure you’ll be happy running in this marathon.

Hooray for you for exploring your lifelong desire to be a physician!

My story is both sad and hopeful, about the “ageist” thing.

When I was only 34-1/2 young, I wanted to enter the military’s medical school in Washington, DC and practice as a Navy doc, for patriotism’s call.

But at that time, all entering military officers (as a military medical student would be commissioned Navy Ensign or Army/AF 2nd Lt) had to be 35 or less, so that the person could finish their “20 years and out” by 55 years. Why? Simple bureaucratic non-think and quite arbitrary number, just tradition, picked out of a hat. After application processing, I would have entered at just over 35 years of age. Although I had four years of US federal government tenure work experience and I said I would waive the military’s 20-year fat pension, and use the fed civilian 30+ years pension plan instead… And althought I also had a Navy Admiral and physician, no less, advocating for me, the military and their med school would not even schedule an informational meeting with me! In fact, they wouldn’t even talk with me on the phone! “Just don’t bother even asking.”

Now the irony is that when I recently attended a military medicine recruiting conference, they said they have been taking 55 year old docs “off the street,” give them a commission and let them practice as long as they like! That puts the lie to the age-thing, doesn’t it?

I am inspired by the female Navy officer Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper who coined the term “bug” in old style computers (she discovered an actual moth fouling up a room-size super-computer!), who served proudly in leadership roles at the Pentagon on active duty until age 80, and as a fulltime paid consultant until age 85! In her 70’s She led the invention of one of the primary computer-independent programming languagesm COBOL which dominated computing for decades. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper But I digress… Back to medical school and practice…

There was a great article last year about a mid-west physician who was still practicing OB-GYN into his late 90’s, to the delight of his colleagues and many adoring patients.

We are all limited only by what we believe about ourselves. Believe in the moon, and jump over it!!

Congratulations on your decision to enter medicine. Please do not let your age dissuade you nor discourage you from pursuing your dream. Yes, there will be a lot naysayers who will try to shoot you down because they think that you are too old, but as long as you believe you are not that is all that matters.

The problem, of course, is that many of these naysayers are in positions of authority, power or competition, with regards to medical school admissions, e.g. they are on the admissions committees, they are other students competing for those same coveted acceptance slots, etc.

So what to do? As you have probably gleaned from reading other posts on this site, you need to:

  1. Justify to AdComms why you want to go into medicine at this late stage of life. You must be able to answer, “why medicine?, why now?”

  2. You need to get AdComms to pay attention to you and not dismiss you based on their belief that you may not be serious about medicine, again based on the question of why you are trying to enter the field at such a late age. Your grades and MCATs need to be great, if not good. Your personal statement needs to “come out from left field” (advice given to me by a former admissions director) and draw the reader in. The PS also needs to address, the “why medicine?, why now?” question.

  3. You also need to address, why not other allied fields, that have much shorter training and post-training times, e.g. nursing, physician assistant, in particular. One way to answer this question is to consider whether the type of medicine you want to do or where you want to practice require an MD/DO? For example, for the most part, surgery can only be done my MDs and DOs, although minor procedures can be done by nurse practitioners and PAs. If you want to work internationally, NPs and PAs are not recognized out the U.S., although they can and do work on short medical mission trips.

  4. You need to show that you can handle the rigors of a science-based education that throws a lot at you, the proverbial, “sipping water from a fire hydrant” analogy.

  5. You need to assure them that once you enter medicine you will not abandon the field too soon. When will you retire?

  6. Despite your best efforts, you need to prepare yourself for rejection, and be prepared to settle for less than what you want, especially in terms of where you want to attend medical school. Most U.S. schools are picky about one’s age, despite the fact that this pickiness is supposedly illegal. As one Admissions director told me as I was shopping around for information on my own chances as mid-40s applicant, “[Age] is not supposed to matter, but it does.” Most medical schools that I contacted (20 in all, not really representative), told me that I had a slim chance. But a few, more illustrious, Ivy League medical schools flat out told me that they would not accept me at all because I am much older than their typical age range – no matter how good my stats would be {and my stats are not that great, oh well}.

  7. Osteopathic medical schools are a great option for older applicants; they are more forgiving on aberrant grades and course retakes. Their residency matches are very good, and one can match into both DO and MD programs in many instances. If you want to practice internationally, some foreign countries do not recognize DO degrees or limit their scope of practice due to conflicts with other local “osteopaths” (not medical doctors in our sense, but more like chiropractors).

  8. If you are not set on going to a U.S. medical school, foreign medical schools are an option. Better known Caribbean medical schools such as Ross, St. George’s University, Saba, and American University of the Caribbean have good to great USMLE pass rates and good residency match rates, at least for the primary care, internal medicine areas of medicine. The Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara medical school in Guadalajara, Mexico, has an International Program geared towards foreigners, mostly Americans. But it requires you to learn Spanish and its USMLE pass rates are not very good. However, I do personally know 3 doctors who graduated from there and they are happy with their training.

  9. Given #6 above, some U.S. allopathic medical residencies won’t take many foreign-educated medical graduates or even some graduates of DO schools, even if they are U.S. citizens, because the demand from U.S. allopathic graduates is sufficient to fill all their available slots.

    Whatever you do, as long as you are certain this is what you want, then go for it. I hope that someday, as with race and gender, this country – indeed, this world – will reach a point where age is not an issue for anything that one wants to pursue. That day has not come yet. But people such as ourselves will help make that day come true, one career/profession at a time . . .

You may be, but you’re not the only one. I’m 52 and in my last year of pre-med. I’ve had cancer three times in the last 10 years and am currently 3 years into remission. I often ask myself similar questions. Will I live long enough to finish? To practice? Am I spending what could be the last years of my life jumping through hoops instead of making memories with my family and friends?

After my last diagnosis I all but gave up on my dream of being an MD. Embarking on a journey that would take me at least 6 years seemed presumptuous if not totally ridiculous for a woman so shell-shocked by cancer I couldn’t even book a non-refundable plane ticket. I had survived (again) and yet did not feel at all alive. I decided to try to pull myself out of the doldrums by going back to school to get a masters in Educational Technologies. It was only a two year program (so I thought I might actually live long enough to finish it.) But my heart wasn’t in it. I wanted medical knowledge. I wanted the feeling of accomplishment that comes from acheiving a life-long dream, and I wanted the hope of being able to practice one day.

While walking through the halls of the University I saw a poster with a quote on it. They were the right words at the right time. It said “Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs, is people who have come alive.”

You can’t possible know at this beginning whether or not you will be happy if you take the leap and decide to pursue an MD, but you do know, if you sit quietly and listen to your heart, whether you can ever be truly happy if you don’t.



  • JALT Said:

While walking through the halls of the University I saw a poster with a quote on it. They were the right words at the right time. It said "Don't ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs, is people who have come alive."

- Howard Thurman.

I think someone else on OPM has this as their profile signature!


Welcome to OPM.

One of the site’s administrators, gonnif, posted recently that there was a DO student - the oldest - who matriculated at 56, but this was someone who obviously had completed the pre-reqs and the MCAT and had their applications ready to go by age 55. You are already older than that now and will be much older if you have yet to jump through all these same hoops. I think as a matter of practicality, a reality check may be in order. Aside from how an adcom may perceive you, medical school is expensive. Even in the best case scenario, if you were to be accepted, would you have enough years in your remaining working lifetime to pay off your educational debt? You’ll be financing a post-bac + medical school. Then you will have to get through residency where you won’t be earning much and will probably be on an income-graduated type of student loan repayment plan or forebearence until you are earning your full potential after residency. If you go through a 2-yr post-bac + medical school + primary care residency and you start this process next year, you will be close to 70 years old before you start putting a dent in your debt. Medical school last year cost me $58,000 and that doesn’t include the additional money you’ll have to borrow to cover ordinary living expenses while going to school (e.g. rent, utilities, food, etc.). Multiply this by 4 and you’re looking at $300,000+ of debt that compounds interest daily during in-school deferments until after you graduate. Even if you went to a public school in your home state, you would still likely graduate with at least $150,000+ of debt. I hate to be the bucket of cold water, but this is the elephant in the room that few mention and it is something you will have to give serious consideration.

I’m all for people pursuing their passions and their dreams, but how do you see this playing out for you and what would like to see happen?

  • DrQuinn Said:
But at that time, all entering military officers (as a military medical student would be commissioned Navy Ensign or Army/AF 2nd Lt) had to be 35 or less, so that the person could finish their "20 years and out" by 55 years.
  • In reply to:

I know from personal experince and I'm in my mid 40's, that the "ageism" that used to occur USUHS (which is located in Bethesda) no longer does.

Hi Charles,

I think you’re crazy. If you have a lot of money and want to do it mainly as a hobby/to get fulfillment then I think its a reasonable idea.

Hey Charles - I don’t think you are crazy !

I’d be thrilled if you did it (would make ME look younger

Seriously, I think the one factor that would have kept me from doing this is if I felt I would not be able physically to handle the rigors of school and residency.

I’m used to working a fairly demanding schedule as a midwife, and feel that with continued effort on my part, I can be healthy enough to make it thru residency. If you are a healthy 59 year old I’d go for it (my mom is 76, walks 2 miles a day and is more aerobically fit than I…I’m sure she’s got 20 good years left in her


A few years ago at the national conference, a talk was given by a >50 y.o. applicant-now M.D. the gist of which was: How much are you willing to give up to become a physician? House? Income? All savings? Residence in the US for four years? Virtually all of your creature comforts if off-shore is the only way? Think about it.

It is very very difficult to get into medical school when you are pushing or past 60 y.o. Would a medical school admit you just to get your tuition? What support would it provide you? Schools that are difficult to get into (e.g. US schools) work hard at keeping their students; many off-shore schools are much easier to get into, but don’t work as hard to keep their students.

It can be done, but it isn’t easy.



  • DrQuinn Said:
When I was only 34-1/2 young, I wanted to enter the military's medical school in Washington, DC and practice as a Navy doc, for patriotism's call.

But at that time, all entering military officers (as a military medical student would be commissioned Navy Ensign or Army/AF 2nd Lt) had to be 35 or less, so that the person could finish their "20 years and out" by 55 years.

Dr Quinn,

I'm in the Navy HPSP now. Your story sounds somewhat like mine, except I had both prior military & civil service. It's funny how I was too 'old' at 34, but just right at 41. Go figure!
  • Dazed Said:
  • JALT Said:

While walking through the halls of the University I saw a poster with a quote on it. They were the right words at the right time. It said "Don't ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs, is people who have come alive."

- Howard Thurman.

I think someone else on OPM has this as their profile signature!

Guilty as charged. Has been in my sig since day 1 Glad someone else thinks it worthy of mention!

hi there, i am new to this forum. i hope i am replying to the right posting if correct, you mentioned you attended a military medecine recruitment event, where was that and how does one sign up for any future ones? thanks in advance.

I do think that in this particular case you might just bee too advanced in age to pay back all the debt accrued. Also, starting to practice at 70 is way beyond the typical old pre-med. I would say volunteer in something meaningful versus embarking on this route.

I am sorry to have to enter a comment in such absolute dis - agreement with some else’s post (and I sincerely fo not wish to offend nor violate any term of use) but . . .

Do Not Let Anyone Tell You To Give Up!

Challenge Discrimination Courageously! Politely but forthrightly. But do not expect failure or let anyone else create their expectation for you.

The advice to “older” women much of our lives has always been along these same ill informed lines: "There, there dear lady, don’t trouble your pretty little head with all these concerns: Just go be a ( housewife, secretary, etc.) and all you want to do is to marry a doctor!

Before the discourage-women mantra was the discourage-blacks dialog: The old “Why bother? You will never succeed anyway. Go do some volunteering or learn a trade…”

I say to Mr. “59 and considering medical school”: GO FOR IT !!

The three leading accredited Caribbean medical schools all specifically will NOT discriminate on age and all three AdCom heads speaking at their regional forums have emphasized that.

Contrary to misstatements by someone here, they offer free retention counseling and extra instruction help to keep all students succeeding to complete their degrees. Why would they want to lose tuition paying students? They don’t.

You can learn a lot by attending their local presentations given for free in major cities around the US, Canada and internationally plus about every month or two several hold free online orientations with Powerpoints and narration which you can submit questions during it to be answered online.

American University of the Caribbean is giving another online talk Thursday June 23 at two times for your convenience in you time zone. RSVP at their website to get the log in and call in numbers emailed to you.

Well now I am wiser but still not old, with 25+ years of US federal government civil service, now maybe it is worth a second try – if only to be a ready-made walk-in doctor after medical school.

Huge Congratulations on your perseverance!!

Hi, “59 and considering medical school”

It has been about 3 months since your question to the forum.

Please update us: Did you take the plunge yet?

It’s easy to get started, just go enroll in a few basic Pre-med requirements at your local college.

You can excel by studying most of the course before it even begins. I always do that, so it removes all worry about keeping up with the class: You have mastered it already!

I save much money by purchasing all “slightly used” texts online at amazon.com for about 25% to 15% of the cost if new, so there’s not much expense to worry about.

If you have been away from academics many years, a book comes highly recommended, “How to Study Effectively” or anything similar that has tips and practical steps on advance note-taking so by the time you hear the lecture, you already know it! Also recommends going over and over the notes many times, studying, nightly reviewing the course, and weekly reviewing all course notes up to that point. This repetitive re-learningdrivrs it deep into your memory.