Airline Pilot to Doctor?

I have some questions that maybe some of you can answer. I am a 28 year old airline pilot for a well known regional airline. After 4 years here, I went for my FAA Physical and found out that I have high blood pressure that cant be explained. So, I started taking an ACE Inhibitor. Now, I am medically disqualified from a 1st class physical, which is required for all airline pilots.

Medicine was always something I was interested in. I worked in a hospital lab all through college and loved it. I have a college education, but have none of the medical school requirements met. I looked at the MCAT practice test and it scared me. All that stuff looked like chinese to me! Im hoping that the core classes in undergrad teach those things, because NONE of it made any sense to me!

I am going to move to New Mexico. Many people have said they are very welcoming to non-traditional students there. Here in Indiana, the medical school welcomes people with connections and/or wealthy parents who buy their kid a spot in school.

Assuming I make good grades and such, I still have to work while I am in school. I cant survive without working right now, so how will I ever get any volunteer work in the medical field? Is that not a requirement?

Thanks for your responses in advance.

Hi Enrique,

Do you want to be a pilot? Are you disqualified from all professional flying? Going into medicine is long and draining endeavor…you shouldn’t go into because you been disqualified from your former career. Obviously, I’m sure you have a genuine interest in medicine, but make sure you get the pilot thing out of your system (that is, if you can help it).

I must admit that I don’t know much about the Indy or New Mexico medical schools. But my understanding is that New Mexico can be hard to get into and there are not many other medical schools in the area…someone on Student Doctor posted their predicament in the nontraditional forum about “applying to only one school” bc she was in NM and heard that NM can be very difficult to get into the first time around. I’m not sure I really believe that any school in the US is hostile to first-time applicants as a general rule (the opposite with regard to reapplicants can be true). For the same reason, I’m not sure I believe that Indy accepts mostly people with money or connections. Sure, in every medical school, I’m sure maybe 1-2 undeserving get in for the wrong reasons, but, by and large, admissions committees look at MCAT, GPA and ECs, period. I would be hesitant to buy too much stock into the rumor mill…medical school admissions is very competitive. Sometimes it doesn’t work out for people and they may have sour grapes.

There was one school at the beginning of the process that I would have LOVED to go to, but they didn’t accept me and I am certain that some people with connections (parent on faculty) have gotten in based on more than merit, but, by and large, most of the class got in because of their GPA, MCAT, and ECs. I just didn’t make the cut.

Well, I have been a licensed pilot since I was 17 years old. So, I would say I love to fly. However, without a 1st class physical, you can not hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate. So… thats the end of the line for my career.

Honestly, deep down, I have always wanted to be a doctor, but have been shot down by others telling me it is to much work, and they dont think I will complete it. I, however, believe I can do it.

Flying will always be a hobby for me, but know that medicine is what I really want to do for a career.

Moving to New Mexico seems like a drastic step. I happen to recall a mother-daughter pair who both got into U. Indiana for med school. Obviously the mom was not your stereotypical rich kid and she definitely didn’t have doctor connections. So be careful about painting with such a broad brush.

You mean you will need to work while you do prerequisites, right? Because for most of us mere mortals, working during med school is pretty close to impossible. You can certainly have a job while doing the prerequisites… it requires pacing yourself and keeping your long-term goal in mind; in other words, it’ll take awhile.

I am sorry to hear that your beloved career has to be set aside. As mom of a pilot, I can feel your disappointment even more keenly than most, I suspect.


Hi Enrique,

I’m originally from Indiana. I thought about flight school as an early career option, but I was worried about bankrupting my parents before my siblings had a chance to get into college. As it turns out, my brother (the youngest sibling) currently flies for Northwest.

IU is a particularly difficult school to get into as it is the only medical school in the state. Even for a state resident, it is as competitive as most of the surrounding state’s programs. I won’t say that what you propose never happens, but multiple palms would need to be greased, making it a very rare and costly event. I think I understand how you feel, though. It is pretty tempting to spit at the mountain when you are standing at the very bottom looking towards the peak.

Medical school is a mountain you don’t want to climb unless you really know what you are getting yourself into. Imagine climbing Mt. Everest, and only upon reaching 11,000ft. or so realizing that it’s getting pretty hard to breathe without supplementary oxygen. Likewise, imagine having taken several difficult science classes (receiving a respectable GPA), taken your MCAT (kicked it’s butt with a 30-something), and then sitting for several interviews where you are asked all kinds of off-the-wall questions about how you would like to practice medicine, about how you feel about people who cough, puke, or bleed on you (sometimes all at the same time), or maybe about what makes you think you’d be a better physician than the other 5,000 people applying to the same school. Both preparation and introspection are important because a medical career is a mountain that doesn’t end at the top. If you thought it was a challenge at the bottom loooking up, it’s even more of a biotch getting half-way up & deciding you don’t want to be there.

But that’s why OPM is here. You’ll find bunches of folks who are at various points on the trail up the mountain. You’ll receive more advice than you can shake a stick at. Don’t let any of your questions go unanswered.