another newbie needs advice

Hello all,

I’m really glad to find this forum. Been reading the posts for the past couple of days and they have already been very helpful.

A little bit of intro on myself. I’m 33, father of two young kids, finished my B.S. in computer science in Korea and M.S. and Ph.D. in computer science at a state university in the States. I worked as a researcher at a national lab and am now a software engineer, living in SF bay area.

I’ve been mulling the idea of becoming a medical doctor for the past 10 years(!) but I kept discouraging myself for various reasons. But this time I got really serious and am having this “do it now or I will never be able to pursue it” mentality. I’ve been bouncing back and forth between different thoughts for the past two weeks and man, this has been painful.

My wife is quite used to my regular bouts and has been putting up with it since we got married. This time, however, I had guts to discuss this matter with her very seriously and of course she is not happy at all.

She had to work while I was a grad student for extra income and green card. Now I’m making good money and it is indeed time for stability. She’s happy with being a full-time mom raising kids and intends not to work till the kids are grown up. We’ve been talking about buying a house soon when prices go down a bit further and my older daughter is ready for kindergarten. And now, I’m trying to turn everything upside down.

I have doubts about myself as well. I’ve been greatly interested in this profession and constantly amazed by how human body works. Whenever my kids are sick, I found myself getting all nosy about the stuff and doing a great deal of research for their symptoms. I am compassionate and like helping people. But is this really enough motivation to pursue this tough career for which I have to ask my family to sacrifice so much? Is this just an extensive interest instead of a real passion? I really gotta figure it out.

It is true that I’ve been not too happy with what I’ve been studying/doing for the past 10+ years. I was stuck and didn’t have courage to change the career although I’ve been constantly thinking about it. I also thought about other possibilities like getting an MBA or working in financial area. But the idea of being a medical doctor simply doesn’t leave my head. I know this is not because I think this job is “fancy”. I actually view it as an opposite. Money is not an issue either. My salary is quite okay and I’m probably better off staying at what I’m doing now. I have a PhD and it’s certainly not becuase I want to advance in terms of my education and professionalism.

I now have homeworks to do. First, figuring out if I really really have passion for this job which will get me through uber-rough processes. Second, persuading my wife and family (this will drive our parents nuts). Third, making the final decision. For the first part, I plan to start volunteer work at a local hospital soon and hope that will give me some sort of confirmation.

For the second part, I have to present my wife a detailed execution plan. Hence a list of questions below.

  1. First of all, would it matter the fact that I finished my undergrad at a non-us institution?

  2. I took math, physics and chemistry while I was in college 10+ years ago. But I heard that US medical schools don’t acknowledge coursework taken abroad. Is it true? I plan to retake physics and chemistry but if it is possible, I’d like to avoid retaking all the math courses and labs. How about other humanities courses that I took like sociology, psychology, etc? Are the pretty useless as well?

  3. I plan to take science courses at a local state university but the other requirements (English and math if I have to) at a CC (money and time issues). Will this be acceptable? Looks like there’s quite a debate going on regarding taking courses at CC.

  4. I have to work full-time while doing pre-med and I think I can only take up to two classes each semester. If I start from this summer or fall, I think I can make 2012 admission assuming that I take MCAT while taking organic chemistry II. Is this doable? Or I might not be able to answer some of the questions if I haven’t finished org chem? I heard this course is everyone’s nightmare, so am wondering if it is better to separate the exam and the course for the sake of both.

  5. Am I supposed to finish all the pre-requisite courses before applying? I guess I can take non-science courses after applying, but what about the advanced science courses that some schools require?

  6. While in med school, will I be able to spare some time with my kids/wife? Or is it pretty much like courses from 8-5 and then straight to the library or lab just to survive? I know it is all about time management, but in general what is life as a med student like?

  7. Now, the monetary issues. We only have marginal savings so far. My parents are almost broke with no health insurance (they are working, though). My in-laws are relatively well off, but I don’t want/expect their support (I’ll just feel sorry for them for making their precious daughter a wife of a student again) I have kids who will be in grade schools by then. Assuming that my wife won’t or can’t work, will I be able to get loans to support a family of four in addition to tuitions? Or is there a limit on student loan amounts? How about during residency? Are loans still available after graduation?

    Thanks for reading this long babbling and I hope I didn’t take too much of your time. But any help would be greatly appreciated. I plan to have about one month before making the final decision and go from there.

    Thank you very much in advance.


Wow, that is alot of questions…

First, welcome to this GREAT community. You will find that everyone here tries to be as helpful as possible.

I am curious, have you or are you planning on setting up an appoitment with a counseler at one of the medical schools of your choosing? They are a great resource, and thus far, my experience with them has been second to none.

Some of your more personal issues, you and only you, can answer. Of course, involve your wife. You can work while doing pre-med. That should be fairly easy, now getting the scheduling down, that can take a bit of manuevering on your part, and the availability of classes.

There will be others by to chime in, I am just trying to drop a little info in here for you. There are the more “senior” members who have families, they are the experts.

But as far as you not being 110% sure if you want this bad enough, this I can answer, because I do and if you are questioning if you do or not, I would simply suggest doing some deep personal soul searching. This is no choice to be made the least bit light of.

I read where you are going to do some volunteering, that’s great! Do as much as you can. Follow doctors, read…read…and then read some more.

The forums here are an abundance of information. I have read numerous times about others debt, their family situations and how they coped and are still coping. Once in med school there is no working, at least any that would amount to any income of significance. I think they say your first year you get away with a few hours but that’s it, no more. I wish you well, and welcome to the site! You will quickly realize how great this place is.

Also, read!

  • JohnL Said:
My wife is quite used to my regular bouts … and of course she is not happy at all.

/wave Welcome!

That one comment raised a red flag for me NOT an insurmountable red flag, just something you MUST work through. To me, she NEEDS to be on-board, supportive, understanding, compassionate, etc as you go through pre-med reqs and med school.

I am NOT one of the senior members here (rather new myself) however, I have some inkling what it is like to be married to a med school student, resident, physician... It is not easy (nor for the faint of heart) on the partner of the student. Others who have actually gone to and graduated from med school are better equipped to answer but trying to give you a bit 'o feedback as well.

If med school is not something you "must" do now, I would continue to read, research, discuss with your wife, and read some more before making a decision.

Maddux was spot on.

Hi John. I’m also a newbie. My personal reality has some similarities to yours. I’m 30, and I make a good income as an engineer too. I’ve also been on the fence for a while & my family has had to put up with my waffling. But, unlike you, my husband does work & is on board with my plan, we live in the midwest, and I don’t have a PhD.

I will say that 2 years ago, my husband was NOT on board. He came around on his own, with no coercion from me. He started making more money and our kids are out of the demanding baby stage. Maybe your wife will change her mind too, but if not, this is THE major issue for you (rather than the money, the time, or the prereqs).

I guess while I would definitely not tell you to give up your dream, the devils advocate in me tells me to defer to your wife. If HER dream is to be a full-time mom, is it very fair of you to ask her to forego that dream so you can be a doctor? Especially when you have already devoted considerable time to a PhD in a non-related field? Motherhood cannot be deferred, but med school can be. I know you are up against time being 33, but you will see successful drs. on this site who didn’t start till their late 30s or early 40s. My advisor has recently had 47 y.o.'s get accepted.

I also wonder about someone who completed a PhD in another field and then wants to go the MD route. For me, I delayed my decision because I was working full time and providing insurance for my family. If I was a PhD student living on a stipend, it would have been easy for me to change to medicine sooner. I think you should speak with a med school advisor or two, and a general career counselor. Maybe you are not so much seeking medicine as the escapism of higher education? (I don’t doubt that you want to really be a doctor - just playing devils advocate some more.)

One more point I wanted to make was that you may want to relocate, if you can. I’ve read that CA med schools are very competitive, and the SF bay area has a very high COL. Being in the midwest, I am able to go the CC route for my prereqs without obsessing over whether doing so is making me “less competitive.”

Anyway, good luck with your soul-searching.

Hey there, I’m 33 as well. We have three children one of which is in that demanding baby phase. (really really demanding at the moment as I try to type here)

I honestly couldn’t do this without his support. It’s imperative to my studies. I think you need to consider if this is really what you want to do with the rest of your life. Are you committed to retaking those classes if necessary? Is your wife committed to the extra schooling? I’d talk with her, after doing some homework to see what can be plausable for both her and for you. Good luck.

Thanks a lot for all the valuable inputs! I fully understand your points and won’t pursue this unless I am really committed and have my wife on my side. She became a bit positive about the idea, so that’s a good sign.

I e-mailed admission offices and got answers for 1, 2, 3, and 5 (ok as long as some time spent in US university, no foreign credits, ok to take non-science courses from CC, and finish courses before matriculation unless noted otherwise). I still need some advice on #4, #6, and #7.

For the questions asked… Yes, I’m willing to retake the courses (just wanted to avoid labs and math to save time). I spent 10 years in midwest before moving to CA, so I’m familiar with the area and the low COL is very attractive. If my wife agrees, will definitely consider applying schools there.

Oh, and my wife is not against going back to work. She just doesn’t want while the kids are young. So I’m currently researching if my family can survive solely by loans and savings. As Ali mentioned, I’m also considering delaying one or two years… to save up more money and get prepared better.

Thank you very much again.