Anybody interested in a crazy story?????

Hello All,

My name is Philip Graves and I am coming to you live from San Antonio TX!! I am a recovering Ph.D. candidate from Rice University who finally had a moment of clarity and decided to leave with a Masters degree in Biochemistry in December of 2008.

The reason for leaving…well… even after winning three pre-doctoral fellowships in a row (this means I paid myself all throughout grad school), publishing a paper in a mid-level journal (1st student paper from Olson Lab in 7 years), and winning numerous awards for teaching and oral presentations, my thesis advisor was not motivated to graduate me with a Ph.D. after 6 and a half years. I was looking at becoming the 3rd 10th year student to finally leave his lab…and I wasn’t having any of it.

So here I am, 35 and regaining perspective on my life and career. Why did I even go to grad school anyway…what was it that I wanted to do initially? I found myself asking what was my initial motivation to bother with the pain of a year of organic and a year of physical chemistry? I mean really…who in the hell wants to take P-Chem?

When I finally got out of the lab and away from the perceived scandal created by not wanting to stay for the exalted Ph.D., it didn’t really take long to remember why I took those classes and what it was that dissuaded me from med school and towards grad school.

I was a premed…thats why I took those classes and graduated with a 3.79 GPA majoring in chemistry and minoring in Biology (not bragging…just want to convey I worked really hard). I was a non-traditional student in college (I started college in mid twenties), working full time, going to school full time, and trying to be a Dad and a husband with all of that free time I had…LOL.

Needless to say it was a Dante inspired pressure cooker of my own design. I survived it physically and graduated cum laude in 2002, but it took a major toll on my marriage and my wife and I found ourselves at a crossroads. My wife asked me not to apply to medical school and I agreed in an attempt to save my marriage, as I knew we wouldn’t survive the inherent onslaught that is medical school. Bright idea…lets go to grad school…at least I’ll make money while in school!! Indentured servitude is the only true description of it…lol.

Ultimately a mistake…the damage was already done and we soon divorced and I found myself three years into the Ph.D. and I decided to see it through not taking into consideration my PI’s poor track record with students and that I was ignoring the little voice in my head…get out!! I ignored it because I was, and still am, fascinated with science and eager to learn…and I continued on in good faith until I owned up to what I was ignoring… I didn’t want to be a professor.

After “mastering out” I took a job at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas as a research associate thinking I would find a niche as a support scientist for the rest of my life striving for the high end of pay in the sciences for MA level…40k a year.

As soon as I hit that campus and saw the the medical research that goes on there performed by the MDs and mingled with some med students I regained center…; however, it is a notion that both excites and somewhat depresses me.

I am excited because I have regained center, I have remembered what it was I wanted to do and why. Now that I am single and my kids are older I have the freedom to attempt to get into medical school and become a cardiologist as I had dreamed what seems like a lifetime ago. I started to review for the MCAT in May and will take the first test in January 2010. So when I apply next spring, I will be a research associate scientist at UTHSC San Antonio (recently moved), have a Masters degree, published, held leadership positions as undergrad and grad, given oral presentation at conferences and been funded by the NIH.

Will it be enough? What is missing? I’m serious about these questions.

I am somewhat depressed because I am 35, I am taking the MCAT next spring which puts me in med school (if I get in) in 2011…I’ll be 41 when I graduate…and 47 when I finish residency and fellowship/specialization . Will my age put me out of the running for competitive schools, residencies, fellowships/specializatio n? Will leaving with a Masters degree be held against me even if it was my choice? Are my undergrad courses too old? What am I missing?

Lots of questions and uncertainty, but Im going through with with it anyway and in dire need of advice from the great people on this website.

I feel that I have wasted soooooo much time. Ultimately this is my greatest fear…I don’t want to waste any more time and become a victim of poor or unsophisticated choices (which my past is rife).

THIS WEBSITE DOES GIVE ME HOPE!! I’m certainly grateful that everyone here has created such a great site and I hope to extract and add useful and creative advice.

Well, if you’ve made it this far I appreciate the opportunity to post on this website and look forward to your responses.


Philip Graves

Hi Philip!

Welcome to the site and sorry no one has posted to your message thus far. I don’t have all the answers for you but have learned from reveiwing posts from this website and others like it that it is not too late for you. Heck most of us on here are 35 and up. I myself am 38 and won’t be matriculating until 2013. It is never too late to begin again and from your post it sounds like you have some solid qualifications behind you. Feel free to research this site and you will find many of the answers you are looking for. Good luck on your journey!!

Hi ts4sw,

Thanks for posting and getting trough the whole thing!! It was more of a therapeutic exercise and it was good to get all of that off of my chest.

Good luck to you too!!


hi philip, your story is not as crazy as you think!!

i came from a similar background as you. did the whole pre-med thing undergrad. went to school to get a phd in biomedical engineering. left with a masters. i took my mcat earlier this spring and am applying this year. i’m turning 34 soon, and will be almost 35 by the time i matriculate (if i get in somewhere! ) u just gotta accept that most of your peers will be 10+ years younger than you and you will have a negative income for 4-8 years. that’s the price we are all willing to pay to follow our dreams. and i think we’re lucky that we still have such aspirations and haven’t accepted life’s defeat!

anyways, enuf pontification. i’ve gotten 2 interview invites so far (with hopefully more to come) at allopathic med schools and my gpa is much lower than yours, so i would say your chances are good i don’t think your age will be a huge issue given that we are similar in age and it hasn’t been a big issue for me.

good luck with everything and i encourage you to check back on this forum if you ever feel discouraged. it has many great inspirational stories or feel free to pm me if you have specific questions…

oh, and since u have a lot of research experience, make sure you balance that out with clinical stuff. like volunteering at hospitals/clinics, working with patients, physician shadowing, etc. med schools look for a demonstration that you have the ability to care for others whether in a medical or non-medical capacity.

Hi Philip,

I’ll also be taking the MCAT on January 2009 and hopefully will start med school on 2011. I’m currently 14 weeks pregnant (2nd child) and trying to finish my PhD thesis (biomed eng), but that won’t stop me.

My advice to you is simple, GO FOR IT!! You’ll be 47 anyways!! Your kids will admire you even more after they see the sacrifices you’ve made to pursue your dreams. At the end we do all we do for them :).

Take care and keep us posted!!