At a crossroads..

So here’s a little about myself…I’m currently 25 and I just finished a Master’s program. I’m trying to decide whether to pursue my lifelong dream of medicine or whether to pursue other options that I’m somewhat interested in, such as speech pathology.

When people ask what draws me to medicine (particularly osteopathic med), I tell them that I have a strong interest in being one of many instruments that people can use to achieve better health–physically, emotionally, spiritually, and otherwise. I’m also very tied to working with children with disabilities and their families because of previous experiences. I’ve shadowed a number of physicians (MD & DO), and I’ve talked to a number of med students and residents. While I’ve gained tremendous wisdom from them, I know that the ultimate decision lies with me, and that the things I mentioned above can be found in several careers.

A major problem for me is that my undergrad record wasn’t great by any standards (about 2.8 gpa), and most of the classes that brought my gpa that low were the pre-med science classes. Even after re-taking quite a few, I never managed better than a C+ in most and a B+ in a couple. I realize now that I was really over-extending myself by trying to be in too many extracurriculars at once, holding down a job, and taking on too many challenging classes at the same time. I wish I could go back now with the wisdom that I’ve gained since then, but of course I can’t, and I’m stuck with that record.

I did very well in my Master’s, but it was not in a science area, and I would most likely still need to do a post-bacc in order to boost my science grades. I got into this Master’s because I was at the point where I had accepted that medicine was not for me and had made up my mind to choose a different path. However, I’m back at a crossroads and wondering whether it’s advisable to still consider medicine considering the competitiveness.

Sorry for the long post–it’s my first one–but any advice/suggestions that any has for me would be greatly appreciated!

At 25, you still have plenty of time to complete a post bacc, med school, residency, and become an attending physician in your 30’s. In my opinion, you will definitely need the post bacc to enhance your academic record in the sciences.

What you have to ask yourself is “why medicine?” and not one of the other careers that fit into the puzzle of helping people achieve better health. You said that there are many other options through which you could facilitate this kind of improvement in people’s lives, so what is drawing you to medicine over and above the rest?

This may be hard to answer, since you have multiple interests pulling you in multiple directions (I’m curious what your masters is, if it isn’t in some sort of health-related field). But once you can figure out what draws you to a career in medicine, in spite of the competitiveness, long hours, etc. etc., you can work on the next question:

Look at whatever it is that intrigues you about medicine (we’ll call this X). In your analysis (based on your experience, your finances, your interests), is X worth the cost, in dollars and in time, of pursuing medicine?

Take whatever debt you already have from undergrad and your masters, and it is safe to assume you can add $200K or more to it with post bac and med school. You will be devoting a minimum of 8 years (one-third of your life to date) to preparing to be a physician. This could either sound like a huge sacrifice, or a small price to pay to reach your goal.

Also, ask yourself if you are going to enjoy the journey, and not just the destination. It isn’t just about being a doctor, having respect/a nice car/tons of cash. How are you going to feel about working 24 hour shifts? 80 hours a week during residency? These things are temporary, but they aren’t just hurdles to be crossed. You ought to feel like it will be an enriching process, not one you are dreading and can’t wait to be done with.

In short (all just my opinions): consider the post bacc inevitable. Know yourself and all of the reasons you want to be a doc (good and bad, noble and self-serving), and think about the so-called “worst parts of the job.” Ask yourself if you are still thrilled at the prospect of that worst case scenario (think 80 hours of people bleeding/peeing/fungating on you, staring at CT images in the dark, or sawing peoples bones off). It isn’t all healing. If you are willing to live every day with the other stuff, and that idea excites you, then you should probably go for it.

Geez Louise! After reading jpholton’s post, I’m wondering why Iwant to be a doctor! And I AM looking forward to the journey! It was the “sawing off bones” that got to me, I think! Is that a required rotation??

Anyway, I’d agree with what he said re really evaluating it, and figuring the post-bacc is a given to give yourself a good chance of getting into medical school


Thanks a lot for your advice, it was really helpful to hear. Deep down, I think I know why I want to pursue medicine, but I’ve been letting discouragement stop me from considering it. Thanks again!

Thanks Kate! I appreciate the encouragement and congrats on getting in!