Career change at 32. Considering medical anth regenerative medicine.

Hello, my name is Michael, I’m 32 years old, and due to recent events, I’m considering a pretty severe career change.

I never went to college, instead I went right into software development at 18. I’ve been programming professionally ever since, and I’ve been quite successful at it.

However, I’ve decided that I’m not very happy with computer programming, and I really would like to get out of software, and one of the ideas I’ve had is to pursue a combination of Medical Anthropology and Regenerative Medicine.

I’m a big fan of Paul Farmer (Partners In Health, I highly recommend “Mountains Beyond Mountains” for more information), and have a high regard for applied anthropology.

I also think that we are at the cusp of a medical renaissance with regenerative medicine and stem cell research which could transform the world.

Thing is, everyone thinks I’m crazy, and I’m having a hard time disagreeing. I’m looking at finishing pre-med+medical school+residency at maybe 47 years old.

I’m not particularly worried about the science requirements. I’m very good at math and science. I took the SAT practice exam on with zero preparation and got a 2100/1420. I’m sure with proper preparation I could do even better.

My grades in high school were abysmal, though. I was too busy teaching myself 8086 assembly language to bother with homework. It paid off in the end, but now that I don’t want to work in this field anymore, it feels as though I’m at square one.

I also had some severe problems concentrating when I was a teenager that has been well worked out with a combination of (light) medication and discipline.

Theoretically, I could work full time and go to school full time, since my current job is relatively low stress, very flexible, and I’m very good at it. This might mean longer to graduate, or no summers off, but it would also mean no debt from undergrad. Actual medical school would be a different story.

So my tentative plan is this:

  1. Take the SAT in April (2012).

  2. Community College for the basics this summer (2012), fall (2012), and spring semesters (2013). Focus on gen eds, hold off on science or anthropology until university.

  3. Apply to university Jan 2012. Start Fall 2013. Major in Anthropology, with pre med requirements.

  4. Graduate by 2017. Apply to Medical school.

  5. Start Medical School 2018. Graduate 2022.

  6. Start Residency 2022. Finish 2025.

  7. Start subspecialty training. Finish 2027. I will be 47 years old.


  8. Starting a family is not really an option.

  9. Tons of debt.

  10. Being 47 years old before I can practice.


  11. I get to be happy doing what I do, and at the forefront of an amazing future.

  12. If I decide against practicing, programmers with a medical background make tall cash. I could pay off my debt doing that, even though it would be admitting defeat on a personal level.

  13. If regenerative medicine really is the panacea I’m hoping it to be, 47 will be the new 25.

    On a scale of 1-10, how ridiculous is this?

    Thank you for your feedback,



It seems that you have it all figured out. FWIW I am 48 years old and dreaming of becoming a physician, so I think you’ve got some time to make your dreams come true.

Stay true to yourself, stick to your plan and who knows, someday we OPMs will thank you for that–regenerating us all back into our twenties…

Another thing, never say never to starting a family, life happens, and the emotional/spiritual support you gain is exactly what is needed to surmount the problems in the path you want to take.

Good luck!

Hi Michael - your path sounds pretty similar to mine in many ways. I was denied the opportunity to go to college after high school, so at age 33 I started working on my Bachelor’s - I will graduate this May at age 37. I have done it full-time while also working half- to full-time, depending on the semester and the course load. My career is also flexible, like yours sounds, which has allowed me to get through undergrad without any student debt. I applied for medical school this cycle and am still in the midst of interviewing. So you’re certainly not crazy, and don’t give in to the negativity of others - I find it usually boils down to basic jealousy because you have an adventurous spirit while others are content to be sheeple (not that there’s anything wrong with that, except when they try to bring other people down). I have thoroughly enjoyed the entire process up to this point (the application, interviewing, and waiting process is brutal on the soul), but this too shall pass…eventually.

The only word of advice I will give is, once you get to the point of applying for med school, never mention that you might use your newly acquired knowledge and skills to work back in the software world. This is definitely frowned upon as I learned from an adcom at one school. Long story, but as a result of 2 students who were there for the “wrong” reasons, the committee retrospectively re-reviewed these students’ applications to see if they could pick up clues that would help them weed out this type of student in the future. Of course, in reality, I feel that everyone is entitled to a backup plan. Just don’t go around talking about it.

Good luck and keep us posted!