Considering a life commitment to Medical Oncology

Hello, fellow nontraditional students! I am so happy to have found this community. I am 30 years old with a professional background in pharmaceuticals (formerly a QC Chemist and currently an Oncology R&D Project Manager) and an academic background in microbiology (BS, 3.3/4.0) and business (MBA, 3.8/4.0).

Fairly recent difficult life experiences have helped align my priorities and have increased my desire to help people who are suffering. Because of my interest in solving complex problems, my desire to aid people in life/death situations, and my passion to contribute to a relatively nascent scientific field, I believe that I can best serve patients as a Medical Oncologist. Although I really enjoy my current job, I feel a strong urge to contribute to the enrichment of patients’ wellbeing on a more intimate level.

My goal is to decide whether or not to commit to the medical school route by the end of February. To aid in this decision, I have spoken to a NICU resident and an Oncology fellow and am setting up time to shadow physicians. I am also trying to better understand what would be required for me to be a strong medical school candidate (I would apply in 2018).

Does anyone have some suggestions they’d like to share? I believe I’d need to take some classes to boost my undergraduate GPA, would need to attain a very strong MCAT score, and would need to start volunteering in a clinic. I want to be sure that if I apply to medical school in 2018, I will be seriously considered so I can start my training as soon as possible.

Thank you all so much!

Depending on the type of work you’ve been doing (ie publishable research?), your GPA might be alright when combined with your experience. Taking classes would show you can academically cut it now, but it really won’t do much to increase your GPA. Post-bacc courses get divided out in the application, though I think they all still add in to the final BCPM/AO GPAs. I guess what I’m trying to say is: Taking a class or two that you haven’t already taken can show yourself (and the admissions folks) that you still have the capacity to learn new things since it has been awhile.

The MBA doesn’t hurt, but I don’t think it carries a whole lot of weight in the medical community (I have one too, it was either looked at “neutrally” or brought up questions of why I got an MBA if I want to be a doctor).

Volunteering doesn’t hurt, especially if it’s this far out from your application. Do something you enjoy vs something you think “They” want to see so you can write more passionately about it and maybe develop more as a person.

Shadowing is great, and the more you can do, the better. Again, be prepared to discuss what you got out of the experience vs “I watched a doctor do stuff”. You aren’t expected to learn the science behind the treatment, but you should get a feel for doctor-patient interaction, team-based care, interpersonal skills required, etc.

I’m a firm believer in commercial prep courses for the MCAT because they teach you the material you need to know as well as test taking strategies. Depending on your learning style, there are self-taught, online, in class, and probably other versions to help you get the most out of it. I found it especially useful since I took the MCAT 10+ years after having some of the undergrad classes.

The fact that you love your current job will take off a lot of stress throughout the whole “pre-med” process. The worst thing that can happen is you don’t get into school and continue doing something you enjoy anyway.

I answered this question on Session 60 of the OldPreMeds Podcast! (Release 2/8/2017). Tune in!

@MedicalSchoolHQ Thank you so much for answering my question on the Podcast. I’m especially looking forward to tuning in next week!

@Kennymac Thank you for your answer! To answer your question, I have not been published, but I did work in a Streptococcus Pneumoniae research lab for a few months as a college senior. Perhaps given this information, you might recommend that I take a couple classes. I want to make sure that my undergraduate GPA does not hinder me from being admitted into medical school, and I think I could prove my competency by doing well in these classes and attaining a strong MCAT score. I suppose the real question is: Is my time/energy better invested in a couple classes or in MCAT preparations?

I especially appreciate your reminder to gain clinical experience doing something that interests me. I think that shadowing/volunteering is much more than a “checking the box” activity; rather, it’s a useful opportunity to grow into the best physician I can be! Thanks for the encouragement and guidance.

Is it possible to do a couple of classes AND mcat prep? Knock out a couple of classes then do some sort of guided study plan (self-direct, commerically-directed, in-class, whatever. I crammed mcat prep into a solid, miserable 3 months on top of working full time, and it was just enough time to do well enough before brain dumping everything.

Your GPA isn’t terrible, but it would be worth showing yourself and the admissions folks that you can hack it still.

@Kennymac Yes, that’s certainly a possibility! Maybe I could take one class this summer and another this fall and maintain a steady MCAT study schedule (it might be nice to break up the MCAT prep monotony anyway!). The nice thing is, since listening to this podcast, I’ve learned not to rush this process and have decided to apply in 2018, assuming I proceed with applying to medical school. I think this gives me enough time to accomplish all of these prerequisites!