Considering taking the plunge

Hi all,

Have been lurking for a while, since I’ve been considering the idea of going back to Med School. I thought I’d tell my own story and hopefully get some feedback. Sorry if it’s a bit lengthy.

I’m 34. Graduated from Berkeley in computer Engineering in 1996, Michigan Law School in 2005, both with honors but not stratospheric GPAs. I started off in software, and have practiced patent law for a few years now.

Obviously I’m not considering an MD for the money - I can make more as either an engineer or a lawyer without 8+years of little to no income in the meantime. I’m just sick and tired of having no passion in my career.

I have some worries though:

  1. I had two retakes as an undergrad. Both were in Math classes. I got A’s the second time around both times. There’s a long story behind each, but the excuses sound lame even to me, now that I am older.

  2. I withdrew for one semester as an undergrad. The reason was clinical depression, although there’s no notation of that on my transcript. I came back and got a 4.0 the next semester.

    I graduated with honors at Berkeley with about a 3.4, but only because Berkeley replaces retakes with the new grade. I’m not sure what my GPA works out to with them averaged in like the med schools do - probably a 3.0 or so.

    So, my spotty undergrad transcript is worry number 1. Of course that was 12 years ago, and at this point, the fact that I never took chem or bio may be a bonus - I’ll have a chance to take them and ace them now, and differentiate a bit from my earlier record.

    Worry number 2 is the fact that I’ve already jumped ship from one career, and have not practiced law very long before deciding to jump ship again. This could cut both ways, since I at least have shown I can get through law school with success.

    Last but not least, I still have a sizable debt from law school - 100k or so. I intend to go to a state Med school in the South with low tuition, so I’m hoping I can get out with debt typical for a new doctor, when you add the two together.

    I’d welcome any comments or advice for dealing with any of these worries - especially how much they will affect my chances of getting in.

    Thanks in advance.

Do you have any experience with the medical field? Don’t take this the wrong way…How do you know being a physician is what will make you happy?

You are smart to be concerned and are asking very good questions.

Starting over by taking science classes is a good way to begin this long process. You can take your classes while working to help pay off some of your loans.

We will keep in touch

Rachel Yealy, DO

Pittsburgh, PA

I come from a family of doctors, so I’ve heard it all, experienced what family members go through from the other side, etc. Don’t have any personal medical experience per se, but I’m no stranger to the inside of a hospital and I know what the deal is.

As an engineer and lawyer, I’m no stranger to 100+ hour weeks, abusive bosses, etc. To be honest, both the happiest ad most miserable times of my life were when working 100+ hours. If I’m into the work, and feel like it’s important, I love it. Otherwise, it blows. Trouble was, this happened sometimes as an engineer, but never as a lawyer.

I figure worst case is if I hate practicing medicine, I can go back to patent law now able to do biotech and medical device patents. Or do malpractice defense. Either way I could run my own legal practice much more easily with a Jd/MD doing highly specialized niche work, and ditch the law firm life. No, this isn’t worth the sacrifices of med school - nowhere near. But again, this is worst case, and it’s not so terrible. At least I know I’ll still be able to pay off my debts either way (eventually).

I’m the same age as you, but have had much different experiences leading up to the point of second guessing what it is that I’m doing here and what it is that I really want. You obviously are far more educated and are likely making more dough than me, so making the commitment to become an MD is a much greater sacrifice for you, considering what you are giving up and what you have already invested in other pursuits. Obviously, like me, you are not satisfied with your career choice and believe medicine will provide you with the fulfillment that you lack. It is hard for me to imagine, however, being in your position. Lately, since I’ve decided that what I want is to go to medical school and become an MD, I have began to ask myself why. Why do I really want this? And what do I really want out of life? I’ve made a list and at the top where things like: to respect what I do; to be living the life that feels truly like my real life – to be doing exactly, not just professionally, but in every aspect of life, what is the highest version of myself. These things will likely be accomplished through medicine, sure enough, but I’ve had to ask myself is medicine just a means an end. A means that could be accomplished many other ways. Other items on my list included: having a sense of security about the future, time to spend with family and friends, having a healthy mind and body, etc. It has occurred to me that all these things could be accomplished without medical school, but still, I want to be a doctor. I believe it is who I am now. I am certain. It would not be such an easy decision for me, however, if I had all the other items on my list checked off, items that, to me, could probably be realized by being in your position. Of course, I’m not suggesting that your motives aren’t pure or that it even matters one way or another if they are, or that I even know what pure is; it just occurred to me that you have changed directions a few times and that each place you turned from would probably be quite satisfactory for many people. If you were someone who I was close to I might ask you what it is that you really want. Not just out of a career, but out of life. I don’t mean to be presumptuous, that is the least of my natural tendencies, in fact, you sound like a very interesting and intelligent dude, but your dilemma leads me to wonder what the rest of your life must be like. Recently I have wondered how much a person’s job really means in life. Does what you do become who you are? Is it that important? In my case, my personal life sucks and my job sucks, so becoming a doctor is really not a sacrifice. I feel like I’m only getting and not really giving up anything. If everything else was great and all I had to do was go to a job that wasn’t that satisfying, I don’t think I would need to do it. You’re obviously not happy in your current position, but I think I could be. And it leads someone like me to wonder: Do you want to be a doctor because you know it’s what you are, what your life is supposed to be about? Or perhaps you just love education and learning? Or is it just another challenge? If so, when does it end? When can you stop and say “here I am, I made it, this is real, I can start living my life now”. Please don’t be insulted, you have probably asked yourself these questions many times, along with many others that haven’t occurred to me. These are just some random thoughts from a working class stiff with designs on moving up, someone who holds engineers and lawyers in high esteem. Those careers would be an achievement for me. Perhaps though, I too would only find myself in the same position as you, looking for something else, looking to become a doctor also, just as I am now. Anyway, good luck. I’m sure that whatever you decide, it will be well considered. Eventually, hopefully, we will all get to the place that feels right and true.

By the way Atticus, my intention was not to discourage or question your motives, but to express respect for what you have already done. It is that respect that leads me to not fully understand why you would give up all that you have acomplished, especially at such a young age, and start over (although, as you mentioned, becoming a malpractice lawyer would not amount to wasted education of any sort). Then again, I guess that’s what we are all doing here: starting over, the only diference being the degree of what is left behind, which is all relative. In fact, if it were any buisness of mine to judge anothers intentions, I would consider yours to be more noble than my own. I look forward to following your story.

  • AtticusFynch Said:
As an engineer and lawyer, I’m no stranger to 100+ hour weeks, abusive bosses, etc. To be honest, both the happiest ad most miserable times of my life were when working 100+ hours. If I’m into the work, and feel like it’s important, I love it.

It sounds like you have a great start to your personal statement for medical school

The part of being a MD/JD has become popular, at least around here. Two of the physicians I worked with are currently doing this. The one is burned out from medicine and on a daily basis was telling all of the residents how he could sucessfully sue them for one thing or another. The other was burned out too, but not as cynical.

My husband does a lot of expert witness work…he mostly does defense, but the prosecutor can make you look bad if that’s all you do (defense). The rare case that he does for the prosecution is no where near where we live, for obvious reasons.

So, you are right you do have a lot of options.

Good luck with the pre-regs and do well!

Rachel Yealy, DO

I’m just going to add my two cents regarding reasons to pursue a medical career. I’m not exactly in the same boat as the original poster - I actually do not yet have ANY degree and am basically starting from scratch. I pretty much fell into my current career by accident and by starting my own business have turned it into a very lucrative one. It is a challenging job but for some reason gets no respect. I had a passion for it over the last 12 years but gradually this has disappeared. I’ve learned a lot about myself in 33 years and have realized finally that, while making money can ADD to happiness, it isn’t everything. I’m by no means miserable. But I’ve had to face the realities of my personality, good and bad - I need to work with other conscientious people whose intelligence and competence I respect; I need to be fed a steady stream of new information or I get bored; I need to be challenged. I don’t fit in with “highly emotional” office women. And I finally realized, after years of wondering why I stuck out like a sore thumb, it’s because these aren’t “my people.” I’ve been a square peg trying to squeeze myself into a round hole, trying to change who I was in order to fit in. And I think it just burned me out - it’s exhausting! And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with very emotional women (I am a woman, just not an outwardly emotional one) - the world is made up of all types of personalities and that makes it great - but that doesn’t mean I should continue to make myself uncomfortable. Or that I should stay in a career that was not intentional and not entirely geared to my abilities - life just happened. And now that I am aware of all these things, I am able to do something about it, and that is exciting!

When it comes to motivations, km35, you hit the nail right on the head - I’ve done a lot of second guessing about whether this is just about the challenge, or getting back in school. Both play into it, no doubt. And I’m not entirely sure these are even bad reasons.

The truth is, though, that the primary reason is that I’m not satisfied with my current career, and have the hope that medicine will provide more meaning and fulfillment. (I’ve heard all the counter-points from jaded doctors and students, of course.)

Sure, I’d sacrifice a lot of money - but it’s only money. As for the time and lifestyle - like I said, it can’t be much worse than being a lawyer.

I hadn’t originally intended this thread to be a referendum on my motivations, but I do appreciate the thoughts.

I’d still like some feedback on getting in based on my stated concerns, if possible.


Not sure how I can help…Was there a reason you went to law school from engineering? To help further your career,…I don’t understand the patent law, but it sounds like maybe it was a natural transition from engineering…? or you can spin it that way.

Why being a physician? You are the only one that can answer that one, but a lot of people go back to medical school after having a career. I think it will look good to an admissions panel that you have been able to successfully complete 2 rigorous course loads.

The grade thing…I would make sure you ace the classes you still need to take and do well on the MCAT.

Rachel Yealy

I love what you wrote Marianne. Indeed, it is exiting to realize you have a choice. Unfortunately, it took me 32 years to figure that out. But it couldn’t have happened any other way. Now I’m starting my 3rd year of undergrad in the fall and I can’t wait to get back to class. Hope you enjoy it too. Good luck

I’m in a fairly similar situtation, BS in chemstry, PhD in polymer chemistry, and then worked for awhile as a patent agent (pharmacuetical/biotech stuff).

I definitely understand the feeling of meaningless work (and alot of it). For me, the switch is really about people and helping society. I had two very “antisocial” careers (as a bench chemist and patent agent) that just didn’t match my personality. The few adcom people I have talked to didn’t seem to think my “path” was that unexplainable.

I would suggest getting your extra cirricular ducks in a row early though–you want to have alot of clinical experience. Of the feedback I have gotten, noone has given me ANY slack about my minimal volunteering despite working 60 hours a week, and taking classes-- (I was volunteering like one saturday a month).

I’ll let you know more when I have interviews (I’m applying this year).

You can’t change your past, so don’t worry about the GPA and gaps. All you can do is move forward:)

Interesting re: the volunteering - I have heard very mixed things about it. Some say it’s optional and makes little difference. Others say it’s essential. Anyone else want to chime in?

  • L.C. Said:

You can't change your past, so don't worry about the GPA and gaps. All you can do is move forward:)

This is true, but I can assess their effect on my chances of getting in before investing the significant time and money required to complete my premed requirements. (As an engineer, I've got the math and physics covered, but not the chem and bio).

I do appreciate the positivity, though.