Okay, I sent back my secondary application to UAMS. Everything is in place, and I get a letter from the Dean of Admissions. The letter informed me that I had been selected for an interview, and I should call to schedule my interview between August 15 and December 12.
You’d think that I’d be happy, right? Wrong. I’m scared shitless.
These are things running through my head:
1. What if they accept me, and I can’t cut it?
2. What if I get there, and I hate it?
3. Do I want to work this hard at this stage in my life?
4. Are my kids/girlfriend going to hate me for this?
5. Am I being selfish?
6. Do I really want to be a doctor?
I can think of a lot of reasons I want to be a psychiatrist, but I can’t think of a single reason outside of “to help people” for being a family doc or any other kind of doctor, and I don’t feel like I can go into an interview and tell them I only want to be a psychiatrist when I haven’t done any type of rotation.
I talked to three of the local psychiatrists, and all of them said if they knew then what they know now, they wouldn’t have gone to medical school but instead gotten a PhD in psychology because it is the psychological aspects of their jobs that they enjoy. They said that their psyciactric training really only prepared them for state mental hospitals and settings and not necessarily for private practice.
Now, I know that what is true for them might not be true for me. But I’m wondering if I should look into PhD programs in psychology, but I’m also having feelings like, “I’ve worked this hard for this medical school thing, shouldn’t I see it through?”
I’d really welcome any thoughts or comments.

Oh, Ash… lots of people have had these same sorts of feelings! Here’s my responses to your doubts:
1. If they accept you, THEY think you can hack it, and their judgment is based on a lot of experience. It is natural to have some doubts. Many folks think they’re the “admissions mistake,” the one who shouldn’t have gotten in. For now, accept their initial assessment that they think you’d be good for their medical school. If you didn’t have doubts about it, you wouldn’t be human.
2. It is possible that you’ll get there and hate it, but not likely. This happens mostly to people who really didn’t know what they were getting into. You’ve been reality-testing this idea for some time, and so you’re not likely to be surprised. More importantly, though, what if you DO get there and hate it? Then you can change course. You are not signing a contract in blood that requires that you sweat it out to the death. It would suck to rack up some debt, true, but better to rack up a smaller amount of debt and get out with your sanity than rack up MORE debt and become certifiable. So if you hate it, you can bail. No harm, no foul.
3. Do you want to work this hard? Well, it IS harder than anything else you’re likely to do, that’s true. It’s a hard question to answer. I can tell you that for me, the answer is YES because I am enjoying myself so much even when I don’t get any sleep. I am using so much more of my brain than I even realized I HAD, and really making a difference in the lives of other people. I’m also making a huge difference in my OWN life and frankly that’s key. I am a much happier person, even though I’m working this hard.
4. Can’t say how kids/girlfriend are going to react. Might they hate you for it? Possibly. But if you’ve got good relationships going in your family, and this step really makes you HAPPY in a way that no other career step has done, then it is pretty unlikely they’ll hate you for it. They may miss you, yes, and wish you were around more. But they’ll be happy for you and your interactions with them will be more positive because YOU are happy. Sounds trite but it is true. Make sure to tell them how much you are enjoying the ride.
5. Selfish? Some years ago I asserted that this IS a selfish quest, in that you are putting your own goals first even though you know that may inconvenience or upset those close to you. I got some crap from a few people for it, but I maintain that while it is selfish, it is a worthwhile selfish in that the goal is a better life not just for you but for those who are important to you. And furthermore, not to sound downright babyish about it, but it would be selfish for those close to you to insist that you NOT go through with this for THEIR happiness. The fact is, in any relationship there is a lot of give and take, and there are always going to be selfish as well as altruistic motives for things. There’s no way to separate them out. I don’t see a problem with selfishly pursuing a goal that you feel is going to make you a better, happier person.
6. Do you really want to be a doctor? Yeah, I think you do - but you are having an understandable attack of cold feet. The day I got my acceptance, my first thought-out reaction (as opposed to the initial “yippeee! OMG!”) was OH [censored], WHAT HAVE I DONE NOW?
I got over it and I bet you will too.


On the “psychiatrist vs. Ph.D. vs. some other sort of medicine” thing, I think you can be honest and say, you’re interested in psychiatry for x,y,z reasons but you realize that there is a lot you don’t know and so you are keeping an open mind.
My psychiatrist (who has a psychotherapy practice) actually said a lot of the same things you’ve heard - that psychiatry nowadays is all about medical management, it’s instititional settings and medication adjustments. But there are any number of psychiatry residency programs where there does seem to be at least some attention paid to psychotherapeutic relationships (GWU’s is one) and practitioners are trained in therapy techniques as well as pharmacology. So don’t distract yourself with the Ph.D. question right now - I honestly see that line of thinking as a delaying tactic because you are rightly just a bit freaked at the reality of getting an interview invite.

Hi Ash,
It is not unusual to be nervous about life-changing events. Medical school is a huge investment in time and energy. Is it worth it? Only you will be able to decide if medicine is what you want.
I had a great friend who started medical school with me. Kevin is a brilliant guy who is a published author and passionate about child psychiatry. Among his publications is a very insightful book titled “Teaching Inner City Kids”. He was a natural for Howard and its mission. Three weeks into medical school, Kevin decided that medicine was not for him. He withdrew and headed into a Ph.D program in psychology where no doubt, he will be an awesome contributor. Kevin thought carefully and decided that what he wanted to do could be better accomplished with a Ph.D. It turned out to be the best decision for him.
On the other hand, I didn’t find anything about the medical school process that wasn’t constantly awe-inspiring. I had faculty that were great and very, very supportive. I was challenged mentally, physically and intellectually at every level. I emerged more curious and totally ready to take on this very, very demanding career that I love every second of. Surgery is 100% on every second of every day. I love this role and look forward to becoming more technically saavy as well as learning how to become a safe and competent surgeon.
Like you, I had a specific career in mind when I started medical school as did Kevin. Like you, I had doubts as to whether I could get through as did Kevin. I wondered what this “demanding mistress” would do to my relationship with Steve, my fiance. Keven decided early that medicine was not for him. I became immersed and could put this down. I loved my classes and I loved the process that Howard put us through along the road of becoming a physican. Howard has a “lock” on the process if you can hack it. Today, I am totally at home in almost every practice situation. I am equally at home opening chests and doing laparoscopic choles. Sure, lots of that training came from the University of Virginia but Howard gave me the tools to meet the most extreme challenges head-on. I would not have made it through the past two years without my rigorous medical school training. I came into this program, heavy on technical training, ready for the challenge. I have had to learn a totally new system but I am thriving here as I though I would.
I hope that you enter medical school and embrace the process without doubt. If you are selected for an interview, you no doubt, have the capability to get through. If medical school is not for you, like Kevin, you are going to know this early. You can’t tell until you get there. If you don’t love the process, you can tell that pretty early too.
Also, resist the urge to compare yourself to others. If there is anything that maturity teaches you, it is being confident and secure in your skin. Some of your more traditional colleges will take their “pre-med” syndrome into classes and boast about how great they are because they scored this on MCAT and had this high GPA. All of you start out dead even and these folks fall into line pretty quickly. They may become merely annoying but they won’t affect you. You get out of medical school what you put in. As Mary RR has warned, you don’t have to sacrifice your soul to become a good physician. You can still be a great parent, friend, or son and a physician at the same time. Set your own race and run it. Yes, Pass = MD/DO and you are only in competition with yourself.
Go into the interviews with a questioning eye and try to use the time to decide where you want to study and where you can thrive. Rankings don’t mean much if you hate where you are. If you hate your school, you won’t do well. When it is all said and done, find a place that is comfortable, good for your family and will provide you with an environment that is condusive to learning. Yes, attending medical school is a little selfish but again, looking at Mary RR, you can choose a school that will disrupt your family life minimally. It has to be a total package deal here. If your family is miserable, you are not going to do well no matter what.
Use this time to check out every possibility about your prospective school. Carefully weigh all of the possibilities and make a good choice. Finally, enjoy the process.


You get out of medical school what you put in. As Mary RR has warned, you don’t have to sacrifice your soul to become a good physician. You can still be a great parent, friend, or son and a physician at the same time. Set your own race and run it. Yes, Pass = MD/DO and you are only in competition with yourself.

This is great and comforting advice that I will take to heart as I sit here in the “calm” before the “storm” that hits next week. Balance is key as well as remembering the fact that medicine will take all that you give it and more…if you let it.

Ash - what school is UAMS (sometimes figuring out what the abbreviations stand for is tougher than an MCAT question…)
Congratulations by the way!

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

I see you 're from Texarkana, I have quite a bit of family on the Arkansas side. My uncle, Bill Caller, owns the Tape Villiage in town. Let me know how the admissions process goes at UAMS, as that is where I hope to apply.

Hey Ash,
To be very blunt, this is a question better considered once you’ve been accepted. You’ve come too far not to apply and give it a shot; you’ll always regret it if you don’t. If you either get in or don’t, you’ll have a different space from which to think–the space of having given it your best shot. You’ll have plenty of time in the spring and ultimately the summer to think this over even before med school starts.
Be excited for your interview–that’s a great thing. And have fun.
Good luck.

All I have to say is a HUGE CONGRATS!!!
I think it’s natural to be a little bit scared about the whole interview/acceptance process… after all, our “will I even get an interview” fear has to go somewhere… this is the next logical step…
like everybody else said… go into it with an open mind as much as you can…

I will not add to the wonderfully thorough comments of Mary and Natalie, but will offer you a huge CONGRATS!!! for getting an interview at UAMS. It’s a great school and I think you will like it. I’ve had numerous friends graduate from the allied health programs there, who all loved them and did well. I also worked there as a rotating nurse and found all the staff helpful and willing to answer questions (unlike the hospital my school was associated with - Baptist Medical Center)

I think I will be approaching the same dilemma myself. someplace in the back of my mind im wondering if i should go for that phd instead.
I also got in touch with some psychiatrists… made a list of questions to ask them, and am in the middle of hunting more down to ask.
please do keep posting and letting us know how you are doing, and what things you are considering, and how you are sorting all of this out. I don’t know about other folks on this forum but I definately want to know what you end up doing and why!