Do you think I'm just spinning my wheels?

Little bit of background about myself. My father was killed in a business store robbery when I was 15 yrs. After his death my grades in high school were not so great GPA 2.4; needless to say I had to grow up quickly. After my dad passed away my desire to become a physician diminished; I became intrigued with law enforcement and wanted to become a police officer at the age of sixteen. I decided to join the explorer program (volunteering thousands of hours) thinking I would become a police officer, which was my back up plan if I didn’t become a physician. My senior year in high school I decided to take a health occupations class to determine if I might still be interested in medicine. I received my CNA during my senior year and graduated early as well. Immediately after graduating I hired on with the Sheriff’s Department in the 911 Center (lots of pressure and stress working there). After about 3 years of working in police communications I decided to start college and I wanted to eventually go onto medical school. Well, I had a set back; I ended up having brain surgery at 22 yrs. I am now living with Pan-hypopituitarism. It took me approximately 3 years to get my meds at an optimal level and my life settled. The last 3-4 years my health has been great, no problems. I work full time 40-50 hrs a week in the 911-dispatch center. I also work for an air ambulance service dispatching 1 - 3 days a month. On top of all this, I go to school full time (1st year undergrad). I feel that I have had plenty of life experience.

Currently I am taking an EMT class, and will hopefully be able to put it to good use volunteering. I have a meeting set up with a pre-med advisor to discuss some of my concerns. I know ultimately the decision is up to me if medicine is the right choice. I feel that I have proven I can handle the stress, working long hours, and school fulltime. Given my background, what do you think the admissions folks would think? I know there is several med students out there who have medical conditions they have to deal with, but I think my situation is somewhat more unique. I worry about how I am going to pay for my meds (I know there is health insurance available, but given the fact I have to take tons of meds, I don’t know if I would qualify). Maybe I should just go the PA route? But then I’m always going to wonder, “What if I would have gone to medical school.” By the time I finish my BS deg I’ll be thirty-two, then med school which is about 8 years or more. What would you do in my situation? And do you have any ideas or questions that I might should ask my advisor?

I know my calling is to become a physican; and hopefully specialize in endocrinology to help those who are dealing with diabetes, and other endocrine system problems. I feel I would able to fully understand what my patients are going through.

Thanks! Sorry for the long story.


Also, what is the USMLE and Complex test?

Welcome to OldPreMeds! What you have lain before us would be the basis for a moving & powerful personal statement - one that would motivate reviewers to want to interview you. Furthermore, as you are just now starting college (so, I assume have minimal or zero college credit hours), you will not be under the gun (as many nontrads are) having to make amends for poor academics in the past. Your HS grades will not make two hills of beans to the med school AdCom (OPM slang for admission committee).
From what you have said, it would appear to me that you have the advantages of a rich life experience, motivational elements & have avoided the proverbial boat anchor of crappy old grades. Sounds like you are off to a great start!
Regarding USMLE & COMLEX - they are both acronyms for licensing board exams for MDs (USMLE) & DOs (COMLEX). Each of them have 3 steps taken at different points in your education & training. To obtain a physicians license, you must have passed all 3 steps of the appropriate series of exams. Step 1 is taken prior to beginning your 3rd year of med school. Step two is taken late 3rd year/early 4th. And the final step is taken no earlier than after 10mos of post-grad training.
Even though it is very early in your process, you might concisder attending the upcoming OPM conference in Washington, DC. The earlier in the process you become adept at navigating the process, the more likely to be successful with a minimum of errors you will be. However, if you cannot make it this year, then there is always next year.
Again, welcome to OldPreMeds!!!

Cory, no, you are not spinning your wheels. Dave’s made some good points so I won’t repeat them; instead let me point out a few more things:
1, when it comes time for you to apply to medical school, you will want to portray your life story in a way that clearly demonstrates how you have overcome challenges and succeeded. There have been discussions here on OPM over the years where people express worries over Adcoms discriminating against students for their physical or mental health conditions. While technically such discrimination is illegal, it is understandable for AdComs to want to know that you’ll be able to do the work. So your personal statement will need to be carefully crafted to demonstrate this - and from what you’ve said, I believe that won’t be a problem for you!
2, health insurance. Well, you gotta have health insurance. I suspect you’ve learned some ins and outs of this so forgive me if this seems simplistic. You are probably familiar with COBRA, the extension of existing insurance that’s offered to you if you lose your benefits. You can use it for up to eighteen months. It costs a LOT - when my husband lost his job while I was in medical school, our COBRA payments were over $1000/month and that was a bargain. In any case, that’s something I’d recommend you keep in mind - set aside that COBRA money in the event you lose your benefits at some point prior to med school, due to a change in your employment status from FT to PT for example. In medical school you should be offered some sort of group health coverage as a student. Medical schools know that their population doesn’t have any other coverage and so there should be something. It may not be the greatest but it should be a group plan and therefore you should be eligible even though you have a pre-existing condition. You won’t be able to assume anything; you’ll need to ask questions all along the way, but this is something that should be workable.
Same thing when you’re a resident; you’ll be participating in a group plan and so will be covered regardless of your pre-existing conditions. (I have MS and my husband has recently developed expensive health problems, and so my health benefits administrator probably groans whenever she thinks about me, but everything’s getting paid for including my $2000/month medication.)
You have something many of us didn’t when we started college: a clear understanding of what you want to do and what you’ll need to get there. You should do just fine!
Good luck,

Thanks for the encouragement! If keeps my eyes on the goal.

Cory, I agree with what Mary and Dave have said above. See my recent remarks in the “Applying to Med School” forum also for some of the challenges of coming in to medical school from somewhere else in the medical system–whether as a nurse or as a person with a medical condition, doctors want to know that you think like a doctor. One thing that pops out right away about your current schedule is that you are going to have some difficulties really going beyond the requirements in your science work, just because of time constraints–working in a lab, taking an advanced seminar, etc, etc. You may want to think about how you might do that.
2) Health insurance for med students is no freakin joke. We should probably have an OPM forum just about that. My own school has a prescription cap that Mary would run through pretty quickly. I’ve actually done a bunch of calling around to administrators about this, not because I’ve hit the cap myself thankfully, but because I find it offensive. Our health services folks say that if you exceed the cap they’ll find ways of working it out, through pharm access programs, special funds from the school, and so on. And they say that few students reach the cap. However, I would suspect that you will meet the cap at schools that arrange things similarly. At my school I genuinely believe they would work things out, but that means some uncertainty at the outset before they do work things out. Think about how you might deal with the uncertainty of this as you walk in–I don’t have any instant answers, but it’s definitely worth thinking about in advance.
good luck, and welcome to OPM!

One more thing. I think the working full time/going to school full time strategy is something that gets a lot of folks into trouble at one point or another. It may work for some semesters and not others, and sometimes it’s hard to know which combination of classes is going to give you a problem until you start. Don’t hesitate to dial down the workload–whether at work or at school–even if it means taking a little longer. (And figure out how you would do that in advance, so that you know when the add/drop deadlines are, you know the minimum hours you can do at work and still keep your health benefits, etc. Admissions committees don’t keep good track of how hard you’re working at work; they do keep good track of your grades.
Your idea of volunteering as an EMT is a great one, I realized I didn’t say that before. Again, though, make sure you have time to get excellent grades, and also to be a human being.

I can attest to this.
I run my own company, which means I work full time plus another half-time job doing my own paperwork and billing. Then I take 2 classes a semster + labs, so that puts me at 10 hours a semester. This semester, my work has definitely suffered to make sure I have an A. If I could just tell my “boss” I need less hours…
Starting this fall, I’ll be taking 14 hours, so the workload will decrease, despite what my “boss” wants .

I think I have my pre-med schedule figured out. I work graves at the 911 center with four days on and three off. Each night I work I will go to paramedic dispatching at 0200hrs till 0600 hrs where it’s a lot quieter, and I can get lots of homework and studying done. The real question is, how am I going to do it all in med school? From what I have read med students are not working full time jobs. It is going to be hard for me to give up a job I enjoy that pays well. However, I am willing jump outside of my comfort zone to make my dream come true.
Regarding the meds, Just one of them (HGH therapy) costs $700.00 a month, my insurance pays it as it falls under major medical. If I didn’t have the HGH I definitely wouldn’t be able to have the energy I have today. Maybe I can get into a HGH study, which would pay for my growth hormones. My focus right now is to complete my 4-year degree, and then cross the medication bridge when it gets closer to going to med school. I can’t let anything get in my way right now.
I know my grades will not suffer. I have told my upper management that I am not going to take on any additional side jobs etc. at work. I will not allow my grades to suffer from working too much.

Coy -
You are NOT expected to work during medical school. Most medical schools actively discourage it. Normal living expenses are included in the budget for going to med school, and you are eligible to borrow most of that. There are a few people who manage to work part-time during the first two years, but more than that is really not feasible. Third year, working is pretty much impossible.
It is very hard to give up a good paying job to go to school full time. Most of us on here have been through that. Its tough to give up that security.
For now, though, do the best you can with your undergrad work. Do well and don’t overextend yourself. If you are planning on med school, you want to do well in your classes the FIRST time. Start talking to people and researching ways to handle your medical situation if you end up in school full time.
Good luck.

It sounds like you’ve got a good set-up and your plan sounds totally reasonable. My point above was just to make sure you’ve figured out all your options in advance in terms of workload, add/drop etc–even if you’re 95% sure it’s all going to work out. There have been a lot of people in this forum who ran into academic trouble b/c of scheduling/workload issues and then beat themselves up about it–when really the problem is not that they weren’t capable of doing well but that they were asking too much of themselves. OldPreMeds are especially susceptible to this because we try to combine our old lives with our new lives; because we have different financial concerns; etc. All good and all what gives us something special to offer our med school class when we do join up, but it creates a risk of overextending yourself.
In terms of the meds, you would hit my school’s prescription cap–but like I say, one way or another I think you would end up working this out. For instance, once you’re accepted you could sit down and talk to the financial aid officer and say, look, I really want to come here, but I can’t do well unless I have this $700/mo drug. The school might be able to help fund it; to get the dean to write to the manufacturer of the HGH to ask them to cut you a break; to put the COBRA payments into your financial aid; or, lots of other options. (Medical issues are the one place where you can generally increase the financial aid budget, although hopefully not in such a way that you end up with more loans.)
I think it is absolutely the right thing to do to just take the medical parts of it one step at a time. And, I think it is absolutely the right thing to assume that one way or another it can be worked out, even as you know there will be barriers in your way. (And you shouldn’t have to join a research trial to do it!)
Again, good luck.

Coy, just remember, as has been said so many many times on the forum, “applying to med school is a marathon, not a sprint.” Pace yourself as you walk this path.