I went through this forum for an extended period of time, reading all the posts for inspiration. There are definitely so many gutsy people out there that are attempting to enter medical school at an older age, and I do admire them. I’m having my own doubts, as the practicality of the adult mind is ever so present. Anyway, I’m posting my current situation; please let me know what you all think, and what some of your experiences have been:
I’m 32 years old; I work in IT, have been for about 14 years, and have a pretty lucrative career making low 6 figure income. However, I find it a little soul-less, and I have always been fascinated with human health (especially human brain) and I really want to go to medical school to become a neuro-surgeon, or something of that nature. I was always afraid of biology for the most part, but that was 16 years ago, and I feel very different about it now. Most people have told me it is stupid, naive and not a very good use of my time, given where I am in my IT career. I’m willing to chuck it all, because in the end I will be able to do what I love - which is where the problem comes - “will” I be able to do what I love?
My timeline is as such:
I do not have any science courses, so I will have to do the full pre-med/post-bacc. I’m a little afraid at their workload (48 credits) and the courses: they are all intermediate level courses, but I went to school 12 years ago, and I don’t remember anything. Will I be struggling in these classes?
I contacted Stony Brook University, and being that I’m a NY resident, I can get tuition subsidies. I can get in to their post-bacc program for spring 2011, which they said if I take summer and winter courses, I will finish around 2012 spring, and then take my MCAT and apply to get into a medical school on 2013 Fall. Which means I will graduate in 2017, and then residency starts. I hear that surgery residency is much longer than most others, so I will spend another 4/5 years in residency. So by the time I am able to search for a job, it will be 2022, and I will be 44.
Am I able to do surgery at 44? I’m sure it depends on my health and mental temperment and such, but who would hire me at 44, when they can get someone at 34, given that we have the same qualifications? And by the time the 34 year old is 44, he will have 10 years of experience, while I will have a huge debt and 0 years of experience.
I know all this is worth it if I can do what I want in the end, but my fear is that nobody will want to hire me because of my age, and that I will not be able to build a career, and won’t be able to do what I went to study in the first place.
I guess, my real question is; everybody knows medical school is hard and all, and it requires commitement and hard work, but I know if you apply yourself hard enough, you can do it. My question is what happens after that? I’m really curious to know the experiences of the older medical school graduates after they finish their residency…
Thank you all…
Just a quick note - general surgery residencies are a minimum of 5 years, many are now 6 years and the general feeling is that they will all likely become at least 6 years (many integrate a research year or two or critical care, as well). Neurosurgery is typically a 7 year residency, 8 years in some cases and rumored to be moving towards a required 8 years.
It’s wonderful that you want to pursue a more fulfilling career than IT, and medicine can definitely be that (I am hoping that it will be for me, for sure!). I would suggest, however, that before you jump into classes that you do some volunteering/physician shadowing to make sure that you really do want to do this. I’m not questioning your dedication – please don’t think that. Medicine is just a long road, and you want to be sure it’s right for you. Spending some time in a clinical environment can help you sort that out. Of course, if you’ve already done that, then great!
Remember, too, that admissions committees will want to see evidence of your commitment to medicine/people anyway, so volunteering is important regardless. It’s important to make time for that in the midst of your classes.
Best of luck as you begin your journey, and keep us updated!
I’m a premed myself, so I can’t offer much advice by way of experience, but I found this great story last week posted on another forum. This man will be just starting his surgical residency at age 49/50. Make sure to watch the news story along with the article. Best wishes!
@Emergency: yes, so I’ve heard. The length of the residency doesn’t bother me if I’m really enjoying it. The question is, surgery is difficult and I’m wondering whether at 44, my hands will be good enough for that
@terra_incognita: I would LOVE to shadow doctors and see it firsthand - but how do I go about doing this? Do I just contact any doctor I know? It seems weird that a doctor will just let a stranger follow him around, without me being a med student and all, and without having any sort of affiliation with any schools…
@ebfor10: Wow, that story IS very inspiring! I so hope to be that guy one day… how is your pre-med going so far? Have you found that being out of school for a while (if you were) hinders anything?
I posted some tips about shadowing a couple of days ago; I’ve copied and pasted that post below (hope you don’t mind the copying/pasting; but it was a LONG post and I don’t want to retype everything! I did adjust the post a bit to be more relevant to you.)
Some tips that have helped me with networking:
- Start with people (medical personnel) you know. Doctors, nurses, etc. who are friends or family. Ask if you can shadow them (the MDs/DOs) or if they know people you can shadow (the RNs, CNAs, etc.). As jlr18 said, your own doctor can be a resource too, either to shadow him/her or his/her colleagues. Remember: you don’t get what you don’t ask for. So ask.
- If you’re going to be volunteering, you may be able to ask someone there. But get to know the person first; asking them on the first day is a bit forward.
- Get in touch with your alma mater (both high school and undergrad). This has actually been HUGE for me. Through a connection I made with an alum from my undergrad, I’ve gotten a research lab job for the summer, and a chance to shadow someone in surgery (an anesthesiologist). Contact your alumni office, post on your alumni group’s Facebook or LinkedIn page, do whatever you can to make your presence and interest known. You never know what will surface.
- Get to know your advisor / professors, and once you’ve made a good connection, ask them if they know anyone who you can shadow. They probably have lots of people asking them this question, but if you’ve made a good impression, you may get lucky.
- Once you’ve made contact with someone, use that contact to make MORE contacts. Ask whether they know someone ELSE you can shadow for a day or two (in a different specialty, preferably).
- Keep track of your dates/hours (as well as contact info), and write down your observations/reflections right after you shadow (if you wait, you’ll forget – trust me). This will make for great personal statement material. And you’ll need your dates/hours and contact info for AMCAS.
- Write thank-you notes / e-mails after you shadow someone. Not only is this the courteous, right thing to do, but the person may be more willing to let you shadow them more, or give you their colleagues’ names and contact info.
My premed classes are on hold at least until next spring. My husband and I are expecting our first baby in August, so his birth falls too close to the beginning of fall semester. I fully expect to be walking around like a zombie for the next few months after he’s born.
In terms of classes, I didn’t find the adjustment of being back in school too difficult. I think part of that could be attributed to the fact that I had finished a grad degree in 2005, so I had only been out of school 3 years before I started my first science class in 2008. However, science classes are very different than music history classes, so it took an adjustment in the way I studied. Oddly enough, I had to go back to the way I studied in high school. I was very motivated in H.S. and did very well in terms of my grades. Unfortunately, when I started college as a music major, I slacked off on the studies, and came out with a mediocre 3.43 gpa. So I’m working hard to bring that up a bit before I apply.
We’re about the same age (I’m 33), and I don’t think you should have too much difficulty adjusting to classes as long as you’re motivated and willing to work hard for the grade you want. Keep us updated on your progress. Cheers!