Glad I found this place

So. I’m just-turned 28, starting a new job on Monday, and getting ready to go back to school and get going on those science pre-reqs in 3 weeks. I work in sales for now, which is something I fell into by accident while trying to work my way through college. Speaking of, it took me a long 7 years but I did eventually get a BA in psychology from the University of Chicago. My first two years were largely work and beer and not enough class; after several years off working to fund my tuition my last 60 hours or so were much better.
I had intended to work for the FBI or someone similar, and was very close to doing so when I actually graduated. Had a conditional job offer from a 3-letter agency, was flown out east for polygraphing and psych screening and whatnot, and life was looking good. And then I spontaneously lost much of the hearing in my right ear, and became physically ineligible for jobs like that. Spent about a year and a half doing psych research at the U of C before puttering back into sales while trying to figure out what to do with my life now that my lifelong dream was completely out of reach.
Long story short, my 4th-year med student wife has been quite an influence on me. Seeing what medical school has been like for her has convinced me that it is something I could handle, and I know that becoming a doctor would be the kind of fulfilling career I need, and well worth the next couple of years of working full-time and taking night classes at least 4 nights a week.
I did some job-hunting and found a job with comparable pay to my last position but nice simple 8-5 hours with no reason to ever work late or work weekends. In three weeks I start up with gen bio and gen chem with labs at my local community college, which was my only real option for night classes. I’d love to do a postbac program, but it just isn’t financially feasible with a wife in school full-time for now, and earning a resident’s salary for the next few years after that. I took gen chem in college but it was basically 9 years ago now, and I’d feel a lot better with the refresher. I’ll take both all year this year, and a semester of gen physics next summer. Anat/Phys and o-chem all year next year, and most likely 2nd semester physics that summer and the MCAT in August 2007. I’d prefer to take the MCAT in April, but I’ll need to take a practice exam later and see how it looks without that second semester of physics, and without o-chem finished off.
At any rate, glad I stumbled across this site. Over the last couple of hours reading through the forums I’ve experienced a nice little roller-coaster ride of “oh god doing all the science pre-reqs at a community college is going to torpedo me I need to find some impossible way to save up enough to do a postbac program in a year or two” to “whew, ok, there are some folks who had positive experiences doing it that way after all.”

Welcome to OPM!
While I am not an official welcoming committee, I can say that you will find a wealth of advice and insight at this site. It appears that you are taking positive steps toward applying to medical school. Remember to take your classes at a pace that ensures you will do well in them, especially since you are working. Doing poorly in a class hurts: It takes a lot of A’s to make up for even one C grade.
I’m curious about your motiviations for desiring to be a physician. Your wife’s med school experiences appear to be a big influence. However, medical school AdComms (admission committees) will want more reason that this. “My wife is a resident/doctor therefore I want to be one,” is not very convincing in my opinion. I would advise you to take the time to think over all the reasons that make “doctoring” and medical school appealing. This sort of “mind game” will help you in both your personal statement and in your med school interviews. First hand exposure to the medical field may help. Perhaps your wife can help you find volunteer opportunities and shadowing opportunities.
Good luck! And check back periodically. There’s always something new here.

Oh, I do plan to begin volunteering when possible. Likely somewhere around October, once I’ve had a month of the new job and night classes combined to be sure of what sort of volunteer committment I can reasonably make. I’m not worried about doing well in the classes between just them and work (I took a few electives at the same community college a while back while working full time to make it easier to finish at the U of C, and if anything I’m worried about the pace of these courses being a bit slow, and plan to study considerably on my own from my wife’s college texts as well), but I don’t know if I can handle a once a week volunteering committment on top of that, or if I should be looking to do something like every other Saturday, or one weekend a month, or…
No, my motivations aren’t simply because my wife is a doctor. The ultimate reason I wanted to work for the FBI or in law enforcement was a desire to ultimately help other people, by trying to protect them. When that type of work became impossible for me, I foundered for a while without any sort of real purpose. After realizing that clinical psychology just didn’t hold enough interest for me, I moved back into sales to improve my income a bit over the academic work I’d been doing. I worked in travel, which was great fun at times because I’ve now been to France 7 or so times, Italy, the UK several times, China for several weeks, Alaska, and Costa Rica all while either escorting tours or for educational purposes. But, it was horribly unfulfilling. There’s nothing really to feel good about, or take much pride in, in planning vactions for America’s wealthy. It was getting progressively harder and harder to get up in the mornings, and I still had no real sense of purpose.
Have you ever seen the movie Unbreakable? Bruce Willis’ character has been stuck in a job, in a whole way of life really, that just isn’t what he’s supposed to be doing and it leaves him with a similar lack of purpose and fulfillment. After he first gets a glimmer of what he could be, he says something along the lines of “I woke up this morning and for the first time in a long time I didn’t feel a great sadness.” Well, since my wife convinced me that going back and taking classes again wouldn’t be a waste of time, and that I could actually get into a med school at this somewhat late date, that line suits me perfectly. I wake up in the mornings and work isn’t something I dread any longer; now it’s just something I need to do for now to pay the bills in order to do what I want to do. I’m actively looking forward to taking bio and chem - I’ve started studying both for 1-2 hours a day already even though classes don’t start for another 3 weeks. I’ve been sitting here thinking about the best locations to volunteer at and what sort of areas I might want to volunteer in. Thinking about how to get to know the teachers at the community college a little better since I will need recommendations from them, and I need to be sure I’m asking teachers who can write a good, strong recommendation. Thinking about whether volunteering in a smaller clinic type setting might ultimately be more beneficial than a large hospital because I could hopefully get to know doctors and other personnel much better there and in turn have a good alternate recommendation source in addition to my instructors.
Basically, practicing medicine would be a great way to fulfill my desire to help other people, albeit in a very different manner than I had worked towards before, and the thought of doing so has actually given me something to work for again for the first time in three years. It is something that I very much want, and not just because my wife is soon to be a doctor. While helping her to research residency programs, I came across a plastic and reconstructive surgery residency at the University of Chicago, and after reading further I realized that in a perfect world, that’s where I would be 12 years or so down the line. Particularly because of the specialized training in the second year where residents travel twice to sites in Mexico, Honduras, or Puerto Rico with a a full plastic surgery team to help people with cleft lip and palate, and other congenital deformities. I think reconstructive surgery appeals to me more than anything I’ve considered in a long, long time. I realize it’s a difficult area to get into, and that my interests may change drastically in medical school (my wife’s certainly have changed plenty over the past 3 years), but right now it is absolutely what I want to work towards with my life.
And that was all just sort of where I’m at right now/what I’m feeling. As far as personal statement and interviews, well, I’m a disturbingly good salesperson when I turn it on, especially when it comes to selling myself. But I’ll worry about that part later


I wake up in the mornings and work isn’t something I dread any longer; now it’s just something I need to do for now to pay the bills in order to do what I want to do. I’m actively looking forward to taking bio and chem

I know just where you’re coming from … once I decided to “go for it”, my enthusiasm has made everything a little more bearible. Now that I’ve added a couple courses to my full time work schedule, I’ve been more capable of adding even more … like volunteering once a week (every Sunday afternoon at our local hospital ER), running every morning before work (5:00 am) and studying every evening (even Friday & Saturday night). I’d wanted to train for the Dublin Marathon with a few friends, but there’s no way I’d give up my volunteer day for the LONG weekend run nor would I miss a weeks worth of classes to fly off to Ireland. I really wanted to do it, especially since it seems like it might be eons before I could take another vacation. Oh well - priorities!
But mostly, I am amazed that I’m able to do so much more now — where before I couldn’t find the motivation to even exercise regularly.

I don’t know if I can handle a once a week volunteering committment on top of that, or if I should be looking to do something like every other Saturday, or one weekend a month, or…

I was surprised that by the volunteer committments required by the hospitals in my area. I always thought that volunteering was sort of like “I’ll come in when I have the time.” Not. At least around here. I had to committ to 100 hrs and a regular scheduled shift each week! And, if I can’t make it, I am suppose to find another volunteer to cover my shift. I wasn’t too keen about that, but it has worked out well. Next semester I’m taking two courses, so I might have to quit the ER volunteer position. I’ve put in my time, so maybe they’ll consider putting me on some sort of “on-call” status??? I did find one MD that was willing to let me shadow her (FP) - but it’s during my usually work day - of which I’m already mixing with afternoon school. So, though she’s more flexible, I can’t see asking my boss for even more time off!! Good luck with your volunteer efforts. I understand your uncertainty with the committment part…

Volunteering is certainly a great way to gain exposure to all the myriad aspects of health care and medicine. Volunteering can help you decide if medicine is right for you, or in my case, volunteering gave me the idea to go into medicine. However, volunteering can be very taxing, and can literally take over your life if you don’t make your education a priority. It is important to set limits, otherwise you’ll never get on with your school work, and all the volunteering in the world won’t get you into med school by itself. You still need science coursework, MCAT’s, LOR’s (letters of recommendation), etc.

Case in point: I started volunteering at a free homeless clinic; at that time, I wasn’t premed, I just wanted to “give back.” I really enjoyed it, and soon I was volunteering 25 or more hours per week, working full time, and taking night classes. It was such important work that I would always put my volunteer work ahead of my schooling. Indeed these experiences ultimately convinced me to go the premed route, but to start premed I realized that I had to extricate myself from my time-consuming volunteer obligations and focus on school. In the end, more than a decade passed before I finally stopped volunteering at that clinic and relocated elsewhere so I could concentrate on school. I have since started volunteering again, but I keep my hours very manageable (6-8 hours per week). I have learned my lesson: school first.