Help! Charting a path, medicine, public health, policy, oh my!

Brand new here…I recently learned of the “Old Premeds” podcast and have been listening to a few episodes which brought me here. I’m encouraged by hearing others’ nontraditional experiences! I’m looking for some guidance and insights on charting a path forward.

Here’s my situation…


  • I’ve been interested in medicine, public health, and health law & policy for many years.

  • I picture myself in a clinical role in private practice with an emphasis in family & lifestyle medicine and in changing the healthcare landscape on a population and policy scale.

  • Last year, an immediate family member experienced a life-threatening condition and was hospitalized in the ICU. Talk about a life-changer! This experience along with my ever-increasing knowledge of the healthcare industry has led to a good understanding of the barriers & burnout physicians face, inspired me to want to be a fierce advocate for patients & families, led me to embrace preventive & lifestyle medicine, and to better understand the long-lasting psychological and emotional effects of illness on providers, patients, and families alike. I’m coming into this decision with a pretty realistic perspective of the challenges of the role of the physician and the greater industry (idealistic view shattered). :wink:

Educational/work experience:

  • To minimize college costs, I started at a community college and completed a dual BS/MBA program studying business & healthcare administration.
  • After graduation in 2016, I started a position in healthcare financial analysis and remain in the field. My position allows me to interact with healthcare administrators and physician leaders on a regular basis. I have a good understanding of the HR, financial, and operational issues leaders are facing and the “behind-the-scenes” of healthcare.
  • Also after graduation, I went straight into a DIY post-bac at a local college while working and have completed all the main prereqs. I didn’t go to fancy schools but my GPA throughout all coursework is very solid.


  • The debt of medical school & uncertainty of physician autonomy (becoming a cog in the machine) and viability of private practice (which I aspire to) scare me and are the main considerations holding me back from going “all in.” I come from a working class family and there is no financial safety net, so taking this on is a huge step.
  • My main application concerns are letters of recommendation since my coursework is several years old and I don’t have a MD/DO relationship yet, and clinical experience – shadowing, working, volunteering, etc. – and with the uncertain timeline of COVID and clinical settings, who knows what this will look like.

Other options:

  • My alternative plan has been to build a strong reputation in my current position and leave doors open for becoming a healthcare administrator which I am on course with. I have pursued professional development in my position through certifications and leadership in a professional association. I could still further study public health and policy, or possibly even law, and these options do strongly interest me, but something always calls me back to medicine. I am driven by the desire for change on a personal and societal level and do not have that in my position, and would be looking at decades to achieve that reach by climbing the business ladder, most likely.
  • I’ve considered other healthcare careers including RD, RN, NP, and PA and have shadowed in multiple settings (although some time ago). I am attracted to the autonomy of NP practice but more interested in the medical model. The flexibility of PA is nice, but doesn’t lend the autonomy I look for.

My main questions at this point (and some might be rhetorical, but your input is appreciated) are:

  • Thoughts on pursuing an MPH or policy degree while wrapping up application requirements & taking the MCAT?

  • What other experiences might complement full-time work or, if I leave my position as I am not looking to stay in this field long-term, what experiences could I participate in to make some income between now and a future application? (I am working through the podcasts and have heard others pursued being an ER scribe, for example)

  • How to bite the bullet & move through fears of taking on a massive financial investment & time commitment to pursue this career change?

  • If I’m still hesitating several years out from graduation and haven’t committed yet, is this not for me? I pictured I’d be in med school by now…

  • Any other thoughts given my situation? Skills to highlight or develop? Items to consider? Questions to ask myself?

Thank you!!