I did something I never thought I would do...

…and perhaps more significantly, I convinced myself that there would never be a need for this. I looked down upon it, for myself, in my own mind. I had a creeping thought, hiding in deep mental recesses, that has now been identified through my current academic struggles, which is that this thing I have decided to do is only for people who aren’t sure that they can make it to med school.

I looked at alternatives to med school. There it is. This is a big deal to me.

I decided to do this because the bad exam scores keep coming. Greek is hammering me, and I just…don’t…get…it. It’s not going to get any better, therefore the gpa is going to go down, yadda yadda. I was a confident A student prior to this semester, so my confidence and ego is getting blown to pieces. This is not easy for someone who came from the Stoic ideologies of the military.

I haven’t given up on med school, but I did make this decision as I reflected upon how stressed this all makes me. More importantly, that stress, when vented, flows right into my wife and infiltrates into her attitude. Not good. I placed this decision into my mind as a pressure relief valve of sorts, for when the pressure to perform (am I the only one who thinks that the bar is set WAY to high for ordinary people like me?? How in the world did it happen such that, although schools say that a C is “average” what they push in ideology is that an A- is “average” and C is failing??) becomes to great and begins to affect my mood outside of class, I can remember that there is always post-bacc if I screw it up. A longer route indeed, but definitely worth my and my wife’s sanity. I hate negative stress…it does funny things to me like make me really sleepy and eliminate my appetite.

I looked into MPH programs and liked what I saw. If I could have my first choice of programs in med school I would pick MD/MPH anyways, so going the long route via MPH first doesn’t seem like a bad gig, not taking into consideration the funding, that is.

I can breathe a sigh a relief now, let the bad times roll off my back as I like to do, take it easy, and not worry that my report card for this semester is going to suck (I say that a la Dr. Dan).


JF, I have had those moments along this path. Even whose I have had the moments where I go to careerbuilder to look for accoutning jobs. It happens to the best of us. Don’t let the path get you down.

I have one of those moments at least once a semester. My husband calls it my mental breakdown.

I explore all the options, talk through the same points with him, and then he just sits there and looks at me and says the same basic thing. “Do any of these options really sound like they would make you happy? Because if they do, then let’s go for it.”

And I usually glare at him and say, “NOOOOO. They do NOT.”

“Good, then go study.”

Yup–that’s pretty much how the conversation goes. =) Hang in there! You are the only one who will ultimately know the right choice for yourself and your family…but know that you aren’t alone in the FUD–we’ve all been there!

Just stop the back and forth, and realize that doctors aren’t paid 150k+ to just sit around. It’s hard, and demanding. Ask yourself if you are willing to make a selfsacrifice for your patients, which will give your family a comfortable life.

I am in a stretch of 44 days with only 3 days off, 31 days on call. I am working 14 hour days on weekdays and 8-10 hours on weekends. This is what I work as a board certified physician. Med school and residency had nothing on this.

Hang in there! No one ever said that becoming a medical doctor was easy, just as being a medical doctor is not easy (a tip to Tara). The bar to getting into medical school gets progressively higher because the competition to become a doctor is fierce, driven by both altruistic and selfish motivations on the part of applicants, medical schools, and the AAMC. Medical schools want smart applicants, in part, because they want doctors smart enough in which to entrust the health and lives of patients.

Unfortunately, medical schools have decided that smart means top grades in courses, especially those in the “hard” basic sciences – something at which not all of us find easy or natural no matter how hard we study or practice. While it has been argued that those applicants who are good at science should be allowed to be doctors while those of us who are not good should do something else, there are other pathways to medicine and health care. Foreign medical schools are one option. Allied health fields like PA and NP are other options. “Alternative” health fields like chiropractic and acupuncture are others. Your choice, MPH, is another, although one would not be able to practice but it is a nice way to combine health care with altruism (the public in “public” health).

For this, I need the back and forth. Academia is not my world, and this semester has revealed that to me. I am sure that many on this forum feel the same way, but keep pushing on anyways with the ability to grease their own squeaky wheels; but as for me, I do not have that brand of grease.

I’ve been through Iraq, and we were actually extended on that tour. I receive disability compensation from injuries I sustained there from being blown up by the equivalent to many pounds of tnt, a couple of times over. I had no issues with that for the most part, it was just what I did. I had no problem carrying absurd amounts of first aid/field surg gear in temperatures around 140f. There were plenty of squeaky wheels there, but I had no problems. This though, the academic world, is a more difficult animal to me. I am here by the merit of hard physical labor, not because I had the grades to get here. Fortunately, I discovered that I really enjoy biology…but the rest is giving me a hard time, so I need some way to blow off the steam that comes from attacking this beast head on, via hard labor, or at least more so than by the gift of above-average intelligence. Holding a marriage together in this midst also adds a degree of difficulty that is difficult to explain…I come from a demographic where 8-9/10 marriages end within the frame of time that we are currently living through. Becoming an exception to that statistic has proven at times to be incredibly difficult, so understand that some of the strife also comes from that. Anyone coming from the same place knows exactly what I am talking about there.

I understand being a doctor is difficult; I’ve put in my small slice of being a pcp for a platoon of marines and that was busy enough without having to worry about malpractice, board certs, huge med school loans, on call duties, etc. I’ll probably end up back in the Navy as a gmo, so I wont have to worry about a lot of that anyways, should it come to pass pending I don’t upset the guys in FL because I never show up to musters…that’s another story.

Until I get to that place though, I need a pseudo-back door somewhere in my mind as I navigate the increasingly difficult waters of higher education, which will only become more rough as I approach med school.

Thank you to the supporters.

  • Jfowler Said:

I looked into MPH programs and liked what I saw. If I could have my first choice of programs in med school I would pick MD/MPH anyways, so going the long route via MPH first doesn't seem like a bad gig, not taking into consideration the funding, that is.

Sorry, but I may have to rain on your parade. Generally, an MPH does little to increase your chances of being accepted to medical school later on, particularly for helping in a mediocre GPA.
  • gonnif Said:

Sorry, but I may have to rain on your parade. Generally, an MPH does little to increase your chances of being accepted to medical school later on, particularly for helping in a mediocre GPA.

I have heard this before, but I have yet to see hard figures to back this up. The assumption here is that IF you go MPH to "raise your GPA," the ominous UofX school of medicine adcomm wont think that you have what it takes to tough it out. I wouldn't go MPH to augment a poor GPA, I would do it because I want to get into public medicine and be a contributing factor (albeit probably a minute one) to fixing an ever un-healthier people. What I do not mean is to earn an MPH then go straight to med school and say "Look at me, I blew it in college but I got a master's, so let me in please!"

As I mentioned, I placed this in my mind to be a pressure relief valve of sorts, not a concrete plan B by any means. I am appreciative of your insight though.

I got a D in physics. I panicked, convinced there was no hope for me to ever, ever get into medical school. I researched SMPs and post-baccs. I plagued my pre-health advisor, and ignored his rational advice. I had conversations with my husband identical to those Carrie had with hers. (Ahhh, their vulcan-like process is so frustratingly logical)

In the end I admitted that I did poorly because there were several things I wasn’t doing, or could do better. If you can look at your situation and determine a similar issue or pattern, then you can fix it and move on. However, if you are truly striving 100% and can make no changes, then either you are not meant for medicine or you have a learning disability that needs to be diagnosed and accommodated.

Only you can determine this - and perhaps a Plan B is the best way to get started.

I agree that getting an MPH solely for the sake of improving low GPA is probably not wise, but if he wanted to do an MPH anyway, I don’t think it would hurt as long as he did well in the MPH courses.

While I did okay in my direct pre-reqs (mostly A’s, a few B’s), I have a hard time with upper division chemistry (a few C’s) and biology (lots of B’s). All this has done is to drag down my GPA, and given that my school does not give out +/- grades, one’s GPA falls quickly. Every time I receive a test score or grade that I do not like, I ask myself, “What can I do better next time?” and try to implement that strategy. This has helped improve things somewhat, but sometimes I feel as if I am working at my fullest capacity even when things don’t go right with exams (and it is exams that give me the most trouble; I routinely get A’s on presentations and papers). Unfortunately, doing my best is probably not going to get me into a U.S. medical school, so I do have alternatives. Not all of us are good at the sciences no matter how hard we work and how much we study; I suppose that is why I was not a science major when I went through undergrad the first time.

I just want to chime in that it is a good idea to look at alternatives, to constantly assess whether this is the path you want to walk. It is not necessary, nor even wise, to make the decision once and then just put your head down and slog through, no matter what. There are many forks in this road and you should look at them as you come to them. Keep thinking. Talk to doctors. Talk to advisors. See if your local med school has people who’ve completed an MD/MPH who would be willing to talk to you.

In other words, if you’re going to look, LOOK.

Gotta agree with Rich re: and MPH for enhancing entry into med school. MPH courses will not help improve a poor undergrad gpa. First, as is obvious, it’s a master’s program and anyone in a master’s program is expected to exceedingly well. Second, MPH programs have few, if any, of the “hard sciences” that med admissions folks want to see you do well in. And, if you have taken the time to get the MPH in the first place, it is assumed that you want to incorporate it as part of your medical career.



Thank you all for the input, it helps me to think more broadly about this.

@ Pixie: I do not feel as if I am going at 100% in regard to the grades I have received lately. But I say this in retrospect as I look back on times when I clearly had the time to put more effort into understanding concepts well enough to recall them for test questions.

@ Datsa: I agree with your philosophy of improvement based on trial and error, and I am working toward this. This school seems to require a very different style of learning and studying than did my previous school, and unfortunately the casualty of not picking up on that change until late in the game has been a handful of grades. I can say that this has revealed to me a more accurate picture of the type of student I am. And, although there is little support for non-trad students like myself, I am in the process of working with staff to create a non-trad student rep position to help anyone else like me who finds themselves here in the future.

@ Samenewme: I am coming to understand this principle firsthand. As I mentioned, the military imparts a rather Stoic philosophy that has proven essential for my coping with some pretty horrible situations that any rational person would turn down a term of military service for. I am finding that does not quite work here to the degree that I relied upon it in my recent previous life.

All in all, I am thinking through this option, specifically about whether or not I should get into the program anyways, with the intent of going to med school afterward so as to have an established, publicly-minded perspective as I begin physician education. We’ll see where it goes. At the least, this has served as a nice distraction from thinking about my sub-par performance this semester, so mission accomplished there.

Yeah…ditto on everything everyone said above. And I mean everyone.

The decision to go to med school is unique to every one of us. We each have our own reasons for wanting to change careers. We each have our own family dynamics. We have our own financial situations. We have our own objectives we want to accomplish before our time comes to exit the stage.

For an extreme example, would it be wise for a 70-year-old to take relationship advice from a 15-year-old? While there’s the chance the teenager may pass along a new pearl of wisdom, or more likely remind the elder of something long forgotten, the odds are most of this would think this is not credible advice.

The same goes for a lot of forum advice on these big picture “what should I do with my life?” topics. We each filter our suggestions and feedback based on our experiences. It’s easy to be a mindless cheerleader. “You can do it! Armed with a rainbow and a positive attitude, you can complete medical school and go on to dramatically save lives of poor orphans!”

It’s also easy to be the dour pessimist: “You’re screwed. I’d give up if I were you and accept your fate in life. It’s just not in the cards.”

I’ve been on this pre-med path for five years. A bit longer than I originally planned, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles with a job, family and reduced course offerings due to what seems to be never-ending budget cuts in my state. I’ve now reached the juncture where I’ve ditched medical school as an option and am/was considering DPT.

I won’t get into the full rationale behind that decision other than to say it’s not grades. As I’ve gotten closer to making the jump to med school, certain things have come into sharper focus and I am no longer willing to sacrifice my family’s future so I can switch careers. If I had done this 10 years ago, it would be a different story. Since I don’t have a time machine, nor access to a fairy with a magic wand who will drop a few sacks of money on my front porch, I have to work with the cards in my hand.

And, I begrudgingly have come to the conclusion that I have to fold.

To get to jfowler’s first post, it is freakin’ tough to know when to cut your losses and move on. I hate quitting. I don’t like admitting defeat. I also don’t like wasting my time, energy and money feeding a dead horse…or the wrong horse.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think a few bad grades are any reason to throw in the towel. Like someone else said, figure out what went wrong and attempt to fix it. Keep plugging until you get to the end, or near the end, and see if you’re competitive to get into med school.

In my case, I can no longer justify paying the time, energy, familial and financial price it would take to transition to life as a medical student. It is likely I will come to the same conclusion with DPT, even though those costs are lower, they are still significant.

In summary, it’s finding a balance between the two voices shouting in your head:

“You can do it! Damn the torpedos! Full speed ahead!”


“Don’t be a selfish dolt! Why should these people sacrifice their first careers so you can play doctor? Call the game and move on to the next one! ”