I'm 48 and thinking about med school

Hi - my first time on this site. I am a 48 year old mom, former lawyer/lobbyist, currently head of nonprofit visual arts center. Thinking about taking post bac premed program - talked to Georgetown U med admissions and seems like a long shot for older applicants - I can’t leave the area - husband’s job is here - does anyone know about GW, U of Maryland or Hopkins? Do they accept older students?

I want to go into primary care and work in public health/underserved setting.

I also was unwilling/unable to move from the D.C. area and applied only to GWU and Georgetown… from the other side, I am still amazed and pleasantly surprised that it worked out for me! I was determined…

I matriculated at GWU when I was 44. There was a woman in the class ahead of me who was in her early 50s… I don’t know who holds the record at Georgetown. When I interviewed there, they told me they were “very open” to non-traditional students but I got the sense that over 40 was a little too outside the box for them. Still, you never know unless you try and I always say, apply and see what happens. Howard is also receptive to non-trads.

You might look at VCU - they now have a program where you do the first two years in Richmond but then do your clinical rotations third and fourth year at Inova Fairfax in Northern Virginia.

Your interest in public health will also make you more interesting to GWU, which has a School of Public Health. Many of my classmates did concurrent MPH’s while in med school.

Bottom line: yes, it’s possible.


I’m beginning medical (osteopathic) school at age 48. You’d be starting 2-3 years later, but what’s a couple of years at our age?

There are others in their 50s in medical school. It’s do-able. Like you, I want to be in primary care when I’m done, and I hope eventually to participate in or start a free clinic for those unable to buy into the health insurance game.

You may need to spread the net wider to gain an acceptance, or else like Mary you may shoo in to the school of your choice. I would plan to apply broadly and don’t omit the osteopathic option, because osteopathic schools tend to be nontrad friendly.

Best of luck,

hope not to throw too much cold water on the party – the free clinic idea is great, and there is always a need to serve under insured or un insured people. What you also need to consider is that, unless you have a wealthy benefactor or a hefty savings account to tap, you are taking on a debt load of between 150-200k for med school alone. somehow it has to be paid back and free clinics don’t provide particularly great salaries.

you will also have a somewhat limited career in which to develop and carry out these plans.

I don’t think any of this should stop you from making a go for it - I started med school at 45 so can’t really say that ANY age is too late to start. I know one of our members here is starting at 51 – who knows what the limit is. But please do keep one corner of one eye on the realities. If the free clinic thought doesn’t pan out there are still many existing clinics that serve under served populations AND pay a salary sufficient to pay back the loans.

cold water always welcome and needed

Actually I was planning to spend 20% of my time on the free clinic idea, like one day a week or so after my practice is up and running. Maybe not realistic since as you say I’ll have lots of debt and not much time to pay it off, but we’ll just see how well the practice goes. I plan to practice for at least 20 years if health holds up, anyway.


  • ttraub Said:
You may need to spread the net wider to gain an acceptance, or else like Mary you may shoo in to the school of your choice.

I guess you weren't on OPM during the SEVEN MONTHS that I spent on GWU's waitlist! I worked my a$$ off both to present a really impressive and provocative application initially, and then to keep my name in front of the two AdComs. No shoo-in, trust me.

I only applied to two schools because as much as I wanted to be a doctor, I also recognized the 25-year investment I had made in my marriage and family, and was completely unwilling to disrupt that. Had I not gotten in, I would've tried again but I would not have moved. I am sure glad I didn't have to figure out what I would do instead, because clearly I am in the right line of work.... but there are other things out there that I'd be good at, I'm sure. I often wish I'd been a real estate agent.


OK, anyone up for an economics lesson. I am a finance faculty member at a large private university (obviously considering a career change). With respect to the idea of spending 20% of ones time in a free clinic, you should get online and read about operating and financial leverage. In a nutshell, this concept describes the relationship between top line (revenue) and operating or net profit. The point is that most medical practices have extraordinarily high operating leverage. This means that small changes in the top line have a big impact on operating profits. As a practice consultant, I’ve observed most practices to have an operating leverage of 4 to 6 (or higher). In simple terms (there’s lots behind this), this means that a 1% decrease in revenue leads to a 6% decrease in profitability. To spend one day in five away from the practice would mean a 20% decline in revenue and an 80% to 120% decline in profitability. Obviously, this is a fragile construct; but, you need to be aware that because of the fixed cost in a practice a 20% decline in revenues will result in a much larger than 20%decline in income.

I believe this is the reason that docs work so hard. They spend the first 20 days of the month covering fixed costs, so that the time they put in after they “crack the nut” is exceptionally important. If you take yourself out of the game for 5 days a month, a typical practice simply will not survive.

…talk about cold water!

BTW, I’ve written a white paper on the basics of practice management if anyone is interested.

Hello Crazyman,

I’d be interested in your white-paper on practice management. I’m rather curious about that aspect of practicing medecine. Although I’m in Canada, and I suspect some of the considerations in your paper may have a US focus, I still think it will make interesting reading.

Pls send it to presse at hotmail period com, all together, no underscores.



Hi Crazy:

I’d be interested in your white paper as well. You can send it to lpressley130@yahoo.com. Thanks!

Interesting analysis and I guess I agree with it. Let’s face it: medicine carries no guarantees of financial success (unless one approaches it as a business proposition). If I wanted to make money I would just stay in my current field of software programming and consulting and just sock away the bucks until I retire. I’m taking a huge financial hit with this career change, but I’m doing medicine because I want to do it.

I think anyone considering a career switch into medicine needs to go in with their eyes open, especially those with fewer years in which to practice. But at the end of the day we still have to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask–did I do something worthwhile today? Did I make the world a better place, if even a little bit? Because if the answer is “no” most of the time then money or no money, a career switch might just be what the doctor ordered.

When I’m 75 I want to look back and ask myself these questions: did I do the right thing? Did I make a difference? I believe that the answers will be yes and yes, even if I don’t retire a millionaire.

I guess that’s my point. I worked with lots of young docs and I don’t recall ever meeting one that was glad they went into medicine. I think that you have it exactly right that you must focus on doing good (esp. if you are older). You can make a living in medicine; a very good living if you stick it out to become a specialist in a hot area. But, most docs work very hard, have the potential to do lots of good, and manage to make a decent living (if you’re just interested in money, go into investment banking).

My comments weren’t intended to discourage, but to articulate the fact that in order to seek a higher purpose via a career in medicine you must deal with an inordinate amount of economic muck.

It is likely the case for almost all non-trads that the decision to go to med school will cost them lots of dollars in terms of retirement net worth. I like ‘oldpremeds’ because the participants are interested in being part of the solution. I salute you all!

I’m also interested in the white paper. I know very little about the business models of a family practice and have that on my list to learn more about that topic.

Since I have a glorious week between semesters, I’m trying to zing through the next Harry Potter book, get my life back in order for a bit, and would like to read your white paper.

You can send a copy to hakadoru AT gmail.com.