First off, I’m so happy to have stumbled across this site! Let me introduce myself.
In 2 weeks I’ll be 30. The road I have taken to wanting to be an MD is a strange one,but it makes sense in the end so bear with me!
I graduated from the University of Illinois - Champaign-Urbana in 1996 with a BA in History and Poli Sci. No science, and I even skimped on the core requirements(took “THe History of Science” and got it approved as my science class. For real!) At the same time, my high school sweetheart (He didn’t remain so for too long) was in Univ. of Michigan’s 7-year Med program. I was totally turned off by his self-important attitude and the all the attention he got. So I set off to the world of politics! I joined the Peace Corps and served 2 years as a Rural Health and Nutrition volunteer in French West Africa. When I came home I started working in evironmental and public health advocacy.
If you think lobbyists and campain managers have a “cool” lifestyle (think “THe West Wing”), then think again! I ran a field office in St. Louis, MO, far from friends and family. I had insane hours and had trouble holding down a relationship, but at the end of the day I went to bed feeling like I was doing good things - protecting the Arctic, cleaning up toxic waste sites, and blowing the whistle on the Bush Admin. National Energy Plan. Anyway, I burned out when I got transferred for the 3rd time. Also, in politics, a “victory” is only temporary, and selfish as it sounds, I never will have a cance to really SEE that a difference was made.
This brings us to the present. I had said time and time again that 1- I wanted to return to Africa. 2- that I wanted to commit myself to Public Health. 3- That if I wasn’t working on policy, I would be a doctor, but that I didnt have the brains or ambition. (which is BS, and a poor excuse!) So, since I left advocacy, I have been working on geting into a Master’s of Public Health program. Since I have loads of experience, I can get through the program in 1.5 years. My plan is to earn an MPH and do all my pre-med pre-reqs at the same time. Insane? Maybe.
The biggest hurdle has been that family and friends are not all that supportive. They think I’m partially nuts, I’m not thinking clearly, etc., etc. I’m not married nor do I have any dependents. I’ve thought this through and I am talking to pre-med advisors and the Public Health professionals, as well.
Anyway, any words of encouragement would be appreciated! Or whatever. Thanks and I hope to see you all on the board every once in a while, as I move towards this next phase!
First off, I’m so happy to have stumbled across this site! Let me introduce myself.
That certainly is an interesting story you have! But you aren’t nuts - Well maybe you are, but you’re in good company here!
You definately are not too old, and even if you were married with children you could do it. So say something polite to your detractors and keep moving.
If you can do the Master’s and your pre-reqs and keep up a killer GPA, you’ll definately prove yourself to med schools. But, you really need to do well in those pre-req classes and on the MCAT no matter how well you do on your Master’s. Keep in mind that most med schools have a program where you can earn your MPH and MD/DO. So, you might be able to adjust your inner time line to maximize your chances. You don’t have a science background which means it will be all new material - and make no mistake - hard. They don’t call them the “hard sciences” for nothing. You’ll need to keep a decent GPA in each class and lab. Then the MCAT. It’s a doozy. It takes a good bit of time to prepare for it, and keep all that newly learned science fresh and supple in your mind.
Any way, there are many people who follow a twisted path to medical school, you aren’t alone, you aren’t the first and you won’t be the last. It is quite common for professionals to change careers these days. It’s a changing world and you are really quite hip, on the cutting edge of it!
Wow! You sure have had some fascinating experiences!
Welcome! Doesn’t sound strange to me. Don’t let those naysayers get you down. I’m 40 and have my own checkered past. Anyway, from one RPCV to another…go for it.
Too bad about the family. It’s not nuts.
Let me be a devil’s advocate though: if you’re sure you want to go to med school, it will be even easier to complete the MPH while in med school (you can do it in a year); and even easier still to do an MPH, paid, while in a fellowship program later. That said, your plan will help you stay focused on what’s important to you while doing o.chem, which is really important for psychic survival. Just make sure you give ample time to your pre-reqs because your grades in those will matter quite a bit even if you do quite well in your MPH program.
Also check out the posts of “Calvin in a box by the river”–as she is also a refugee from political (campaign) work.
Finally, you might also consider–just to keep an open mind–whether an MPH is the way to accomplish your goals while you take premed prereqs. It might be just as rewarding to spend some of that time actually going back to Africa for a time; working with a group that supports Africa (eg, http://www.africaaction.org just to name one example); or…
Again, your plan is a good one but it’s good also to think about what are your real goals emotionally as well as scholastically, and then think about how to achieve them.
Thanks for the words of encouragement! I’ve thought about doing all my pre-med classes independent of an MPH program - I’m lucky that Chicago has post-bac programs at Northwestern and Loyola - but my reasons for going for the MPH make sense, I think. For one, I am committed to Public Health. I have been for a while now, and I don’t want to abandon that goal. Second, I think that doing pre-med courses while working on a Master’s will keep me focused and motivated. If accepted to my top choice school, I’ll have a good support network and loads of resources. And at the end of the day (or the 2 years, as the case may be) no matter what happens, I’ll walk away with an MPH. It’s not a fall-back, but where I want to be.
I’d love to do some more work in Africa, and all the MPH programs I’m applying to have externships in West Africa, which is why I’m applying to the program in the first place! But any other info regarding work/volunteering in Africa or the field Tropical Medicine would be greatly appreciated.
Anyway, I’m glad to see there is so much support out there! Thanks again,
Any help, please do not hesitate to ask.
But, I must say…Bush is doing a great job.
I don’t think that you need to worry or fret about your position; as with the others, I agree that you’ve had
some unique experiences. But, I also agree with your family and the other OPM posters that doing the MPH and
taking pre-requisites for medical school is NOT a wise idea, for several reasons: 1) Most AdComms (admission committees)
will judge you based against your peers, nearly all of whom have taken only the lower divison coursework
pre-requisites. When you get a graduate degree (i.e. MPH), they then want to judge you against other grad applicants
nearly all of whom have good grades (most graduate programs require their students to maintain a B average),
so it behooves you to complete the lower division work first. 3) Take your time and do well in your classes; rushing
your coursework in the hopes of saving a year, only increases your chances of doing poorly and your
anxiety. While the anxiety will eventually go away, poor grades do not: they stay with you and haunt you
Where does this advice come from: I called up the deans of admissions to all the med schools in my state
(California), and asked them what they though
about what a very much older student (myself) should do; the verdict was nearly unanimous: forget the Masters
and take the pre-requisites at a 4-year school (not a CC). 2) Why not a community college: because most
premed students take their pre-requisites at 4-year schools. 3) Don’t repeat any pre-requisite courses
that you have done well in; rather, take more advanced courses. These, however, tend to be only offered
at 4-year schools, so it effectively rules out going to a community college anyway.
Of course, on the surface, this advice seems to be forcing us OPMs into looking just like our younger counterparts.
But that’s what AdComms want: to be able to judge everyone on the same level. On the other hand,
it prevents one from standing out. But our age and life experiences already make us stand out. When applying
to med school and to separate you from other applicants, you want to be unique, but not too unique; otherwise, AdComms tend to not know what
to do with you. And AdComms want to be assured that you can handle their coursework and
get along with the other students; they want diversity but not “divisive”-ity.
Remeber: the secret questions that AdComms are asking about us OPMs are: Why, when others are settling
into careers, raising families, and getting on with their lives, would anyone want to give it all up or put it
all off, by spending years in school? And how can we, as an AdComm, justify to the medical community
to take and train this applicant when there are other qualified applicants out there?
Shooting for the moon and the stars: entering 2008 MD/MPH/PhD
Getting an MPH and doing the pre-med requirements is a good strategy only if you do exceptionally well in both parts for two reasons. If you are coming from a non-science background, you are going to have to prove that you can handle the rigors of medical school. You don’t have other upper division science courses to offset a poor performance should you get into trouble. Second, while a MPH is a great degree to have, it is going to be judged as graduate school which by nature implies that your GPA must be extremely high. It is not difficult to have and maintain a 4.0 GPA in graduate school. It is far more difficult to maintain a 4.0 as an undergraduate.
Take plenty of time to study and do well in your pre-medical classes. You have to know the material well and be able to show that you can apply it on the MCAT. The MPH is a great adjunct to an MD/DO and can also be obtained while you are in medical school so you do have some options here. You can also serve in many aspects of public health without an MPH if you have an MD/DO. Having an MD/DO gives you far more open doors around the world than an MPH.
I have a colleague at work who is taking her pre-med courses now. She is absorbed in math, general chemistry and physics while working part-time. Believe me, she is on total overload. Do not estimate the study time that is involved for to do well in these important classes. It sounds like from your post that burnout has been in your past. You just don’t want to burnout pursuing medical school and these classes can lead you down that route very easily. Good luck!