Hey all,

I don’t know. I just wanted to put this out there and see what kind of response I may get. I am almost 29 years old and really wish to become a doctor, specifically a child psychiatrist, which is a field with an extreme shortage and a very difficult field to work in, in terms of types of challenges overall.

I’ve always loved working with children/teens and have worked with them in the capacity as a nanny and early childhood special education assistant for a number of years. I also tutor currently at a middle school on a volunteer basis.

My interest in child psychiatry comes from significant personal experiences having suffered from age 12 till 26 with severe mental health issues. I was eventually diagnosed with bipolar type 2 disorder (the non-psychotic version) and given appropriate treatments (Finally!) which have rendered me episode free and very high functioning for these three years past. My motive for pursuing the M.D. is little else but altruistic. I’ve been there and know how terrible it can be for so many of these kids. I, myself, went through a variety of placements and treatments and believe I have seen almost the whole gamut that psychiatry has to offer. It’s not pretty whatsoever.

This is, of course, not something I am going to advertise on my personal statement in my application. Reading some of Student Doctor Networks postings on the subject, I’ve seen and heard about much of the stigma when it comes to the medical profession having within their ranks a person with a mental illness. It’s sad. I hear my own psychiatrist tell me many go into the profession having had experiences in the family or themselves with mental illness and then I go on SDN and see psychiatrists dissuade pre-meds who profess issues with mental illness. And I hear doctors have one of the highest suicide rates because many are so afraid of the stigma of seeking help for depression as a professional with so much authority.

I am not going to say I don’t see the issues with people with illnesses like bipolar disorder becoming doctors. There are many issues if because of stress, symptoms return and get out of hand and impede judgment and impair performance. But I feel that more has to do with how a person with bipolar disorder manages stress than with a person having the illness. People who can’t manage stress well, bipolar or not, should not be applying to medical school, period.

I would say I manage stress pretty well. I’ve learned a lot through my practices in Buddhism—mindfulness, lovingkindness, gratitude, and generosity—that have taught me a lot about how to roll with the punches and keep going. I don’t give up easily. My belief is that no matter what happens, we always have a choice in how we can respond, even if it’s just to change our attitude toward the situation. Yes, my role model as a wannabe shrink is Dr. Viktor Frankl. He says a lot about persevering when you think any moment could be your last.

I currently am taking 13 credits and working 25-30 hrs a week as support counselor for a man with an autism spectrum disorder. I also tutor kids two hours a week and volunteer in a health clinic for the uninsured. I have volunteered for a year in the past at a Peds rehab hospital and in child psych at a major university urban hospital. I plan to go back to that hospital to volunteer more in child psych and peds/peds ER. I also plan to do an internship at a very well-known psychiatric hospital and work with adolescents there.

I still need to finish my undergrad bachelors. I graduated with an Associates degree in psychology from a community college. I did not take any pre-reqs there that I need for med school, so the easy community college route for that is not my issue. What is a significant issue is over 20 Ws (withdrawals) on my transcript from 10 years of taking classes there and being very unstable with my illness. I plan to say “I suffered with a severe chronic illness that lasted for a long time which was unable to be successfully treated until 2009 and rendered me significantly unfocused and uncommitted academically. My path since then has been nothing but increasingly successful and in the last 5 years, I have been able to achieve all this……” Something like that.

I am currently starting my first semester at a 4 year university. This school is known for having a decent reputation in the sciences. I am doubling majoring in biology and making my own other major in the interdisciplinary studies dept looking at the interactions between the biological, social, and psychological. My plan is to do 4-5 semesters of research with a professor who looks at the sociocultural dimensions of sickle cell disease. I am also striving for a 4.0 in the rest of my undergrad and to graduate Summa cum laude with an honors thesis in my interdisciplinary major. Despite my withdrawals at my community college, I did end up with a 3.9 GPA.

Sorry, I know this is a lot of info. I just wish to tell my story somewhere. When I told my pre-health advisor about my past and the W’s, she was kind of discouraging. Her job depends on keeping the percentage of students who apply and don’t get into medical school down, so she discourages people whose stats are low or who have wayward pasts like me.

I don’t know. I feel my medical doctor fate rides just on how ADCOMS look at those 20 Ws and my long and winding road to finally being successful. I wish I could tell the truth about my past because I feel it is an asset in working with kids with psychiatric disorders. I feel like perhaps I can understand and pick up on certain things better than other clinicians can because I used to wear those shoes; I know more about how these kids think. Or I know more about how to persevere in dealing with them. I won’t give up on them too easily. Really, it just comes to down to I have instincts about the kids picked up through my experiences. As long I take care of myself, manage my stresses, and stay well, I am not sure why I cannot become a doctor if my grades, MCAT score, and letters of recommendation prove scholastic competence.

Thanks so much for reading through all this!

I don’t have the experience to say how your history will be viewed by adcoms, but wanted to at least extend a welcome to this community! There is a lot of information to be gleaned in the discussions here, including in some of the old conference lecture notes/slides.

Best of luck as you continue to make your journey towards med school!


Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. Buddha

Your 20 W’s will hurt but they are past. What you can do for the present is do well. Since your own experience with mental illness was a main factor in getting those W’s and you want to go into psych because of your experience, you will have to write a concise, coherent and compelling narrative weaving your experience, your growth and your improved grades

I know you have many other details but I am rushed for time

Welcome to OPM! I have no idea about the topic at hand, but as Richard said it all comes down to basically selling yourself, and preparing answers for their questions and reasons against.

Can you sell the package of having effectively controlled mental illness? Can you demonstrate, through your history, a strong commitment to medicine?

Because of your MI I would imagine AdComs will assume you more susceptible to mental health issues during the grueling experience of medical school. To stop that in its tracks you may have to prove you have a strong foundation in your life, to provide you with support a “normal” person wouldn’t need. So, if you’re happily married with happy kids, they may see that as “proof” that you’re really okay. But if you’re divorced or never married, they may consider this evidence that you’re not. PLEASE NOTE - I HAVE NO REAL IDEA ABOUT THIS, AND AM MAKING TOTALLY UNINFORMED ASSUMPTIONS.

Mental health carries a heavy stigma. I have known several people who obtained medications for psychiatric problems from their PC, rather than risk others finding out they’re seeing a psych. I have had close friends who refused to seek help despite urging from both friends and family, for fear of being labelled. It is not an easy road you’re on, and I can’t give you much in the way of useful advise. Just a lot of speculation.

It seems other OPM’ers are avoiding this post because they don’t know either, and those that do know have the same fears you do. So please realized when it comes to other questions we can help a lot more, and don’t feel unwelcome!

Thank you all who responded to my long post. I especially liked the post with the Buddha quote. :slight_smile:

It is wise to keep my mind focused on what I am doing now. I am striving my hardest to succeed and do all I can to gain admittance and become a doctor. I feel my admission’s fate, though, is not totally dependent upon on my own efforts and how focused, hardworking, and dedicated I am, but will have to do somewhat with the attitudes/prejudices of particular adcomms and that sucks. I guess I can apply to D.O. schools, too, which I hear can be more understanding.

But thank you for your replies. I just wanted to see if anyone had any response to predicament.


It’s true that admission won’t depend on your efforts and how dedicated, focused and hardworking you are…and that’s true for everyone.

Those efforts have to result in demonstrated achievement (which is not the case for some folks for many reasons). Also, in some way the narrative of who you are which is presented in your application must match up to what they are looking for…which may be somewhat nebulous even in the minds of the admission committee members!

I would say that if you are considering applying to DO schools as well, that is is not something you can just add on at the last minute. There is a need to do some basic websurfing reasearch on osteopathic medicine and shadow a DO to get an idea of what it’s all about in order to address secondary applications and interviews. We had a presentation on osteopathic medicine by a psychiatrist who was a DO at my postbacc program.