Is anyone out there doing it totally alone?

Hi, everyone. I suppose I should give a short introduction, seeing as how this is my first post here.
I’m a 27-year-old guy who’s thinking about looking into medicine as a career. I’m constantly wondering whether I’m crazy for doing so. I currently work in information technology for a pharmaceutical company, and it is most assuredly not what I want to do with my life. When considering medicine, however, I really don’t know if I have what it takes. I’ve always been pretty lazy and lethargic. I’ve gone through life until very recently wishing I were independently wealthy and could sit around doing nothing, and trying to avoid work as much as possible. I majored in music in college simply because I didn’t know what else to do, and I always assumed, wrongly, that one could always go to grad school after college and take up an easy life as a professor. When I found out that wasn’t true, I turned to computers, because all of the media hype about the job market during the dot-com boom convinced me that programmers both made a ton of money and were treated like royalty because of the intense demand, which meant (and I completely fabricated this idea by myself) that the work would be very laid-back and stress-free. If I couldn’t be independently wealthy, this seemed like a close second: get the house in the suburbs and the BMW, dump my copious excess income into investments, and retire at 45, without ever having had to do much of anything. Needless to say, that isn’t working out–the pay is decent, but not what I had expected, and as for my work life, it’s straight out of Dilbert, minus the curly tie.
So I’m considering medicine for the human interaction, security, opportunities for lifelong learning, and, though I hate this cliche, ability to “make a difference,” at least more so than my current career. I’m also considering it because it’s one of the things I considered when I was in high school and still had a more optimistic view of the world. My uncle, an endocrinologist, actually took me on rounds with him once at that time, but I don’t think I paid much attention and I’m sure it was apparent I wasn’t too interested. Back then, I assumed that one did not make an effort in choosing a career, it was just supposed to happen to you; it simply wouldn’t have occurred to me to make a conscious effort to pay attention and become involved. Now that I’ve been in the so-called real world for a few years, I realize just how hard we have to work in order to accomplish anything in this life.
I have several obstacles in my way: no volunteer record, a fairly meager extracurricular activity record, no real evidence of “leadership,” and only a mediocre academic record: 3.1 undergrad GPA, with a few C’s and D’s, and even one F. I must emphasize, though–and I hate to sound conceited, but I don’t know how else to put this–that people have always told me I was extremely bright and could do just about anything, if I would only try. I was labeled one of the “gifted” kids as a youngster, the kind who in the earlier grades could ace tests without studying, but as I progressed through school my grades continually worsened, since I didn’t pay attention in class or do my homework. I absolutely infuriated my parents and teachers, because they perceived me as having great abilities, but I simply refused to do any work. I shaped up enough during high school to get into a decent college, but even in college I continued to play the lazy student game: not doing the assigned reading, not starting papers until the night before they were due, etc.
I’m really rambling here, so let me ask my question. I believe I could overcome the problems I listed above: I could do some volunteering; I could take the pre-med course work and I’m confident I could do well. What’s really vexing me is how I’m going to make this happen from a practical standpoint. I think that every single person I’ve ever met who has completed a full-time professional school program, whether immediately after college or as part of a career change, has had support from external sources: i.e., either parents or a spouse. All I have is whatever I can earn with my own two hands. My parents were horrible about managing money, and they’re now separated, and neither one of them has much of anything. Moving back in with either one of them is not really an option. As for marriage, I have no prospects, and I don’t see myself having any until I start living with more ambition; my most recent girlfriend broke up with me earlier this year after hearing me say one too many times that I feel like it’s too late for me to find my true calling and I wish I could just do nothing. I’m also something of a loner, a fact about which I’m not really happy and would very much like to change, but at least for now, I have a few acquaintances at best, and thus I don’t even have the social “support network” of good close friends which many people have.
Anyway, my first question is: I’m aware that most people take out plenty of loans while in med school, but do those loans pay only tuition, or do you actually live on someone else’s money for four years? That is, can you pay rent, buy food and school supplies, put gas in your car, send birthday cars to your nieces and nephews, etc., with loan money? It seems a little outrageous to me to do so, but you can’t work while in med school, can you?
My more pressing question has to do with the pre-med years. How can I get to the point of being qualified to apply to med school while totally supporting myself with no help? I suppose, if the answer to the question in the paragraph above is “yes”, I might be able to live on loans while doing a post-bacc pre-med program, but I can’t imagine a music major with a 3.1 GPA being admitted to such a program. So I’d have to take at least a few classes individually first. I suppose I could handle that financially if I kept my current day job, but there’s the rub. Today I got stuck in a meeting that went overtime, and couldn’t leave work until 5:45. Now, what if that happens on a day when I have an evening class on the other side of the city? What if I take a Saturday class, and get asked to work some Saturday? (It hasn’t happened in my 3 years at this job, but it could.) If the class were part of an IS degree I was taking to further my current career, then I could say “sorry, I have class, gotta go.” But I wouldn’t feel comfortable even letting on that I was starting to pursue a different career, let alone asking my employer to allow non-work-related activities like Bio 101 to interfere with what they consider critical work. Maybe I could change jobs, but what could I do that would pay enough for me to live on my own and take classes? I suppose I could join a road crew somewhere, or find some other type of menial shift work where I’d be guaranteed fixed hours and could therefore safely take classes, but those jobs don’t pay enough, do they?
I’m sorry if the tone of this message is a big negative. I don’t really mean it that way. I think I might find it highly fulfilling to be a doctor, and I look forward to participating further in these forums with all you knowledgeable and friendly people. biggrin.gif I think I’m just envious of people with well-off parents who are willing and able to keep writing checks for their kids even post-college, and of people with loving, supportive husbands or wives who are willing to say “sure, honey, I’ll work while you go to school for 4 years, if that’s what it takes for you to achieve your dream.” (The latter scenario, incidentally, is how my uncle did it.) Have any of you “Old” pre-meds [27 is really old, isn’t it? tongue.gif ] successfully done what I’m proposing to do: somehow get through the pre-med process with no outside financial help from anyone?

I completed my B.S. on my own, while working FT. I took classes needed to transfer at CC at night and weekends - and finished my degree at a UC, still working FT. My employer was kind enough to let me arrange my schedule around when I could get courses - leaving at 12:30 to attend a lab or coming in at 9:15 due to a MWF 8AM lecture section - or leaving at 4:30 to get to a 5PM lecture, etc. I still worked 8+ hour days, just shifted the hours to make it all work. But they were really really nice to me and worked with me to coordinate the time. Fortunately, both the CC and the UC were in easy driving distance from work - about 15-20 mins total drive time either way. So if I got to school early to park close, ran out of class at 8:50 I could get to work by 9:15 most days like that. Likewise, as long as I left 30 mins before class, I could usually get to school, park and run to class before the starting time. Even if I had to park so that I ran up “the hill”.
and yes, there were days when I missed a lecture due to work-related stuff (esp at the UC) - and there were days when I convinced myself I had to work so I could miss a lecture I didn’t want to go to (calculus smile.gif ) - always a danger.
I also timed things so that I finished paying off my car before I transferred to UC - and then used my car payment money to pay my tuition there.


My first reaction was to write off this post as a joke, but I starting seeing some disturbing patterns here so I have to respond.I’m just wondering if we weren’t twins seperated at birth or something.
I’m 28, been doing IT for approximately 7 or 8 years now. Got into in in the late 90’s, saw the huge growth potentional and jumped right in. Now 7 years later the IT industry is doing a swan dive. My interest waned at least 3 years ahead of it, and I find myself it a dilbert like job (I’ve made this exact comparison before, you can look it up) and a future that is completely mediocre. I too was one of those kids who didn’t try, or have to try very hard to get good grades- yep, I was “that guy” who slept through class then came in, got an A and didn’t look back while everyone else struggled. “not living up to your potential” was my mantra throughout high school, and I was bored silly.
This is where our similarities end. Becoming a doctor (or more specifically a psychiatrist) is something I’ve wanted to do since I was 12(how many 12 year olds want to be a shrink? That’s a statement inof itsself). Anyhow, life gave me some nasty turns, parents were seperated, couldn’t count on any monetary support for school, and I had to deal with raising a daughter, so taking 12 years out of my life for school wasn’t an option.
So here I am at the ripe old age of 28 and I decided that it was time to put up or shut up. I’m going to be a doctor, but not for the money- I briefly considered continuing my IT career and moving into the excutive ranks, but some well spent time with a relative who’s a VP at a major company cured me of that goal- No life, no fullfilment, and no time for the family she works so hard to support. I have have a limited support system in the way of my wife who’s behind me 100 percent, but that is it. And I’m giving up a nice, comfy, middle class salary and life to spend basically 8 years in poverty working my butt off to pursue a dream. I mean God, if I was meant to cure cancer(ok it’s a stretch) then I best get cracklilatin’.
So now comes the reality, and let me tell you, if you’re going to do it for the money, DO NOT become a doctor. Will you make lots of money? yes. But you will definitely earn that money. Nothing in life worhwhile comes easy- it’s something I’ve learned. So when you sit and talk about “not wanting to work, or strain yourself”. Well you’d better play the lottery, because even if knowledge comes without effort, money definitely doesn’t.
Let me be blunt. With a 3.1 you will never get into medical school. I don’t mean to sound negative, but those are the facts. You have to raise your GPA AT LEAST to a 3.6 or better. You have to take prerequisites, which I don’t think you have many of, since you were an arts major. You have to EXCEL at those classes- if you’re intelligent, and you haven’t been paying attention up until this point, you will do your best now if you have any hope of getting in. If you KNOW you can get a 4.0, then you will HAVE to get a 4.0. And these are demanding classes- Biology, chemistry, physics, and calculus. You will have to completely rearrange your life, sell your house if you have one, keep that new car for about 8 years, study like hell, and live off of student loans. When you finish you will be in debt AT LEAST 100k. You will be paying that off for the next 20 years, so kiss half of that big salary goodbye right of the bat. Then you spend anywhere from another 4-7 years depending on your choice of specialty, in a residency, which is like jr doctor, where you will make only 35-40K per year. You will most likely be run ragged, working 80+ hours per week, on call, limited life outside of work, and THEN you start to reap the rewards?
Not scared yet? Ok then we’re getting somewhere. Med school is difficult to get into, and even if you bring your IQ results to the interview with you(if you get one that is) If you don’t have outstanding grades, an excellent MCAT score and some extra curriculars on the side, they will turn you down.
Yes, you’re a genuis and that’s great, but that’s one part of the picture- they want solid results, including outstanding grades- because guess what? there are more applicants than positions, and there are about 20 other people competing for your spot, and they all have 3.9+ GPAs and better than 80 percentile on thier Medical college Admissions exam. So if you don’t too, the rest is meaningless.

So that’s what you have ahead of you. You’re now among a sea of competitors who more than make up for in dedication and tanacity, what they lack in superior intelligence. It doesn’t matter than they studied for 5 hours a night day and night to get a 4.0 while you read things once through and got a 3.9- they will take the other guy. That being said, medical school from what I hear is challenging even to bright people. I don’t think you’ll be bored. If it’s the right thing for you, then you’ll know pretty quickly. It’s a rough road, and rightly so.
And that is what I’ve learned so far teacher cool.gif

QUOTE (LisaS @ Oct 13 2003, 10:45 PM)
I completed my B.S. on my own, while working FT. I took classes needed to transfer at CC at night and weekends - and finished my degree at a UC, still working FT. My employer was kind enough to let me arrange my schedule around when I could get courses - leaving at 12:30 to attend a lab or coming in at 9:15 due to a MWF 8AM lecture section - or leaving at 4:30 to get to a 5PM lecture, etc. I still worked 8+ hour days, just shifted the hours to make it all work. But they were really really nice to me and worked with me to coordinate the time. Fortunately, both the CC and the UC were in easy driving distance from work - about 15-20 mins total drive time either way. So if I got to school early to park close, ran out of class at 8:50 I could get to work by 9:15 most days like that. Likewise, as long as I left 30 mins before class, I could usually get to school, park and run to class before the starting time. Even if I had to park so that I ran up "the hill".
and yes, there were days when I missed a lecture due to work-related stuff (esp at the UC) - and there were days when I convinced myself I had to work so I could miss a lecture I didn't want to go to (calculus smile.gif ) - always a danger.
I also timed things so that I finished paying off my car before I transferred to UC - and then used my car payment money to pay my tuition there.


Lisa I can only hope my boss is as understanding as yours was- otherwise finishing my undergrad without quitting work will be nearly impossible.

I paid my own way through undergrad and graduate school without any help from family, with various full and part time jobs and student loans, which I just finally paid off a couple of years ago. So you can do it if you're willing to work hard and live frugally.

You can go to med school “totally alone” with no spouse, family support, friends, but it may be harder for you. In addition to the lack of financial support from family (which lets face it, most people don’t have anyways at least on OPM as far as I can tell), it will probably be harder without emotional support. You need people to vent too…but hey, that’s what OPM is for. biggrin.gif
If you want it, you can do it. But, you are going to have WORK YOUR ASS OFF! From your post, it sounds as though this is something you’ve never done before. If you buckle down and study and make the grades, do the volunteering, etc., you could probably get in…but you are going to have to WORK. WORK. WORK. Medical school won’t be handed to you on a silver platter. You have to work to get there. O.k. my record is fixed now. tongue.gif
It sounds like you’re on the right track in that you’re realizing you need to adjust your attitude. Yes, Dilbert-like jobs suck but work on how you can improve your situation. In your case, you can improve your situation by recognizing 1) this isn’t what you want to do with your life 2) what can you do to change your life 3) actively work to make med school (or whatever else you choose to do) a reality. If you decide that you don’t want to become a doctor, that’s o.k. too. I’m sure you will find something that is meaningful and rewarding to you. Good luck in whatever you decide to do.

I second what others said—pre-med, med school and residency is a long, tough road, so if you want to do it, be sure that you're ready to work hard. As far as the financial piece, it is possible to do it without anyone monetarily supporting you. I did a post-bac program while working full time, paying tuition out of my savings and paychecks. It took two years as I took classes in the evenings–I was in class 2-4 nights a week on top of a full time job. I didn't go to a big name expensive post-bac program, so that helped. You don't actually have to do a formal post-bac, all you have to do is take (and excel in) the medical prerequisite courses at a reputable (preferably 4 year) university. That means 2 semesters each of general chemistry, biology, physics, and organic chemistry. If you take these courses without going through a formal post-bac program, it may well be cheaper. During med school, you can live off the student loans, and live as frugally as possible so that you won't be saddled with too much debt later.
hope that helps…

QUOTE (Trismegistus @ Oct 13 2003, 10:26 PM)
Hi, everyone. I suppose I should give a short introduction, seeing as how this is my first post here.
I'm a 27-year-old guy who's thinking about looking into medicine as a career. I've always been pretty lazy and lethargic. I've gone through life until very recently wishing I were independently wealthy and could sit around doing nothing, and trying to avoid work as much as possible. I majored in music in college simply because I didn't know what else to do, and I always assumed, wrongly, that one could always go to grad school after college and take up an easy life as a professor. When I found out that wasn't true, I turned to computers, because all of the media hype about the job market during the dot-com boom convinced me that programmers both made a ton of money and were treated like royalty because of the intense demand, which meant (and I completely fabricated this idea by myself) that the work would be very laid-back and stress-free. If I couldn't be independently wealthy, this seemed like a close second: get the house in the suburbs and the BMW, dump my copious excess income into investments, and retire at 45, without ever having had to do much of anything.

Given what you've said, I'd recommend getting an MBA and pairing that with your IT experience to advance into management. From what you've said I think you'll reach some of the goals that you want to reach in life doing this and you'll find it to be a much shorter/cheaper/easier path to travel.

Waves at Trismegistus
It’s hard to get support sometimes for those of us here who are still undecided. Everyone’s path is different and for some of us this decision is astronomically difficult to make. I wish that us undecided folks were taken a bit more seriously. Feeling unsatisfied with your career yet being too paralyzed by fears or doubts to make a move is a very uncomfortable and frustrating situation to be in. I don’t think it means that we’re any less interested in or capable of being a doctor than others for whom the decision was easy. Don’t settle for something you don’t love.
Tris, I can totally relate to you. Growing up I too was labeled “gifted”. However, back then I did work hard in school. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I truly enjoyed learning and wanted to learn about as many things as I could. I didn’t spend tons of hours on homework, but did as much as was necessary to ensure an A in every subject. I was also involved in many extracurricular activities and did quite well in them too. Medicine interested me from the time I was about 4 and so I always thought I’d end up being a medical doctor.
Everything changed when I went to college. I went to Columbia and soon realized that everyone else there was smart too. First year went fine, but by second year I was feeling pretty unsure about my supposed intelligence. This led to mild depression and eventually apathy. Minimal work would no longer result in an A. Rather than giving it my all, I decided to take the path of least resistance. I dropped pre-med because I didn’t want to have to work so hard for the next decade. I figured I’d give a normal life a try for a while. I declared a double major in Computer Science (for a job) and Music (for fun). I ended up with decent grades and a decent job (Systems Analyst), but nothing like what I expected.
I’ve now been at this same job for 7 years and am completely unsatisfied and miserable. At various points I’ve attempted to go back to school for graduate level Comp Sci courses, hoping that by getting more technical the work would become more interesting. I passed the courses but just couldn’t get into them. The medicine thoughts probably started about 4 years ago but I figured back then that I was already too old. For the past 2 years it’s been on my mind increasingly more often. Now I’m at the point where I think of it on a daily basis. I am convinced, deep down, that I will be unhappy with my career until I go into medicine. Yet, I am still having issues justifying the long, hard road. Just like I got lazy in college, I’ve also gotten very lazy here at work. My work ethic is deplorable. While I can now picture myself making in into and out of med school (the subject matter will interest me immensely), I can’t see myself making it through residency. I feel that I am not capable of working those crazy resident hours, that somehow I will drop dead on the first day. I fear that it would lead to my divorce and that my future children would hate me. At times I feel angry that my lifelong dream might never come true due to the insane training system in this country.
For a while I just waddled in self-pity. But now I am starting to take another outlook. I have stopped blaming outside sources for my situation. Whether or not I end up with a satisfying career is entirely up to me. I can decide to continue on my no-resistance path and remain at dead end jobs for the rest of my life. Or I can come to the conclusion, as you did, that the only way to really make things happen is by working hard. A little work won’t kill me. In the end the rewards may be even more than I can imagine. And so, slowly I’ve been convincing myself that I can do it. Or at least that I have to give it my best try. I can’t imagine going through the rest of my life thinking about it. At some point I need to act on it and figure out once and for all whether it’s for me.
I know it sounds cliched and annoying (I originally came here wanting for people to tell me what to do), but you need to do some soul searching. It sounds like you’re already on the right path. You have a wonderful resource in your uncle. Use him as much as you can to get a close look at what physicians do. This will only help you in your decision making.
Regarding whether you can do it on your own. Yes you can. I met a post bac student back when I was taking Chemistry as an undergrad. She was 38 and had just quit her job in Journalism to go back to school full time. As far as I knew she was living off loans and a part-time job. Once you are sure of your decision, have faith that the rest of the practical details will fall into place (even if it does mean a nasty debt for a while).
Good luck to you!

I'll probably repeat a few of the other responses that have been posted, but I wanted to add my $0.02. First of all, let me say that I can understand a lot of what you're saying with regards to your past. A few of us here have experienced the lack of ambition in college (or perhaps, more accurately, the lack of passion) and have the less-than-stellar GPA to show for it. And many of us are in, or have been in, Dilbert-esque jobs. That being said…
I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that you need to start living with ambition… for one thing, lack of ambition and drive is a huge turn off, not just for love interests, but for anyone you're looking to make a social connection with. Sure, wouldn't it be great if we were all out cavorting on our yachts drinking margaritas and listening to Jimmy Buffett with no cares, save the fear of running out of tequila? But hey, this is the real world, and the chances of being one of those people that gets life handed to them on a platter are pretty slim. You can sit and bemoan the fact that you aren't one of those people, or you can do something about your situation. I'm not talking about racking up the cash to go buy the yacht, I'm talking about creating a life for yourself that makes you feel even better than the rich-guy alternative. Will you find that life as a doctor? Well, it's hard to tell from here. From my reading of your post it sounds like you really have no idea other than it's not IT, it's gotta be better than this. On the positive side, you have identified some things that you want in a career… the ability to make a difference, human interaction, stability. You do realize that doctors don't have proprietary ownership of these job qualities, don't you? What other careers have you considered?
What I would suggest as a first step, before you even get concerned with paying for a post-bacc or med school, is doing some volunteer work… in lots of stuff, not just medicine. Definitely try to find something in a hospital, you can see how doctors, nurses, etc. live their work day and you can decide for yourself if it's an environment you want to be in. But do other things that pique your interest. Always wanted to work at the humane society? Habitat for Humanity? tutor kids? feed the hungry? See what else is out there, find out what gets you fired up. If it's medicine, great… check out your local university and get some classes under your belt. If you're passionate about what you're doing, you'll want to put in the work to EARN those A's. I've found that out for myself this semester. I've never put so much time into studying, but I love it! I want to do well, and that makes a huge difference. But maybe you'll find it's something else that triggers your interest. Maybe it won't be the key to building tremendous wealth, but do you really want to be remembered at your funeral as the guy with all the cash or the guy who loved what he did?
I'm sure some of what I said sounds cliched, but I'm only saying it because I do understand. I've been in that aimless mode and I know how bad it made me feel about myself. I'm not saying you have to be 100% sure about pursuing medicine as a career, we all have doubts, but you have to at least have a strong feeling that this would be a good fit for you. And if you do, know that you will have the support of the OPM community. You can do it if you put your mind to it…

Just saw Halcyon’s post and wanted to add… I am not decided yet either, so I totally understand how frustrating it can feel when people start throwing the warnings at you and making you want to run away before you even start. I don’t think that’s what anyone means to do, we just want you to be able to make an informed decision, not a rash one. smile.gif

I am not decided yet either, so I totally understand how frustrating it can feel when people start throwing the warnings at you and making you want to run away before you even start.

I don't think warnings are necessary. If someone is really vacillating about what to do, it will be awfully hard, IMHO, for them to pull together the fortitude to get through a lot of the classwork. By that I do NOT mean that someone isn't smart enough to do, say, first semester chemistry. It's just that if you haven't done a pretty good job of convincing yourself, it's not going to be very interesting, I don't think, which will make it really hard to stick with.
Sometimes I think those of us who've been on this board for a long time may come off sounding like we're giving "warnings" because we get a sense that someone is in that vacillating stance... and yet at the same time is about to sign up for three classes and quit their jobs and move out of state and do other drastic stuff. In which case we feel compelled to try and get that person to stop and reassess before they take steps that are hard to undo.
So if I've been one who has sounded discouraging in the past, I do apologize. The pursuit of admission to medical school, learning medicine, and getting ready to practice medicine has been the most fun thing I could possibly have dreamed up for the rest of my life, and I would love for more people to discover the rewards and joys of this profession, regardless of how late in life they decide to do it.
I would definitely encourage those of you who are really wrestling with this decision to talk about it here and elsewhere. It IS a big, expensive, life-altering step and so deserves to be thoughtfully processed with others who can relate to what you are feeling. Maybe those of us who've done the wrestling already, and come out on the other side, are not the best ones to give counsel in this case, I don't know.
With a 3.1 you will never get into medical school. I don't mean to sound negative, but those are the facts. You have to raise your GPA AT LEAST to a 3.6 or better.

I will respectfully disagree with this statement. There is no question that it is harder to get into med school with a lower GPA. There is no question that there are some schools that you'll have to cross off your list. And there is also no question but that there ARE schools that will look at you as a person who wasn't seeking the goal of med school originally, whose distant past should get less emphasis. These schools will consider your recent coursework differently from that old stuff.
There is no absolute 'must have' GPA for med school as a general statement, although there are probably schools with relative cut-offs. You won't get any admissions officer at any medical school in the country to describe the formula that they use for determining a candidate's suitability, but presumably it incorporates ALL aspects of an application on some sort of point scale. So a great MCAT, for example, might "spot" a person a few points for a lower GPA. Like I said, it's a closely held secret but there are definitely trade-offs in the evaluation process, which is why an absolute MCAT or GPA cut-off is impossible to state.
I do agree that you must do very, very well in your prerequisites in order to get serious consideration. A 4.0 is certainly an admirable aim and I would say that you should simply set that as your own personal expectation - but few people actually do live up to that. Here again, there's balancing to do - the fewer courses, the better the grades should be; the more classes you take, the less noticeable a B will be.
There's more but I've gone on long enough for now....

Darn it, I knew I’d have to post again in order to prevent people from forming an impression of me as a moron. biggrin.gif
zanMD, I know you’re just trying to give me some “tough love”, but trust me, I’ve heard it all before. I’ve been lurking here and on SDN for several months now, I’ve done a ton of other medical-education-related web surfing, I’ve heard my uncle complain, and I’ve even read Melvin Konner’s Becoming a Doctor (yes, I know it’s entirely about the 3rd year of med school, he went to Harvard, and it was 17 years ago, but it must contain some useful information.) So while I’d never be so bold as to claim right now that I fully know what I’d be getting into, I am familiar with the arguments you’ve made and I am taking them into consideration.
I should mention that I didn’t do music because I wasn’t “smart enough” to do science. You know how in high school, there are kids who are easily identifiable as the science geeks, and others who are obviously the arts-and-humanities geeks? I was always a sort of Jack-of-all-trades (master of none, of course.) I went off to college intending to be a chemistry major and go to medical school. My freshman year, I took the two-semester introductory chemistry sequence for science majors. Fall semester I did no work and got a C-. Spring semester, I did the homework and got a B+. I didn’t study, mind you, just did the homework. I’m certain that if, on top of that, I had taken good lecture notes and studied them, highlighted and outlined the textbook and studied it, I could easily have gotten an A. I also enjoy math and took, in addition to calculus, a few advanced math courses as electives. (Unfortunately, my F was in one of those: multivariable calculus. Again, I must say that I received that grade only because I did NO work or studying whatsoever for that class.) I am confident that if I were to take the med school prerequisites, and really apply myself, I could get a 4.0 or very close to it. That said, organic chemistry does scare me. wink.gif
Boeing, I can see why you’d get the impression that I’d be better off just working in business toward an early retirement. Unfortunately, I did a pretty poor job of expressing my thoughts in my OP. An MBA is out for me, no questions asked. The fact is that I just don’t believe in the corporate world. I often feel that I’m violating my conscience just by getting up and going to work every morning. The full explanation of how I got where I am now and how I feel about it is extremely complicated; so complicated, in fact, that I have never been able to explain it to anyone to the extent that I felt they “got it.” Suffice it to say that I no longer want to be independently wealthy and do nothing, and that the state of independent means I used to desire was a very peculiar one, one in which, rather than retiring early from a regular job, I never had to have a real job, and was able to live what I’d term a semi-monkish life without ever having my childlike creative mind corrupted by “the world out there.” A career as a business executive, even if it ends at 45, does nothing to satisfy that desire, and I no longer have that desire anyway. I really want to do something with my life now.
Which brings me to my next point: if you want to know how I feel, read Halcyon440’s posts. She and I must be twins separated at birth (fraternal, of course). Halcyon, I’ve read your posts in other threads, and each time I’ve thought, “how is this woman managing to read my mind and type its contents out onto her computer screen?” I too wanted to be purely technical, and found that the computer-science related jobs that exist in the real world are way to business-oriented for me to enjoy. If I could just write code all day with my head in the clouds, having no real deadlines or real-world demands to meet, I might consider staying in this field, but as it is, meetings, project plans, documentation, presentations, and the like drive me crazy when they all concern things I have no interest in whatsoever. I too have gotten used to my lifestyle, and even though it’s solely a product of a job I hate, would be loath to give it up. I also feel exactly as you do about the different stages of medical education: i.e., medical school: fascinating, exciting, fun; residency, on the other hand… I’m not sure I could do it at all. 80 hours a week! That’s like going to my job at 8, like I usually do, and staying until midnight! How is that humanly possible?
Drat, I really want to respond to many of the other things that have been written here, but I need to go to bed. I’ll be back to write more later. Thanks for the responses, everyone.

Ok I guess I did across very negatively, and so I apologize. Not to mention that there are others here(almost everyone) more qualified to offer an opinion as they are already in the various stages instead of beginning it. So I defer to the higher power wink.gif As Mary pointed out, it’s a big step, and not one taken lightly, but I don’t need to wave my sythe around to add to the already weighty decision. All that aside, it’s very rewarding and lets you know on a daily basis that you are directly imapacting people’s lives in a very positive way. That’s more than any monetary wealth can buy for me.
I was talking to a school counselor recently, and mentioned I was starting from scratch as premed. He looked at me in surprise asked me why- I said because it’s what I’ve always wanted to do, and I had confidence in myself that I could do it. He replied that that is what the ones were were really committed to it always said, or something to that effect. For me that sums it up. Not that you just “know” you’re going to be a doctor-I don’t buy into that. But simply that you have to believe in yourself to suceed. And that was why I came across negatively, because you seem to have some doubts. But if you believe you can do it, then I have no doubt you will.
Hope that helps

Less than a year ago, I was trying to make my own decision. I spent hours reading posts here and over at Mommd. They had a long thread at Mommd with a theme of “Would you do it again?” posted to the docs. At first I couldn’t stop reading the posts. So much intense dissatisfaction with the field! Over and over women were saying… NO. I was definitely surprised. Later, I told one of my Docs what I was considering… she said I was crazy and it’s not worth it. Now we all know there are at least as many people saying the opposite. But I did find another common theme in the Mommd thread. Over and over, women said… " I guess if you absolutely can’t think of anything else to do… try medicine."
Is this good advice? On the surface I would say no. But, I started thinking about it. I’ve been lucky and have never had a problem making big changes in my life and pursuing many passions. And I have always had some desire to be a doctor. But not the kind that pushes everything else out of the way. Until… I did everything else that mattered to me. So now, happily, I can’t think of anything else to do. There is something to be said for knowing you are not missing out on everything else by becoming a doctor. It may have taken me until 40 to know for sure it is what I want. Had I made the choice as an undergrad (and chased the grades), I too might have been a disgruntled doc who thinks the grass is greener somewhere else. Just make sure you can’t think of anything else to do.
Good luck.
(Post-Bacc and going for the 4.0)

Well, I think I do understand why some people pile on those of us who express doubts. I see the situation as being analagous to a pricey item which, if you have to ask, you can’t afford. It’s as though the naysayers are saying “if you have to ask whether you really want to be a doctor, trust us, you don’t.” The argument as I understand it is: pre-med, med school, and residency are arduous uphill climbs, requiring almost superhuman stamina, and you’re competing for admissions with plenty of people who are 110% sure they want to do it, so if you have the slightest bit of doubt or reluctance, you’re never going to make it, because a) you’ll hit a point in the process where you’ll throw your hands up in despair wanting to give up, and the only thing that can keep you going will be the fact that you want to be a doctor more than anything else in the world, and b) it will be apparent, however slightly, to admissions committees that you don’t want it quite as much as the other 10 people they just interviewed. And I can certainly see their point.
If I can be permitted to psychoanalyze myself, I definitely think I have a compensation thing going here for all those years spent being lazy in school. I spent almost 20 years being told I had great potential that I wasn’t living up to, and so I can’t just coast through the rest of life in a Joe Schmoe job. It’s like I need to find out whether those people were right: I need to take on some monumentally difficult task requiring both book smarts and street smarts, just to prove to myself that I can do it. Also, there’s a defying-my-father thing somewhere in here too. My dad transmitted a legacy of pessimism and cynicism to me. His attitude toward life can be summed up as: “It’s too hard; don’t even bother trying. I feel like I screwed up and never found my true calling too, therefore it’s impossible. Forget trying anything difficult; forget dreams and aspirations. If you can get a decent job with some corporation, just let the golden handcuffs chain you down, feed your 401k, and retire as soon as you can.” Basically, he always discouraged me from trying anything I truly wanted to do, and I’m now doing exactly what he thought I should be doing. Funny how that works out, isn’t it?
I know that none of these are good reasons to pursue any career. If I decide to go for medicine, I want it to be because I think it’s my calling, not because I want to make a lot of money, or have prestige, or have an easy time finding a wife, or prove something to myself, or rebel against my dad. But these are precisely the reasons I have doubts. I’m always second-guessing myself: no matter how interested I become, there’s a voice in my head saying "now, are you sure you don’t just think you’re interested because you just like imagining people calling you ‘Doctor’, or you think if you do it K. will get back together with you?"
I guess I see the decision to shadow/volunteer as a chicken-or-egg problem. I fear that if I go ahead and do it, I’ll be forcing myself to act interested because I’ll feel that I’m wasting my time if I’m not, and I won’t really be able to make an informed decision based on my experience because I’ll feel that now I’m supposed to want it. If I find I don’t like it, I may end up second-guessing that by saying “those are just headaches that come with any job; you’re probably just being a complainer, and you probably really should become a doctor.” On the other hand, I can’t wait until I’m 100% certain I want to do it before I start volunteering and shadowing, because I could end up waiting forever–I’m supposed to base the decision on what I find out about the profession through such experiences!
BTW, does anyone have any experience working volunteering/shadowing into a regular business workweek schedule? Do hospitals take weekend/evening volunteers, and/or can you shadow, say, a radiologist or anesthesiologist who’s on call some evening or weekend? If not, what do people do–use vacation time?

Hey Trismegistus~ I wanted to throw my .02 cents in on your last post. I disagree somewhat with you about being 100% sure. All premeds have doubts. Even the most traditional premed who’s wanted to be a doctor since age 5 or whatever. If you tackle a long and difficult path there are going to be doubts, no ifs, ands, or buts. The difference is that their doubts are typically slightly different then ours. Rather than the “can I give up everything I’ve accomplished to start over” doubt most of us feel they have the “have I done everything I want to” and the “have I explored myself enough” doubts. And I haven’t met a premed yet (traditional or non-trad) who hasn’t expressed the “do I really want to pursue this” feeling at some point in their climb to medical school.
Having said that, however, you do have to make a 100% commitment to trying to reach the goal of med school or you won’t succeed in the prereqs and you do need to be sure that this is something you really do want to pursue in the long-term.
I think of myself as being somewhat in between traditional and nontraditional. I’m nontraditional in that I’m 29 and in only my second year of full-time school pursuing my first degree. However, I don’t have the other “career” that most of the rest of the nontrads have. For me I always wanted to be a doctor, but I also wanted to be an olympic figure skater, and an actress/dancer/singer. My parents always encouraged my artistic pursuits when I was young, but then I took a “break” from figure skating at 13 that turned into a longer break then it was supposed to be and by the time I wanted to repursue it, my mom couldn’t support it financially, and my dad wouldn’t. Then I got more involved in my other artisitic interests all the while making sure I had the scientific background I thought I would need to get to med school when I finally went to college. By the time I took my ACT I had decided to become a hs choir director, and I went away to college to pursue that and realized I hated it. Or more precisely I hated being out on my own at a school that was very clique oriented and therefore hard to make friends at if you didn’t have a clue who u really were or what you really wanted to do. I didn’t know the basics of life to survive on my own yet and hated the school (my parents made me stay a full year and I ended up bombing out). I came home, enrolled in the local CC, and discovered dance. The teacher at the CC wasn’t all that good, but one of his friends who he allowed to take classes with us for free recognized my talent and got me to some of the “good” studios, and I could have easily have had a career in dance, but I realized how short of a career it would have been (I was already 23 or so at this point) so I decided to forget about that and repursue a degree in biology/kinesiology and a couple years later to repursue figure skating.
Thankfully I had a trust fund for post-secondary education toward a career goal because while I was busy pursuing my artistic interests I’d sign up for academic classes and just give up on them if I didn’t like them or they required work. Also, the trust fund let me pursue the dance and figure skating on my own. I moved to Colorado, started training hard-core figure skating, and taking classes toward my biology/kinesiology degree. I had thoughts of making it to nationals so that I could become a coach and compete in some of the open professional competitions/tours etc and thought the kinesiology would be a “helpful” degree. Figure skating is extremely expensive however, and 10 months after moving out here my trust fund was gone and I had to give up my dreams. I quit school and skating, and got a job selling shoes at Nordstrom. For the next 4 years that’s all I did…I considered management, but knew it wasn’t for me so that’s when I started school again. I still wanted the biology/kinesiology degree but now instead of helping with a coaching job I wanted to do physical therapy or medicine, more specifically sports medicine. I had come full circle to my childhood dreams of being a doctor. I started slowly, still working full time, but slowly I started cutting back on the retail hours and adding in more credits until I transferred to my 4 year school. Over the 10 years since I graduated high school I had managed to build up enough credits to be considered a senior after my first semester at uccs, but I didn’t have enough credits in anything yet for a major lol. I did have all but like 2 of my core classes out of the way though but I also didn’t want to cram all of my hard science classes into a couple years and try and take the MCAT on top of that, so I’ve spread it out so that I’ll graduate in 2006.
Financially it’s not easy. I’m doing it totally on my own. My mom can’t help even if she wants to, and my dad won’t (I haven’t talked to him in a couple years now). While my mom supports me, she’s 1000 miles away so her support is limited to the “keep up the good work” type thing. Luckily I was laid off at the end of last year and am now on full financial aid/work study at school. It’s extremely tight, but it does work. I don’t have a car which is getting more and more difficult, but at least that’s a bill I don’t have to worry about. Do I still have doubts that I’ll make it? Heck yeah…especially given my prior academic difficulties and the brain fart I have when it comes to calculus (2 D’s so far). Do I think I could be happy doing any other realistic career? Other than maybe research not really…so despite my fears and doubts I will keep going, and I will make it.
If you can say the same thing…that you won’t be happy doing anything else, go for it. Shadowing I think would help you make that decision, taking a few science classes I think would also help you make that decision. Part of the reason I went back to a biology degree way back when was that I took an intro to genetics class that I absolutely loved prior to gen bio. Without some experience in both of these areas I don’t think you can honestly make a 100% commitment to medicine since you won’t really know what you’re setting yourself up for. Once you have done a little of both (ie. a couple science classes, and some volunteering/shadowing) then you’ll be able to realistically decide if medicine is the thing that will make you happy.
To answer your question about weekend volunteering they do have such a thing lol. Weekend shadowing on the other hand I don’t know about. I admit that I haven’t been able to get any shadowing experience yet, and my volunteering so far has been limited to the year I spent as a candy stripper in high school. With the new HIPPA rules most people are finding it more difficult to get the shadowing experiences so my intention is to volunteer at one of our hospitals this summer, get hippa “training”, and then start emailing docs to shadow.
Good luck to you! I need to go finish studying for my 2nd orgo exam! tongue.gif
–Jessica, UCCS

I shadowed an internist who had an extensive hospitalist practice, so I was able to meet him at the hospitals after work and make rounds with him. I got to see him towards the end of the day, when he was tired, and meet a couple of really depressed nephrologists, and see the good and bad. He was tired, there were lots of unhappy doctors, but a few happy ones, too. And you he would tell me that he loved medicine and wished he wanted to do something else, but couldn't stand to. Yet it was clear that he loved his work, loved his patients, loved the puzzles, and wouldn't do something else if even if he could. It showed in his face all the time. It was a good first experience for me. I could see that his kind of practice wasn't for me, and that even if I ended up there, I could be happy.

Life is what you make of it. If you choose to be unhappy, then no matter what career you’re in, you will find your way to misery. If you try to be happy, then you will appreciate your position in life. Even if you work your “dream job”, unhappy people will eventually find misery in it. But if you choose to try and be happy with where you are, then life will seem less of a burden, and you will appreciate it. Happiness is a choice.

wow, this is my first time in this place and I have already gotten a lot of info out of all your posts. I guess I should introduce myself, I am 30 with no BA as of yet. My education has been interesting to say the least. I was homeschooled up to 6th grade where I did excellent work, my grades were good, reading comp was highschool level etc. My parents then sent me to a “regular” school and it was down hill from there. I had the most terrible time dealing with all the drudge work, wasted time,nasty kids and a no one on one teaching. Highschool, well I think I got a 2.1 GPA, I did very little work unless absolutly neccessary. I was so glad to gradute that I did not even cry, everyone else was, but I was like, I’m out of here! I took college classes, kept changing my major, how many times I have lost count. I even thought I would take nursing, my mother is a nurse but my GPA was not high enough to keep my financial aid. Its been 7 years since I set foot in school and now I am thinking of going back, starting over and tackling a program to get into med school.
I too really dislike working in the corporate grind, it is so unfullfilling! I knew that I wanted to be a doctor when I was young, it was the thing to do since no one in my family has made it past a 2 year degree. All my dads family are entreprenuers, they started their own companys, forget working for some one else. I have had the same way of thinking, in fact I am not working now, more like helping my husband set up his own corporation. Me, well I could be doing other things, but medicine has been on my brain for quite a while.
i have a fascination with the human body, I always have. I worked in the hospital for many years as a “Page” taking people in wheel chairs, gurneys etc. to their tests, or OR. I got to see lots of mangled limbs, dead bodies, awful smells, nasty doctors, horrible nurses and crabby patients. I would go through my mind, well if I was a doctor I sure would not do it that way, there has to be a better way to handle that person etc. Must be that family trait, doing things differant.
I am not sure if I were to be a physician if I would be able to do things differant, but I do know that patients are people and they deserve to be treated as such! Becoming a doctor I feel includes more then just test scores, we all know the stats, its becoming the person that your patient trusts with his/her life and upholding that trust with compassion.
My husband is East Indian, even though he was born here in the states, he still has health issues that come from that part of the world, India. He has a genetic heart condition that is rare here in the states, but prevelant in India. The passion to be a physician to that part of the world is what will get me through the next 10 years of school! That passion to take to a 3rd world country what we have here and take for granted. I believe in myself enough now, after many years of working on that, that anything you put your mind too is possible. I plan on practicing medicine in India when I graduate, Cardio/vascular for pediatrics. People with passion for human kind I feel make the best doctors.
In your pursuit of your dreams wether that be medicine or something else, go for it. Get off the couch, quit believing that everything will come to you with out much work. You sound like a very intellegent person with a great future ahead of you, so do it!