Just Starting

Hello All,

I am writing this message to get advice to help me with my overwhelming calling and desire to practice medicine and attend Medical School.I want to thank you in advance for taking the time to read this and hope it will help me clear a path that may guide me in achieving my desired goal, which is to start on the road to a pre-med program and one day become a medical doctor. My background involves the following education and employment:

• High School (General Studies) 1984-1988 (High School Diploma)

• Community College (General Studies) 1988-1991 (No Degree Obtained)

• 4 Year Degree (Criminal Justice) 1991-1993 (Bachelor Degree) 2.9 GPA

• Internship (United States Secret Service 1993)

• Graduate Degree (Legal Studies 1995-1996) 9 Credits Graduate School 3.5 GPA

• 1991-1993 Volunteer Fire Station (Emergency Medical Technician and Fire Fighter I)

• Loss Prevention 1991-1995 and 2006-2009

• Local Law Enforcement Police Officer 1994-1997

• Federal Law Enforcement 1997-2000

• 2000-2010: Employed in the non-profit field working with individuals having developmental disabilities; Medicare Fraud, Security Supervisor at a Hospital and have volunteered at a Hospital in the ED.

• 2010-Present State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

My desire to pursue Medical School has been predominant in my thought process for the majority of the last eleven years. When deciding how to go about achieving this goal, I continually run across two major road blocks. These road blocks involve my (1) lack of education in science and math and (2) my financial and family situation.In regards to my lack of education, I have not taken math or science courses for over twenty years; needless to say I am a little rusty. Over the years, I have checked out some basic math books related to science and technology from the library, to practice on my own. In addition, I have checked out various other books related to the medical profession and have been reading current literature pertaining to the field. My current employment involves working for the State of Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and is considered somewhat within the medical field.

My family and financial situation is stable; however, due to some unexpected financial losses and for lack of better terminology “hard times” my wife and I are somewhat struggling in respect to our finances. We have a baby girl due in April, which is our first child. I feel that I cannot simply afford a college loan and stop working at this point in time so I will most likely start taking classes this summer. I am trying to educate myself, however a mentor or associate in the field would be helpful to guide me through this process if it is at all possible.

Now, for the most important part! I strongly believe I am a philanthropist at heart, always! I guess if you don’t have this feeling than you don’t know how important it is to you or how it feels. The gratification of helping someone in need is powerful both spiritually and mentally. I have been in human service in one form or another for most of my life, unfortunately I have not always felt or believed that I have possessed the skills or had the potential to be an excellent medical professional one day. I wholeheartedly believe I have the caring, integrity, character, intelligence and demeanor to work as a medical doctor. I feel very strong about this and have the compassion and desire to be a caregiver. I believe these are the foundations of a flourishing medical student to be. During the years, my feelings to be a medical doctor has strengthened; I have become much more confident, focused and feel ready to delve into this field; Now more than ever! I have sent a similar letter to this to numerous doctors in the area and I have written to my state legislature for help as well. I am 41 and have received a reply from a pre-med program stating I am probably too old and should consider law. NOT! Any thoughts?

“Any thoughts?”

A few:

  • Lack of education in science and math is not a big problem per se -- you can simply get that education now -- but it can presage a very big problem later on. Being a medical doctor is being an expert in at least some branches of science and math. Your lack of education in those areas might obscure the possibility that you really don't like them. If that's the case, medicine probably is not the career path for you, no matter how passionate and philanthropic you feel.

  • Changing careers is not merely a big decision; it is a life-altering one. Changing careers by going back to school and ceasing to earn any money for at least four years, and not getting a professional salary for perhaps ten, will strain your finances to the breaking point (unless you are independently wealthy or your wife has a good-paying job). This is not meant to discourage you, just to point out reality. You can still go to medical school, but plan out your path as best you can, and face up wholeheartedly to what you must do -- maybe that means borrowing half a million dollars and selling your home. Is it worth it to you to do that?

  • I want to help people. I want to be a philanthropist. I want to be respected by my peers. I wouldn't mind a bit making scads of money. But none of these reasons alone, or even together, qualify me to seek to be a doctor. In my mind, that comes down to three questions:

    1. Do I truly enjoy the idea and practice of medicine? (A reasonably accurate answer can be gleaned from extensive shadowing.)

    2. Am I willing to do the immense amount of work required to become a doctor? (A reasonably accurate answer can be gleaned from honest introspection and conversation with your spouse.)

    3. Am I capable, both mentally and physically, of doing the immense amount of work to become a doctor? (Same as above, along with your performance in prerequisite courses and on the MCAT.)

  • Many here can vouch that 41 is not too old for medical school. Ignore those who say otherwise. Certainly there can be good and valid reasons for not going to medical school in your position; age is not one of them.

All caveats about how I'm not a med student and ymmv apply.

You’ve made it clear you’re interested in people. Also please make sure you’re interested in disease. The people who really enjoy this life have a passion for both.

Not only aren’t you too old (I admit to a bias re that question), but you are actually not too old to get your medical education paid for by the military Health professions Scholarship Program. Navy and Army both have more generous age ranges. That would cover your expenses including a living stipend (so you would have some money coming in while in school). You COULD borrow additional loan money for additional expenses for the family living expenses, with the view that once out of school, your earnings could easily cover the loan repayment. Just a thought. Towson and UMBC or UMAB in your area are possible areas to take the science courses you need…I’ve found UMBC the easiest to take just a few courses from (back in my nursing past).


Spoxjox brings up some very excellent points to contemplate.

If the discussions with yourself and your spouse, both of you say: “I don’t mind working 2 jobs, getting no sleep, and missing my babies first steps, we need to do this, and we will do this together.” Then I say the science and the math can be overcome.

You have a very good and a very interesting background that would find an interesting niche within any field of medicine. You can show the Adcoms that you are interested in the science and disease of medicine by rocking out your science pre-reqs, and getting a good MCAT.

I had to have a few long conversations with myself, and even though I told myself I was in it to win it, it took me 2 years of post bac, a 1 year masters degree, and another 2 years of working before I finally got in. (Side note, I should have just gone DO, and not been so fixated on getting into Wayne)

I hear that the second year is the ‘hardest’ (though I think every situation one is currently in is the ‘hardest’), I have been finding myself questioning my commitment.

3 years ago, I was still going strong with the whole homework until midnight on a Friday night, only to begin again Saturday at 8AM. Now, It’s getting a little old for me. 10 PM comes and I yearn for many of the hobbies I haven’t pursued in years. I’m still passing, but I haven’t had a chance to master the material to the extent I want.

It’s hard, and it’s important to know that it keeps coming after finishing the pre-reqs, studying for the MCAT, applying to schools, 1st Year anatomy, then the test every 2 weeks in 2nd year, Then studying for Step 1, then 3rd year rotations with little or no break after Step, then 4th year clerkships again with little or no break… then Step 2, and applying for residencies, then boards, and applying for fellowships, and then continuing education and re-certification exams… it keeps coming and it’s a commitment of a lot of time, for a very long time.

So you have gotten this far, and no one around here is going to tell you that you are too old, cause you are not. The question is, what sacrifices are you and your wife willing to make? Anything can be done, except maybe committing to doing Everything. Knowing what your limits are and what you are willing to give up will show you how much flexibility you have in making this work.

So it can be done, but it’s a hard thing to figure out if doing what it takes to get it done is worth it, and within what you want from life.

Good luck, please keep us informed of how your progress is going!