Med School? after a PhD

Hey guys,

I wonder, and am hoping, that I might be able to interact on this site with someone, maybe more than one, who’s been in my kinda situation.

I graduated in 2003 with my PhD in Neurobiology, since then I’ve been a post doc at a number of high profile research universities both overseas (in the UK) and where I am now in the US. I’ve reached the point facing many post docs where it seems like I’m never going to get an academic full time job, but to be honest I’m not sure I want one. I may even have not worked as hard as I could have done whilst a post doc because of this indecision. I’m 35 next year and I’m thinking of applying to medical school.

There I said it. It feels like a statement similar to what you see people in movies say when they go to an AA meeting. “Hello my name is XXX and I’m an alcoholic”. The reason…and its more of a general feeling, malaise, than a concrete “i want to earn more money”, “I don’t like the uncertainty of fighting for grants associated with an academic research career”…that I am thinking about it is that I want to have impact. I’ve always felt that the research I do has no bearing on what actually happens to people suffering from some of the illnesses that my research in a kinda peripheral way touches on.

Will my work on the basic mechanims involved in the degeneration of nerve cells in Alzheimers disease actually make any difference? I don’t really see that it will. I’m curious about learning more about the medical sciences, that’s certainly part of my motivation. But I think it’s the thought that as a medical doctor I may be able to work directly with patients, whilst maybe also doing some research if I got a job at a research intensive university hospital further down the road.

Anyone here with a similar story? Am I mad? Is it just crazy to be thinking about med school now? And what are my chances of getting accepted anywhere? Do I have to take pre-med classes even?

Lots of questions, hope someone can help.

Many thanks!

No you are not mad,

At every OPM conference I have attended (about 5 of them), I have met at least one science PhD who wants to become a physician. There was a woman who did research for one of the drug companies for some 20 years. There was a very well known genetics researcher from NIH, one of the few non-physicians board certified in medical genetics who still wanted to be a physician. There was a young woman who had completed her PhD in biochemistry from a medical school/cancer institute.

There are more out there in “OPM land:” PhD’s, ABDs, PharmDs, MA’s, MPH, and others in natural sciences, social sciences, and the rest.

No you are not mad, at least not anymore than the rest of us in this long hard journey.

And I have been perplexed on how to advise them as each situation is so different. Then of course so is everybody.

First, is get ALL (I mean ALL) your transcripts from every college class you have ever taken, ever. It probably has been years since basic chem, bio, physics, etc You may not have down in them so well from 10 or 20 years ago. It may become apparent what you need to consider redoing

Second, you need to get those basic skills relearned for MCAT, and so an MCAT course is very advised. As a professor in grad school told me we learn more and more about less and and soon we know everything about nothing.

Third, more than most students, you need to contact medical schools and really get their opinions. For that, I suggest preparing an email with a concise picture of your background and current status. Some med schools will likely just desire good to excellent MCAT grades. Others may stick by the books and say u need to repeat.

Enough to start…

One of my great friends in med school had her PhD in nutrition. She is currently in internal medicine residency (she did two years in general surgery before deciding she liked medicine better). SO I agree with Rich, you’re not abnormal :slight_smile:

No, you are not crazy - or if you’re, then I’m too…

I have my Ph.D. in neurochemistry (genetic analysis of developing dopaminergic neurons), throughout my post-doc and later as a research scientist tackled with questions around neurorepair of injured adult CNS. The closer to a possible (partial) solution the research was heading, the harder it was to continue. This is where I felt strongly that I should have better clinical understanding in order to pass from academic research to applied research. I truly enjoy research, but academic research will never give me a satisfaction of doing something real. Very recently I took the decision to get started with carrier change. My decision is less than a month old and I have a long way to get started.

What is your (forum members in general) advice to a Ph.D. who graduated from a foreign university, with foreign doctoral degree to get prepared?

Is there any advice for or against choosing neurology?

Last, is there anyone out there who has the experience of going through/still studying and being a mother?

NO you are not mad! I have three Master’s degrees and a PhD. ( in Ancient Near Eastern Studies). I think it only helps your application to Med-School.

You are not mad. I have the same problem with basic research. Currently I am doing my PhD in Swiss and planning to finish my PhD at the end of this year. Honestly I don’t want to kill my time on postdoc. I would like to work with patient to help people and myself, therefore I badly need information if I could do it IN USA. You guys do you think I will be accepted in USA and how long it will take me to finish? What about the tuition fee especially for foreign student? I am sorry for asking specific questions

Hello Challa,

I am sorry to tell you that it’s extremely difficult for non-US citizens to go to medical school in the US. Unfortunately, there are very few medical schools which accept foreigners. Moreover, when they do, the schools often require that such students put four years of tuition in an escrow account (which can amount to $200,000 or more) up front, before they enroll. And foreign students are not eligible for US financial aid.

The only exception to this is for some MD-PhD students from other countries. On occasion they are accepted at US medical schools and the circumstances may be different. But competition to get into MD-PhD programs is incredibly stiff (much more difficult than straight MD programs).

You would also need to have completed most of your prerequisite science courses in the US. Many medical schools require 90 credit hours of work to be completed in a US undergraduate institution.

Good luck.



A couple of questions for you:

  1. What is your citizenship status? Do you have a green card in the US?

  2. Are you willing to go to medical school outside of the US. There are many options, including schools in the Caribbean, Israel, and Australia. In fact, Australia is starting 4 year post-grad universities and would love to have someone like you apply to diversify the class and pay full tuition.

    Bottom line - PhDs can certainly switch into medicine. The bigger issues are:

  3. How much work (academic, clinical experience, etc) are you willing to put in.

  4. Where and when do you want to go to school?

    Feel free to e-mail with more questions.

    –Dr. Miller