Need Help - I feel so stuck

I feel so stuck that I am unable to act at this point!

I was 15 when I dropped out of Biology in high school (I was acing it) as I heard from my teachers and parents that it is clear that I should be a doctor. I instantly felt rebellious and dropped out of Biology and changed it to Economics. That is the only one decision in my life that I regret when I look back. I have never confessed to that.

Fortunately, I have done pretty well in what I do. It is not surprising that almost every month or so someone I had worked with in the past 12 years call me to join their team. Till now it had been easy to say NO to anything that was offered as it was not exciting enough. This week came up an offer to interview for a position to setup a practice for “Managed Services” for a mid-size consulting firm. Most of the people I know would kill for this kind of opportunity. It sure is exciting and fits my personality but I cannot bring myself to move ahead with it…I feel that I might not do so well if my heart is not in it.

And, at the same time it is hard to let it go … the path to medical schoool is so unclear and I am 35. Plus, my undergrad is not from US and the lifestyle adjustment from making 6 figures to going into debt.

I am unable to think …

Well, I’m not sure if I can be any help, but I certainly know that place of being unable to move because every direction seems murky.

I think I’d say the obstacles are not the place to focus at this stage. Discovering if you have a passion for medicine is. You didn’t say if others are dependent on you (in which case the income adjustment is a huge factor to consider).

But if it’s just you…it’s sounding like where you are right now is not delighting you. If what really gets your juices flowing is contemplating being a doctor, than doing some first steps in that direction could be in order …taking a prerequisite course, meeting with a premed advisor, finding out what will really be involved with the foreign undergrad degree.


It is very true that I am not delighted where I am at … but to throw away 20 years of hard work of a life is also a very difficult decision.

I take a lot of pride in my work, maybe even identify myself with it … and it has all stopped making sense in the last year: How many cost centers, revenue centers, building efficiencies, saving few dollars … seems meaningless! What makes sense is to understand a human body and solve that puzzle!

I do not have to support anyone except occasionally helping my parents.

In my heart I know what is right … but it is all the other reasons that is making it harder to take the big step!

I am applying for Spring 2010 at the University (to take pre-reqs to begin with and then accumulate other credits as required along the way - due to the fact that my undergrad and post-grad are not from US) … but still doubting myself and my feelings for making this change!

Hi Kate,

I am new to the site and boy am I glad I found you,i.e. OPM. I have been toiling with the idea of pursuing my dream of becoming a doctor for many years. I have a BS in biology and a M.A. in Biology. I completed my master’s 12 years ago and I have worked in the bio-tech industry,clinical research, education , and back to clinical bench work again. I am now a single parent with much financial responsibility. Since I have been out of school for so long , would it behoove me to complete a post-bacc and thoroughly prepare for the MCAT ? I am in limbo as to the best route to take. Furthermore, I wrestle with the idea that I am now 44 soon to be 45 and not sure of which direction to go. Can you advise me? You seem to have reasonable shared advice, for you seem to respond more frequently. Mind you, I just joined literally minutes ago, so if anyone has insight ,please feel free. Oh , did I mention that I have not had any volunteer experience in the hospital , patient contact. Is this necessary also?

From my little research I know few med schools do require mandatory volunteer work. And IMHO it does give a lot of insight into what goes on in a hospital.

I volunteer at Day Surgery at the local hospital and it has given me quite a good view of “2hrs in the life of a charge nurse”: “2hrs in the life of CNA”: “2hrs in the life of anesthesiologist” and more … and the charge nurse offered to take me into surgery room when I feel ready. I will take that in a few weeks when I feel I have helped enough people around to just stand in a room for 2 hours rather than clean/make the beds, turn on monitors and make post-op rooms ready, stock blankets/meds, go pick vaccinations from other buildings … it goes on! I was surprised how much help they can use.

Hope this helps.

OK - back to weighing options/choices in my life. Good Luck!


you know what they say about financial security: “it’s great till the day you have it”.

I understand your dilemma. What matters is your happiness. From that point of view shadowing is great.

I shadowed in ophtalmology and honestly, I was not blown away. Then I went into pediatric surgery. This was incredible and I can’t wait till the next shadowing opportunity comes up. I loved this with the drama, difficulties, problems, dilemmas but most of all, the tears of joy and smiles I have seen. I am not a sensitive person, but boy, seeing a mother cry because her 3 y old was saved from a series of events. That’s breath taking. That’s the kind of thing that has no price. Truthfully, I would do this kind of job for free if I could. I mean even if I won the lottery, I think I would still shoot for med school.

So to me, there is nothing that can push me away (baring any act of god).

My 2 cents. I hope you find your happiness. In the end, as a doctor or a executive, that’s what matters.

Welcome, healingstare! My apologies for letting the thread be hijacked, but I don’t can’t move it to another thread. If you have more questions, I’d say start a new topic. Thanks for your comments - I probably just have a “window” of time right now where I can be on here. I’m just another member of Old Premed but VERY grateful that I found it at that crucial point of getting myself ready to “go for it”.

You will be well advised to redo biology, as the field changes so fast that it is vastly different than even 10 years ago. You will have to evaluate for yourself whether you will need to do the other courses for it to be fresh in your mind for you to do well on MCAT’s. Also you’ll want to find out how recently the schools you are interested in want your prereqs to have been taken.

Being geographically flexible at least within a general region of the country will increase you chances of getting into school (apply early and apply widely is a good strategy.

Some shadowing experience is absolutely vital - you will need to be able to talk knowledgeably in interviews about what interests you about medicine, and the better idea you have of the real life of a doctor, the better you will able to talk convincingly about it. Also, you will need one or more letters of recommendation from a physician. Ideally one develops a relationship with the physician one shadows such that they can speak concretely about why you would be a good candidate for medical school. You will also need, for most applications, a letter of recommendation from a science professor and a non-science faculty. Most schools want a “committee letter” from the premed committee at one’s institution of learning. However non-traditional students often don’t have access to that and a number of other LOR may be substituted for a committee letter. The website for a med school will often state what they are looking for in terms of Letters of Recommendation. If you attend a formal post-bacc premed it will likely include application advising and a committee letter.

If you are interested in applying to D.O. and M.D. schools, you will have to shadow with a D.O. to apply to an osteopathic school - they would like you to know at least a little about osteopathic medicine. Google the American Osteopathic Medical Association and A.T. Still for a little background if you are not very familiar with osteopathic medicine.

Pretty much all med school applicants have volunteer experience (which does NOT have to be medically related). It really isn’t optional. My postbacc director advised that one look for something that one feels passionate about. It could be SPCA, habitat for humanity, red cross, whatever - but you are likely to be asked about it in interviews and ideally your passion should come across. It helps to keep a journal while shadowing and while volunteering - not only of hours spent but also of experiences, vignettes of what you learned from it or were able to contribute.

That’s about all I can think of for right now! Best of luck as you explore this!


Just one comment - I wouldn’t think about it as “throwing away” 20 years of your career. It’s true you will lose your seniority, and going from expert to novice is rather an uncomfortable transition initially.

But those 20 years have shaped your skills and personality - the question is what strengths do you bring to the process of becoming a physician and to your future practice as a doctor, as a direct result of your life and work experience. A doctor is a community leader, particularly in smaller communities. It sounds like your background has helped you develop leadership skills.

In fact, volunteering to help the business side of a free health clinic would be a marvelous use of your expertise and I bet they would look on you as a godsend. Might be a way to get your feet wet!


Just saw something gonnif said in another thread re volunteering so will quote him:

Gonnif said:

The three most important things that volunteering can show are strong commitment, understanding of what medicine is to you, and underlying personal motivations. Students who spend say 10 hours a week for a 10 weeks during a school term doesn’t suggest as much commitment than the person who has spent 2 hours a week for two years at the food pantry or literacy volunteer. It is not a requirement that should be taken lightly


Redo, shadowing sounds great. I really look forward to “Thurs@6am”, my volunteer time.

Just reading your’s and Kate’s replies … I think I am going through Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining and Acceptance phases!

In THE END … I want my life to count, to mean something.

I just identified - Doctor or Executive: is the bargain!

Thanks Kate … your feedback is very helpful. Helping me to see my internal struggle! Professional is just one side of it … personal is another! I was beginning to get out and date, after spending all those years working late and adjusting in a new country!

It is a brilliant idea - I am going to look at the free health clinics locally and see how can I contribute?

What you are experiencing is very normal. Think about it, you are about to travel a road VERY LESS travelled for the reasons you just stated. Financial. We are no longer 21 year olds who still can live with out parents and have them worry about the big picture. We ARE the parents and it is up to US to worry about the big picture.

But no matter what you decide to do, time will continue to march on. We are on this earth but for a fleeting moment and in the end we need to be able to look back on our life and decide if we lived the best life we could have. I am the kind of person who hates living with regret. When I first decided to apply to medical school, I was also scared but I wanted to at least try. If I did not get accepted then at least I can say that I did try and there is nothing else that I could have done. Now that I am in medical school, I feel that it was the best decision I could have made.

I am very happy with the decision I made and the 4 years I have been without a paycheck have been hard but worth it.

ChicBrownie, I’ll weigh in on this and agree with Gabe and Kate…the road less traveled is scary, especially if the road MORE traveled is well-lit and feels safe. Nothing you have done professionally to this point is a waste, but it also shouldn’t hold you back from going for it. Fear and regret can either paralyze you or motivate you; it’s all up to you. I had a remarkably similar situation 10 years ago. It seemed like as soon as I decided to pursue medicine, all these other doors opened up professionally in the business I had been in for 20 years. It really made me question what I was about to do to my family and myself. Fortunately I stayed the course, pursued the dream, and have never regretted my decision. The bottom line is, going into medicine as a non-trad is like having children: there’s never a “perfect” time, but if you believe in what you’re doing, you will find the right path and it WILL be the right time for you. Give it some more thought and weigh all your options. In retrospect, I think what you’re going through will deepen your commitment and make you more appreciative of the path you choose, whatever that may be.

  • ChicBrownie Said:
From my little research I know few med schools do require mandatory volunteer work. And IMHO it does give a lot of insight into what goes on in a hospital.

Having significant volunteer work in a clinical medical setting and typically additional in other settings should be considered a requirement. The rule of thumb given to traditional/young undergrads is 100 hours. Non-trads/older students should have more clinical/hospital/patient -based than that. Additionally, not-trads usually have non-clinical volunteer work that is often overlooked. Have you been active in your church/religious community? Have you been a regular organizer or involved with a community effort such as blood drive? Are you volunteer member of any group, especially over a longtime and particularly in a leadership position? they all matter.

Thanks for replies … I have perspectives and I feel calm and confident that I will make the right decision.

I like it:

Fear and regret can either paralyze you or motivate you; it’s all up to you.

But no matter what you decide to do, time will continue to march on.

Rule 10: The FUD factor - Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt stops more non-trads than a low GPA or a poor MCAT score


I thought that the single most discouraging factors were the preparation of the MCAT and the length of Med studies. That’s intriguing to see that psychological reasons like FUD would be more important.

  • redo-it-all Said:

I thought that the single most discouraging factors were the preparation of the MCAT and the length of Med studies. That's intriguing to see that psychological reasons like FUD would be more important.

I find that it is not the actual activities of these difficult things that prevent people from completing them. Rather it is the fear of them that prevents people from starting in them. It is the moments of fear, uncertainty and doubt that keep people from focusing on the task at hand. Very few people follow the "rational zen" approach to this as I have outlined in previous postings and at conferences. When I have time I will repost.

Well, I was almost ten years older than you, working for a top 10 Fortune 500 company, and making six figures also. I was also miserable there, and wanted my life to mean more. While there was plenty of scary going on, the leaving the job part was easy. Huge weight off my shoulders. I didn’t freak out till later.

We only get one shot at this. Life. You can chose to start on the path now, or sit tight for ten years, and start then. Of course you’ll be kicking yourself like I am that I didn’t do this 20 years ago. One shot, make it count. Do what fills you with passion and excites you.


OK I get it now. Yes, if you have a post somewhere, I’d like to read more about this.

It is very interesting.

Thanks a lot (sorry for hijacking the thread).