New Post-Bac Student - am I crazy?

This is my first time posting on the message board. I have been out of college for a few years where I studied math. Toward the end of my senior year I began to develop interest in medicine, and took Bio and Chem (and did well). I initially planned on continuing with my post bac courses and applying immediately to dental school, but like many mis-guided 21 year olds I distracted myself with a very short-lived romance. I wound up instead taking a trading job on Wall Street, where I became emotionally burnt out by a sexually harrassing boss/work environment. I returned home to once again give the postbac a try, but my plans were interrupted again by the passing of my grandfather (a phenomenal physician himself).

Financial issues necessitated me moving to Manhattan and working in another Wall Street capacity. This has been my experience for the past year. As anyone who has moved to NYC knows, it can be a very difficult adjustment to say the least, and without family I “lost myself in the shuffle.”

I have been dating a nice guy with a really overbearing mother that was a Wall Street woman in the 1960s (yikes, imagine her aggression!) who passed on her dreams of being a Dr. and has lead an unfulfilled life since. She has verbally thrashed me consistently for my career decisions. I recently have decided to throw caution to the wind and be a full-time postbac student this fall (excited!), but I am completely nervous. Being from the South, I am worried about dedicating the next 10-years to the pre-MD track – the brother of my boyfriend is currently dating a 34-year-old anestesiologist that is completing her residency, she was a post bac herself. She repeatedly warns me “don’t do it, its too long of a road, your social life is going to deteriorate and you may not get married” as a result. I am nervous because her advice is so candid – am I crazy to think that I can do it all – be a Dr and find a husband/begin a family at the same time? Am I getting in too deep?

Finally, as an ex-Wall Streeter all of my older family friends who are physicians (and very accomplished ones) have told me that I should just “go for the easy money on Wall Street” and that medicine is “not worth your effort.” Am I attracting a bunch of cynics, or am I just naive about my expectations of how fulfilling a career in medicine can be?

I’d love positive feedback – it seems like I keep running into people who are dissatisfied with their life decisions

Hi there,

If you truly love medicine, no one is going to talk you out of your dream. I’m a senior General Surgery resident headed for fellowship and my social life has not suffered; I have not suffered and I love every second of what I do.

You DO owe yourself a thorough investigation of what the pursuit of medicine demands. You need to be very sure that you can meet those demands. There are many long hours of study in medical school and even longer hours of residency. You have to love what you do or you will not be very good at it. Medicine is not something that you do not want to do well.

Keep your grades high and do some little thing that gets you closer to your goal daily. Realize that no one can live your life for you or understand how you live your life except you. You DO NOT need anyone’s permission to pursue your dreams.

Good luck!


Short answer: yeah, but it’s the good kind of crazy

Long answer: Do what you want for the reasons that are important to you - nobody else.

If your main goal is to make lots of money, Wall Street is probably a better path than medicine.

If your main goal is to be a family mom, that’s certainly not impossible with medicine; there’s some great resources for that here on this board (both in posts and individuals), and I believe a website called .

I’m just in the upswing of a post-bacc myself (I’m 26). It’s a long road, it’s a hard road, and success is uncertain. And I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.

First, all sorts of people will tell you this is a bad idea.

It is, sometimes.

If you can be just as happy doing something else which requires less time and effort, then go do that–why wouldn’t you?

And it’s a bad idea if you think of the pre-med and medical school process as only means to an end. If you think of that as a line in which you are waiting, it will be a long wait. As a post-bac in particular, you need to believe that you will like medical school itself; residency itself. Not that you’ll like every part of it but that you’ll be more happy in med school and post-bac than you would be working.

And it’s a bad idea if you’ve fallen into the trap, common among the graduates of our finer institutions of higher learning, of thinking that there are three professions: law, medicine and business. There are many more professions than that. Let me spend more time on this in particular. This isn’t specifically about what you wrote, and it may or may not apply to you, but you may recognize some of it.

I don’t know what kind of school you went to but around these parts (Cambridge, MA) I see bright but essentially aimless kids getting recruited into jobs right out of college that pay higher salaries than I have ever made in my life. Great for the bar tab and getting started on that IRA early, but really bad for the soul. In this respect it can be a blessing to have gone to a non-prestigious university. The only people recruiting around my college (with the majority of the student body made up of some combination of artists, socialists and dedicated marijuana smokers) were the Peace Corps. When my friends and I graduated from our film classes, we worked in temp jobs, as stagehands, at coffee shops, as production assistants, and so on. Crap jobs, crap pay. To my friends and me, although it kinda sucked at the time, temping as a corporate secretary was great in retrospect because it allowed us to: a) realize that our happiness didn’t revolve around money and wasn’t going to improve if we got the higher-paying jobs of the bored and unhappy people in the offices where we temped; b) spend a lot of time working on our own projects and ideas, walking on the beach thinking about stuff, volunteering, finding out what really moved us; and c) continue to feel like our souls, our homes and our bodies were our own, instead of belonging to malignant overlords who owned us because they owned our paychecks. On the other hand, for the kids at fancier schools who get recruited to make more money as 22 year olds than I made as a city public health department employee at 29, they become quickly trapped into the idea that only a few possible jobs exist–that is, the jobs that pay a lot of money. And perhaps if they’re ready to devote themselves to a life of altruism and somewhat reduced income that might include medicine, but not primary care medicine. Some of those people might be happiest working at truly not-high-paying jobs in non-profits, in elementary schools, as high school history teachers, or perhaps as police officers. But they’ll never consider any of those jobs because some corporate recruiter came around in their senior year and resolved their anxiety about not knowing what they would do when college ended, before they really had any time to figure out what they wanted to do. Then they sit in their high-paid cages, increasingly convinced by the self-justification of their surroundings that normal lower-middle or middle-middle class existence is some unknown fearsome fate of despair, poverty, low prestige and a complete inability to ever appear on the NYT wedding pages. Sadly, most Americans are doomed to this terrible fate or worse, but amazingly, many of them are happier than the people who manage to avoid it.

So, I don’t know much about your story and whether it has anything in common with any of the above, other than that you work around money and that you’re unhappy, but I do know that you have plenty of time to figure out what would make you happy. If I infer the math of your age correctly from your post, seriously, you are a CHILD compared to most of the people who are part of the OPM community (and welcome to it, kiddo). Ironically, in the many years that I have been a part of this community, the posts that express the most anxiety about lost time, getting old, and ruined lives are almost always from people in their mid-twenties, i.e., the youngest folks here. Life is short, but it’s not that short. And because life is short, happiness–not some locked-in timeline generated by other people–should be your top priority.

Speaking of happiness, which may or may not be helped by a long-term relationship, I do know that people in medical school go on dates, find boyfriends and get married quite frequently. (To each other, if no one else. Three female med student friends of ours have already locked in dates in May for their weddings. If anything there might be a slight excess of medical student marriages rather than a shortage. I myself am one half of a very sweet two-med-student relationship; we met at a barbeque for the older students in the class.)

The anxieties of women in their mid-twenties to early-thirties about this issue don’t go away when they don’t go to medical school. You have a relationship that you’re happy with when you’re happy–and definitely if medical school will make you miserable, then you probably won’t find the love of your life there. But if you talk to young women who work in Wall Street or work in coffeeshops or don’t work at all but instead spend down their trust funds going to clubs, lots of them despair at ever having a chance of meeting the right guy. This isn’t about medical school; it’s just part of being a woman of your age in our culture. (I mean, seriously, none of the women in Sex and The City went to medical school, right? And it took them a bazillion seasons to ever find the right guys. Admittedly, that’s a sample size of 4 women who only exist in the minds of the gay men who wrote their dialogue, but still, I suspect that both the characters and the gay men who invented them were older than you are, and it wasn’t 22 year olds who most liked watching that show, right? I’m just saying.)

So, if anything, I’d recommend taking a bit more time, to make sure you actually know what makes you happy. Spend some time volunteering–not for your pre-med resume but so that you know more about what you care about the most. Go talk to a counselor or a therapist about your priorities. Fill out the exercises in the book What Color Is Your Parachute? Or do other things that help you know yourself better. You know you’re unhappy right now–don’t jump too fast into a plan to make yourself happy, or you’ll end up in the same place. The mistake that the college seniors make when they shake hands with the corporate recruiters is to let other people shape their agendas and their timelines, and/or to let fear of loss of prestige or loss of money define their choices. Don’t make the same mistake–in the end, that’s the only part that’s actually crazy. Becoming a doctor is a great idea if you think medical school sounds really cool and being a doctor sounds great; but not a great idea if you haven’t really exhaustively considered your other options.

Good luck, and really, welcome to OPM–let us know how you’re doing as you move along this path.

best regards,


Joe – great comments. I can recommend the book What Should I Do with My Life? by Po Bronson, a series of interviews with people who undertook career changes of all types. Lawyer-to-preacher, financier-to-cop, etc. It’s fascinating reading, especially for those who are contemplating a career switch. It’s primarily focused on the well-to-do upper middle class professionals who can afford to quit their Wall Street jobs and go purchase a catfish farm in Louisiana, but there are a few stories from folks in other walks of life who have fewer options.

As usual, Joe has said it far more eloquently than I ever could.

To the OP, I don’t hear any of what I call “reality testing” in your post. As you prepared to leave college, you belatedly thought about becoming a doctor - was this a true epiphany on your part or a reflection of having cold feet about where you were headed? I don’t know. Now as you prepare to get more serious about pursuing that goal, you find yourself buffetted by others’ opinions, and awfully easily knocked off course by events around you… way too much, if you ask me. If you are really, really sure of your career path, if you’ve looked into it enough to know that there is nothing else that is going to make you happy, then the concerns others are raising to you are things that you’ll be able to shrug off.

And that’s the thing - what HAVE you done to convince yourself that there’s no other career for you? Have you shadowed? volunteered? researched? gone through your own major medical thing and realized you wanted to be on the other side of the curtain? You don’t say, so I won’t presume that you have NOT done these things. But if you have, and you’re still so readily intimidated by others’ comments, you need to do some more exploring.

Will it be hard to socialize in med school? Well, it’s true you work hard and have little free time, but there are definitely lots of opportunities to meet people and do fun things. Will it be impossible to get married, have children while in med school / residency / practicing medicine? The evidence in front of me says otherwise: I had many classmates marry while in med school, several have children as med students, and I know lots of residents having kids too.

You are going to be about the same age as your med school classmates! You should not have difficulty meeting people / socializing.

Quite honestly, in the way you present these concerns and objections, you sound like you are not yet convinced. We can present a different perspective, but YOU are going to have to convince yourself - good luck! And welcome to OPM!


I really appreciate all of your responses! The truth is that I am not really sure WHAT I am meant to do with my life, and I’ve decided to dedicate this year to seeing if medicine is where I belong. So I quit my high-stress Wall Street job and am giving myself no distractions. Perhaps it is just my experience, but I have found that putting myself in a bottom-line driven environment like Wall Street only serves to feed my uncertainties. Like Joe mentioned, I recognize that I am caught up in the “elitist law-business-medicine” triangle. I genuinely want to move beyond it. But I have an real interest in medicine, and I want to give it a sincere shot.

I admit that I am confused and have been pretty easily swayed along the way – I also recognize that I have been a bit naive in my expectations of a career. But I genuinely believe that if medicine is where I am meant to be than I need to start sooner rather than later exploring it. My expectations for this year are that I resume my premed courses, shadow and research and see if my curiosity for medicine is confirmed. If yes, then I’ll continue the process of more classes and more clinical experience. If no, then I’ll pursue something else. I’m not sure if this is silly reasoning, but I’m banking on the “you won’t know until you try it” mantra. Please keep offering your advice – I’ll keep you informed of my happenings.

An aside – what kinds of research/shadowing/volunteer opportunities do you reccommend? I have the opportunity to volunteer in the geriatric ward of one hospital, and a research opportunity in another. If anyone has any experiences that they found particularly fulfilling, please share!



The geriatric ward sounds like a great idea. I might also try volunteering at a nursing home for a bit. Better still, take a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) course. They’re usually offered through local community colleges, local training centers, or even through some nursing homes, themselves. Being a CNA in a nursing home can give you a sense of what you may come up against as a doctor if you choose that course.

Being an EMT is good exposure too (I’m a little biased, of course), but it carries a little more time committment in terms of training & volunteer options can be a little limited unless you live near a rural area, or you can hook up with your local red cross agency. Becoming a Paramedic (EMT-P) takes more time still & it is a career branch I wouldn’t recommend unless you have worked for a while as an EMT (basic or intermediate) & know that you love riding around in trucks or helicopters.

I worked for a while as a cancer hospice volunteer & I highly recommend that as well. Meeting and even establishing relationships (however short-lived) with people at the end of their lives was one of the most rewarding & enriching string of experiences I have had in my entire life. For a minimal amount of orientation-style training & an investment in whatever time you care to share, you will see things that may profoundly change how you feel about medicine as a career option. I loved it, but some friends of mine thought it was the most depressing thing they’d ever done & really regretted it.

I’m sure other folks have suggestions too, but these were good for me. I’m not sure how ADCOMs feel about these (I’m still pretty early in my pre-med experience), but they taught me a lot, personally.

You should do some serious soul-searching. I have stood inside so many (perceived) tunnels in my lifetime where the only choices seemed to be forward & “the other direction.” The tunnel only exists in your head, but the choices have real consequences. Try to see (maybe “feel” is a better verb) outside the tunnel. There are so many opportunities. I often regret my own lack of foresight. Give yourself some time to explore, and then start when you really feel ready.

Best of luck!


I am fairly new to this as well, and sometimes I also think I am crazy. Sometimes other people tell me that. They mean well.

I also recommend “What Color is My Parachute?” That is the book that made me re-find myself on this path. Perhaps it will help confirm this for you, or perhaps it will turn you away. Either one is ok. By which I mean: you are pre-med now, but if you realize medicine is not for you, you can always change your mind. I’m one year into my prereqs now, and I spent a lot of time at first obsessively asking myself, “am I sure about this? how can I really know if this is for me?” etc. But taking my classes, and going through volunteer training at a hospice have only served to confirm in my mind that this is right for me.

It’s a long path - you’ll know while you are doing it whether you should stick with it. I am happily going to take physics, which I hate, because it will get me where I need to go. Go ahead and jump into it - even if you change your mind and become a forest ranger or something, you’ll have gained new knowledge and interesting experiences, and that’s a wonderful thing.