Newbie asking for advice-proceed with medical dream or no?

Hello all nontraditionals!


I would like to get some feedback from you all about my situation. I was diagnosed with epilepsy when I was a sophomore in college 15+ years ago, but because I didn’t always have grand mals I foolishly tried to finish my degree while having seizures. I eventually withdrew from school 3 times, leaving each time because it was just too difficult trying to complete school while seizing (auras, confusion, and the ocassional grand mal). Needless to say, my grades are horrible. I ended up withdrawing from a lot of classes, and was dismissed for not meeting the college’s general requirements.


Fast forward to today, I am seizure free after having epilepsy surgery. I am performing appropriately in school (currently I’m at a community college).


Needless to say, my interest in becoming a doctor stemmed from my years of hospitalizations. I’m still divided on the issue, and I am willing to drop the idea as a pipe dream and just become a nurse. I wanted to get some input from you guys (because friends and family believe my interest is untenable. I do too, to a certain degree). Now that I am actually able to study without incident I need a strategy or possibly a stern talking-to.


I am thinking that my application won’t even be considered by ad cons once they see the w’s and other bad grades.


I plan on contesting my grades and asking for grade forgiveness from my old institution (hoping they will grant it). I don’t know if they do this yet, but I believe my case is strong (that is, I went on disability at 20 because stress brought on the seizures. I’ve never held a full time job). Now that I’m seizure free, I’m really excited about having a career and being a productive member of society.


Do you think I would even be able to get past the initial gatekeepers?


Will I be able to address my past disability status? Would adcoms be open to understanding that my bad performance was tied in with my epilepsy? Being seizure free now, I realize with sympathy that I had a rough time when I was younger - but do you think adcoms would be as sympathetic and understanding? Your thoughts and advice please? Thanks. I’m 40 year old student, by the way, taking classes at the local community college before I transfer over to a 4 year school.

Wow. 42 views but no replies. Hmmm…Thoughts, people?

Welcome to OPM!


Congratulations on being seizure free, that’s fantastic!


I think the big question is; do you want to be a nurse or a physician?


Nursing is certainly less of a time commitment if you can be happy as a nurse.


As far as adcoms are concerned, they’ve looked past “I was an 18 year old slacker,” I can’t imagine why they would look down on a documented medical condition.


The D.O. path offers the same practice privileges as M.D., but they offer grade replacement in their GPA calculation which could help someone in your position tremendously.


This site is filled with success stories of people who have had dramatic turns in their life from undergraduate academic failure to refocused physician. Read some of the diaries on this site, if I’m not mistaken, Old Man Dave had a horrific undergrad GPA and is not a critical care anesthesiologist!


It can be done, decide which career is best for you and then go for it!


Best wishes,


Dan

Your story is certainly interesting. Kind of stuff that reads great on a statement. Your situation and past issues can totally be justified and I believe should interest some adcoms.


I would definitely go for it. Make sure though that the grade trend goes in the right direction.


I wish you the best of luck. Please let us know how things are progressing.

Thanks for the welcome, Dan.


I will continue to try to access Old Man Dave’s story. I keep getting a database error message when I use the search function.


I will go the DO route, although I hope I will be granted some kind of grade forgiveness.


This is a great resource for general info.

I think you would be able to write one heck of a personal statement. Good luck!

Wow, that is one heck of an experience you had there.


I would think admissions would overlook your disability if you can prove that it is of the past and that you can handle the academic challenges of medical school.


So what you have to do is do well on all your classes, especially the prerequisites and other sciences classes. Then you need a good score on the MCAT. So try to get a 3.5 or above for your overall GPA and a 30 or above on the MCAT.


I do not know how much school you have left, but if you only have 1 year left, that may not be enough time to show improvement. If that is the case, you may want to look into postbaccalaureate premedical programs and do really well in it.

I saw the original post and wanted to think some on it before blathering on.


Have you talked to a medical school?


It is my understanding that any medical condition that could affect a patient could be reason to deny admission. For instance, poor eyesight could be a reason, multiple sclerosis with no visible dexterity issues, etc… LOTS of coulds in there!!!


That you have been seizure free is awesome in and of itself. I have friends with epilepsy and honestly, their sheer honesty about the disease and dignity when broached about it, astounds me. They openly discuss their seizures and have taken the “veil” of secrecy off the disease. Many kudos to all of you!!!


I think the best people to talk to would be a school you are not interested in. This sounds… deceptive but here’s my rationale:

  1. you get honest feedback from a school about having had seizures in the past; while knowing they cannot discriminate (albeit any would be quietly) because you are not applying to them anyway

  2. you get honest feedback about your grade situation from a school that is not in your pool anyway - you have nothing to lose


    I do not have a physical ailment (mental some would say!) but I do have serious grade issues from 30 years ago. I started with a school admissions director who I knew would never see my application (Stanford - haha - yeah, they’d laugh all the way from Cali!). In being brutally honest about my whole past, I got brutally honest feedback and could make a solid decision for myself.


    My concern in broaching a school of interest honestly about any issue before application is this:


    In the business world, we say that we won’t hold it against you if you “A B or C” but inevitably, we do. (I didn’t but I’m that really odd duck.) I heard executives say, “Oh, that won’t be an issue” only to have it show up in a hiring process.


    I imagine medical schools, while trying to teach compassion, are less so to premeds, than their own ilk. There are many stories out there about physicians eating their own, so to speak, and about how any mental illness is seen as a major character flaw.


    I tend to wonder if any physical illness is seen in the same manner. There is only one way to find out:


    Ask someone who can give you honest feedback.


    I applaud your sincerity, your forthrightness, your willingness to chase a passion!! I hope your path continues toward med school. No doubt you would be a great champion for patients

Wow - and I thank you for pondering, because you’ve given me a lot to think about. It may not be such a good idea to shout from the rooftops to adcoms that I used to have a seizure disorder. I have largely forgotten about the stigma attached to epilepsy, if you can believe that. A lot of epileptics learn to follow the mantra, “I have epilepsy; epilepsy doesn’t have me.” A coping mechanism, of course, because it’s hard to hide a seizure disorder. But it also helps to manage other people’s perceptions and encourage acceptance and understanding. I have lived in such a “protected space” for so long - I have forgotten the pain of the stigma (the loss of status, the belief that I was unintelligent,incapable and therefore untrustworthy) when I first started seizing as a teenager.


You make extremely valid points. Mind you, I would not ever think about entering medicine if I was still impaired. And I understand your suggestions. Disability studies also interest me. The disabled must navigate their social world in ways that the “able” need not concern themselves with.


I have been encouraged by an adcom, but I was warned not to present myself so narrowly. I’m pre-med, now, with a strong interest in neurological issues, pharmacology and epilepsy research. I will take more time to think about the profession and my professionalism. Thank you for your input, Doc2be.

Great advice, AD04. Now I feel a bit sheepish about mentioning my past status. If I don’t kick butt with my studies for the next 2+ years, and perform well on the MCAT, nothing else really matters, including my concerns. I am so enthused and excited. Medicine is worth my focused attention.

  • hospitalist2be Said:
A lot of epileptics learn to follow the mantra, "I have epilepsy; epilepsy doesn't have me." A coping mechanism, of course. Mind you, I would not ever think about entering medicine if I was still impaired.



I would NEVER classify your epilepsy as an impairment.

It is not.

It is an ailment that affects neurological signaling if I'm not mistaken. That ailment has not caused any outward manifestations so therefore, one could conclude that it does not physically affect you.

Take that one step further, and it does not mentally impair you, it empowers you to be a better physician.

Also, I would wonder even if you did have seizures once in awhile, how that would really affect you as a physician. I can't imagine it would. You're not trying to do surgery And even those of us without epilepsy should not be surgeons (insert my name here) - our dexterity is just not sufficient.

I wish I knew of someone - here on the board or elsewhere - with epilepsy that you could talk to. Obviously, somewhere out there are docs who have the disorder, just like there are docs out there who are colorblind.
  • Adoc2be Said:
  • hospitalist2be Said:
Mind you, I would not ever think about entering medicine if I was still impaired.



I would NEVER classify your epilepsy as an impairment.

It is not.

It is an ailment that affects neurological signaling if I'm not mistaken. That ailment has not caused any outward manifestations so therefore, one could conclude that it does not physically affect you.

Take that one step further, and it does not mentally impair you, it empowers you to be a better physician.



My language is sloppy. I am smarting from the memory of my past bad grades and the anguish I experienced when I made the conscious daily decision to rest instead of study, knowing I was dooming myself to bad grades. (Hence, the reason I started this thread). It was hellish attempting to study while battling auras and "fighting" post-ictal confusion.

(You must be a dynamite friend to your friend(s) with epilepsy, by the way).
  • hospitalist2be Said:
I am smarting from the memory of my past bad grades



So, let's use this forum to figure out how to overcome that and what you can and need to do and let the health concern be addressed when it needs to be. That day is not today.

There are so many awesome folks on this forum and I'm positive someone out there has had poor grades, even worse than yours. And I'm likewise positive, that the kind folks here can help you figure a path to get you closer. My own grades are deplorable, thankfully, they are also almost 30 years old.

And, thank you. I try to be a good friend to everyone... sometimes my message gets lost.
  • Adoc2be Said:


So, let's use this forum to figure out how to overcome that and what you can and need to do and let the health concern be addressed when it needs to be. That day is not today.





Indeed. That's the stern talking-to I was looking for. Nothing - including health concerns or present grades - is stopping me from going forth. I started the thread as an unsure newbie wanting an Oprah-esque 'validation moment.' I got it. I've since perused the med school application questions on and I see I will have plenty of opportunities to discuss my past performance. Before talking with this community, I was under the impression that I'd killed all my chances. I was perfectly willing to get my nursing degree. Thanks to your candor regarding past bad grades, I'm emboldened.

So I will proceed to get the shadowing experience I need and focus on my biology capstone that's coming up.

I think this thread has served its usefulness, as I will now focus on completing my prerequisites in preparation for the MCAT. Thanks, all, who have replied.
  • Adoc2be Said:
You're not trying to do surgery And even those of us without epilepsy should not be surgeons (insert my name here) - our dexterity is just not sufficient.



Not to split hairs (no pun intended) Adoc2be, but ALL medical students MUST complete 2 semesters of surgical clerkships as a requirement for a medical doctorate even if they have no intention of ever becoming a surgeon when they graduate.
  • TicDocDoh Said:
  • Adoc2be Said:
You're not trying to do surgery And even those of us without epilepsy should not be surgeons (insert my name here) - our dexterity is just not sufficient.



Not to split hairs (no pun intended) Adoc2be, but ALL medical students MUST complete 2 semesters of surgical clerkships as a requirement for a medical doctorate even if they have no intention of ever becoming a surgeon when they graduate.



Oh, I know. I had already asked what to expect during those rotations because I know, I do not want to cut or manipulate a fine #10. I just do not have the dexterity. I can, and have, sutured on a head already - that is different, to me, than cutting out a vein and splicing it into a heart.

That I do not want to do, and no patient would ever want me to do either. My understanding of surgery at the MS-3 and MS-4 level is watching, not peeing for 12 hours, and not making a sound (and certainly, not passing out falls in there too).
  • Adoc2be Said:
My understanding of surgery at the MS-3 and MS-4 level is watching, not peeing for 12 hours, and not making a sound (and certainly, not passing out falls in there too).



hahaha

According to facebook posts from some of my classmates in the year ahead of me, that sounds about right.

If I may add my .02…


Regardless of what kind of feedback you see here, or hear from anyone else, you have to KNOW inside that you’re going to make it to the finish line. Make a decision and go for it. If I had a nickel for every time I got a funny look in response to what I’m doing…well, I’d have a bunch of nickels!


Can it be done? Yes. There are many people that have overcome extreme obstacles to make it. You can too.


Even the post-bacc time period can be a little stressful at times. You’ve got to be unwavering in your drive to get there.





“Do or do not. There is no try.”