Not sure where to begin

Hoping some people here can give me some guidance in my confused quest to decide if this is right for me

I’m a 26 year old software engineer who graduated in 2003 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. I started down the path of engineering at a pretty young age (did a running start program in high school where I took classes at my local community college starting my junior year of high school). Looking back I must have been crazy because I have no idea how I could have decided at 16 that electrical engineering was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. My dad and brother were both EE’s, so that’s my best explanation for how I ended up in this career.

Over the last year or so I’ve really begun to question if this is something I want to do for the rest of my life. I work for a great company and for the most part enjoy my work, but I don’t feel like I’m doing anything that betters society. Does the world really need another consumer electronics device? Does anyone actually care if a product I work on succeeds or fails? A few weeks ago a close friend of mine found out he had some pretty serious health issues and has been in the hospital since and probably isn’t getting out anytime soon. I’ve spent a lot of time at the hospital with him and have really grown to respect what the nurses, doctors, and everyone else there does for him. This experience has caused me to start considering whether or not I’d like to pursue a career in medicine.

My biggest hangup is that before I could even think about applying for a med school program I’d have a minimum of two years of pre-requisite work to do. I never took any biology in college, and only a quarter of chemistry. I do, however, have a lot of physics and math under my belt. I’d need to take a year of general biology, general chem, organic chemistry, and perhaps some biochemistry and microbiology. I’m guessing I’d need to take most of those before I could even take the MCAT, so a med school application is probably at least 3 years out if I got going now.

It’s a bit daunting to look down this road and see 3 years of work (not towards an undergraduate degree) just to apply and see if anyone would accept me as a student. I don’t doubt my ability to succeed, but it’s still daunting nonetheless considering I’ve been fairly successful in my career so far.

Does anyone have any advice on how to get started? I’d certainly like to feel more confident about my interest in a medical career before making the plunge. How did you get started? An evening biology class? Volunteering at a hospital?

Thanks! My wife says it’s just a mid-life crisis (in my 20’s!), but it feels like more to me.

Hey Kevin-

I am right around the corner from applying to med school, and can give you an idea of how I got started. I was also intrigued by medicine, but due to financial constraints, and my job at the time, my u-grad carreer ended with me gaining a degree in sociology and business management. After some years out of school, and medicine never leaving my mind, i decided to take a leap of faith and start taking my pre-reqs. The chemistry sequence will take you a full 2 years…in my original plan I thought i could do orgo1 &2 in 5 weeks each over the summer whuile still working…I quickly learned that was impossible. While starting my pre-reqs I got my feet wet by shadowing a dr in the ER. That shadowing experience made me sure this was what I wanted to do. The 2 years of pre-reqs have flown by since I am sure I am on the right path, and my MCATS are right around the corner (end of April).

My advice to you is totake some time over the summer and volunterr at your local hospital in an area of medicine you think you may be interested in. Make sure you can deal with the daily patient interaction and the reality of medicine. If you do this for the summer and get to see the non-glorified reality of dealing with sick/hurt people and still have a passion to become a dr. sign up for your gen chem and a bio class in the fall. Good luck on your path!

Hi Kevin,

I completely understand you, I am 34 and feel in the ‘midlife crisis’ stage too. Hey I guess it is better to consider helping people as a career path than buy a red corvette and stick a hot lady in the passenger seat. Or in my situation a hot man. Anyway, all joking aside, I think it is a good idea to do some shadowing and also check out some books written by docs about their life as a doctor. I was a nurse for 8 years and so I got my feet wet that way. Medicine is a wonderful field but it is a very emotionally and physically taxing world to work in. The balance to that is that you get to care for people and help them even in little way, it is so fantastic I can’t even say. I wish you the best and stay tuned in on this forum, there is so much great advice and you won’t feel alone. I am starting my prereqs this fall so I am at the beginning of the process too. I need a bachelors degree since my RN was an associate degree. but I am excited about it. Also, two things I have learned…enjoy every step of the process, don’t hate the undergrad stuff or even med school, just enjoy the very long ride…and…as said on this forum many times, this whole process is a marathon not a sprint. Nice to meet you! Mehgan

I have to echo what everyone else has said: Volunteer. Shadow. Talk to physicians. Find out what it is really like to be a physician before jumping on the long pathway to become a physician. You’d probably be surprised how many physicians express regrets and misgivings in choosing to become a physician.

When I first started thinking about it, the best decision I made was to not make a decision until I had more information. Does that make sense? I found it easy to think - this is crazy, what am I doing? But I was determined not to rule it out until I found out first hand what I would be getting myself into. Take things one step at a time and you will know if it’s something you want to pursue. The more I did, the more I wanted to do, although it still has not stopped me from questioning my sanity at times.

I started off by asking my sons pediatrician about a good place to volunteer for exposure. He offered to let me shadow him for a day, so I took him up on it. I wasn’t sure if I was more scared that I would like it and want to pursue it, or not like it and be “stuck” where I am. He knew up front that it was something that I was just thinking about, and I questioned him on all sorts of different aspects of medicine. I enjoyed my day with him so I signed up to volunteer at the hospital to get more exposure. I contacted the premed office at my local university to find out what prereqs I would need to complete and to solicit any other advice that they could give me about the application process. Having been out of school for awhile, I was concerned about being in class again. I signed up for a biology class and organic lab. I was lucky that my employer allowed me some flexibility in my full time schedule to accomodate the classes. I shadowed some additional physicians and have been back to talk to the pediatrician a couple of times at lunch.

I approached the decision like this - If I shadow a doctor, volunteer, and sign up to take a class, what have I lost if I decide it’s not for me? A little time and the money for a class, but overall not that much. I would have still had my job, etc. and at least the peace of mind of knowing that I had completely looked into it before deciding it wasn’t what I really wanted.

Good luck!