NOW I'm a doc (was: ALMOST a doc)

(now that I’ve linked to this as my .sig, I’m adding a few things… and have edited the title; when I originally wrote this in March I could hardly wait for graduation, well, now it’s done and I’m just waiting to get started with residency!)

I hope those folks who actually have the sacred letters after their names will forgive my trespassing onto this forum, but I got my announcements today saying that I’m a “candidate for the degree of Doctor of Medicine,” so I’m gettin’ pretty close! And from several exchanges I’ve had with individuals lately, it sounds like it wouldn’t hurt for me to do a little re-intro. (also note that some folks have asked “what were your numbers?” I used to avoid that question but at this point, I don’t really care about being coy so I am putting the numbers out there JUST because some folks find it helpful, NOT because I am trying to impress.) So here ya go:

1973 - when I started college, I was sorta pre-med just because I knew it was hard, and I thought I was smart. That lasted one semester of gen-chem © when I discovered it was harder than I was smart; after some further searching I decided to go into nursing.

1978 - it took me five years to finish college due to the change in majors and the fact that I got married and transferred halfway through. I ended up graduating magna cum laude, which was a real shock considering that I started out with a 2.0. Within weeks of starting my first nursing job, I found out I was pregnant…

1978-1986 continued to work as a nurse in various capacities, mostly part-time, while having my three kids.

1986-1994 was a SAHM and community volunteer for La Leche League (support group for breastfeeding), loved it

1994-1998 office work for a non-profit health-related corporation that wrote and administered a certifying exam for lactation consultants, so I was using my professional expertise as a BSN, my breastfeeding expertise as a La Leche League Leader and lactation consultant, and my managerial expertise acquired… uh, learned on the job I guess.

1997 - is when I realized I wanted to be doing something different. I’d contemplated getting an MBA because I really would’ve liked to overthrow my boss. (who is STILL in charge at my old office, so it’s a good thing I didn’t try to pursue that…) When I thought about business school, though, it just seemed so - boring. A friend sort of half-jokingly said, “You should go to medical school!” and as I mulled it over, I realized he was right. Although it felt like I made the decision very quickly (it took me about 24 hours from first hearing this to figuring out how I could do it), I think that’s because it fit so well. It was as if I’d been preparing my whole life without realizing it.

1997-1999 prereqs at the local 4-year university, part-time the first year while I kept my job, then full-time the second year. My initial class was gen-chem, the class that had busted my butt 20+ years earlier. This time, I had the right motivation, I worked really hard and got an A. That pattern continued through my post-bacc - worked really hard and am proud to say that I had a 4.0 post-bacc GPA.

1999 - took the MCAT (sigh, the numbers: VR 12, PS 10, WS R, BS 10) and applied to GWU and Georgetown. (moving simply was NOT an option for me and my family, hence I did not apply except here at home.) Interviewed at both. Got waitlisted at both. Questions about my age? Not exactly. I was told, “You know we have a long history of welcoming non-traditional students,” at Georgetown, which frankly was a surprise to me but I did get pretty far in the process with them. At GWU, on interview day I heard about the oldest person in the class ahead of me, who was a grandma! (she’s become a good friend, in fact I just got off the phone with her) So I never felt discriminated against or looked at funny for my age.

2000 - shortly after May 15 I got the call from GWU. In August I took my seat as the oldest member of the Class of 2004. I have had the BEST time doing this. I’m fond of saying, “this would be stupid if it weren’t so much fun,” and that’s true. But sometimes it has been an intense grind, sometimes it hasn’t been any fun at all, but overall the experience has been fantastically positive and I am looking forward to getting to work. (yeah, i’m nervous about it too.)

Would I do it again, now that I know just HOW HARD it is? Yes! It is harder than I even imagined, but it’s also even more enriching and rewarding than I had hoped. One thing that actually was a little easier than I expected was maintaining family ties. My husband and kids would probably disagree, but I feel like I did still have SOME time for them, at least occasionally. There were definitely times when I felt pulled in too many directions, and there have been lots of family things to stress me out… but I actually think that helped me maintain a sane balance of life vs. school.

And I will say this, support from my husband was HUGE in making this work. He was enthusiastic from the start, although each of us had worries from time to time about how it would work financially, logistically, spousally, parentally… pretty much every way imaginable. BOTH of us are exhilarated that school is done!

Why am I posting this now? Well, as I said, although I’m an original OPMer, a lot of the newer folks in the forum haven’t gotten to know me and given that I’ve got 1000 posts, I would certainly not encourage anyone to go back and read my old stuff as a way of finding out more about my journey. So that’s one reason - I have a lot to say on this forum, and it only seems fair that people know something about where all this advice is coming from.

Second reason is that when I was a pre-med in 1997, 98, 99, and awaiting admission in 2000… there were darn few of us OPMs around, precious little information, and not much to go on. I would have KILLED to hear a story like mine. I stalked the boards in existence at the time and tried to contact people who sounded like they were going through a similar experience - there were VERY few people even close to as old as me and I was desperate to hear more. So I know how helpful it is to hear the nitty-gritty (like the numbers), and that’s why I include it.

Questions cheerfully entertained. I’m on vacation!!

Hey Mary,
Since there is nothing between you and graduation at this point (assuming that you are going to show up ), I am glad that you posted. You have worked hard and long for that MD and the conferring of the degree is just the final cap and testament to your hard work. Didn’t it go by fast? I can vividly remember your posts on the old newsgroup wondering if you would get off the waitlist. Woo!Hoo! Dr. Renard, you have arrived and I, for one, couldn’t be prouder to claim you both as a colleage and a friend.

almostaDr. Renard and Dr. Belle,
I just want to tell you both how much I do appreciate the sharing of your experiences and advice. I am at the beginning of my medical studies and the future seems both exciting and perilous. When I start med school in August, I will be 36, with a 9 month old daughter and a two-hour daily commute. I’m simultaneously excited and scared stiff. It is truly a gift of confidence to see you surviving and thriving. So although you don’t know me, I feel pleased and proud to know you through what you have written.

Thank you so much for posting this re-intro! I love all your posts on this board and have wondered what your whole story was for some time. You are truly an inspiration!!!

I don’t know you, but you are my hero

(blush) thank you
Readmenace, I don’t know you but having checked your profile, I gotta like you a LOT for listing “I collect spores, molds and fungus” as your hobbies.
I survived a long, painful OB/Gyn rotation by slinging Ghostbusters lines back and forth with another student. Best all-purpose line, delivered deadpan: “Right. That’s bad.” (sometimes, but not always, followed by, “Important safety tip!”)
Thanks for the smile!

Howdy Mary!


I survived a long, painful OB/Gyn rotation by slinging Ghostbusters lines back and forth with another student. Best all-purpose line, delivered deadpan: “Right. That’s bad.” (sometimes, but not always, followed by, “Important safety tip!”)

So THAT’S where I got those quotes. I’ve been saying those two things for years and couldn’t for the life of me figure out where they came from. Thanks for reminding me!
Take care,

Preceding line: “Imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously, and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.”
“Total protonic reversal!”
"Right. That’s bad. Important safey tip - thanks, Egon!"
Any other scenes you’d like to run through?

Thank you for picking up on the Ghostbusters reference. It was that or “That’s a big twinkie.”
I read your bio and it gave me hope. I’m a good student, but my academic life is a nightmare. Seeing the success of others, gives me another reason not to quit. I can be done.

wow, thank you for the encouragement! i am 30, and am returning to school to study sciences in prep for medecine. thanks for the “pick-me-up.”

Your story has given more hope than I can possibly express on this note. I cannot tell you the amount of worry that I have had over the past few months trying to figure out how I’m going to make this work. I’m 33, single, divorced, no kids, work full-time, go to school part-time and I’ve had the brainy idea of becoming a doctor for the past 5 years. I spent 5 years before that getting my Associate’s Degree as a Medical Lab Tech when I realized I hungered to be a doctor. Now I’m back in school looking at another 3-4 years to complete my bacc’s since I’m only attending part-time. I’ve been playing with the idea of just going full throttle full-time because I can’t WAIT to start Medical School. I’m putting everything into school that I have like I never have before and it’s a burning passion that only grows every day. Your experiences have inspired me and I really appreciate you sharing with the rest of us. My road is just starting, but the stress of the unknown is lessened knowing that there are women out there who have done it - school, work, and family. Here’s to you, Doctor!

I just wanted to congratulate you Mary. Great job!!!

It was great to hear your story. I’m 40 and need to take a few more pre-reqs (Organic 1,2 and a Biology). I’m also studying for the MCAT (i’m terrified), and hope to take it for the first time in August 2004. I plan on applying for matriculation in 2005.

I posted to you in another thread, yet I think it bears repeating…you are my hero! I will be your groupie now and always.
Just wanted you to know how much your fortitude is an inspiration to others.
Looking forward to the day when i can get to one of these conferences and meet you all in person.

Thanks to everyone for the very kind words! I’ve had to do some paperwork for my residency job that required me to sign my name with “M.D.” at the end and it was a pretty cool (if still weird) feeling. I am glad that my story gives y’all a boost - that is why I wanted to put it out there again.

Now I gotta say one thing: um, sheew, if you are doing orgo I&II in the summer while preparing for the MCAT, you have every reason to be terrified. I am not sure if I’ve heard of anyone tackling quite that daunting a project.

I was 41 when I realized I wanted to do this, and for the first few weeks I tried endless ways to figure out how to shave a year off my pre-med years because I wanted to get going on it. I finally realized that it couldn’t be done if I wanted to stay sane, stay married, and do well.

We have beat this cliche to death on OPM but it really IS a marathon, not a sprint. If you have been a total ball-buster as a student and eat standardized tests for breakfast, you may be able to do a summer of MCAT AND orgo. But for most of us mere mortals, that is a bigger bite than is rational. Just my .02 but I can tell you from this end of the process that being 48 vs. 47 at graduation definitely didn’t feel any different.

Hello Mary,
Congrats. I’ll tell you, I had a heart breaking denial this past year, I’ve had 3 close family members die over the past two years I’ve decided to fulfill my dream. I also have an ex who has attempted to take my 3 y/o son’s right to have a father, but I continue. You and this forum has assisted me in continuing, reguardless how long it takes for that acceptance letter to come. thanks,

Hey there Dr. Mary Riley Renard!
I just love the sound of that name!! Congratulations on getting through the four years. Everything that you have heard about internship is true. It will harder than you think it will be but better than you think it will be. The time goes by so fast because you will be learning so much.
Things that got me through:
1. Learn to work up and treat chest pain.
2. Learn to work up and treat altered mental status
3. Learn to treat pulmonary edema
4. Know when to call a surgeon, He! He! Know when not to call a surgeon.
5. Know the difference between gout and peripheral vascular disease. ABIs can help you here but remember that diabetics are non-compressable.
6. Know how to convert and treat a-fib.
7. Know how to treat SOB
Armed with those few things, you can get out of practically anything.
Never underestimate the utility of asking for a fresh set of vitals and saying that you are on your way, when you get called to “look at” a patient that “just doesn’t look right” to the nurse.

Larry, you’ve got a long memory! No, I won’t be signing both… I let my RN license lapse so while I’m still a BSN I’m no longer an RN. Oh well. The M.D. will have to suffice

Hi Mary,
You certainly are an inspiration. I can tell you my story. I entered college at 18 years old, majoring in Biology. I graduated in 1991 with a BA with a 2.5 GPA, not good enough for Med School. So I worked for a few years, finished an MA degree in Science in 1998 and just finished my MBA in 2003. I have come a long way and just turned 36 last week. Every year I contemplate Medical School. As the years pass and I get a bit older, I think about how much I am missing. I have been working in the pharmaceutical industry for 11 years now so I have a lot of working experience with clinical trials and medicines. I don’t think I will ever be happy unless I reach my goal of becoming a doctor. I have been married for 9 years and have a 5 year old daughter. I worry about how it will affect them but finally realized that I have to do something for myself. I have begun looking into Post-Bac programs, particularly at UCONN. They have a two year program and 85% of its graduates are accepted into medical school.
Reading your story is such an inspiration. I often think about how I will do it but you have shown that it can be done.

Hi Mary,
As I sit here looking at the screen, I can’t find the words to say “WOW”. I am just amazed at how far you have come. I can only wish the same for me. Here is my story: It took me 12 very long years to finish a very undecided college degree, I finally graduated this year w/ a degree in Bio and another in Psy. Don’t let 2 degrees impress anyone, because I managed to ruin my academic status w/ a terrible gpa (due to many unfortunate walls I crashed into, eg. death of my 1st abusive husband) Instead of starting new I continued hoping to raise my gpa…did not work well, ended up w/ 2.7 Well, I am now 30y/o very happily married to a very supportive hubby and the mom of a bratty toddler and a 7 month old. I thought I had a plan, but I don’t think I do anylonger. My dream is to become an MD, but the thought of leaving my girls w/ a babysitter, just kills me. Why should I sacrifice them for my dream? If this isn’t bad enough I’de love to have more kids…I love children. This is were you come in. So I’m thinking why not concentrate on my children while I up my academic status w/ a few graduate courses, and then apply to med school, heck you did it, and did it so well that you ended up w/ people like me, thinking about you all night! What do you think about that? Well I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your life w/ us.
I would love to hear from you, if you have an oppinion for me
Thanks, Eli