Question for the non-traditional students.

What made you want to go into medicine at a later age in life? Was it something you’ve always had a passion for, but because of your particular circumstances (raising a family, personal hardship, etc.) you weren’t able to pursue it at an earlier age?
Are there any here that initially had little or no interest in medicine but yet wanted a radical career change and decided that medicine was right for them? If so, what was the catalyst that sparked your interest in medicine if you never considered medicine in the past?
Throughout the journey of taking pre-med courses and the MCAT, who or what was your greatest adversary? For me I’m learning that my worst enemy is myself. When I read the forums over at I begin to feel so insignificant and inferior to those pre-med students. It seems like most of them have impeccable resumes with outstanding academic performance in both high school and college. They have extensive lists of extracurricular activities and volunteer jobs. It seems like they’ve been groomed for med school throughout their early years as children and teenagers - precocious over-achievers who have never experienced defeat, who have never been second best. Worst of all, they’re arrogant and cocky. I guess that goes along with being the best.
My god when I think about the big picture of becoming a doc my mind races with these belittling thoughts, “You, a career in medicine? Now that’s rich. Perhaps you should be more realistic and aim for dumpster diver”. It’s so hard to stay positive and objective when you’ve never accomplished anything significant in your life. Why do I fool myself into thinking I can pull this off?

Do NOT use SDN as your yardstick! Remember that internet forums are anonymous - while doubtless many of those posters actually do have the sterling resumes they present, others are posers, I’m sure of it.
There is so much more to succeeding in medicine - or life, for that matter - than good grades, good scores, or “who ya know.” Or how well you’ve been “groomed” to get there.
It takes some degree of smarts, a lot of persistence, supportive people around you, but most of all, virtually unshakeable self-confidence to establish a career as a physician. Do NOT apologize for not thinking of it sooner. Do NOT apologize for lacking research experience from the age of five. Do NOT apologize for a successful former career as an IT worker, a banker, or a bartender.
I enjoy browsing SDN and occasionally find some useful nuggets of information there. But one insidious untruth is perpetuated there ad nauseum, and that is the notion that there is one right way to make yourself into a perfect candidate for medical school. That has never been true, and it remains patently false now.
Medicine needs inspired researchers and it also needs people with business smarts, people with great interpersonal skills, people who look at things just a little differently from others… and while there may be a few folks who actually embody ALL those characteristics, most people have certain strengths that they play to and that they rely on. You can use any number of talents and strengths in becoming a good physician.
To answer your question: although I was a pre-med for my first college semester, it was the perfunctory choice of an immature teenager who knew only that medicine was “hard” and I was “smart.” Not smart enough to recognize that I’d have to actually WORK at general chemistry, or to realize that I ought to have some notion of what medicine was all about - and so I abandoned the idea and never looked back. I did keep a hand in, if you will, by becoming a nurse and later working for a health-related non-profit corporation. But it wasn’t until someone told me “You should go to medical school!” - after listening to me enthusiastically describe some medical research I’d heard about - that something clicked into place and I realized quickly that I should pursue it. My story really does sound kind of like St. Paul being knocked off his horse but it was almost that sudden an event, and almost that certain a realization that I would be doing the right thing. (I actually worked to make this story sound a little less out-there when I was applying… I didn’t want to sound like a nut, or a person going through a mid-life crisis.)
Anyway, if you’re reading through some of the old introductions, you’ll find that the stories of how people come to be OPMs vary a lot. Your story and your reasoning is just as good as anyone else’s… if there’s no cookie-cutter for traditional med students, there is DEFINITELY no cookie-cutter approach for OPMs. Good luck!

Hi there,
I never wanted to pursue medicine and was never a pre-medical student. My “family” business was medicine and I worked very hard not to become a part of the already nine physicians in my family including an aunt and uncle who raised me. I pursued and achieved becoming a biochemist and college professor with a sideline in respiratory therapy.
What changed my mind about medicine was an interest in the clinical applications of my bench research. I had been doing research into ischemia-reperfusion injury in vascular smooth muscle cells. As my boss, a cardiologist required his bench scientists to attend grand rounds and later work rounds with his cardiology and medicine residents, I became interested in the clinical aspects of some of his patients. I decided to take a shot at the MCAT after passing my qualifying exams for graduate school. The rest was just time passing, making application and now I am a second-year general surgery resident with plans to do a fellowship on vascular surgery and eventually practicing vascular and general surgery. The year is going by fast and I am very happy with my decision.
I did not pursue medicine or surgery for anything other than the challenges that it affords me. It’s interesting work and very enjoyable.

But Mary, you ARE a nut!! Anyone who has hung with you knows that!
Seriously, what Mary said pretty much will be echoed here a lot because it is true.

Speaking of SDN, I know a few regulars here such as furty frequent the boards there, and I’d just ask that you take my posts there in the lounge with a grain of salt. Sometimes I’m inflammatory there, but as they say, when in Rome…It’s all rhetoric anyhow. Consider it my disclaimer.
Besides, if it ever came up at an interview:
ADCOM: “So have you posted on SDN?”
ME: “SDN? Hmm, never heard of it”

Take heart Vaultdweller, I think all of us, especially us OPMs, have had our share of soul-searching, our share of doubts about our place in the premed rat race. Part of what makes us non-traditional is not just that most of us are older and have extensive and varied life experiences. What sets us apart is that we are not among those who were convinced or brainwashed early on to think that being a doctor is the being the best one can be. It makes us stand out that we’ve done other things and approached life from a perspective that goes beyond medicine. And yet, it is very intimidating and often disheartening to see the accomplishments of our younger brethren when compared to our own. When I look at my co-volunteers, I, too, tend to see smart, successful, directed, overly-confident, young individuals — and keep wondering and lamenting why I could not have had at least same brains and drive at their age, and, more importantly, why it took so long for me to get even a fraction of their motivation and self-assuredness.
What made me want to go into medicine later in life? I am partly motiviated for similar reasons as Mary Renard posted above. I wanted to do something greater than write financial software and be more effective than a clinical assistant. When patients started telling me I should be a doctor, — indeed, when patients started thinking I was a doctor despite continually trying to correct them — that’s when I knew that I needed to go beyond being just a medical assistant and lay community health worker. My decision was also partly influenced by my frustration with the distribution of doctors. I live in a fairly urban area where there are lots of doctors, but there are large untouchable populations that are still underserved by doctors.

To the OP…
I absolutely agree with your assessment that the biggest hurdle you face in this quest, or any other challenge for that matter, is yourself; not your age, not your history (if less than ideal for medschool considerations), etc. I personally been on a self-confidence roller coaster regarding my ability to get accepted since this started for me 4 years ago. I believe Mary hit the nail on the head w/ her statement about self-confidence being a must.
On the subject of SDN - I’d only echo what others have said…don’t compare your history/chances w/ what you read there. For me, I feel so far removed from what apparently drives & influences most of the posters on SDN that I’m beyond being intimidated by what I read. It’s like comparing apples & oranges. I absolutely believe there’s a need in the medical profession for both apples & oranges
On your first question of “why at this point?”. Answer - Because it never occurred to me prior to 4 years ago. I never realized this was my thing. I’ve been in another career for almost 15 years. The idea was completely unexpected. I wasn’t looking for a career change. While I wasn’t pumped up about what I did, I wasn’t miserable either (or not at that point). The catalyst was the birth of my second child. Once I realized the idea wasn’t going away, I did what I could to test whether this really fit me (volunteering, shadowing, talking w/ others, etc.)
I’ve had to take some pre-reqs and deal w/ some bumps along the way, child #3 being the nicest . I’m almost at the end of the pre-reqs and will take the MCAT in April.
Good luck to you.

What made me want to pursue medicine later in life? Great question. I came to academics very late in life, returned to college at age 30. Up to that point I had worked very low wage jobs and really had no direction in life. My life really changed when I had my son in 1996. I became much more focused and wanted to set a good example for my son. Anyway, I went back to college and ended up at UC Santa Barbara after 2 years at a junior college. I was all set to graduate this June and head off to law school, but something inside me, I can’t really explain what, a feeling that law wasn’t my true calling.
At first, this feeling scared me. I had always wanted to take science/math courses but had never wanted to challenge myself. I was great at humanities and writing long research papers, getting straight A’s, so, why fool around with science and possibly screw up my gpa, I thought to myself. The little self esteem demon told me that I wasn’t smart enough and way too old to pursue medicine.
But over the years I had some medical problems, had a c-section in 1996 due to a complicated pregnancy,fibroid surgery in 1997, preparing to undergo surgery again next week for fibroids, and also had to deal with severe anemia. My son was in the neonatal unit for 2 weeks after birth. I’ve spent a good amount of time in hospitals and dealing with doctors who have helped me and my family a great deal.
I guess to make a long story short, I’ve decided to become a doctor because I possess the desire to heal people. I look forward to dealing with patients and their families and helping them get through difficult times. Sometimes I wish that my desire to enter medicine had dawned on me when I was in my 20s, but then again, maybe this life journey I have taken will make me a better doctor…maybe this is the way it’s supposed to be. I hope so.


Sometimes I wish that my desire to enter medicine had dawned on me when I was in my 20s, but then again, maybe this life journey I have taken will make me a better doctor…maybe this is the way it’s supposed to be. I hope so.

Okay, I’m still in my 20s, but wow, vanwhalen, that really struck a chord with me. It’s so easy to get caught up in the feelings of “if only I knew then what I know now…” But you know what, I think you’re right… perhaps this is the way it’s supposed to be. I really wouldn’t want to change the past, anyway.

Hello. I have the same doubts and fears as you do. I think all of us do. I never wanted to be a doctor as a child or teenager. In fact, if you had told me at any point growing up that this was what I am thinking of doing with my life, I would have laughed in your face and thought you were crazy. As a child I loved to read and write and always excelled in English, hated math, and was o.k. in science. My Mother was an English teacher so perhaps I inherited my abilities from her! At any rate, I focused on what excelled in: writing–all the way through college and eventually earned a degree in journalism. After a variety of temping jobs and some “real” (permanent) jobs, I’ve decided I don’t want to spend my life pushing paper. I currently have a nice, stable job but I’m not challenged and I think as long as I work for a company, whether my present one or another one or in my current position or another position, I never will be challenged.

I don’t know the exact moment I decided I wanted to be a doctor but all I know is that I have to do this. One of the catalysts may be 9/11. After the 9/11 tragedy, I remember feeling somewhat “helpless” – not in the sense that I feared terrorists or war or bombing, but it was a wake-up call: What am I doing with my life? I thought why can’t I get out there and do something to help people? Suddenly, I wanted to learn everything I could about people and the human body, wanted to make a difference in people’s lives (no matter how small), and was beginning to feel I just couldn’t stand another day of cubicle-hell. So I got on the Internet and began looking at what I would need to do to get to medical school–found SDN and OPM–and began taking classes at my local community college, started volunteering at a hospital to get some experience/exposure, etc. (My family, friends, and boyfriend were initially shocked but supportive. Actually, they know I’m going to do this regardless of what they think. )

I read SDN, OPM, MomMD, and other forums a lot and yes, I do get discouraged when I think about how what I’m up against. It seems like everyone has an awesome GPA, MCAT scores, masters degrees, tons of work experience in whatever field so I do worry that I’ll never stack up. But, I try not to think about what everyone else is doing and focus on what I need to do.

I think you’re right in that your own worst enemy is yourself. You just have to stay motivated and keep the faith. Believe in yourself. If it helps, I believe in you too.



I can only echo what everyone here has already said. It was a cumulative set of experiences that made me want to go into medicine. It took me somewhere between 26 and 28 years to figure it out. I’m still not exactly sure when I made the commitment in my minds eye. There are constant ups and downs for me. Anything from feeling really bad about how a test went to worrying what state I’ll be living in a year from now and what a pain in the ass it’s going to be to get settled now that I’ve just got in a groove. But at the end of each day I still come back to wanting to be a doc.

I chuckle every time I see the title of this thread 'cause we’re all non-trads here!
And my life has led me to this point- between lab work, being a mother, and moving to a small town where the best job I could find was at an osteopathic medical school…being at KCOM for 3 years has really opened my eyes and my heart to medicine!