Question Re: Age/Admission's Committees Surgery and ED Med.

Hello Everyone,

I am sure this has been discussed ad nauseam, but I want to post a particular POV I was reading, and then get as much feedback on this as possible–especially from those that had the courage to follow their dreams and goals and are succeeding in living them.

Someone online had asked if 52 is too old to go to medical school. I am not in my fifties, but I was taken back a little by the response of one person in particular. This was this person’s reply:

“Yes, you’re too old. It would be irresponsible for a School of Medicine to admit you at the expense of another student with a much longer career prospect.”

My question is, do those on the admissions panels really consider things in this fashion? I mean I know there are laws against age discrimination, but might this rationale not enter into some of the decision-making from certain panel members?

My second question is with regard to another response at the same site. A person that is a PA decided to go med school at around age 51 or so. He was very encouraging, however, he did advise against pursuing surgery or emergency medicine.

So this is where I would like some more input. As a critical care nurse, I have recovered quite a number of surgical patients, which has allowed me to work with many surgical residents and fellows. I may tend to see the poster’s point, in that surgical residencies seem insanely demanding, rigorous, even quite harsh at times. Now I wouldn’t dream of telling someone else to do that or not. I think there are people that are so healthy and in such good shape, they are decades older and could blow away some folks in their later 20’s or 30’s. But in general, I can see the responder’s position.

What I am confused about is why they would also include avoiding emergency medicine if a person is 50 or over. Yes, it’s demanding, just like pretty much all of medicine, but I don’t see it quite as grueling as what I’ve seen many surgical residents endure. So is this true??? If a person is into their 40’s or >, should he/she steer clear of emergency medicine as well? Personally, I’m interested in FP, but I’d like some perspective on this.

Thanks. I really appreciate the feedback.

First, that sounds like it came from this forum’s resident troll or from SDN.

SDN is known for their “anti-over-22” philosophy of “who” should get into med school and who should not.

Both of those opinions, I would quickly disregard.

There are several members of this forum who are practicing docs, residents YEAY LINDA!!, or trying to get into medical school that can, without words, succinctly dispute that POV.

As for what YOU should do related to ER/FP/etc - that is up to you.

As a non-trad you are already doing something someone somewhere said that you should not do - why bother letting them now dictate what you should or should not try to do with your medical career?

I asked an adcom about ped onc for me when I would be about 53. She stated, “If that is still your passion after medical school and residency, then there is no reason not to go for it.”

Cannot imagine why the same could not be said for other specialties as well (then again, I’m NOT in med school yet, or a resident, yet).

Maybe my old posts may be of help:…

50’s or even beyond is not too old to gain acceptance to medical school IF the individual is competitive. Yes, getting a surgical residency is highly unlikely BUT it has been done Dr. Belle for one, but most program directors in surgical specialties would be very very reticent to admit someone in their 50’s or beyond. ER is not a super grueling residency actually, I think it is more benign than IM/FP because they work “shifts” which I think (someone chime in if I am wrong) that may b 12 hours versus the grueling pace of IM/FP specially as an intern.

I also wouldn’t put EM up there with surgical residencies in terms of being grueling. The main thing that makes EM different from the other specialties is the “shift work” aspect - alternating between days and nights can be particularly difficult for some. However, I don’t see where this is any more difficult that taking overnight call in any other specialty.

Efex is correct - residents are limited to 12 hour shifts in the Emergency Department and 60 hours a week (in the ED). On off-service rotations, EM residents are subject to the same work rules as all other residents - 80 hours per week averaged over 4 weeks. I wish I had saved my most recent EMRA magazine - it detailed the work rule restrictions.

That canard about “you’re taking up a space that could be used by someone much younger, with greater longevity of practice,” has been around since before OPM, SDN and maybe even the Princeton Review forums were popular. I remember getting into a heated discussion about this in 1997 on an old-style listserve.

No, I do not think that this is an opinion held among AdCom members. The people who are actually involved in academic medicine recognize that the career trajectories of their students are varied – there are those who take the conventional path of residency into practice and those who will do something unconventional. So AdComs do not waste time worrying about what their students will do after they graduate, and instead focus on getting people who will be good student body members and make good use of their degree.

It’s a stupid comment that you don’t hear voiced by anyone except immature premeds.

As for difficulty of residency: you know, my intern year as an FP was absolutely heinous! My program was set up a little differently from most and so my intern year was inpatient, q4 night call for 10 out of 12 months. I still don’t know how I did it, and am very grateful that I will never have to do that again. I think that there’s no way to generalize who can do what simply based on age - it’s far more individualized than that. Having said that, it is absolutely easier to do some things when you are under 50. Take it from this 53-year-old…


  • Mary Renard Said:
No, I do not think that this is an opinion held among AdCom members.......It's a stupid comment that you don't hear voiced by anyone except immature premeds.

Actually Dr.Renard, this isn't quite true at least not in my experience. In fact, I heard essentially this same statement a few weeks ago from an an adcom at the school that I've always felt rejected you due to age.

Not trying to be disrespectful here, just simply making the point there are some people out here with these asinine views about who can do what and at what age. Luckily, they seem to be in the minority.

Thanks everyone for your replies.

pathdr2b, like I said in another thread, it’s tough to get past biases and imbalanced thinking.

First of all, NO ONE has any guarantee on how long they will live. Unfortunately I’ve known a number of physicians that have passed away since I’ve been a nurse, and quite a few of them have definitely been on the younger side.

A few of them did engage in high-risk activities, such as sky-diving, hiking in dangerous areas alone, similar things. Are the ad com people asking the younger applicants about the dangerous nature of their hobbies? Are they skipping over them b/c they engage in such activities?

Truth is that people are living longer–especially in light of incorporating excellent wellness practices in their lives.

To me, ageism is just another unfair bias–just like anything else–like race, creed, all the general EEOC criteria. Beyond that, life experiences can add so much depth to a human being. As you grow and experience things in life, you learn more about what you want, what your purpose is, and what you are about. Mostly this is true, No?

Not too many years ago there was a beautiful young woman that was interviewed on TV. She completed medical school and residency and then she went into forming a business on a website. She moved out of clinical practice altogether.

See I think when you get some maturity, you can see more clearly what it is that you really want.

I also must add that when I was a CT recovery nurse for adults, I found consistent problems with gauging recovery simply based on age. I had patients in their 70’s and 80’s that did well, while quite a number of younger post-op patients struggled. Why was that? Well, it had more to do with comorbidities than age. AGE alone should NOT be considered a comorbidity.

But I guess if certain folks on these admit committees are taking in age as a factor, they should take in other things as well, such as overall physical prognositic indicators, primary family histories, general wellness/lifestyle practices, and whether or not folks engage in high-risk hobbies, or drive motorcycles, or shoot, even if they routinely drive automobiles for that matter. The roadways surely don’t seem to care who is on them, and they eat up the lives of many each year!

Biases really fog up the issue on whether or not someone can do the work in medical school. They can’t follow everyone around after school to make sure they all stay safe and in direct clinical practice. The student can either can do the work and make a commitment to it, or they can’t.

And what about MD/PhD’s for that matter? How many of those folks are going to spend the bulk of their time in clinical practice compared with those moving into full-time clinical application?

Plese don’t get me wrong. I’m not at all knocking MD/PhDs. And I’m certain the previous question will vary depending upon the individual. But if one is procuring that kind of degree, it seems probable that she/he is looking to putting a huge chunk of time in research and academics. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Truth is, there is a great need for primary care physicians. If you can get 20 plus years of practice out of a physician, why is it NOT worth the slot in the medical program?

Has anyone done a study on how long people admitted after age 30 plan to practice? I’m betting it’s no different from that of traditional students.

Maybe that’s a good response to the ol’ why should we admit you over someone 20 years younger question, “I plan to practice just as many years as traditional students”.

My answer to the question of how long did I plan to practice, when I interviewed at the age of 51, was “As long as the good Lord sees fit!” It was an honest answer, and it must have worked, because here I am in residency!

My take on this? I would hesitate to generalize on the minds of ADcoms – I suspect you will find similar views on both sides. officially or un.

obviously they ALL don’t think that “length of practice” is a huge issue…

just a look at the site members will tell you that — (53 y/o me nods to Mary – Linda – et al)

That’s great Linda.

Very Big Smile from me on that one!

LOL, you’ve got to do something till you die. . .and I have a particular bias against retirement. I’ve seem too many people not have a plan, get depressed, then get sick, and then die.

People need a purpose and reason to get up in the morning. For me, golfing would only go so far. If people want to retire, that’s great, but IMO, they should have a substantial and purposeful plan for retirement. One of my most favorite physicians worked in his family practice until early 80’s. He would have worked longer, but his wife insisted they take some long trips and travel around visiting family. He was good and sharp all the way up to the end.

  • jl lin Said:
One of my most favorite physicians worked in his family practice until early 80's. He would have worked longer, but his wife insisted they take some long trips and travel around visiting family. He was good and sharp all the way up to the end.

One of my most favorite Docs/mentors in the entire world is 70+ and a current working federal employee. I'll just mention that I plan to pattern my career after his which will also give me a chance to name drop, LOL!!!