Quit MHA program to pursue MD?

I’ve always wanted to be a doctor. Since the age of 4, it was my response to “what do you want to be when you grow up?”. I went to pre-med medical magnet middle and high schools, I shadowed nurses and doctors every week throughout my senior year of high school, in addition to volunteering at hospitals throughout summer. I knew I wanted to be a doctor, a primary care provider specifically. I graduated top of my class and went on to the top university in my home state and graduated recently (May 2020) with a BHS and a minor in public health and a 3.9 GPA and a 3.8 science GPA . Throughout undergrad, I volunteered at a clinic and took patient vital signs, I held numerous leadership roles, and I volunteered with kids on the autism spectrum and helped with basic motor skills 2x month, and I’ve volunteered internationally (health education based, not medical, but it was truly amazing). I decided to pursue my MHA because I didn’t feel ready to apply to medical school (my clinical background and shadowing could be much better) but also because as as a future provider, I wanted to also be able to improve access, quality, and cost of health services through things admin aspect as well. I am excelling in my program, projected to have a 4.0 GPA at the end of this first semester but I am just not happy. I like what I am learning but it’s not what I want to do with my career anymore. I’m in debt now (grateful to have graduated with BHS with no debt) and will accrue more debt. I’ve been shadowing via an online shadowing program and that’s been great, but due to the pandemic, I can’t seem to find any type of job (clinical based) that fits with my class schedule and I’m also studying for the MCAT. I feel overwhelmed and I also won’t graduate until Summer 2022 (accepted admissions on the thought that I would graduate Spring 22 and be able to matriculate to med school Fall 22 if accepted in the next cycle, but after enrolling and speaking to my course coordinator, a Spring graduation is impossible unless I load up on more classes each semester which is not feasible for my sanity) which is just very overwhelming for me seeing as though I would have no break at all before medical school if I got in for Fall 22. At the moment, I think I want to focus on obtaining more clinical and shadowing experience and really just working to ensure that i do want to pursue my MD (as I’ve also been thinking about the PA route now And have never shadowed one before so want to see both sides before just deciding it’s not for me). My issue with PA vs MD is the work/life balance. I love helping others, I love medicine/health, but I also have other interests outside of that and due to my rigorous semesters throughout undergrad (taking 17-18 credit semesters and achieving a 3.8-4.0 GPA each semester on top of extracurriculars), I don’t think I’ve been able to enjoy things outside of academia and preparing for my career. I am very family oriented and want to be able to be a great provider and have time for things outside of work. I know for sure that I am interested in primary care because as a Black woman from a low income family, I know what it’s like to not have access to preventative care and being neglected by the health care system. But, I’m not sure if I need to be a doctor to achieve these goals anymore. I never thought I could be anything else and now I feel like I will be disappointing and failing all my loved ones to even consider some thing else. I am a first generation college grad, and the first in my family to attempt a master’s degree, and would be the first physician. There is so much pressure.

My question is:

Should I quit now after this first semester and hopefully find some shadowing and clinical experiences to really dive into what I want? Or should I continue and graduate Summer 22, and hopefully matriculate in Fall 23?

A physician who I go to for advice strongly advised against quitting since ADCOMS will not like that I am giving up on graduate level courses.

But, I feel as though I will be in tens of thousands of debt at the end of my program just to go into more for professional school even though I don’t think I want to utilize this degree as I originally planned.

I gave much thought before pursuing my MHA and felt great about my decision, but now that I’m in it, I realize I want to fix health inequities solely by being a provider, I do have interests in health policy/management and public health, but I know my passion is communicating with patients and being that provider who sees them holistically and not just as symptoms/signs of disease.

Hi -

It sounds like you have a lot going on right now and I cannot give you an answer for all of it, but I am happy to help where I can. I hold an MHA and have worked in hospital ops for the last five years. I am now taking the plunge and preparing for the medical school journey. Here’s my two cents for you.

First, if you’re 110% sure that you’re going to go straight to medical school after you graduate with your MHA, and have no desire to be in management, you may want to strongly reconsider why you’re in the MHA program. That’s a huge investment of time and money for three letters after your name, especially if you plan on adding two more.

As far as dropping, I think there are more important pieces of your application. If that’s what is holding you back, ask yourself what would better serve the most important aspects of your applications like the MCAT. Focusing on it part-time or focusing on it full-time? You certainly shouldn’t continue taking on debt just so the ADCOMs don’t second guess your application. Just focus on scoring highly enough that they don’t care. Life’s hard. People have legitimate reasons for dropping out. It doesn’t define you.

Third, and maybe an unpopular opinion, but you aren’t failing anyone by undertaking an MHA. Effective leadership and management in the healthcare landscape is extremely important and has a huge ripple effect on patients. A GOOD healthcare administrator can do wonders for a community. And from my perspective, working in the healthcare system for several years exposed me to a lot of different providers (physicians, nurses, APRNs, PAs), and allowed me to form close relationships. That experience is helping me make an informed choice for medical school, and gives me more confidence as I move towards a new career as a provider. Maybe it would do the same for you?

Just some food for thought. Best of luck my friend!