Quit Pharmacy school for Med school or finish both?

Hello, I am new in the forum and I want to share my situation,

I am 25 years old and I am a second year pharmacy student. I have a BS in biology, graduated with a 3.56 GPA, I have 3 reasearch experiences as an undergraduate student, national presentations, 2 publications and I am currently working in a research as a pharmacy student. I have many extracurricular activities, certifications and experience working directly with patients thanks to my journey in pharmacy school. Before pharmacy school I was going to apply to medical school but due to a lack of exposure in both fields, and based on opinions from different healthcare providers, I made the decision to apply to pharmacy school. During my first semester of pharmacy school, the call to pursue a medical career started to become noticeable, I visited hospitals and participated in many activities of healthcare, I did my first pharmacy practice in a community setting and so on. I realized that my clinical interests were beyond the scope of the pharmacy profession. I did not make the change to medical school because I wanted to have more exposure in the pharmacy profession before making the decision. Now that I am about to finish my second year of pharmacy school I have a big decision to make and it has been really difficult. I can start medical school next August or I can finish my pharmacy degree and then go to medical school. The thing is that by the time I decided to make the change, I had only a month to prepare my AMCAS application and was going to take the MCAT on January 2017 (3 medical schools in Puerto Rico accept the January MCAT). I did not receive all the documents before the deadline so I wasn’t able to apply to US medical schools.

I submitted an application to a caribbean medical school (one of the so called “the big four”). I changed my MCAT to April 22th since I couldn’t apply to US medical schools or Puerto Rico, in order to have more time to prepare myself but I haven’t had enough time to study for the MCAT because of my responsibilities as a student in pharmacy school.

As I already mentioned, I can start medical school in the caribbean on August, or I can finish my degree and apply to US and PR medical schools since I am from Puerto Rico. I talked with a premed advisor and physicians looking for an advice. They all had different opinions, 2 of them think it is better if I finish my degree and then go to medical school if I want a competitive residency, and 2 of them think that it doesn’t matter where you study if you score high on the STEPS, make connections while on clinical rotations etc and that it is better to make the change now to have less student loan debt.

I am aware of the time, commitment and sacrifice that will take finishing both degrees and I am not concerned about that but I am really worried about the amount of debt I will accrue if I finish both degrees. Also, I am concerned about how making the decision to study next semester in the caribbean will affect my chances to have a competitive residency such as dermatology.

I really do not know what is the best option and would definitely appreciate any advice. Thank you!

Whatever you do, don’t go to a Caribbean school unless you’ve exhausted all of your options (both DO and MD) stateside. You’ll be placing yourself at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to getting a residency. Residency placement is becoming more competitive, and only about 53% of US IMG students match in the NRMP (compared to 94% for US MD students). Also, if you want to go derm, less than 8% of derm residencies were filled by students other than US MD graduates (and that 8% includes DOs, US-IMGs and FMGs).

My suggestion would be to stay and complete your PharmD prior to pushing for med school, as I think some med schools may look down on you beginning a graduate program and not completing it.


Bennard makes some good points, the most important of which is to place off-shore schools at the very bottom your school choice list. It would be far more advantageous to bide your time and wait until all of your ducks are in a row and apply to US schools. With that said, I have to disagree with the idea that you SHOULD finish pharmacy school and then pursue medical school. It obviously goes without saying that finishing pharmacy school would certainly prove to medical schools that you have the intellectual capacity and stamina to make it through an arduous professional program. However, if you can present to an admissions committee a well thought out, well articulated story as to why you’re pursuing medicine at this particular juncture than it is perfectly plausible that a school would gladly accept you.

One of my really good friends in my class was a Pharmacist first, but he practiced for years before making the switch. He said one guy in his Pharm class went so far as to take a little time off from his final year of Pharm school to apply to MD programs. I don’t know what kind of drug deal he made (pun not intended), but the guy was able to finish off the rotations he missed out on during breaks in his MD program, so he essentially graduated Pharm school while an MD student (his MD and Pharm program were at the same school). I’m gonna guess that’s a HIGHLY unique situation.

There is a girl in the class ahead of mine who graduated PharmD and then matriculated into the MD program. I can’t think of anyone in my class that dropped out of a graduate/PhD program in order to start med school.

When I was applying to schools, I vaguely remember reading on some school sites that if you were enrolled in a graduate level program at the time of application, you were expected to complete that program prior to matriculation. You may want to look at that a little deeper for any schools you’re particularly interested in.

If you absolutely do NOT want to graduate pharm school, I would apply ONLY to US programs until you graduate as a PharmD. Best case, you get into a US school and drop out of Pharm school. Worst case, you graduate with a PharmD, make 6 figures while you figure out what you want to do, and move on with life. There are many different career paths for a pharmacist, and you may end up liking one of them more than you expect to now… Our specialized pharmacists seem to absolutely love their jobs and have a major influence on the course of treatment for some really sick people (think Onc, Cards or HIV+Comorbidities).

I would NOT go to a carib school for the sole purpose of expediting the process. The risks do not even come close to the benefits. I think the PR schools also favor Spanish speakers, and I want to say that some of their classes are even taught in Spanish (?). Just because their matriculation stats are skewed to the left, don’t assume that they’re any less selective of their applicant pool.

Having just taken Step 1 with the new format, I’ll throw out there that the prep programs I used taught many “high yield” facts that were tested but did not come close to covering all of the material that was on my test. There were many things I gleaned from my classes that I would otherwise have never seen. Therefore, my opinion is that not all schools are created equal, and test prep software cannot fully equalize the playing field. Critical thinking skills are a must now, and working through a QBank does not replace clinical thinking skills that may be lacking at programs that purely teach via memorization. (Don’t overestimate your ability to rock Step 1 without any exposure to NBME)