Reality Check

Hello all,

I am new to the forum and I have become very encouraged with the stories I’ve read so far. Many of you are truly an inspiration. I too, am an oldpremed at the young age of 38 looking to switch careers from Accounting (Taxation) to Medicine. My situation is as follows:

  • 38 yr old dad with shared custody of two daughters (13 and 7)

  • Single with one income depleted by current economy and child support

  • No science background but increased interest in Medicine

  • Burn out from Corporate America

    I am struggling with how do I pursue this aspiration of becoming a physician

    with the obstacles before me? At the present, I am working in an environment where layoffs are pending while I have zero interest in

    remaining in this profession. I know there are several careers I could pursue that may provide stability, job satisfaction, and financial security but the only one I come to that offers these things plus the ability to help

    people is becoming a Doctor. As I mentioned, I have 2 children and normal living expenses. I would like to satisfy my prerequisites part time while I work but in the Philadelphia, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland area, most schools have day programs. The only ones I’ve found so far are Penn and Drexel. Now if I gain acceptance into one of these schools (which have linkage arrangements with local medical schools) how do I stop working full time to go to medical school while maintaining a stable lifestyle for me and my daughters? I know I would need loans to pay for books and tuition but what about living expenses, medical coverage, and child support? I strongly believe I have the aptitude and ability to accomplish my goal but I’m

    struggling with the idea and criticisms that I should have done this in my 20’s. What if my belief is wrong and the physical and biological sciences are too much of a bear? Can I realistically go without any income for

    approximately 7 years? I’ve considered the military for financial reasons

    but I really don’t want to go this route because of my kids, the commitment, and my age. Can anyone relate or does anyone know someone who is facing similar circumstances? I really need some helpful advice as I need to start

    working on my application for Summer 2009 enrollment into a Post Baccalaureate program. Thanks so much for reading my post.

Ok-- a bit of devils advocacy for you. First, If you define stability as regular working hours and maintenance of standard middle class existence for the 8 to 10 years ahead of you – (pre-med catch up- medschool - residency) I suspect you will be very disappointed. Even now my schedule is more like 7am to 7 or 8 pm plus additional time for charting. this goes on 4 weekdays - though I spend much of my day off on charting - also one weekend a month - On the other hand I am pleased to get to spend most nights at home now for the first time in 7 years.

I don’t really mean to present this as an “oh woe is me” – only to say that stability in the normal sense of ideal middle class existence through pre-med - medschool - residency - and even after is NOT something to expect. The truth is I would not change it for the world.

As to your particular situation… you will have to assess what flexibility is available from your ex with whom you share custody, as well as what financial compromises you can live with. Unless you are financially well endowed, you will amass at least 150K to 200K debt as the way to get through this - there is help is certain circumstances - but it requires special commitments at the end of the process - (se notes elsewhere on Military and National health Service)

I don’t want to sound too discouraging - it really can be done - but don’t expect an ideal middle class existance while you do it.

Let me give you another perspective. I am considerably more chronologically gifted than you. I am early in my pre-med coursework and take the view that I am a great chemistry/physics/bio ugrad student. If I still have energy and enthusiasm for this path after I get all the required coursework out of the way, I will apply. But, more to the issue, I came to a point in my early/mid 20s where I really wanted to go to med school. After much investigation and analysis, I decided that it was just too expensive in human terms (i.e., the financial stuff was not the issue). I had several children and I just couldn’t be gone for 7 or 8 years. Looking back, I am sooooo glad that I decided to pursue an alternate path (which I have very much enjoyed). So, while I obviously still have a desire to be a physician, the decision to wait was absolutely the best. When you have a 7 year old, thinking about the day she will be out of the house seems like an eternity away. But let me tell you, it will go fast. Have you considered just being a part-time chemistry major for the next several years? I know you want to get into this NOW, and that might be right for you, but make sure you considerall the costs. I would strongly advise that you consider taking a single chem or physics course for a semester just to “dip your toe in the water”. This would at least give you an idea of whether you will enjoy the material, without having significant impact on your current career path, lifestyle, and family.

Additionally, from personal experience and from this site, I’ve become convinced that you can’t run from a corporate career to medicine. When you transition, you need to do it because of an unremitting desire to be a physician – being tired of your current career should be the least of your considerations.

On the encouraging side, I have found the skill set in finance to be remarkably similar to the required skill set in the basic sciences. That is, understand the basic principle, gather the relevant data, and apply quantitative and qualitative analysis to solve problems.

BTW, I started by buying a used chem book from Amazon for $4 and reading on my own (chem is way cool!).

Good luck. Whatever you decide, I wish you the best.

Something that has been helpful to me is to read all the books that you can about what the life of a physician really is all about - also what school is like, etc. I read that the hospital pays about 40K for residents (correct me guys if I’m wrong, I got that out of one of the books I read). I didn’t know that you were paid at all. What I decided to do was finsih up my nursing degree so that I could work even one graveyard shift (12 hours) each weekend, possibly even two. My hope is that I won’t have to work at all and can just focus on school, but I don’t know if that will be possible. Also,the military does offer to payoff student loans and has lowered their commitment from 4 years to 2 years. That’s one option. I have read that if you agree to work for certain areas (i.e. rural, etc.) you may be able to apply for some help with student loans there. The main thing for you to decide is if you have the passion to make this happen no matter what or not. I have an uncle who applied to med school at the same time as his brother (my other uncle) did, his brother got in and he didn’t. Their grades/mcat, etc. were almost identical. He decided he was going to never give up on his dream and kept applying to different schools. He still didn’t get in. Eventually he went to FRANCE - learned French! - and became licensed as a doctor in France. He came back to the US and reapplied at the school he was first turned away from and was finally accepted. He is my hero. Now, after all of these years, he and his brother are both doctors. I think that you have your priorities about your daughters straight, but you may have to give up some of your material comforts in order to make it happen - but again, maybe not. Think about what support you do have - are your parents there to help with the kids at all? Do you have a good relationship with your ex - would she be willing to work with you so that you could make this dream happen but still be able to see your kids? Mainly I just wanted to tell you that if you set your mind on this - don’t give up!! It can get very discouraging so you have to have that unsinkable dream, and remember that you will encounter so many people out there that want to tell you negatives why it can’t/won’t happen. DON’T listen to them! I would just write down on paper what your obstacles are and systematically try to find solutions. Try out school just one class at first, to see if this is something you really want to eat, breathe,and sleep for the next 10+ years. Your daughters are also old enough to talk to about this choice, I can talk to my 5 year old daughter about my ‘homework’ and she will get out her crayons and notebook and work quietly right next to me. Or we go hang out at McDonald’s (there’s wifi there) so that she can play and have fun while I can still get my studying in. I have had my husband deployed now for 2+ years and he just left again for another year. So, with the kids and all of the responsibilities, it’s been very difficult, but I can’t shake the dream - so I’m trying to make it happen. Just keep your head up and be positive, but realistic. Make sure you learn as much as you can about what you’re getting into so that you don’t start down this path and find out it’s just not for you. There are many, many people here on this site that have made it happen, and their stories are so inspiring, I read them when I get down and need a boost again Good luck!