Really pushing the age limit

Hi. Have browsed topics a lot and enjoy the forum.

I have a Finance degree plus about 30 hours of advanced math with a 3.80 GPA. I’ve worked as a financial analyst for many years and have spent the last 17 years raising two kids with my wife. I am 45 now, have never been healthier, and I live exactly 1 mile from the University of Iowa College of Medicine.

I am very interested in pursuing a surgical career late in life, either by way of med school or PA school. I think I could get the prereqs completed and a good MCAT score posted by age 50 going to school part time - possibly with a final fulltime year of premed work. I have been working through a chemistry text and enjoy it.

Starting med school at 50 with a 5 year surgical residency?? This leaves me a 16 year career if I work until 75 (I hope to never retire no matter what I’m doing, even if still in finance).

Or would you call it a 21 year career including residency? Do residents “add value” or is really just on the job training?

I guess I could justify a 16 year career on the basis that a 30 year old could work 16 years as a surgeon and just quit - being financially independent. Nothing to stop them.

Does anyone think I’m just too old? I understand thre are other issues such as my motivation, ability, etc. I think I can satisfy those concerns but am worried now about the questions admissions is going to have about training someone for a shorter career.

I certainly appreciate any input. Many, many thanks.

I was 51 when I completed my family medicine residency this past June. I’m not in great shape, I’m not in great health, but I still managed to do it. I have to be honest that I don’t think I could physically tolerate a 5-year surgery residency, but I honestly don’t know if that’s my age speaking or my sort of ambivalent attitude toward surgery.

Much of my time in residency, I felt that I tolerated the long hours and sleepless nights about as well as my younger colleagues, and I know I worked as hard and as well as any of them… enough so that I was Chief Resident of my program last year. But I will tell you right up front that what I noticed was that I didn’t have stamina to do anything ELSE. My younger colleagues could go out, have babies (!), plan weddings and all sorts of other stuff, but I felt that I just didn’t have the physical or mental bandwidth to venture much outside my focus on work. No idea if that’s age-related, but that was my experience.

My question for you is, why do you want to do this? You sound… intrigued and maybe interested by the intellectual challenge. But you have to desire this so completely that you are willing to go through the pain and agony of med school and residency in order to achieve your goal. I like to say, “This would be stupid if it weren’t so much fun.”

I would also ask, why surgery? what do you know about it? It is generally not a good idea to go into med school interviews embracing a particular specialty, because it’s well-recognized that people often change their minds when they get to third year. In your situation, I would also caution you because there is likely to be MORE prejudice against an “old” surgeon than against, say, an “old” family doctor, pediatrician or internist.


Mary, thanks so much. Good job on getting through med school and residency.

I really feel I could endure the trials of school and residency in my fifties. One advantage I will have is a really clean slate as far as other life obligations. No raising kids, no taking care of parents, a supportive and very otherwise occupied spouse, good financial condition. I’m just wondering if they will object to a shorter career post residency.

I get your point on the general practice vs. surgery. Based on my naive perspective now, I think I’d be more tempermentally suited to surgery than general practice. I really enjoy focusing for long periods of time.


I am 48 and redoing pre-reqs starting in Jan 08. I explored the question of whether a late 50’s start of a new career is too late. After talking with alot of people, and exploring information on the web about the trend for baby boomers to start second and third careers in their 50’s, I decided that: NO, IT’S NOT TOO LATE!!! Of course that’s my opinion and its the adcom opinion that counts for acceptance into med school, but that’s my story and I am sticking to it.

There are a number of articles and other publications which are predicting a sharp shortage of docs in the coming years. As baby boomers age, and baby boomer docs retire, there is a gap. I believe that mature (read as older) docs will be in demand as older patients prefer being treated by more mature docs.

I am thinking primary care / geriatrics for a number of personal and timing reasons, but I am also keeping an open mind as I explore what clicks with me over the next several years.

Good luck!


I figure that I’ll chime in here as well. I’m 43 (as of this past week), and I’m figuring and hoping that by 48 I will be in med school. I’m actually starting nursing school this January and I plan on finishing the remainder of my prereqs during the next two years (organic chemistry and physics). Then the three years after that I’ll be working on some advance classes such as biochemistry, genetics, physiology and cell biology.

Okay…about the post residency period…well, if I can get myself in better health now…I can hopefully follow in the footsteps of my maternal grandmother (active until 91) and my mom who is 69 and super active. I also plan on enjoying my residency as part of the journey and not just look at it as a means to an end.

Welcome to the forum!


Thanks, Adam and Kris. I really appreciate it.

Kris what have you done for working to this point in your life. What is the reason you are going to nursing school now and not med. Just curious.

Adam, good points on the demand for physicians a decade and two from now. That’s part of my motivation. I want to fill a need.

  • ayoung45 Said:

Kris what have you done for working to this point in your life. What is the reason you are going to nursing school now and not med. Just curious.

Actually, I have been working in the medical field for the last 17 years in various clerical positions. I started as a medical transcriptionist, then worked as a medical secretary and I am currently working on a cardiac floor as a health unit coordinator and a cardiac monitor tech. The reason for pursuing nursing instead of going right towards medical school is twofold. One reason has to do with my age and the fact that medical school is difficult to get into. If I don't get into medical school my first year of applying, at least I'll have the nursing that'll provide me with a reasonable income. Also should medical school not pan out at all for me, again, I have the nursing degree. The other reason and most important for me, nursing is and has been my achilles heel since graduating from high school some 25 years ago. Just as I was starting nursing school back then, my grandmother died...I had I got sidetracked. I feel that if I can commit and get through the nursing program now...I'm all the better to commit to becoming a doctor (which is a major commitment).

I'm at the stage of my life that I'm looking forward to enjoying each phase of pursuit. No one can guarntee I'm looking to enjoy experience that I have.


A Young 45,

I’ll be in my mid-50s when I’m done. I don’t see that as a big issue. I plan to do a combined family practice/neuromuscular practice which will probably require four years of residency. I wouldn’t regard six years of residency as all that big of a stretch, but surgery doesn’t float my boat (at least, not at the moment). I plan to work into my seventies, so I’ll have a good 20 year run if my health holds out.

Two things for you to keep in mind: many “young” docs burn out in their fifties–I don’t know the exact numbers but it’s a significant percentage. Probably the result of going into the field without really knowing themselves, plus that medicine’s not as “fun” as it used to be, less respect and money.

Secondly, today’s 50 is yesterday’s 30. Just think what advances in medicine will have occurred twenty years from now–cures for viral diseases, self-cloned organs… And some of us may be part of that discovery process. Very exciting! Jump on in, the water’s fine, but be prepared for a marathon of hard work!

Thanks. Great message.

Terry, what did you do before going to med school?

  • ayoung45 Said:
One advantage I will have is a really clean slate as far as other life obligations. No raising kids, no taking care of parents, a supportive and very otherwise occupied spouse, good financial condition. I'm just wondering if they will object to a shorter career post residency.

The "shorter career post-residency" objection is one that you see floated a fair amount on pre-med forums but I am not sure it is as big a concern for academic medicine types. They are fully aware that the 20-year-olds they admit could end up becoming researchers for Big Pharma or HMO execs... it's those starry-eyed young'uns who think we're supposed to be taking an oath of practice akin to priesthood! (and while this is a GREAT job and very rewarding, it is NOT my life)

As for the "clean slate," well, hopefully you will be right. The superstitious Irish Catholic in me wants to cross myself when you say things like that. My mom had just retired when I started med school and I had figured she'd be able to help me with things like driving my high schooler to skating practice... but she was diagnosed with lymphoma as I started my first year of med school and died during my intern year. I have had friends whose young adult children haven't launched as hoped for or anticipated, and friends who've ended up raising grandchildren. My husband, whose fantastic salary and secure job made my pursuit of medicine possible, got laid off from that secure job (!) during my second year of med school, was unemployed for 9 months, and then underemployed for 18 months after that. I don't say this to stomp all over your plans, but do feel that when you look ahead at what you want to do, you should consider the possibilities that DON'T involve a "clean slate." Stuff happens. "Plan for the worst, and hope for the best."


A Young 45,

I did computer programming for a lot of years to support myself, plus a few other little things on the side. Check out my diary in the diary forum for more details, also the diaries of several other OPMs here (perhaps you’ll end up in med school and writing diary entries in the not too distant future). Best of luck,

Thanks. I will check them out.

I’m no economist by any means, but I definitely expect to be working into my 70’s and if blessed with good health into my 80’s (albeit probably on a consulting or general practice level).

So, if you started practicing at 50-55, you may have a rewarding career ahead of you.

I think 80 is really pushing it, I just finished family Practice clerkship and we saw 25 to 30 (Some see 50 a day) patients a day and the Doc was about 66, She said it is getting too much to keep the pace, 10 to 15 min a patient, you will understand when you get into this.

I was tired everyday and this is an “Easy rotation”.

Meg’s mom is an FP so I think she gets it. While I can’t abide the notion of being “retired,” I certainly don’t intend to work full-time until I’m 70 or 80… but I WILL be working. I foresee taking some afternoons off, or maybe blocking my schedule to see a few less patients per day but concentrate on the high-end multi-problem patients. Since I’m only 52 now (!!!) I’ll think about this at some point in the distant future.


Yea I want to work till at least 70, since I’m a guy 80 for me is Pushing it…LOL stat wise!