Teacher to Doctor

Hello, everyone,

I am new to this board and I have a unique approach to all of this. I am 36 and currently a teacher - specifically a high school band director - in Texas.

My groups do very well, receiving accolades on the state level. I know I’m good at what I do - I’m very comfortable standing in front of 150 teenagers and giving instruction - but I grow weary of the situation. Mounds of paperwork, disciplinary action, football games, bureacracy (sp) and low pay have combined to wear on me. This is not the job I though it would be.

I’m also married with children, as many of you are.

I am “counting the cost” of pre-med and medical school, trying to make sure I can pay for it as well as handle the work and (most importantly) take care of my family in all aspects. It also will change my identity completely. Yet the thought excites me. I, like Old Man Dave, want to be an anesthesiologist.

I know we’ve got at least one other thread for Teacher-To-Doctor. Any insights or advice?


Mike - the “Band Guy”

Mike, first of all, good for you for what you’re doing now. Having had kids in band, I salute you: it is NOT easy.

Your intro is right to the point, and thus doesn’t answer the one burning question I have at this point, which is: how do you know you want to shift gears and go into medicine? what are the POSITIVE reasons for making the change? (not just the negative ones, i.e. “this job is getting really old”) what have you done and experienced to convince you that you want to do it?

Our presenters at our conventions, year after year, give some version of this advice: “If you can think of something else you’d rather do, then do it.” The point of this advice is that medicine is hard, long and expensive. It is well worth it but it is NOT easy. I thought it was worth it and I love my job as a family doctor; Dave feels the same about being an anesthesiologist; Nat looooves being a surgeon. So if you’ve concluded that you really, really want to do this, then go for it and know that you’re in for the ride of your life!


Welcome to OPM, Mike!

I, too, was a former band/choir/general music teacher–many, many moons ago. I taught music in a small Nebraska community of about 1500 population for 2 years. When I had my kids, I was fortunate to be able to stay home with them and teach private piano. I taught piano lessons for 25+ years.

Mary has given you excellent advice in the questions she has posed to you. Take the time to reflect on your motivation for pursuing medicine. For me, music ed. was my runner-up choice of career at the age of 18. I had always wanted to be a doctor, but felt I could not be a doctor and a mom at the same time (mind you, when I graduated from high school, most moms were stay-at-home moms). My deep passion for medicine never left me. Now, at the age of 51, I will be starting medical school in August of this year!

Best of luck with your decision about changing careers. There are lots of supportive people here at OPM.


Thanks for the responses. This is a great place to talk about this! Your suggestions do not fall on deaf ears. My response (which is actually a response to myself) is that I have taken a full year to investigate the course work, entry requirements, demands of med school (I have a strategy for maintaining a reasonable homelife) and demands of residency (especially pgy-1 - yikes!). I have a plan for paying for everything.

But the one question that I don’t have answered is the one you posed. I’m shadowing doctors and trying to expose myself to medicine as much as possible. I’m fascinated by medicine and I love to learn. I just don’t know as much about the work as I need to.

I don’t know how many of you believe in a higher being, but I do and I am praying alot. That’s an important part of my life.

There are things that I will miss about my current job - the “good” kids, the moments when they do really well, etc. Medicine has always had an attraction for me. I’m going to make sure I’m not running FROM something as much as running TO something.

Again, thanks for the input.

Mike S. “the Bandguy”


As someone who is in a very similar situation (mid 30’s, good career, unsatisifed) as yourself I think that not being able to answer the question “Why medical school?” at this point is not that big of a deal. Not everyone has an easily definable moment where it is crystal clear that medicine is their calling. For some like me it is a host of things including real life experiences and personal feelings that result in formulating a clear and confident answer to that question.

Let’s face it, I strongly doubt very many 20 - 22 year olds truly know for sure they want to be Doctors and yet there are thousands of them getting into Medical School every year.

Anyway, my point is that is sounds to me like you are doing the work required to clarify for yourself that this is in fact what you want to do. Given enough time you will be able to answer the “Why medical school?” question and feel confident in that answer.

Best of luck and welcome!


Thanks for the comments. These are wise words. I went into college out of high school for the only thing I knew - music. I loved A&P and chemistry in high school, but music was my saving grace. I loved performing and, in the midst of a difficult adolescence, it was my refuge. I felt like I owed the world of music something for all that it gave me.

Anyway, thanks for the encouragement. I really enjoy the atmosphere on this board.

And my appologies for posting in the wrong place. I should’ve posted on the pre-med board. Sorry.

Thanks again,

Mike “the Band guy”

Bandguy, I too am the same age and in a job that at times can be unsatisfying. I’m the major breadwinner of my family and have two of my own children and a step son who will be entering college in two years. The other two are 5 and not yet 2. Can I ask what kind of plan you have to pay for it all? That has been my biggest challenge. I’m willing to return to school, repeat all the pre-reqs etc (my courses are too old and the grades aren’t good enough) I just cannot figure out the finances. Any advice would be great.

Well, here goes. While I work for one more year, I would begin my pre-reqs (web-based). I would take Biology for two semesters and brush up on math. Then I would take general chemistry during the summer. As a teacher, I can withdraw my retirement if I’m no longer teaching, so I would go to school full time, living off of my retirement for a year. In the spring I would take the MCAT. This, I gather, is not ideal in that I would be taking Organic Chemistry, Anatomy and physiology, Calculus, and Physics while preparing for the MCAT. However, I really don’t have a choice. Those classes are only offered during the day in long semesters. After I finish that year, I would apply to med school (I’d like to apply to Texas Tech on early decision) and begin to look for a job again for one year. If all goes well, I could find a teaching job around here and get accepted. I think I can pull a 3.5-3.8 gpa in my science and math classes. I thnk I can do well on the MCAT also because it’s a thinking and assimilation test, something I do on a regular basis. Once accepted to med school, my family and I would rack up ENORMOUS debt living on loans (my wife makes next-to-nothing). I would defer payment until after residency. Then, once I became an attending doc, I would continue to live in my current lifestyle and pay my loans off very rapidly (I live in a very inexpensive house. We make less than 50K and we both have degrees. We technically would qualify for governement aid, but that seems wrong to me.) I also have two little ones, but I don’t have one in college, so I’m no help with that.

Hope this helps,


Mike, I’m 36, too, and I will be starting my prereqs this fall. lots of people in my family were teachers (not me, though). I have an idea of how tough the job is and if you can handle dozens of hormonal teenagers on a daily basis you probably can handle all of the hoops you’re required to jump through to get to med school! fyi, anatomy and physiology is not a prereq for med school and calculus is not a prereq at a lot of schools. it is at some (none that I plan to apply to! I absolutely refuse to take calculus, but that’s just me…). anyhow, good luck to you!


Thanks for the encouraging response. That’s how I feel, also. If I can corral teenagers (and in my situation I have around 150 at a time), I feel like I can accomplish anything. My only question mark is my family. I don’t want to be the invisible dad/husband. It does me no good to gain the world and lose my family. Nevertheless, I feel confident in all other aspects.

As far as I know, Texas Tech requires four semesters of biology and calculus or statistics. I chose A&P because I thought it might help me the most. Any thoughts?

Mike “the Bandguy”

Personally, I think a good statistics course would be more valuable to you in the long run than calculus. A solid knowledge of stats will help you be able to interpret medical literature.

I can argue pros and cons of your schedule - my schedule was similar to yours and I had less than a week to devote to actual MCAT study (finished ochem on monday, took the MCAT on saturday). I did fairly well on the MCAT - because I took all of the pre-reqs in less than a year prior to the MCAT, most of the subject content was still relatively fresh. However, don’t overlook the importance of doing practice questions and the like. In its own way, test taking ability is almost as important as subject knowledges on the MCAT. Lots of people struggle with timing - being able to finish in time. I don’t know how that will change with the new computer-based MCAT. Please try to allow some time to do some practice questions and tests.

Think carefully about withdrawing your retirement . . . I know it sounds like a great solution to your monetary dilemma, but it has its downsides. Is it actually worth it? You will get KILLED in taxes and penalties for withdrawing your retirement. Even though they will probably withhold taxes from the money before they disburse it, you will still get killed on taxes and penalties at the end of the year. Also - withdrawing is probably going to bump you up into a higher tax bracket. You will lose > 30% of your retirement value due to the above. If there is anyway to do it, you are probably better off borrowing money to live on (private lenders, etc) for the year than withdrawing your retirement. If you enroll as a non-degree student, you can get up to 12 consecutive months of financial aid (including loans for living expenses). If you enroll as degree-seeking, the time line is not as strict. I would submit that you are better off doing that and borrowing extra from a private lender if necessary than withdrawing your retirement. I speak as someone who did exactly what you are proposing (except to buy a house, not to live on), and still have twinges of doubt about how intelligent that decision was. Plus - what happens if you withdraw your retirement and don’t get in?

Not trying to rain on your parade at all. Just wanted to give you some additional thought to ponder. I know right now you are thinking that this is the only way you can do it. I felt the same way. With a family its a tough decision. It was incredibly difficult for me to give up my nice, secure teaching job and go back to school full time to pursue the medical school dream.

I wish you the best of luck in these decisions and pursuit of medical school.



Thanks for your words of wisdom. Believe me - I hear what you are saying. I will take a second look at the retirement situation. My rationale is that, although I will take a serious hit, I won’t actually go into debt to be a pre-med. I would like to keep the loans to a minimum because I’m hoping to get loans for med school. Nevertheless, I’ll look at it again.

Thanks for the advice on the statistics class. I’ll definitely look at that option. It actually sounds better than a calculus class!!

More advice anyone? Please keep it coming! I am smart enough to know that I don’t know enough.


(This is a bit of a random post.)

By the way, I got to shadow a friend of mine that is an E.R. doctor. I haven’t had that much fun in years!!! I spent 10 hours with him, but I didn’t get tired and I didn’t even get hungry! What does it mean? (I think it’s a beckon call)


regarding the taking of loans vs. withdrawing of retirement funds… it’s a hard issue to look at coldly and without emotion. but it might be a good idea to sit down with a calculator and figure out the comparison of costs, to the penny ( or as close as you can get). if you can get low interest rate loans, you might pay less than taking the tax hit on the retirement funds. also keep in mind that if you withdraw them now, you will lose out on the interest you would gain on them for the number of years they’d be accruing it. try to figure that into the calculation.

loans suck. a lot. but i think that because debt is scary sometimes people do things that aren’t financially prudent to avoid them. if it turns out that the soaking you’d take on early withdrawal of retirement money is greater than the interest you’d pay on loans for post-bacc, it might not be a wise decision.

good luck! and congrats following your dream!

Well, I’m convinced. Thanks for the insight. I will look at the loans. You’re right, though. In the long run, the loan would actually be cheaper. I’d lose around $12K if I take out my retirement. I’m just trying so hard to avoid loans in the short run.

Thanks for this!!


  • bandguy Said:
In the spring I would take the MCAT. This, I gather, is not ideal in that I would be taking Organic Chemistry, Anatomy and physiology, Calculus, and Physics while preparing for the MCAT. However, I really don't have a choice. Those classes are only offered during the day in long semesters.


It sounds like you have planned carefully. I would just mention that the MCAT is not something to be taken too lightly; it is a major part of your application.

If you are going to be taking four courses full time plus raising a family then MCAT preparation is going to be a tough squeeze.

For me, preparing for the MCAT was the equivalent of an entire course, and developing the stamina and concentration and analytical skills to get through that beast did not happen overnight. Of course, we're all different.

Perhaps in the spring during organic chemistry you should try a practice full-length MCAT to assess how well prepared you feel, and maybe consider putting off the MCAT until the fall. As many others here will testify, getting into (and through) medical school requires a long, methodical process and is not a quick thing (a marathon, not a sprint).

Good luck,


Thanks for the advice. I definitely would begin studying in December. I would plan on taking 3-4 practice tests. I know that mental stamina would need to be built up. Would an August MCAT be a severe handicap? I know it wouldn’t be the best thing, but how bad is it?


An August MCAT is probably not going to be an option for you if you plan on applying early decision, but check application deadlines to make sure. (Actually, I just looked at Texas Tech’s website and it says application has to be made between May 1 and August 1). With the computerized MCAT, however, you are no longer restricted to taking the test in April in August. Test dates are offered in May, June, and July. Scores are now going to be reported in 30 days instead of 60, so you could take the MCAT in June and have your scores back in time for the August 1 deadline.

Depending on when your semester ends, this would give you a week to a month of dedicated MCAT study time.

Thank you very much!! I wasn’t aware that there is more flexibility now with the MCAT. This is good news for me!!


your plan sounds ambitious, bandguy, but if that’s what is going to work best for you schedule-wise then go for it! in a perfect world we’d have months to devote to nothing but MCAT study, but unfortunately (esp. for us nontrads) it doesn’t work that way. I plan to take the MCAT next summer after finishing my o-chem I & II intensive summer classes. I’ve already started studying for the MCAT and will continue to do so throughout the next year, at the same time I am taking my prereqs. At this point, studying for the science parts may be of limited utility as I haven’t even had the classes yet, but I figure it can’t hurt. It seems that in addition to hard science knowledge, the MCAT tests your critical thinking and analysis skills. I’m a veteran of tests heavy on those (the LSAT and the MBE - multistate bar exam). I know how to do well on standardized tests (in some sick way I enjoy them!) and so once I get the science down I think I will be good to go.

keep us posted on your progress, bandguy! we’re going to be in our 40s in a few years, anyway; we might as well be doctors by the time we get there, no?