Teacher turned doctor?

To make a long story very short, I spent a year of undergrad being premed. I didn’t work hard enough because I never had to work hard in my other classes. I stopped after my B’s, mistaking a lack of effort (on my part) for a lack of skill. I gave up the dream and focused on my other love: foreign language. Here I am 4 years later. I have a master’s degree in foreign language and I’m in my second year of high school teaching. I like it, but always in the back of my mind I’m thinking about what I gave up, what I was interested in for so long.

I teach in the poorest neighborhood of Washington DC which has the worst school system in the country (really, look it up). I see the horrible health of my impoverished students. I want to help. I hear my students dreaming of a career in medicine and I find myself jealous of 14 year olds. Why can’t I do that, too?

I’m applying to some local Postbacc programs for summer entry and hoping to be accepted. I’m ready for the leap but I have a nagging fear that my previous B’s in science and my years as a Spanish teacher will put me at a disadvantage.

Any other teachers out there? People with strong humanities (literature) backgrounds like me? I’m just trying to connect with similar people going through similar life changes!

Congratulations on your courageous decision to switch careers. You’re not alone: having directed two different postbac programs (at Johns Hopkins and Goucher) I’ve advised many former teachers who transitioned into a career in medicine successfully. Medical schools value the experience that teachers bring to the medical profession, especially those who have worked in school systems which have exposed them to underprivileged students. I hope you have some actual medical experience which has informed your decision to make this leap. Postbac programs and med schools will expect that as evidence that you know what you’re getting into. If not, you should figure out where you can volunteer (and there are lots of options in DC) to get the experience you need. Good luck!



Hi Liza,

Thanks for the thoughtful reply! I am actually applying to one of the programs you mentioned. Recently, because of Teach for America/teaching full time, I haven’t had a lot of medical experience but my mother is a nurse so in high school I shadowed and did a formal mentorship. In college, I was a free clinic translator for 4 years and worked in a children’s hospital in Mexico for a summer. I am trying to focus on those experiences but trying to find more time to add more recent activities, especially for the medical school app if accepted to a postbacc.

I appreciate the positive thinking and suggestions!

One thing you will want to do is add to your medical experience now. I know it can be hard to take more time out of your day, but when the time comes they are going to want to see that you are serious in your interest. So volunteering at a hospital or free clinic are ways to show that. It may sound like a little but spending an 8 hour shift at the hospital every Saturday or Sunday totals up to 400 volunteer hours in year, finding a free clinic that serves the Hispanic population with your skillset would be money in the bank for an application. Also you need to shadow, not a ton but at least 5 or 6 times, so you can show that you know what you are getting into.

Actually, it sounds like you have a ton of medically related volunteering, if you translated at a free clinic for 4 years AND worked a summer at a children’s hospital out of the country.

Think about what sort of doctor you are interested in being, and try to get an opportunity to do some shadowing - I think you have the volunteer component covered.

Don’t worry about the B’s in science courses in the past - get good grades in a postbac program and that will be fine.

I’d also suggest writing down some memories from the clinic volunteering now, so you can speak or write about that experience as it relates to why you want to be a physician.

I worked as a provider at an inner city free health clinic for 5 years, and I really appreciated our translators - thank you for having done that!!


Yes, I used to teach HS science. Like you, I was a pre-medical student whose grades weren’t cutting it. Burnt out after 11 semesters of college and did the alternate route to becoming an educator. I liked my work as a tutor and T/A during college. Teaching HS freshman science had to be similar right? Yea, stop laughing. I burnt out of that after about a month and long story short, here I am. Currently working on a PhD prior to medical school.

Your B’s may well put you at a disadvantage, but it’s all relative. A compelling narrative can go a long way. A post-bacc program isn’t necessarily looking at who the best candidates are now, but who the candidates are with the best change of getting an acceptance on the far side of the tunnel. Quite to the contrary, your competency with Spanish is a huge asset, particularly if you’re applying to schools with high Latino populations (Florida med schools should be on your radar) and particularly if you’re talking about working with disadvantaged populations.

And while I can’t speak for medical school admissions committees, I know my background as a teacher was a huge asset to the doctoral program which I’m in now.

Hi, Thanks for posting. I’m also a teacher, considering returning to school for a MD. I teach at the university level, however (have my PhD, did a 2-year postdoc and am currently in my 3rd year of a tenure-track position at a research-1 university). I can COMPLETELY empathize with some of your anxieties about making a career switch. It’s a lot of investment, financially, time-wise, and emotionally. I haven’t made up my mind yet about pursuing medical school because my husband isn’t particularly thrilled about the idea (he’s a tenured professor and so thinks that I am crazy–or just going through post-partum depression –for giving up the possibility of security that tenure would bring). And to be honest I am also hesitant about returning to school in my late 30s (I have to wait for my newborn son to be a little older, so I’d be 38 by the time I enroll in a post-bac program) because it would mean that I wouldn’t be able to practice medicine until I am 47/48.

From what I can tell from reading some of the diaries and posts of OPM members, it seems that having support (whether from your partner, family, or friends) is instrumental for getting through the whole process (premed prep, med school, & residency). So if you have the support then you’re on your way! :slight_smile:

Teaching does not put you at a disadvantage it is instead a HUGE advantage. Teaching patients and their families is exactly what you will be doing and what is not done well.

Your B’s won’t keep you out either just do well in your postbacc and keep stumbling forward.

Thanks for helping “mi gente” in DC. I’m in MD.

Kate, thanks for your response! I read it via email and just re-read it, realizing that I listened to your interview with Med School HQ just last night! Thanks for that interview, too

To everyone else, thanks for the encouragement. I’m waiting to hear back from postbacc programs (yeah, I started a bit late… I realized over Christmas break while I was in India that I didn’t want to teach any more) so I am trying to get on track to hopefully start this summer. I will keep everyone posted.

Any DC area OPMs?

You’re welcome! Glad to hear that interview is still getting some play over at MedSchoolHQ. When I first came on OPM there was a 52 year old med student on here, and merely the fact that he existed encouraged me in my own pursuit!


I’m reasonably sure that some of us are in the DC area. There’s one poster (forget his name, sorry) I think was in a PhD program at Georgetown. I have a good friend in Silver Springs who originally posted here as well but now she generally just e-mails with me. But yes, a fair number of DC people come through this place.

It is indeed quite scary to leave a profession like teaching for the unknown. After years of teaching behaviorally disturbed/learning disabled kids, I finally started teaching at a magnet school. Different types of problems now but in a “nicer” environment. I also teach part time at the community college level (much easier in my opinion).

My undergrad grades were not the best but I did really well in graduate school. I also had a solid MCAT score.

I got accepted to medical school and have nearly weekly anxiety about it. I go back and forth. I don’t want to teach anymore most days as being a doctor was always what I wanted. I keep saying but if I hang on for 11 more years as a teacher I can retire then do something I want. I keep reminding myself that they will be very long years.

In the end in my interview I pointed out that I knew a weakness was shadowing hours. The interviewer kind of laughed and said, “When would you have time? You work full time and then part time?” Each of my three interviewers LOVED the fact that I was a teacher of 14 years. They did bring up age but only to see my reaction.

Best of luck! You have more going for you than you think…

Almost forgot to thank everyone who posted for all the words of encouragement not just for me, but everyone else who will be a 50+ year old med student.

Hey - I’m a little late to the game with the post, but welcome.

In the early days of the podcast, I interviewed two OPMers that were teachers. One was doing his postbac and one was starting medical school soon.

You can listen to those interviews at: