Advice on my path switching from finance into medicine. No shadowing/clinical experience

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Dec 31, 2020
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Hi SDN!,

I'm a 23-year old in NYC who's currently working in finance but has recently been planning a career-change to medicine. Right now I plan to apply to a post-bacc this August for entry in 2022, and start medical school in 2023 or 2024. I wanted to get some advice about my current plan, where my application needs work, what I can do to improve those in those areas, and any other feedback or comments that you may have.

About me
I've been working as a quant researcher at a hedge fund for the last year and a half since graduation. For the most part I enjoy my job. I like my coworkers, I'm paid better than I thought possible for someone fresh out of college, hours are decent by finance standards (55-60 hour weeks), and the work is mostly challenging and interesting. Still, I can't help but feel like if I spend my entire career in finance, in 30-40 years I'll be disappointed with how little impact I've had. I have also been feeling stagnant lately. I've always pushed myself hard in school/athletics because I enjoyed learning and improving, but now that I'm working in finance it's hard to have the same drive to put in longer hours and study outside of work when I feel like what I do ultimately isn't meaningful.

When I was in college I never seriously considered medicine. As a freshman, the years of medical school and residency and hundreds of thousands in debt was daunting. Now that I've entered the workforce, I realize that careers long, and the additional years of training are worth it if it means I can feel good about what I do for the rest of my career. I've given it a lot of thought over the last few months (and spent a ton of time learning on this forum), and I realize that medicine makes the most sense for me. It has the qualities that enjoy most about my current job - academic learning and the creativity of doing research/coming up with and figuring out how to test hypotheses. But more importantly, the clinical work of working face-to-face with patients is meaningful. One of my favorite jobs in high school and college was working as a tutor, and I'm really missing that personal interaction in my current career.

Work/research experience
1.5 years in quant research after college
Half a semester as an Economics tutor in college
1.5 years in education policy research in college, not productive and no publications

Stats
Studied Econ and CS at a top 10 undergrad, graduated with a 4.0. Completed none of the pre-reqs outside of math.
SAT 2370 (since it matters for post-bacc programs)
Would subject test scores help for post-bacc as well? I have 800s in the Math, Physics, and World History subject tests.

Non-clinical volunteering
~150 hours tutoring students in prison across 6 semesters in college. When I signed up I never thought this experience would come in handy in an application but I'm happy I have it now.
~30 hours delivering food to elderly people in NYC during COVID...I've been doing this each week and hope to have ~75 hours by the time I apply post-baccs in August
I also just started as an SAT tutor (2 hours a week), and hope to have ~40 hours by the time I apply to post-baccs in August

Shadowing/clinical volunteering
None :(. It's been really hard to find opportunities during the pandemic. I've been doing virtualshadowing.com and it's been helpful, but I doubt post-bacc programs will count it, and I totally get that post-bacc adcoms will question whether I know what I'm getting myself into.

Other
Competed in a (non-NCAA) sport in college, represented the US collegiately at the international level


Overall, there are glaring holes in my application, notably my lack of shadowing/clinical experience (when I apply to post-bacc) and my lack of medical research (when I apply to med schools). Has anyone been able to find opportunities to shadow or do clinical volunteering during the pandemic, and if so how? If things don't get better and I still don't have shadowing/clinical experience by this August, should I even bother applying to post-baccs or do I have no chance/should wait a year and apply to enter in 2023?

For the research, I understand it's not necessary for post-bacc but will help for applying to med schools, plus I want to get my hands dirty with research anyway. I don't have any wet lab skills, but I do have a statistical learning/ML/CS background. Until I get into a post-bacc program, I'd rather play it safe and continue working at my current job and saving up tuition. If I get into a post-bacc program hopefully in the fall, I'll basically have almost a year until I actually start the program. I plan to quit my job then and try and find a research position in computational bio/biostatistics to do over the next 9 months until I start the post-bacc. Do you think this is a feasible plan?

I would love to hear any comments/answers/feedback that you may have. I appreciate all the people sharing their experiences in this forum - it has really helped a ton.
 
Dec 31, 2020
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Also, I never took any English classes in college, and I don't think it's something that I can make up during post-bacc. Can I take English classes at a community college during a glide year after post-bacc, or will that be looked down on?
 

M&L

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Hey! i was also i finance switch! nice

yeah i had to take all the prereqs over again. an organized postbac is definitely a way to go. I didnt have resources for it, so i did my own by taking an entry level courses in community college and more advanced in 4 year university. Your plan is better.
English would be just fine in community college. Of course it is better to take it in 4 year institution but community college is fine. Before you register for the class though, make sure that you do, indeed, need it. The reason i am saying that is that english or writing intensive courses are a requirement for graduation, and since you already have a degree, you DEFINITELY have something. For example, they counted one of my chemistry courses as half of english requirement, because it was writing intensive. So, look deeper into that. But if you do need to take it, community college is fine.

as far as research - it would be harder. dont have an advice for you yet, but i will think about it.
Try to maybe ask around your alumni network? your university? good schools usually have good collections.
 
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GreenDuck12

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Formal postbac programs will ask for standardized test scores but not subject tests. Given your background you are a prime candidate for top formal programs such as Goucher and Bryn Mawr. These programs are expensive but will get you through the prereqs quickly. Working during those programs likely won’t be an option and you may need to relocate. Alternatively you could pursue an informal postbac at any university or college in NYC and be fine. It’ll be less expensive but likely take more time. Your CS background will be valuable in research labs so you won’t have trouble finding a position even if it’s on a volunteer basis. Shadowing isn’t really happening now and virtual shadowing isn’t going to be sufficient. As more folks get vaccinated I would expect shadowing to become available. To that end work you undergraduate connections - surely you have friends and acquaintances who are doctors or related to doctors or your career office should be able to help connect you. Don’t forget the volunteer aspect of your application and working with communities that are underserved.

Your numbers put you in a good spot for being able to matriculate but you have a ways to go to put together a rounded application. Best of luck to you.
 
Jul 15, 2020
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Man, you sure you want to switch out of quant? That's a dream job for many in finance. Make millions before 30 and donate that to a food bank/homeless shelter and you'll have done more good than most doctors combined.

Heck, make a hundred million by 50 after starting your own fund and donate charitably.
 

hamiltonnyc

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Jun 13, 2018
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Man, you sure you want to switch out of quant? That's a dream job for many in finance. Make millions before 30 and donate that to a food bank/homeless shelter and you'll have done more good than most doctors combined.

Heck, make a hundred million by 50 after starting your own fund and donate charitably.
I would not trust this strategy. Accruing a vast amount of money and then giving it away is hard. Although accruing it alone might be hard, from what I've seen giving it away is even harder. The money changes you, and only a few can resist the temptation to adjust their demands. Sometimes it's easier to not put yourself in that position and remove the temptation.

Edit: See Hedonic Adaptation and Lifestyle Inflation
 
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Dec 31, 2020
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Thank you all for the helpful advice!

@M&L, great to hear that someone else made the transition from finance to medicine! Did interviewers ask about your finance background? I've been thinking about how I should approach the question if it comes up - I do think that having some experience in a corporate/finance environment has been a huge learning opportunity for me in terms of being more reliable, managing my time and projects, and communicating better both in person and by text. But I wonder if some interviewers will look down on someone who chose to start off their careers in finance rather than a more "noble" profession.

You're right, I did satisfy the writing requirements at my undergrad but neither of them were in the English department and one of them was actually in a proof-based CS class which I personally don't really think counts :rofl:. I looked through some application requirements and for some of the schools it seemed like they were specifically asking that the classes be taken in the English department, but I might be mistaken.

@GreenDuck12 Thank you for the advice, out of the options you listed I definitely prefer to quit working and take my pre-reqs at a post-bacc program over doing it myself part-time at Columbia or NYU. I'm okay with the expenses of a structured programs, and I think I'd have a better chance of getting LORs. Plus it's faster and I'd be able to focus on school and getting clinical experiences. As you and @M&L suggested, I'll reach out my college/classmates to see how I can get involved with research. It's good to hear that a CS background might be helpful, plus I plan to live in NYC until my post-bacc so there should be options if I apply enough.

@crazyotter I've definitely thought about spending a 4-5 more years in finance - I won't have millions or anything, but I should have enough to go to med school close to debt-free. But between post-bacc, MD, and residency, it's a long path ahead and I'd rather get started ASAP before I have to start thinking about marriage and kids. And as @hamiltonnyc suggests, the more years I spend working the harder it will be for me to quit and start a new career.
 
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GreenDuck12

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Thank you all for the helpful advice!

@M&L, great to hear that someone else made the transition from finance to medicine! Did interviewers ask about your finance background? I've been thinking about how I should approach the question if it comes up - I do think that having some experience in a corporate/finance environment has been a huge learning opportunity for me in terms of being more reliable, managing my time and projects, and communicating better both in person and by text. But I wonder if some interviewers will look down on someone who chose to start off their careers in finance rather than a more "noble" profession.

You're right, I did satisfy the writing requirements at my undergrad but neither of them were in the English department and one of them was actually in a proof-based CS class which I personally don't really think counts :rofl:. I looked through some application requirements and for some of the schools it seemed like they were specifically asking that the classes be taken in the English department, but I might be mistaken.

@GreenDuck12 Thank you for the advice, out of the options you listed I definitely prefer to quit working and take my pre-reqs at a post-bacc program over doing it myself part-time at Columbia or NYU. I'm okay with the expenses of a structured programs, and I think I'd have a better chance of getting LORs. Plus it's faster and I'd be able to focus on school and getting clinical experiences. As you and @M&L suggested, I'll reach out my college/classmates to see how I can get involved with research. It's good to hear that a CS background might be helpful, plus I plan to live in NYC until my post-bacc so there should be options if I apply enough.

@crazyotter I've definitely thought about spending a 4-5 more years in finance - I won't have millions or anything, but I should have enough to go to med school close to debt-free. But between post-bacc, MD, and residency, it's a long path ahead and I'd rather get started ASAP before I have to start thinking about marriage and kids. And as @hamiltonnyc suggests, the more years I spend working the harder it will be for me to quit and start a new career.
Instead of med school debt free maybe consider working to set aside as much as possible for retirement so that you can take advantage of compound growth during the decade or so you’ll be in school / training. I worked during my postbac with the idea of saving money to pay for med school and my programs financial planner laid out how big of a difference it would make to just leave the funds till retirement and take out loans for what wasn’t covered by scholarships. The difference was breathtaking. In your case, maximizing 401k up to the maximum allowable limit of $54k per year would have a huge impact.
 
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hamiltonnyc

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Instead of med school debt free maybe consider working to set aside as much as possible for retirement so that you can take advantage of compound growth during the decade or so you’ll be in school / training. I worked during my postbac with the idea of saving money to pay for med school and my programs financial planner laid out how big of a difference it would make to just leave the funds till retirement and take out loans for what wasn’t covered by scholarships. The difference was breathtaking. In your case, maximizing 401k up to the maximum allowable limit of $54k per year would have a huge impact.

This is generally good advice. Traditional 401k's bring down your AMI (income) and retirement funds are usually not included in your financial aid determination. The one thing I would add is for certain people who have a low to middle class family, if you are super competitive and can get into the debt free schools (e.g. Columbia, Cornell, Stanford) or any with great financial aid (Yale, Harvard, etc.) it'll work out better in the long run. That said, it's really hard to get into these of course.
 

Goro

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Overall, there are glaring holes in my application, notably my lack of shadowing/clinical experience (when I apply to post-bacc) and my lack of medical research (when I apply to med schools). Has anyone been able to find opportunities to shadow or do clinical volunteering during the pandemic, and if so how? If things don't get better and I still don't have shadowing/clinical experience by this August, should I even bother applying to post-baccs or do I have no chance/should wait a year and apply to enter in 2023?

For the research, I understand it's not necessary for post-bacc but will help for applying to med schools, plus I want to get my hands dirty with research anyway. I don't have any wet lab skills, but I do have a statistical learning/ML/CS background. Until I get into a post-bacc program, I'd rather play it safe and continue working at my current job and saving up tuition. If I get into a post-bacc program hopefully in the fall, I'll basically have almost a year until I actually start the program. I plan to quit my job then and try and find a research position in computational bio/biostatistics to do over the next 9 months until I start the post-bacc. Do you think this is a feasible plan?
COVID or no, ECs or no, you need to get the academics out of the way, so forge ahead with that, even if you're under house arrest.

In the mean time, you can work on your nonclinical volunteering. Venues include scribing, food banks, COVID screening or contact tracing, Meals on Wheels, election poll working (normally done by seniors) and whatever your local houses of worship can suggest.
 
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