Are these valid/accurate reasons for wanting to switch to the medical profession from consulting/engineering?

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Mar 23, 2020
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Hey all!

I've been lurking on these forums for the past year or so, and have been toying with the idea of going back for a post-bac to gain admission to medical school with the ultimate goal of becoming a doctor. Apart from passion for the field, interest in medicine as a discipline, and a desire to help people, which I believe I possess, there are a number of things I am considering before I spend some serious money and forego some serious income to try my hand at a post-bac. Below are some of the reasons, which I see as huge positives and differences from my current field in consulting, which I would like you all to chime in on as to how true these really are. I would especially appreciate advice/feedback from folks already in the field as MDs or DOs:

1. Stable, High Paying Employment: while my current job pays fairly well, nowhere near a doctor though, it is a very 'up or out' culture. If I fail to make it to the next career level in a set amount of time, I can essentially be fired, or moved to a lower paying career tract. I can always leave for an industry job as they call it, but the pay will be lower and raises very low. On the other hand, my understanding is that, depending on specialty, doctors are able to pull in ~$250-500k+ annually pretty consistently, and, this is big for me, there isn't some huge pressure to 'advance' to the next level and get that big promotion every 3-4 years. You pretty much get through the rigor of medical school, residency, and then you are basically set if you do your job and do it well. There may be constant learning, but you aren't essentially fighting for your job every few years just to stay employed. In addition, the medical field will always be in high demand, and there is little chance of losing your job due to demand only. In my field, and my others, demand can be very cyclical, and if you catch yourself in an economic downturn...be prepared to get no raise, or worse...

2. Flexibility of Schedules: now I understand this may come down highly to specialty, but from various sources, it seems as though doctors are able to pretty much set their own hours, and have much more flexibility in terms of how often they work, and around what schedules. For instance, it seems many can do a few long shifts per week, and then have 3-4 days off. In my field, and pretty much all related ones, it is a strict M-F, 8:30 - 5:30 or so work day, with the occasional long day thrown in around deadlines, etc. In addition, there is zero room for me to decide I would like to work, let's say 60% of my current hours for 60% of my current pay; that just isn't a thing here or at any other firm I know of.

3. Office Politics & 'BS': I can see how this would still come into play as a resident for sure, or if you're in a large hospital/team setting, but for say someone in private practice or a small team, I would assume there is much less brown nosing, office politics to get that promotion (related to 1) or general stress of having a 'boss' on you all the time.

4. Ability to be an Entrepreneur: Yes, I could theoretically do this in my current industry, but the chance if failure is huge, and there is very little money to be made in the early stages. As an MD or DO, it seems that it would be -relatively- easy (depending on specialty), after gaining some experience, to go out on your own and start a private practice. Yes, you'll need to know how to run a business and deal with the insurance and regulatory side of things, but that is present in many businesses. Being in a very high demand field like medicine basically gives you a huge edge, in that your service is always in demand with a very small number of providers in comparison to the population.

5. Location of Work: Another big one for me personally. I don't love cities or even close in suburbs, however my job pretty much requires that I be within 60 minutes of one of our offices in a major US city. This means lots of traffic, high prices, and high taxes. I hear that many doctors are actually paid -more- to live in more rural areas, which for me sounds fantastic!

These are just the biggies I've been thinking about in weighing my choices, would love for anyone to chime in and comment on the validity of these. I'm just trying to get the best information possible before making a decision, thank you all!
 

emergencydancing

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I'd probably pass if I were you, or at least shadow physicians. Your top 4 reasons are money, lifestyle, work environment, and power. I've been in your shoes and would not bank on these 3 to sustain me.
 
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I'd probably pass if I were you, or at least shadow physicians. Your top 4 reasons are money, lifestyle, work environment, and power. I've been in your shoes and would not bank on these 3 to sustain me.
With respect, I thought I addressed this exact point at the top of my post, but I’ll reiterate: these are NOT my top reasons, but rather, the ones that I want some clarification on. My top reasons are ones that are common to many people, e.g. wanting to help people, interest in the field, interest in the science behind it, etc. that I think have already been beat to death. Apologies if that wasn’t clear.
 
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Dral

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There are a lot of frustrations that go into being a physician. I could list some here, but it wouldn't truly communicate why they are frustrating. You have to be there to experience it.

Just do your best to get as close as you can to the experience of being a physician (shadow and ask the right questions) before you commit. You need that desire to do the profession to offset the frustrations if you hope to remain satisfied with doing it for the rest of your life.
 
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2010houston

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1 - mostly true, but with some caveats. if you do pediatrics / family practice / internal medicine in a highly desired city, $250k might be hard to get at least at first. I think your numbers may be a bit high, depending on what specialty you go into. if you do academics at a well regarded institution, there may be some form of the "publish or perish" mentality - though of course you don't have to go into those jobs to begin with.
2 - yes and no. VERY specialty specific. yes you can probably find the right kind of hours/schedule you want, but can you find in it the city you want and at the salary you want? maybe not. but you're right in that there are a myriad of different things people do in terms of schedules and hours, but finding the one you want in the location you want may be challenging.
3 - it's different office politics and BS. yes there's less of what you mention - but substitute the politics and BS of insurance companies, administration, and various other things. it's real and it's a real headache. if you could just do medicine and not worry about all this stuff, MDs would be much happier!
4 - yes true for sure.
5 - yes true

make sure you love it. if you really enjoy medicine / learning, med school and residency can be fun. hard as hell, but fun. if you are doing it solely for the end goal and/or if your main motivators are financial, i think you'll find spending the next 8 years either paying for school or being paid minimum wage for the hours worked to be excruciatingly painful (not saying you have the wrong motivations; just a general statement).
 
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Thank you both for the replies, very helpful and definitely gives some food for thought!
 

FrkyBgStok

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Hey all!

I've been lurking on these forums for the past year or so, and have been toying with the idea of going back for a post-bac to gain admission to medical school with the ultimate goal of becoming a doctor. Apart from passion for the field, interest in medicine as a discipline, and a desire to help people, which I believe I possess, there are a number of things I am considering before I spend some serious money and forego some serious income to try my hand at a post-bac. Below are some of the reasons, which I see as huge positives and differences from my current field in consulting, which I would like you all to chime in on as to how true these really are. I would especially appreciate advice/feedback from folks already in the field as MDs or DOs:

1. Stable, High Paying Employment: while my current job pays fairly well, nowhere near a doctor though, it is a very 'up or out' culture. If I fail to make it to the next career level in a set amount of time, I can essentially be fired, or moved to a lower paying career tract. I can always leave for an industry job as they call it, but the pay will be lower and raises very low. On the other hand, my understanding is that, depending on specialty, doctors are able to pull in ~$250-500k+ annually pretty consistently, and, this is big for me, there isn't some huge pressure to 'advance' to the next level and get that big promotion every 3-4 years. You pretty much get through the rigor of medical school, residency, and then you are basically set if you do your job and do it well. There may be constant learning, but you aren't essentially fighting for your job every few years just to stay employed. In addition, the medical field will always be in high demand, and there is little chance of losing your job due to demand only. In my field, and my others, demand can be very cyclical, and if you catch yourself in an economic downturn...be prepared to get no raise, or worse...

2. Flexibility of Schedules: now I understand this may come down highly to specialty, but from various sources, it seems as though doctors are able to pretty much set their own hours, and have much more flexibility in terms of how often they work, and around what schedules. For instance, it seems many can do a few long shifts per week, and then have 3-4 days off. In my field, and pretty much all related ones, it is a strict M-F, 8:30 - 5:30 or so work day, with the occasional long day thrown in around deadlines, etc. In addition, there is zero room for me to decide I would like to work, let's say 60% of my current hours for 60% of my current pay; that just isn't a thing here or at any other firm I know of.

3. Office Politics & 'BS': I can see how this would still come into play as a resident for sure, or if you're in a large hospital/team setting, but for say someone in private practice or a small team, I would assume there is much less brown nosing, office politics to get that promotion (related to 1) or general stress of having a 'boss' on you all the time.

4. Ability to be an Entrepreneur: Yes, I could theoretically do this in my current industry, but the chance if failure is huge, and there is very little money to be made in the early stages. As an MD or DO, it seems that it would be -relatively- easy (depending on specialty), after gaining some experience, to go out on your own and start a private practice. Yes, you'll need to know how to run a business and deal with the insurance and regulatory side of things, but that is present in many businesses. Being in a very high demand field like medicine basically gives you a huge edge, in that your service is always in demand with a very small number of providers in comparison to the population.

5. Location of Work: Another big one for me personally. I don't love cities or even close in suburbs, however my job pretty much requires that I be within 60 minutes of one of our offices in a major US city. This means lots of traffic, high prices, and high taxes. I hear that many doctors are actually paid -more- to live in more rural areas, which for me sounds fantastic!

These are just the biggies I've been thinking about in weighing my choices, would love for anyone to chime in and comment on the validity of these. I'm just trying to get the best information possible before making a decision, thank you all!
First off, you don't really need valid reasons based on our opinions to make a change. But I will give my opinion.

1.) Yes, medicine is stable and high paying, but covid has also shown that it isn't completely immune to problems. You don't have that up or out culture, but medicine is unlike anything else. For starters, you can't change your mind. You go to medical school and make a decision on a specialty, and then that is it. You go do ortho, you train for a ton of years and then you are a bone doctor. But if that gets old, you literally have no other medical skills outside of that. So you either have to start with a whole new specialty or tough it out. And a medical degree is worthless outside of medicine. As an engineer, you can do engineering, but you can also shift to a huge list of finance related jobs, a huge list of analytical jobs, a good number of teaching positions, etc. If you don't want to do internal medicine anymore, you either leave medicine all together or......you just keep doing internal medicine. I am speaking general and, sure, there are exceptions, but again, general for the sake of this discussion.

2.) It isn't strict like that, but it isn't flexible. If you are in inpatient or emergency based specialties, the hospital dictates your schedule and you are probably hired at a fairly strict schedule, or an emergency medicine based schedule alternating shifts. So you may get a say in which days you take off, but you can't really practice EM these days without a crappy schedule. Not without paying your dues in EM.

3.) There is a ton of politics and BS, just not in the office. You should just cross this one off your list because it isn't going to get better in medicine, but it probably isn't going to get worse. That's real life.

4.) The ability to be an entrepreneur is limited to certain fields, and even then, not so much. Many places have large groups that cover certain things. Lets use ortho. The small city I am from had two major ortho groups, 2 minor ortho groups, and a handful of solo practitioners. Each of the major groups had a major hospital they worked with and very few orthopods operated out of the major hospital without being part of the major groups. There were like 30 docs in each group and there was a partnership resulting in everyone working an insane amount and expecting everyone else to work an insane amount to make the money. The minor groups were similar but smaller. The handful of solo guys did their own thing, but controlled so little of the market compared to the other groups that it wasn't nearly as lucrative. So less entrepreneur in my mind. Maybe that is how you want. But all specialties that allow for that are similar.

5.) More rural medicine is possible, but it comes at some costs. Usually it means more hours, more pay, less support, more required breadth of knowledge, less ability to do the entrepreneur stuff, less ability to "carve your own medical path," etc.

One other thing to keep in mind is that medicine is a LOOOOOOOONG path. 4 years of undergrad, 4 years of medical school, 3-5 years of residency and then +/- 1-3 years of fellowship. Me personally, I am a PGY5 and have another year which means I will finish up training 6 years after medical school. In addition, medicine will take everything you give it and it will take a lot more than you think it will. If you were to devote that much time and energy into any other field, you will make a ton of money and have a lot of the similar benefits you are talking about. If you are thinking that med school will be like the college you already did and residency will be like a job you already have, you are wrong. Medicine is like the military. It is going to take way more than you ever intended to give.
 
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Goro

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Hey all!

I've been lurking on these forums for the past year or so, and have been toying with the idea of going back for a post-bac to gain admission to medical school with the ultimate goal of becoming a doctor. Apart from passion for the field, interest in medicine as a discipline, and a desire to help people, which I believe I possess, there are a number of things I am considering before I spend some serious money and forego some serious income to try my hand at a post-bac. Below are some of the reasons, which I see as huge positives and differences from my current field in consulting, which I would like you all to chime in on as to how true these really are. I would especially appreciate advice/feedback from folks already in the field as MDs or DOs:

1. Stable, High Paying Employment: while my current job pays fairly well, nowhere near a doctor though, it is a very 'up or out' culture. If I fail to make it to the next career level in a set amount of time, I can essentially be fired, or moved to a lower paying career tract. I can always leave for an industry job as they call it, but the pay will be lower and raises very low. On the other hand, my understanding is that, depending on specialty, doctors are able to pull in ~$250-500k+ annually pretty consistently, and, this is big for me, there isn't some huge pressure to 'advance' to the next level and get that big promotion every 3-4 years. You pretty much get through the rigor of medical school, residency, and then you are basically set if you do your job and do it well. There may be constant learning, but you aren't essentially fighting for your job every few years just to stay employed. In addition, the medical field will always be in high demand, and there is little chance of losing your job due to demand only. In my field, and my others, demand can be very cyclical, and if you catch yourself in an economic downturn...be prepared to get no raise, or worse...

2. Flexibility of Schedules: now I understand this may come down highly to specialty, but from various sources, it seems as though doctors are able to pretty much set their own hours, and have much more flexibility in terms of how often they work, and around what schedules. For instance, it seems many can do a few long shifts per week, and then have 3-4 days off. In my field, and pretty much all related ones, it is a strict M-F, 8:30 - 5:30 or so work day, with the occasional long day thrown in around deadlines, etc. In addition, there is zero room for me to decide I would like to work, let's say 60% of my current hours for 60% of my current pay; that just isn't a thing here or at any other firm I know of.

3. Office Politics & 'BS': I can see how this would still come into play as a resident for sure, or if you're in a large hospital/team setting, but for say someone in private practice or a small team, I would assume there is much less brown nosing, office politics to get that promotion (related to 1) or general stress of having a 'boss' on you all the time.

4. Ability to be an Entrepreneur: Yes, I could theoretically do this in my current industry, but the chance if failure is huge, and there is very little money to be made in the early stages. As an MD or DO, it seems that it would be -relatively- easy (depending on specialty), after gaining some experience, to go out on your own and start a private practice. Yes, you'll need to know how to run a business and deal with the insurance and regulatory side of things, but that is present in many businesses. Being in a very high demand field like medicine basically gives you a huge edge, in that your service is always in demand with a very small number of providers in comparison to the population.

5. Location of Work: Another big one for me personally. I don't love cities or even close in suburbs, however my job pretty much requires that I be within 60 minutes of one of our offices in a major US city. This means lots of traffic, high prices, and high taxes. I hear that many doctors are actually paid -more- to live in more rural areas, which for me sounds fantastic!

These are just the biggies I've been thinking about in weighing my choices, would love for anyone to chime in and comment on the validity of these. I'm just trying to get the best information possible before making a decision, thank you all!
Everything you've mentioned are reasons for running away from your current field, and NOTHING substantial about running TO Medicine. Honestly, why do you want to be a doctor? Good pay is the baseline for everybody, but there are plenty of other jobs that you can do this. Nursing, PA, DPM,

Hell, truck drivers can make $75K driving a tractor/trailer for Walmart and get to see a ton of the USA.

Most docs work for HMOs these days, and so you'll have plenty of office BS, and admins looking over yours shoulders as well.
 
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petomed

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Fellow engineer here, currently in that final stage of taking the mcat then fingers crossed for 2022. I'll address each of your points but I would highly recommend beginning volunteering immediately. Your enthusiasm is a good starting point but there is a lot to consider before going down this road. You need to really peel back the surface layers and find why you need to switch into medicine. To discover what is truly pulling you into the profession.

1. Docs do take home the bacon, no question. But have you looked into the number of hours they often work for it? And that's once you're a minted attending. I read an article a year or so ago about how a teacher makes a better hourly rate than a doctor when averaged over their careers, when you consider those all too consistent 80 hr weeks during medical school + residency. On top of that, medical school will cost you at least $500,000 unless you have someone dishing out for you, or unless you happen to live in Texas or a similarly cheap medical school state. Seriously, do the math. Baseline $60,000 tuition + $25,000 living expenses for four years = 85k x 4 = $325,000. Add in an average of four years for residency, making squat but with ~7% interest rate and you are very quickly over $500,000 with compound interest. Add on top of that outright cost burden the number of years you are not contributing to your 401k and the picture is worse. This is easily offset by being the cookie-cutter student who goes straight through college to medical school and has the maximum number of years with a doctor's salary worth of earning potential. But if you are a nontrad career changer, you pay dearly for your decision to switch into medicine.

2. I'll agree with you partially on this one. Partially because, if you do manage to get through school without the debt burden aforementioned, then you will feel quite free to take whatever job wherever you prefer with whatever shifts you like. But if you do take on the mountain of debt, you will absolutely not feel free to be so picky. Unless you really are that bad with managing money and prefer to work until you're 75.

3. Purely conjecture but I think you'll find this no matter where you work, unless you work completely alone.

4. Given the recent explosion of telehealth, I agree. There are a lot of ways to spin a business in medicine. But you'll never escape the risk/reward problem. If you have cash to front then I generally agree, you can be an entrepreneur pretty easily in medicine, depending on your specialty.
 
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Everything you've mentioned are reasons for running away from your current field, and NOTHING substantial about running TO Medicine. Honestly, why do you want to be a doctor? Good pay is the baseline for everybody, but there are plenty of other jobs that you can do this. Nursing, PA, DPM,

Hell, truck drivers can make $75K driving a tractor/trailer for Walmart and get to see a ton of the USA.

Most docs work for HMOs these days, and so you'll have plenty of office BS, and admins looking over yours shoulders as well.
Hey there, firstly, I appreciate everyone's replies, thank you all so much. In regards to why I want TO go into medicine, at this stage it is a combination of the below:

1. Love of the science behind medicine (I can't confidently say I love 'Medicine' because I've never worked in the field. I have been trying to get some hands on experience and have reached out to several local hospitals for volunteering opportunities, however for the time being COVID has really destroyed any opportunities for this as far as I can tell...I'd love to be corrected though ). The few experiences I did have, including research at the NIH and getting to sit in on a surgery at Johns Hopkins, I thoroughly enjoyed.

2. I think I would enjoy working 1:1 with people to genuinely help them. My current career really doesn't offer much personal fulfillment; yes we can save a company $X, but for what? It's really just making rich people even richer.

3. I think I would enjoy a more 'hands on' career. I spend 99% of my time now in front of a computer and/or on calls. I really think I would be much happier interacting with patients, performing exams, analyzing charts, performing surgeries, etc.

On the point about money, I am going to take issue with your comment a bit, having been in a few other industries/after having done extensive research on other potential careers. Yes, other nurses, PAs, NPs, etc. can make good money, but nowhere near Doctors (unless you're comparing maybe a very high level PA with a very low level Family Medicine doctor, or something similar); and in the case of NPs, PAs, there is plenty of schooling to go along with that as well.

In regards to professions outside Medicine, the only ones besides entrepreneurship or sales (these are very high risk/high reward, where very few succeed and you only really hear about the winners...), so essentially the ones that can 'guarantee' as high a level of income as Doctors are essentially High Level Management Consultants (Think MBB), High Level Lawyers, or Investment Bankers. All three of these careers essentially require an ivy or equivalent degree, extremely long hours (80+ a week), and the possibility that you could be fired, laid off, or not make the next cut at any time. Sorry if that sounded argumentative, but I just see the whole 'You can make a lot of money in plenty of other fields' argument quite a bit, and I strongly disagree with it. You can make a lot (as much as a doctor) in a few very specific, very sought-after, very long-hour fields, apart from rolling the dice on entrepreneurship or sales.

As an aside, just wanted to thank you for all of your help to non-trads, especially your threads on career-changers, and reinvention. I've read through now multiple times and it's been very helpful!
 

curbsideconsult

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I think these are perfectly valid reasons for wanting to medicine. However, there are a lot of sacrifices you have to make in order to get to be an attending. You can peruse SDN and Reddit for all the horrible reasons not to go into medicine, but I'll save you the trouble and list some of the indignities that I and my fellow interns have gone through:
  • Feeling stupid every day - you go from being top in your field to feeling like you just don't measure up. Even if your scores are 99th percentile, you can show up to work and feel like a complete failure because you just can't keep up. I have colleagues who are academically very smart and gifted and also very kind, wonderful human beings, who feel inadequate and incompetent more days than not. And it's not always other people who try to make you feel stupid. You just do.
  • Dealing with attendings who don't want to teach - during clinical rotations, who you get as preceptors are just a luck of the draw. You will get physicians who don't want to teach and see you as more of a burden than anything else and you're left to wonder where all your tuition money is going.
  • Dealing with nurses who seem to go out of their way to make you feel less than, just when you thought you couldn't feel any lower - there are plenty of nurses who are fantastic and are all about helping out students, but even just one who goes out of their way to put you down can ruin your day or even your whole rotation if you get nurses like that everyday. You might think "well, these kids just need to toughen up." Maybe that's true, but maybe people also just need to be nicer.
  • Having to deal with BS classes/meetings during school - the amount of time wasted in med school is mind boggling. There are whole lecture series devoted to "professionalism" when what they really mean is "we are going to MAKE you listen to us and you'd better do as we say or you'll get a negative mark on your MSPE or we'll make you repeat a class over the summer and oh btw, we don't hold ourselves to these same standards."
  • Basically being a social worker - much of your job will entail trying to figure out dispo issues. This is a social worker's job. I'm not demeaning social workers by any means, far from it. But I didn't go to med school to be a social worker or a therapist. My job should be to help make patients as healthy as they can be, not figure out ways of gaming the system so the patient can get to the appropriate SNF. Unfortunately, about half the job is stuff like this.
  • The Match - that's all there is to say about that.
You don't have to feel like medicine is a calling, but you do have to be able to tolerate 7-10+ years of this BS to get to the other side. Even with all of the above, I still could not imagine myself doing anything else and I finally feel like I've found my place. I'm not sure that I feel that medicine is a calling for me or that I was destined to do this, but I can't imagine myself doing anything else now. Otherwise, there's absolutely no way on god's green earth I would tolerate the crap I do on a daily basis. So, if you feel like you could wade through the crud and be patient for the amount of years as essentially the lifetime of a large dog, then go for it.
 
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you’re not channeling love, sacrifice, passion for medicine. Work in the field. You’re not trying hard enough. My local free clinics are begging for volunteers to translate, scribe, help in the clinics in myriad ways.

I had a career in the medical corporate industry, high visibility interfacing with physicians, Dept Heads, Hospital CEOs, earned a 6 figure income, had day-time hours, luxurious “Cadillac” benefits, and my total compensation exceeded that of PCPs. I’m between the ages of 40-60, married, have a family, am a caregiver for a sick loved one, and yet walked away from my lucrative career. I burned through savings, did the DIY Post Bacc thing, submitted my MD school apps in late 2020 and I am awaiting replies from medical schools for the entering class of 2021.

a few moments ago the latest issue of NEJM arrived in my email inbox. I stopped everything I was doing, scanned the table of contents and found one of the articles fascinating, Postinfectious Epigenetic Immune Modifications — A Double-Edged Sword | NEJM, given that immunology is a hot topic today.

If any of the above sounds crazy, then you would be right. I would be crazy to do anything else but be a physician in today’s rapidly evolving evidenced based medicine field. You have to have fire in the belly and I don’t see it in you...yet.
Sounds like a crazy ride! Let me ask you then, before you applied to Medical School, what did you do to 'channel love, sacrifice, and a passion for medicine'? It sounds like you worked in a corporate setting before, so how did you come to realize you loved it (and proved you loved it) without actually working in the field? Volunteering/Shadowing, etc.?
 
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