Jul 31, 2017
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Hi all, I'm new to the site. I just wanted to get some answers to a simple question that I have.

Is it possible for me to complete med school and residency with mental illness, namely schizophrenia?

I have dreamed of being a doctor for the last seven or eight years. Mostly because of the amount of respect I have for the men and women who helped me through my own health struggles. I never seriously considered it, because c'mon right? But now I am at the end of my undergraduate studies and am considering all options.
I am a "high functioner." I mean that I am quite intelligent, very well read and sociable. But I know the level of hard work that medical school and residency requires. I'm just not sure how I wound handle that much more school (not to mention residency) given the gaps in my schooling. The time commitment, the stress, the sheer brainpower required might be more than what I am capable of.
Let me know your thoughts/opinions.

*A little background, I went to college a year early. I studied business and engineering at a highly respected school only to drop out due to complications arising from mental illness after my junior year. I took some time off to get myself healthy, and returned when I was 24 only to take time off again a year later because of unresolved mental issues. I came back and am now ready to graduate in December with my undergraduate degree in business administration (minor in accounting) I volunteer but don't work. I have a job history but it is not really impressive.
 

Goro

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I can't recommend it.

Medical school is a furnace, and I've seen it break even healthy students. The #1 reason my school loses students to withdrawal, dismissal or LOA is to unresolved mental health issues.

My school has lost several students with mental health issues, simply because they refused to take, or stopped taking their meds.
 

genericscreenname

2+ Year Member
Jul 11, 2015
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I don't know if any of us can really be able to tell you. I heard managing med school with bipolar is possible as long as you're stable on your meds, though I understand schizophrenia is a different ball game. I think a serious, thorough discussion with your psychiatrist and therapist might give you some better guidance if you haven't asked already.
 
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Pagan FutureDoc

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Oct 28, 2015
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To even think of going to medical school your mental illness needs to be well controlled for a long period of time. With no signs of an episode that would make it difficult or impossible for you to continue with medical school.
I speak from personal experience here, med school is excedingly stressful and very difficult for those battling mental illnesses.
I don't think you are ready to try it currently given what you've told us. Graduate, get a good job, keep working on your mental health and then in a few years sit down with your psychacatrist and have a heart to heart about your desire to go to medical school.
 
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esob

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The advice I give for anyone who has injuries or illnesses is to get any physician treating you to write a letter stating that, in their professional medical opinion, your current condition(s) would not prevent you from being a successful medical student. If they won't, then you need to consider why they won't since they, better than most, would know what would be a barrier to being a competent student doctor.
 

Jagen

2+ Year Member
Mar 7, 2017
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^^^what they said because when it comes down to it, what matters is whether or not you can handle the rigor, and manage your health condition.
 
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Matrix207

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Jul 5, 2017
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Sorry DirtyDan you didn't get the responses you had hoped for. Although it is your dream to be a Doctor (which is admirable itself, and I have a lot of respect for you because of that), I do not think it is a good idea. If you had bipolar disorder that would be doable (my friend had bipolar depression in medical school, and she is now an E.R. Physician and is doing very well now). If you are still interested in the healthcare and medical field, try to look into other alternatives. Have an open mind though! I am sure you will excel at whatever you put your mind to. This isn't your fault, but because of your illness, medical school will probably only make it worse since like @Goro mentioned healthy students even have significant trouble. I believe I read in a study that medical students and Physicians have a 15-35% increased risk of developing mental illness due to the stress and other factors and responsibilities involved in a practicing Physician or medical student in training.

I wish you the best in your future endeavors.
 
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Matrix207

2+ Year Member
Jul 5, 2017
267
147
Status
Pre-Medical
Hi all, I'm new to the site. I just wanted to get some answers to a simple question that I have.

Is it possible for me to complete med school and residency with mental illness, namely schizophrenia?

I have dreamed of being a doctor for the last seven or eight years. Mostly because of the amount of respect I have for the men and women who helped me through my own health struggles. I never seriously considered it, because c'mon right? But now I am at the end of my undergraduate studies and am considering all options.
I am a "high functioner." I mean that I am quite intelligent, very well read and sociable. But I know the level of hard work that medical school and residency requires. I'm just not sure how I wound handle that much more school (not to mention residency) given the gaps in my schooling. The time commitment, the stress, the sheer brainpower required might be more than what I am capable of.
Let me know your thoughts/opinions.

*A little background, I went to college a year early. I studied business and engineering at a highly respected school only to drop out due to complications arising from mental illness after my junior year. I took some time off to get myself healthy, and returned when I was 24 only to take time off again a year later because of unresolved mental issues. I came back and am now ready to graduate in December with my undergraduate degree in business administration (minor in accounting) I volunteer but don't work. I have a job history but it is not really impressive.
I am not sure if you are interested in medical science, but you can look into Medical Laboratory Science as an option. If you enjoy medical science, and would love to process hospital specimens and look at blood films, and diagnose anywhere from leukemia to malaria, then this is the career for you. You can also get involved in research labs, as well as forensic labs, and become involved in conducting research. You do not need a M.D. for this, as this is an undergraduate major and requires acceptance into the clinical program.
 
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May 16, 2017
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Medical Student
I also think it's going to be hard, but I am not gonna say don't do it. You won't be the first person with schizophrenia to go through medical school, nor will you be the last. Also, as @genericscreenname said, unless any of us answering you are also living with schizophrenia, we can't really give you really valid answers since we aren't experiencing it ourselves.

@Goro said they lose the most students to untreated mental illness, which makes sense. But those who are well-treated can make it through medical school with few issues. "Well-treated" being the major takeaway here. Sounds easier than it is.

But I would only recommend medical school if you can give solid arguments to why every other available health profession career (e.g., nursing, paramedic, radiological tech) doesn't meet what you want in your life. And I'm not knocking the value of other medical paths. But a lot of other health professionals seem to have better mental health outcomes overall compared to physicians. I mean, probably worse off compared to the general population, but better than MDs and DOs (at least that is my experience, with an n of only a few hundred or so.) Medical school can be a long and lonely road, to be honest. The immense stress alone can drive even the healthiest students into suicidality. Even though many of us live with mental illness, it is still stigmatized (despite all the talk about how to make the stigma less.) It is sort of like four years of people throwing wrenches in your machine and you having to figure out how to get those out and still be able to function at a high level.

If you are going to go for it, you need a solid game plan. Everything will need to be lined up:
  1. What is your class schedule?
  2. What is your sleep schedule?
  3. What is your medication schedule?
  4. On what days do you see your psychiatrist?
  5. On what days do you see your therapist?
  6. What is your support system at home?
  7. What is your support system at the school?
  8. What is your daily plan if everything is going right?
  9. What is your daily plan if everything is going wrong?
  10. How will you handle being thrown completely off by something?
  11. How will you ensure you won't go off your medication?
  12. Etc., etc.
If, in the end, you think medical school will be the path, I would say take at least a year off and work closely with a psychiatrist in order to figure out all these answers and more. You almost need a numbered list for every possible scenario. Students with mental illness can be totally thrown off by the fact that, despite medical school being incredibly structured, there is a lot of improvising and flying by the seat of one's pants.

I hope that, whatever path you pick, everything works out for you. Feel free to PM me if you have any specific questions about living with mental illness in medical school.

- Red
 
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