Dec 7, 2015
  1. Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
I know these are boring questions that have been asked millions of times here before, but mine have a twist: I worked over 6 years (after my internship) as a licensed general practitioner in my home country right before coming to America a little over two years ago.
1. My main question is: Knowing my previous experience, how much clinical volunteering do you think I should do to be a well-rounded applicant for medical schools in America?
2. Also, already having a medical degree, do you think that would be an advantage or disadvantage?
3. Finally, I am Hispanic and have a backstory of growing up poor in a war zone, my father and relatives being massacred, and other things. Should I mention any of that on my AMCAS application? I don't want ad coms to think I'm either afflicted with PTSD (I'm not) or trying to inspire pity. Besides, I don't consider myself disadvantaged for that. However, it might help me stand out from the crowd. What are your thoughts?
I'd love to hear your opinions and advice! Thanks in advance. The rest of the post is just background info if you're interested.

As I have understood from all my research into the topic, clinical volunteering in pre-med is done to expose yourself to caring directly for patients, to become familiar with the clinical setting, and to see if you are really comfortable around the sick. But I have years of that, sometimes practicing under bad conditions in rural communities and volunteering my time to care for the disadvantaged. In any case, I have indeed been looking around for "clinical exposure" in the area I live in, since it is something I read about everywhere as a fundamental requisite for American medical schools, almost a dealbreaker for your application. So, I thought I should totally get some exposure of the kind. But most of the hospital volunteering in my area (central Florida) is pretty much greeting patients, handing out magazines and stocking shelves, and I don't think I would gain anything more from such experience. I am not saying it would not be a good experience for, let's say, a recent high school graduate. However, I know that sort of volunteering will not be personally enriching as to inspire me to write an essay about it for a secondary app (if I get any, God willing). I also tried getting jobs in health care here, but there are none available that would take me without first having earned at least an American certificate after a period of time in trade school (like LPN, medical assistant, etc.).

Now, I do volunteer in the local community (non-clinical), tutor kids in my college, and have a couple of interesting hobbies. I had done research in my previous program and hated it, but I will give it a try again; maybe it is actually enjoyable at US universities. I'll be doing shadowing because I want to know how doctor offices work here. I've been to the local doctor before (when sick) and it seems to work differently than what I am used to, so shadowing will definitely be important to me. However, the question remains: How much clinical volunteering would you advise I do, if at all?

Also, what do you think in general of my trying a second time? If you are curious, simply my previous school is not in the World Directory, so I can't even start an application with the ECFMG (I already talked to them). I had given up and started school looking to become a nurse, radiographer or something because I love health care and wanted to stay in it. However, something happened when I helped an elderly neighbor who had collapsed, hit his head and was unconscious on the floor. That made me realize I would not be as happy as anything other than being a family doctor (I just loved my job!).

I already emailed all the med schools in Florida and others out of the state that I was interested in. Almost all of them said I could apply with no issues, and they denied my previous degree would be a disadvantage (so they say). UF said that they would consider my application because of the extenuating circumstances (otherwise, they won't take you if you have a foreign medical degree); Columbia U outright said they would not take my app at all (snobs! lol). They all coincided my only recourse would be to get a US bachelor's, which I am doing.

So, yeah, I am going to school to become a doctor, again. And, no, I'm not that old: I am 30 and going into my second semester as a sophomore.
Also, believe me, I have spent the last year lurking around this site and reddit and others, and I have not been able to find someone else in a situation like mine: already having a medical degree but going to school again. There have been some posts about people who failed the Steps or something wanting to go back to med school, or foreign doctors becoming nurses or teachers, but no IMG seems to have posted about starting all over in America. Have you ever heard of any???
Aug 31, 2017
  1. Medical Student
I don't have specific examples, but I've heard of foreign doctors who came to the US and successfully made it through medical school. I've also heard of a similar story where someone opted for a PA program due to it being a much shorter path and they seem content. Your story sounds unique and you have a lot to offer from your experiences, you can definitely make it through successfully if you keep grinding. Being 30 is not a problem, many of my classmates started med school in their 30s are are doing well. As long as you (and your family if you're married/have kids) are prepared for the many years ahead of you and you can maintain decent grades, then your goals are perfectly feasible.


10+ Year Member
Jun 25, 2009
  1. Other Health Professions Student
One option, if you're amenable to moving, is to find a state where Nurse Practitioners have independent practice rights. First get your BSN, then apply to an DNP program. You will be able to do family practice that way. Becoming a PA is an option too, but many programs are just as competitive as Med School. It's still worth looking into.
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Ether Man
10+ Year Member
Nov 24, 2007
The ivory tower.
  1. Attending Physician
Why don’t you study to take steps 1-2 and then apply for residency.
Because his medical school isn’t recognized by the ECFMG.
I think you can do it dnyal. You just have to prove to the admissions committee that you can handle the academic rigor, like we all do with good grades and a good MCAT. You might even get in without completing a bachelors degree, but that seems like it might be a risk. ADCOMS would have to advise you about that. It’s not your fault that You were born where you were born and that the ECFMG doesn’t recognize your school. You’re not some delusional flunky American going abroad to medical school and trying to come back to practice. I think you have a great chance of success.
Your personal story sounds interesting and compelling, choosing to help people in spite of the violent reality of your upbringing, etc.
Good luck! It’s not the shortest path, but probably the most satisfying and it will surely be worth the effort!


5+ Year Member
Mar 5, 2015
  1. Medical Student
If a school applies for ecfmg certification does it retroactively apply to previously graduated students ? If the answer is yes it might even be worth it for you to push your school.
Getting into medical school in the United States will require UG credits , MCAT, and then a little bit of luck. Plus probably close to 300k in student loans .
are you an American citizen ?
it is an uphill battle and not unfathomable , but the reality is that it is going to be difficult .

the alternative is you could become a nurse practitioner . The pathway is shorter, easier to get into and will provide you with the ability to practice as a primary care nurse practitioner which would fill what you are asking for .
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Dec 7, 2015
  1. Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
Hi, everyone! Thank you for your replies, I appreciate it.

@libertyyne I TRIED! I don't know whether listing the school on the World Directory is retroactive, but I figured it would be, so I tried doing what you suggest. It turns out the university had temporarily shut down the program. I learnt they actually had stopped taking in new students just a year after I graduated (almost a decade ago). The U was broke and restructuring, and part of that was shutting down the expensive programs. They reopened it a year ago or so. I contacted them twice, said they'd get back to me, and I am still waiting.

@Qex I strongly considered becoming a PA. Actually, my mind is 80% made up in becoming a physician but still open to possibilities. And you are right! When I was looking into it, I found that PA school is as competitive, if not more, than medical schools. Those programs also required me to get a bachelor's, anyway, so I figured I might as well just try med school and have PA school as a fallback. I learnt about the practical nurses later on, but I would have had to change majors and enroll in the nursing program and take different classes. So, I decided to stick to my current major as it opens my possibilities to both PA and MD school and not waste the time I had already invested.
One of the things that bugs me about being a PA is the lack of independence. In fact, that was something I realized when I helped my neighbor: I stayed a while with them after the event waiting for their children to arrive, and asked them about the man's condition. Turns out he had a symptomatic heart rhythm problem but no peacemaker, his urologist had prescribed him an alfa-blocker at high doses, then his cardiologist had recently increased his beta-blocker dose without knowing my neighbor's other medications, and ever since the poor old man had been having fainting spells when getting up. That is the sort of stuff a family doctor takes care of: integrating all your care. A PA might do that, too, but you are at the mercy of the attending agreeing with you; I didn't want that. Also, I understand PA don't handle complex cases, which is the part I like more!

In any case, @IlDestriero and @Lanhaines Elsetion, thank you for your encouragement! I hope to keep doing well enough in school to be a competitive pre-med.

And what do you all think of my doing more clinical volunteering in my area?
Like I said, I personally do not feel I would get much from doing it. I actually fear an admissions officer thinking, "Hmm, he's got all this experience but decided to volunteer as a greeter at a clinic? Seems like he just wanted to check off a box." Although, I also fear them thinking the complete opposite, "Well, he hasn't practiced in a while and doesn't have any more clinical experience other than shadowing. This reflects badly on his commitment to the profession."
What are your thoughts on that?
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