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Is med school right for me?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by lAnonyme, Jun 3, 2008.

  1. lAnonyme


    Jun 3, 2008
    Montreal, QC
    I've been accepted to medical school at McGill, and an M.Sc. in epidemiology at both McGill and UBC.

    ... I really really don't know what to do.

    On the one hand, I think I would like to practice medicine, in a romantic "I want to heal people" kind of way. I was a psychology major as an undergrad and loved all aspects of it - the neurobiology, the clinical, and the social - and I enjoyed my basic sciences and even my MCAT studying, so I'm excited to learn about the body and how it works.

    On the other hand, I don't know if I want to practice medicine the way it is currently taught and often practiced. I think the view of health in Western medicine is often a bit myopic and limited, and I have a bit of a "take it down from the inside" sort of view of how I want to use my training. I worry that the process of becoming a doctor is really unhealthy, and my health (sleep/eating/exercise), spending time with my loved ones and general quality of life is really important to me. I can deal with busting my ass for a couple of years during training, but the impression I'm getting is that the grind lasts for a lot longer than that. Reading up on working conditions, I'm hearing that things like 80 max hours per week for residents isn't always enforced, and I can't imagine ever working that much. (I don't know what the laws are like in Canada.)

    I hear about a lot of people who feel trapped in medicine after years of training because of debt. As a Canadian, that isn't as big an issue as for some US potential-MDs. My in-province tuition is incredibly low and I will probably live at home during med school, so I'll get out the other end pretty much debt-free.

    I love the freedom of being a student and I think that maybe an academic career would be a continuation of that. I talk to a lot of masters students who more or less keep their own hours. But a few people have been telling me that "no one turns down med school for an in health research" and that I"ll feel limited. I'm also worried that I'll be bored, and I like that as an M.D. I have the option of being a clinician, going into research, teaching, doing community/public health, etc.

    Does anyone have any useful perspective or advice for me?
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  3. Doctor J

    Doctor J Libelous. 10+ Year Member

    Aug 27, 2007
    Sorry, nothing concrete to offer here. Except that the main deterrent I see to pursuing an MD, the huge investment of time and money to pursue something you think you will really enjoy when you finally get a chance to practice medicine, isn't quite so large a deterrent in your case. You mentioned you would graduate debt-free. You will still invest time and energy so you could potentially lose that if you find that it's not what you expected.

    Depending on what you practice in, the lore of 80 hour weeks is either very true and indeed a bit of an underestimation, or extremely exaggerated. EMed residents might work 48-60 hour weeks depending on the program, general surgeons routinely push 100 hour weeks at some of the more malignant programs. Your third year of school will be very time consuming in some clerkships but not so much in others.

    Good luck with the decision.
  4. tbo

    tbo MS-4 10+ Year Member

    May 5, 2002
    First of all, congrats. McGill is a strong med school and a good biomedical research university (I know nothing about UBC). Yes, these two paths are significantly divergent. The overlap -- assuming your passion lies somewhere in the overlap of these 2 paths -- is clinical research, which I can highlight bits of.

    An MSc in Epi will allow you to do some cool population-based studies in an academic environment such as McGill General Hospital or at a pharmaceutical such as Merck Frosst or Novartis. Your day will essentially be filled with data up the wazzoo... some of it scientifically/intellectually compelling, a reasonable amount of it ho-hum and not all that interesting to you. If you go pharma/industry, you'll have a cushy job that no one really expects you to intellectually contribute in (as an MSc, PhD is a different story). You'll run your regressions and ANOVA analysis, come in at 9 leave at 6 and have all the time and cash to enjoy a balanced life - an aspect that seems highly desirable to you. In academia, it will be much more intellectually stimulating and you're statistical skills will likely be needed by a clinical research lab/PI. If you find an ambitious lab on a topic you enjoy, you'll stay far longer as most people there are ambitious and driven and will expect you to have the same ethic. Balance MAY be tougher to come by. There's far less structure in academia so your own success and growth is under your own control. The downside is respect is much harder to come by with only a MSc. If you do academic epi, get a PhD, DPH or a DSc. Just recognize that a MSc is not terminal and if you're striving for intellectual growth and opportunities, they are much harder to come by, right or wrong, fair or unfair, able or unable, this is how biomedical world works. I've worked in both environments and can speak to more specifics if you have any questions. This is a good problem to have. Best of luck on the choice.
  5. patriots0000000

    patriots0000000 2+ Year Member

    Jan 6, 2008
    absolutely not
  6. ubcredfox

    ubcredfox Member 10+ Year Member

    May 11, 2005
    Having just recently advised someone in a slightly different but similar situation, I'll give you the same advice I gave them.

    The only question you really have to ask yourself is if you'll regret not going to medical school. If you have any hesitation in your response, I'd go ahead and start your MD at McGill. Remember, if you change your mind, it'll be much much easier to go back into an M.Sc. program than reapplying for medical school.

    Best of luck to you.
  7. AmoryBlaine

    AmoryBlaine the last tycoon 7+ Year Member

    May 1, 2006
    If you think the Western view of health is "myopic" than I would strongly suggest not getting a degree in the Western view of health.

    Alot of people enter medical school with such lofty ideals but I can tell you that there is VERY little place for students who have fundamental issues with "Western" medicine.

    The dream of changing things from the inside is at best risky and at worst a path to career destruction.

    People who enter medicine with serious misgivings about the workload do not have an easy road ahead of them. I can tell you that as a student I have already worked multiple 80+ hours weeks. I'm not going to tell you it's fun but you suck it up and do it.

    It is unlikely that all of these misgivings will be overcome by experiences "healing people." Just trying to offer a good-faith opinion based on the info you provided, best of luck whatever you chose.
  8. njbmd

    njbmd Guest Moderator Emeritus 5+ Year Member

    May 30, 2001
    Gone Walkabout!
    Premed issue and now moved to premed forum. Allopathic medical students read and reply to threads in preallo and may follow and reply to this one if desired.
  9. TehDoc

    TehDoc What a pain... 2+ Year Member

    Jan 5, 2008
    Just withdraw...
  10. Excelsius

    Excelsius Carpe Noctem 2+ Year Member

    Apr 6, 2008
    There are some myopic aspects in medicine. If you care, you can become a doctor and try to change some of those aspects that you think are too myopic. With the proper background in science, you will be able to see what's lacking more clearly - unless you have already done your homework.

    People who feel trapped in medicine went into medicine for the wrong reasons, granted that they were able to pursue their specialty.
  11. brianmartin

    brianmartin 10+ Year Member

    Nov 12, 2006
    Yakima, WA
    Probably not. People in academic careers are subject to the almighty dollar as well, in the form of requiring grants to continue working on research. You are still under scrutiny, just a different kind.

    I think that's enough. If you know enough about each profession to compare the two, then you'll make the right decision. With your apparent interest in human biology and clinical could find yourself very bored with a master's in epidemiology...

    A common misconception, because medicine is so complicated. What matters is your attitude while you are wading through all the muck.
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2008
  12. paradocs we are

    paradocs we are In love with you 2+ Year Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    The Falls
    Look into switching into the MD/PhD program at McGill...
  13. Doctor J

    Doctor J Libelous. 10+ Year Member

    Aug 27, 2007
    Ah, yes, I noticed that but forgot to mention this... If you do indeed decide to go the MD route you will quickly learn that 'western' medicine is not myopic, it is scientific. Science is necessarily myopic in the building of knowledge, one fact at a time, but as the data piles up it becomes more and more 'holistic'. Science is built with facts the same way that a house is built with stones, but a random collection of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house.

    I am routinely amazed at those who have completed their training in a qualified medical school and who continue to hold some form of idea that 'western' medicine (which includes nutrition, exercise, and many forms of validated therapy beyond just throwing drugs at a problem) is somehow faulty compared to the alternatives (waving fragrant magical herbs or some other form of wishful thinking).

    Please go to medical school. You will be educated beyond your wildest imagining.
  14. 8744

    8744 Guest

    Dec 7, 2001
    ****ing-A. As if sticking needles into somebody based on some ancient, ossified Chinese superstition isn't myopic.
  15. Cegar

    Cegar 7+ Year Member

    Feb 17, 2008
    Hey man, watch how you use myopic! Some of us are myopic, you know.

    We're people too.
  16. CTtarheel

    CTtarheel Senior Member 7+ Year Member

    Feb 23, 2006
    you should not go into medicine because you think you're going to change the way it's practiced, chances are you won't and medical school will slowly beat that idealism out of you one way or another.

    Secondly if you value the freedom of being a student medical training will not satisfy this. There is very little thinking or questioning in medical school, it's mostly "go memorize these things that we tell you are true". You don't have time to question everything and have to accept it merely as fact.
  17. doomknight

    doomknight Bing 2+ Year Member

    Apr 13, 2008
    go do it! if u really hate it then u can quit but if u quit now u are done
  18. mountainhare

    mountainhare Member 5+ Year Member

    If you end up choosing medicine, you won't be the only person in medicine who wants to push Western medicine toward a more holistic/expansive/etc. view. At many medical schools there are organizations and student groups devoted to learning more about alternative therapies, the cultural side of medicine, etc., and it's likely that there are national organizations as well. So you could easily go to medical school and simultaneously join one of these advocacy groups with like-minded people. The medical community is a big place and contains people with many different views. Poke around at McGill and see what you can find.
  19. ButImLETired

    ButImLETired Prodigal member Moderator Emeritus 5+ Year Member

    May 27, 2008
    the hospital
    hSDN Member
    It was interesting for me to read this because I've given people a somewhat different advice. I have met a lot of people (especially freshmen in college) who love science, have always loved it, have always been good at it, and they like the idea of "helping people", so medicine sounds nice. What I always tell them is that you need to be POSITIVE this is what you want to do- and if there's ANYTHING else you think you'd be happy doing, DO IT.
    Obviously you've been successful in college so that aspect of the process is already over for you, but all I hear about medicine is that it is a GRUELING profession. In med school, (this is what I've heard from many friends who are med students right now) you live on ramen and coffee, study most of the day and maybe get one evening off a week. All the work you've ever done doesn't even come close to what you'll experience in med school. The sheer amount of knowledge is overwhelming, and the stress is no fun either.
    Then you graduate, and you go through residency, which depending on the type of residency can be anything from really hard to hellish. Most of the time you're too tired to sit and think about how many people you're helping, and how you're being a positive force in the universe. You're also really not getting paid well, considering the amount of education you've experienced.
    Sure, being an attending or opening a practice is cushy enough, but it takes a while to get there. Medicine is not for the weak of heart, and its not for those who are unsure. It's simply not worth it if you're not sure. If your true passion lies in science and you'd want to go into medicine just to "help" and maybe change the system, I suggest you continue in your path toward a hard science degree (be it a masters or a phd) and volunteer. Good luck.
  20. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Dec 20, 2004
    Agree. You don't become a member of a profession if you ideologically disagree with it. You won't be "taking it down from the inside", sorry. Because for every person like you who wants things changed, there are probably a thousand who oppose such change; you will be trying to ski uphill through an avalanche.

    Based on your post, I think it's pretty clear you would be happier in a less structured career. Because if you go the medicine route, you are absolutely signing on for a long hard road, where your time will often not be your own, and with times when you may be working 80 hours a week or more. You simply won't have the same freedom that you would as a grad student, and so if that is important to you (and you seem to be saying it is), then I think you answered your own question.

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