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My story...not sure of the best path

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by akbreezo, Sep 4, 2014.

  1. akbreezo

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    Hello all,
    Forgive me if this scenario (or something similar) has been played out before on the forum. I have not yet had a chance to thoroughly explore all of the posts yet. I am 36; I have a MSc in Fisheries and a PhD in Conservation Biology. I am currently non-tenure track research faculty but am looking at the end of my major source of funding for both my salary and field research. While I know that I can continue to grind along and piece together an existence in academia, I just don't feel that is how I want to spend the next 25 or 30 years of my life.
    Should I chose to switch directions from my current career, I know the medicine is what I'd like to pursue. I am looking for advice as to what the most practical, satisfying and rewarding path would be. I have a lot of a degrees, but lack specific medical experience. At present, I am considering RN, PA or MD. Each direction has appealing and not so appealing aspects. Specifically, with an RN position I am worried that I would be "bored." I hope that does not offend anyone because that is not my intension. I simply mean that I would worry that I would constantly want to be doing more. PA is probably the most appealing, but I have zero clinical experience so would need to determine how to get clinical hours before even beginning that education process. I think an MD is the least practical but who knows?!
    Anyway, I would love to hear feedback on each of these options and how other "non-traditional" students may have tackled similar obstacles.
    Many thanks and I look forward to further conversations!
     
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  3. operaman

    Physician 7+ Year Member

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    I'm biased, but I think the MD may be your best bet and the time requirements will be fairly similar. I came from a completely unrelated field with zero science background but felt called into medicine. In looking at the different paths like you have, I discovered that MD was most suited to my goals and not really any longer than the others. As you noted, getting the hours and taking pre-reqs for the others takes time as well. For me, I'll be getting my MD this May, almost 5 years exactly since the last day of my former career. I think I could have done the RN in 4 or so, but I would have probably wanted to do an NP anyhow which pushes me way past the time it took for the MD.

    For you, the biggest factors will be your undergraduate GPA and your MCAT if you go the MD route. Assuming a solid undergrad GPA and decent test-taking ability, you'll be a strong applicant and your research background will be a nice bonus. You'll need some clinical exposure and shadowing, but that's easy enough to get. You'll need to do residency after your MD, but even though the pay is low it's still probably the same or more than you're making right now. There is a significant debt load with the MD, but you'll face debt with whatever path you take and the earning power the MD should enable you to manage it.
     
    Mars41 and DarknightX like this.
  4. akbreezo

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    Thanks for the great feedback. What an interesting perspective. I agree with on the RN route...I think I would end up going for the NP as well, which obviously adds considerable more time.
    Forgive me for asking more questions:
    1. What is considered a "solid undergrad GPA"?
    2. What extent of clinical exposure and shadowing do you need and how does one go about getting these things?
    3. Operaman...do you mind telling me how old you are or how old you were when you made the leap?

    Thanks again!
     
  5. operaman

    Physician 7+ Year Member

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    1. Hard to say. Average for accepted students across the board is somewhere around 3.6 or so; 3.7+ and you should be fine. <3.5 and you'll have more difficulty. It's doable but will require a lot more work. There is a TINY bit of room for the MCAT to balance the GPA, but not much. A 3.4 GPA and a 38 MCAT may be okay just like a 3.9 and a 29 MCAT might as well. Better a 3.7 and a 33 than extremes at either end though. There's not hard and fast rule and every school is different. Most schools openly post their averages or will tell you if you call.

    2. Clinical exposure/shadowing requirements are far less for non-trads overall than younger students. I think adcoms understand that we wouldn't really be shadowing MDs while in a wholly unrelated field. That said, once deciding to pursue medicine, it would make sense you would want to get some exposure. Number of hours is worthless for us; it's more about quality of the experience and whether or not the time was enough that you can convince the adcom that you know what you're getting yourself in to. You need to demonstrate that you have some idea of what medicine really is, not what you hope it to be. I'm not sure how many hours I had -- probably a couple hundred or so when it was all said and done.

    I just went in person (nb - always do things in person as a non-trad since our poise and maturity is one of our biggest selling points) to the local hospital volunteer coordinator and explained that I wanted to volunteer and do so in a way that gave me as much patient and MD contact as possible. She set me up helping pts in the recovery room, shadowing in the OR, transporting when needed, etc. Lots of patient and family contact. Lots of time to chat with the docs in the OR. These relationships led to some great shadowing opportunities.

    3. I'll be somewhat vague, but squarely in my 30s as well when I started. The age is actually an advantage in many ways, especially once you're in. The interpersonal skills and ability to relate professionally with adults go a long way. A lot of the younger kids are going through that whole figuring out who they are as independent adults phase we went through while simultaneously trying to learn medicine. I don't know if I could have done it so I'm very impressed at how well most of them handle it. That said, it's awfully nice to come in knowing who you are and not looking to med school for your identity or validation.
     
    threesparrows and akbreezo like this.
  6. Rocketdog

    2+ Year Member

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    Akbreezo, couple quick filler notes you may find appealing: In medicine we actually have 2 GPAs to be aware of: Your UG GPA and science GPA or sGPA.
    This helps weed out the tire kickers who scored well in underwater basket weaving during undergrad.

    Do you have all the required pre-reqs done? While having a degree is often a requirement to med school, I don't know of many who will take you without the required prerequisite science courses. Operman's numbers look spot on. DO schools sometimes are a bit more accepting of non-trads, but being an MD or DO these days is more a matter of stigma (for some)...either way you're a Physician at the end of the day!
     
  7. akbreezo

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    Oh…good to know! What courses qualify under the science umbrella? I'm assuming all biology, chemistry, physics, or zoology, but what about math courses?
    I'm working on prereqs now; I took a nutrition course over the summer and am currently enrolled in A&P.
    I'm certain there are a number of resources out there to help me determine prereqs, GPA, etc, but are there any that you would recommend over others?

    Thanks!
     
  8. Rocketdog

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    Medical Schools themselves will list required courses on their websites under admission requirements. Not all science courses are needed! You need to be taking the pre-professional bio /chemistry courses for science majors.

    Biology with lab, Chemistry / Organic Chemistry with lab, physics, English composition are good starts. Some schools require biochemistry, some don't.
    All depends on the individual school.
     
  9. threesparrows

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    The American Association of Medical Colleges is a good place to start for info:
    https://www.aamc.org/students/aspiring/

    Math courses will figure into your science GPA for medical school.

    Biochemistry is helpful for the MCAT even if not required. Also, if you take the MCAT next year it is a new test that also covers material from Introductory Psychology and Sociology so those are good courses to take or self-teach if you're short on time/$$.

    You should be aware that on this board you're probably mostly going to get responses encouraging you toward a pre-med path, since that's what most of us are doing. Ultimately, you will have to decide what's best for you, and I think talking to some NPs and PAs is a good idea, too, since you seem open to those paths as well.
     

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