Nontrad trans URM, not enrolled in pre-med yet, interested in plastics

This forum made possible through the generous support of SDN members, donors, and sponsors. Thank you.

hypospray

Full Member
Joined
Jan 2, 2024
Messages
12
Reaction score
7
Here’s my academic story—
  • 2003 — Graduated straight A student in HS
  • 2007 — Struggled with undiagnosed ADHD and never finding the appropriate subject fit; low GPA at small liberal arts school (2.4 I believe) in a non-STEM field. Toward the end I was involved in a horrible abusive relationship that dragged me down, barely graduating.
  • 2012 — Diagnosed with ADHD while working and attending CC classes to explore the idea of graduate school
  • 2013-2019 — Not trying to doxx myself here, but did Creative Industry work during this time
  • 2020-present — COVID times, soul searching, career switch ready

I’m gearing up to move back to my home state this spring to be closer to my aging/healthy parents and return to an outdoors lifestyle. My partner will join me in +2 years once she wraps up her loose ends. All in all, this is great timing to punch through premed.

Considering I don’t have any premed classses under my belt (unsure of whether I even have a calculable sGPA) and it’s been +10 years since I’ve been enrolled at least 1/2 time for anything, what do you think is best?
  • DIY postbacc via CC and *ace everything*
  • DIY postbacc via university (necessary? see below)
  • A formal postbacc

My goal—

It’s a moonshot, but my primary interests lie in transgender surgery disciplines, particularly GRS. I am a URM and trans myself. For me this amounts to alignment of passion, representation, knowledge through direct experience, and utilization of my abilities required for plastics (very high attention to detail, excellent motor skills, precision, thoroughness, aesthetics).

Apologies for any grammar issues or clumsiness, fighting off the flu and COVID and feeling a bit loopy. The winter surge caught me despite vaccination! 😷

Members don't see this ad.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
You need to be realistic about this. You were a student with a 2.4 GPA, so you have a mountain to climb to even become someone that a medical school will consider. You haven't taken any pre-requisite courses, nor have you taken the MCAT. On top of this you are talking about going into one of the most competitive fields in the country with one of the longest training time.

You are the only person that can decide if you want to try this, but my personal opinion is that you are setting yourself up for failure. It's not because I doubt you personally. It's because I know the system. Will you be happy 2 years if you fail to get into medical school? What about if you can only get into a low ranked school that will make plastics impossible? What will happen if you can only match family medicine? What will happen if you do match surgery but can't get into plastics fellowship? Can your body take residency at that age? I can tell you doing surgery residency is brutal and even people in their 20s have a hard time

If you want to help the transgender community, your best bet would be to become a PA and work in plastics. You may not do the surgeries yourself and act only as first assist, but you will actively be part of their overall care

Good luck out there
 
  • Like
Reactions: 3 users
I appreciate your candidness. Yes, plastics are my primary interest. My other interests include ID, IM, and endo.

The issue here is how do I position myself to directly serve the community if not plastics? Of course that isn’t my only reason, and that isn’t the only answer. I very much like the unique skill set required for it, but I can also acknowledge that there is an absolute dearth of trans-competent care in other disciplines that would benefit from having an insider.

What drives me most is providing a high level of practice/care and education as someone who’s been through it.
 
Members don't see this ad :)
I appreciate your candidness. Yes, plastics are my primary interest. My other interests include ID, IM, and endo.

The issue here is how do I position myself to directly serve the community if not plastics? Of course that isn’t my only reason, and that isn’t the only answer. I very much like the unique skill set required for it, but I can also acknowledge that there is an absolute dearth of trans-competent care in other disciplines that would benefit from having an insider.

What drives me most is providing a high level of practice/care and education as someone who’s been through it.
It's not hard if you go into ID or Endo to work any niche you want, but you will likely need to live in a west coast or NY city. Both subspecialties are easy to match
 
Have you connected with the MSPA (Medical Student Pride Alliance) or GLMA (Gay/Lesbian Medical Association)? Are there gender-supportive clinics where you are located where you can volunteer?

Also, let me know of any feedback on our free Treating Trans Patients course (info link at the end of this article).
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
The issue here is how do I position myself to directly serve the community if not plastics?
There are all sorts of ways to focus on trans care and not be a plastic surgeon. Psych immediately comes to mind, but you could have a practice heavy in trans/LGBT care working in peds, FM, endo, ID, urology, etc.
 
  • Love
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users
Regarding your original question, I’d recommend a DIY postbacc at your state university. Take all of the required prereqs and a maybe a few upper level science courses. Since you have a 2.4, you need to do really well (3.8+) in these to show you are academically capable.

From your post, it’s unclear if you’ve shadowed any physicians. If not, that should be your next step. Docs working in your areas of interest would be particularly helpful. Arranging clinical and non-clinical volunteering is also necessary.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users
Have you connected with the MSPA (Medical Student Pride Alliance) or GLMA (Gay/Lesbian Medical Association)? Are there gender-supportive clinics where you are located where you can volunteer?

Also, let me know of any feedback on our free Treating Trans Patients course (info link at the end of this article).
Thanks so much! Yes, I’ve heard of them but haven’t yet done a deep dive. Time to do so!

As for gender clinics, yes, I’m in a big city. There’s at least one primary care clinic that’s LGBTQ+ centered, and then there are the surgeons. That said, all of these practices are absolutely slammed. I’m unsure of how open and responsive they are, but that won’t stop me from courteously inquiring.

I’ll report back on my findings.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
Plastics is likely a pipe dream because to have a realistic “guaranteed” (even though nothing in med school is truly guaranteed) you likely need to attend a top 10 school and that’s unlikely given the gpa
 
Echoing some of the others here - you’ve got a long road and plastics is highly unlikely, at least in any way that’s feasible. At best, you’d have to match general surgery, likely a 7 year track, and then do a traditional plastics fellowship on top of that, so about 14 years from when you matriculate. You’d be looking at your mid to late 50s before starting practice.

If you have your heart set on surgery, then PA school and finding a job with a surgeon is probably the best bet. Yes you would be a lifelong resident, always working under supervision, but at your age and circumstances, that’s what you’ll be if you go MD to plastics anyhow since you’d be pushing 60 before finishing training. At least this way you would get paid a lot more and work much better hours. Definitely worth strong consideration as you embark on this road.

If you do go MD, make sure you’re ok not being a plastic surgeon. Realistically, you’d have a better shot in something like IM or FM and simply tailor your practice toward caring for trans patients. You don’t really need a full endocrine fellowship to do that, just a clinical interest.

For pre reqs, a DIY post bacc at a state U is the best bet. And definitely get out there and shadow so you can get a sense of the day to day and make sure you really want to do this. And for the love of all things holy, when it comes time to apply don’t breathe a word about plastics to anyone. Seeing an applicant in their 40s with sub 3.0 GPA saying they want to be a plastic surgeon is going to be a red flag to Adcoms.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 2 users
The issue here is how do I position myself to directly serve the community if not plastics?
Family medicine comes to mind, as does peds/adolescent medicine. Not every primary care doc is well-equipped to handle the specific needs of trans patients. It is consequently sometimes difficult for trans patients to find even routine medical care.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 2 users
Echoing some of the others here - you’ve got a long road and plastics is highly unlikely, at least in any way that’s feasible. At best, you’d have to match general surgery, likely a 7 year track, and then do a traditional plastics fellowship on top of that, so about 14 years from when you matriculate. You’d be looking at your mid to late 50s before starting practice.

If you have your heart set on surgery, then PA school and finding a job with a surgeon is probably the best bet. Yes you would be a lifelong resident, always working under supervision, but at your age and circumstances, that’s what you’ll be if you go MD to plastics anyhow since you’d be pushing 60 before finishing training. At least this way you would get paid a lot more and work much better hours. Definitely worth strong consideration as you embark on this road.

If you do go MD, make sure you’re ok not being a plastic surgeon. Realistically, you’d have a better shot in something like IM or FM and simply tailor your practice toward caring for trans patients. You don’t really need a full endocrine fellowship to do that, just a clinical interest.

For pre reqs, a DIY post bacc at a state U is the best bet. And definitely get out there and shadow so you can get a sense of the day to day and make sure you really want to do this. And for the love of all things holy, when it comes time to apply don’t breathe a word about plastics to anyone. Seeing an applicant in their 40s with sub 3.0 GPA saying they want to be a plastic surgeon is going to be a red flag to Adcoms.
I came here for straight answers, so it’s all good. Thank you for addressing all points so well.

LOL re: blabbing plastics! Not to worry. I do have a sense of precedence and decorum.
 
I'd say a DIY post bacc at a non-community college.

As others have said, Plastics may be a bit much. In general, my impression is that adcoms more want to hear why you want to be a physician, not that you intend to go into plastics for trans care.

You can get into several fields where you can be directly involved in trans care to a pretty significant amount: Peds, psych, im, fm, derm, etc.

In fact I'd argue that you can have a bigger impact on trans care in a fields like FM or psych opposed to plastics.

Anyway, that's putting the cart before the horse at this point. Next step is to ace post bacc classes and start working on other pre-reqs such as shadowing and volunteering.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users
Members don't see this ad :)
As others have said, the first step is more about "why physician" instead of why "X specialty." Impact on the community will always be more profound in the primary care fields. Aside from the surgery itself and few follow-up appointments, pts who have GRS are unlikely to have a long-term relationship with their surgeon but can easily have a decades-long relationship with their PCP, psychiatrist, etc.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 2 users
Getting to brass tacks, a clarifying question to all—

What path is the strongest choice specifically regarding GPA repair to the end of competitive school admission, with the hope of competitive residency (any specialty!), working within the confines of such circumstances?
  • Matriculating into university as a non-degree-seeking student to fulfill rigorous premed reqs
  • Extension courses made available to the public offered by a university
  • Post baccalaureate program (some of these are entirely powered by Extension courses, while others dispatch their students to the host university’s actual undergrad courses)
How much a difference does it make for any of the options to be offered by a T20 institution given where I’m at?

I appreciate all the commentary on plastic surgery. I am largely focused assessing my prospects of getting into a good school, period. I just felt that if my interests do lie in something that’s understandably going to make people spit their coffee out, I should at least invite the real talk now. Reality checks are healthy. 😳☕️🚨



On a personal note, the truth of my GPA is that it was a downward trend. I maintained okay grades (to me “okay” was As -and- Bs), by white-knuckling undiagnosed ADHD. Once the abuse set in, I could no longer muster caring and stopped trying. I just wanted to get away and get out. This means I was getting Ds and Cs in things like “multimedia in the 1960s” and “art stuff 212”. I changed class names for anonymity, but it’s indicative of the type of coursework representing the bulk of my GPA trending downward. This was ~15 years ago.
 
Last edited:
What path is the strongest choice specifically regarding GPA repair to the end of competitive school admission, with the hope of competitive residency (any specialty!), working within the confines of such circumstances?
  • Matriculating into university as a non-degree-seeking student to fulfill rigorous premed reqs
  • Extension courses made available to the public offered by a university
  • Post baccalaureate program (some of these are entirely powered by Extension courses, while others dispatch their students to the host university’s actual undergrad courses)
How much a difference does it make for any of the options to be offered by a T20 institution given where I’m at?

It doesn't matter. I'd lean towards option number 1, as it tends to be less expensive, but as long as you are completing your premed pre-reqs, in-person, with labs, through a university and you do well in them, that should be fine. A formal post-bacc program can be good if you need additional structure; they're also nice because you can usually get a committee letter. That said, they'll often be more expensive. Ultimately, the most important thing is getting the classes done and doing well in them.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users
Getting to brass tacks, a clarifying question to all—

What path is the strongest choice specifically regarding GPA repair to the end of competitive school admission, with the hope of competitive residency (any specialty!), working within the confines of such circumstances?
  • Matriculating into university as a non-degree-seeking student to fulfill rigorous premed reqs
  • Extension courses made available to the public offered by a university
  • Post baccalaureate program (some of these are entirely powered by Extension courses, while others dispatch their students to the host university’s actual undergrad courses)
How much a difference does it make for any of the options to be offered by a T20 institution given where I’m at?

I appreciate all the commentary on plastic surgery. I am largely focused assessing my prospects of getting into a good school, period. I just felt that if my interests do lie in something that’s understandably going to make people spit their coffee out, I should at least invite the real talk now. Reality checks are healthy. 😳☕️🚨



On a personal note, the truth of my GPA is that it was a downward trend. I maintained okay grades (to me “okay” was As -and- Bs), by white-knuckling undiagnosed ADHD. Once the abuse set in, I could no longer muster caring and stopped trying. I just wanted to get away and get out. This means I was getting Ds and Cs in things like “multimedia in the 1960s” and “art stuff 212”. I changed class names for anonymity, but it’s indicative of the type of coursework representing the bulk of my GPA trending downward. This was ~15 years ago.
I hope this doesn't sound rude, but with a 2.4 GPA and a mountain to climb for reinvention, you need to be focusing on *any* school, not T20's. Ace your post-bacc work and get a ridiculous high score on the MCAT and then perhaps you should worry about prestige of schools, but not until then.

I went to college at the same time as you and had a very bad GPA before dropping out. Of the schools I applied to that gave me interviews, they didn't care about my grades from 2010. However, if my school list was only T20's, i'd be preparing my re-application right now and not getting ready to start medical school.
 
  • Like
  • Love
Reactions: 3 users
I hope this doesn't sound rude, but with a 2.4 GPA and a mountain to climb for reinvention, you need to be focusing on *any* school, not T20's. Ace your post-bacc work and get a ridiculous high score on the MCAT and then perhaps you should worry about prestige of schools, but not until then.

I went to college at the same time as you and had a very bad GPA before dropping out. Of the schools I applied to that gave me interviews, they didn't care about my grades from 2010. However, if my school list was only T20's, i'd be preparing my re-application right now and not getting ready to start medical school.
To be clear, I'm trying to understand if adcoms from *any* school truly cares if I make the effort to attend a T20 school for reinvention (indeed, this is a task unto itself), versus saving money doing it at a lower ranked university elsewhere.

If it does matter, I want to know now! We all know what it's like to bend over backwards and later learn that nobody cared about a particular aspect of your efforts. Either way, it's abundantly clear I need to achieve perfection re: 4.0 GPA, MCAT, ECs, LOR, interviews, etc no matter where I go.
 
Last edited:
To be clear, I'm trying to understand if adcoms from *any* school truly cares if I make the effort to attend a T20 school for reinvention (indeed, this is a task unto itself), versus saving money doing it at a lower ranked university elsewhere.

If it does matter, I want to know now! We all know what it's like to bend over backwards and later learn that nobody cared about a particular aspect of your efforts. Either way, it's abundantly clear I need to achieve perfection re: 4.0 GPA, MCAT, ECs, LOR, interviews, etc no matter where I go.
At my place, nobody will be impressed that a "re-inventor" attended a fancy school.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 2 users
To be clear, I'm trying to understand if adcoms from *any* school truly cares if I make the effort to attend a T20 school for reinvention (indeed, this is a task unto itself), versus saving money doing it at a lower ranked university elsewhere.

If it does matter, I want to know now! We all know what it's like to bend over backwards and later learn that nobody cared about a particular aspect of your efforts. Either way, it's abundantly clear I need to achieve perfection re: 4.0 GPA, MCAT, ECs, LOR, interviews, etc no matter where I go.
It doesn't matter where you do your reinvention; only that you do well.

You also need to understand that beggars can't be choosy, and many MD schools, especially the Really Top Ones, can afford to ignore you. However, there are many MD and all DO schools that reward reinvention. You WILL need DO schools on your eventual school list.

Stop thinking about specialties. Think about learning how to learn and showing that you can handle med school. Then worry about getting into A med school. Then you can start thinking about specialty.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 3 users
It doesn't matter where you do your reinvention; only that you do well.

You also need to understand that beggars can't be choosy, and many MD schools, especially the Really Top Ones, can afford to ignore you. However, there are many MD and all DO schools that reward reinvention. You WILL need DO schools on your eventual school list.

Stop thinking about specialties. Think about learning how to learn and showing that you can handle med school. Then worry about getting into A med school. Then you can start thinking about specialty.
Copy that!
 
At my place, nobody will be impressed that a "re-inventor" attended a fancy school.
Thanks so much for sharing that. The very last thing I want to do is fret over something that Does Not Matter. I have my work cut out for me.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users
To be clear, I'm trying to understand if adcoms from *any* school truly cares if I make the effort to attend a T20 school for reinvention (indeed, this is a task unto itself), versus saving money doing it at a lower ranked university elsewhere.

If it does matter, I want to know now! We all know what it's like to bend over backwards and later learn that nobody cared about a particular aspect of your efforts. Either way, it's abundantly clear I need to achieve perfection re: 4.0 GPA, MCAT, ECs, LOR, interviews, etc no matter where I go.
Ah I apologize, I thought you were asking if T20 medical schools would care if you did the above. I'd just go to the cheapest legitimate college that will accept you for post-bac work and crush it. My re-invention was done at a big public state school that nobody would ever accuse of being an academic powerhouse, but I got plenty of interviews and it was never mentioned.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users
Agreeing with others - pick the cheapest easiest option that gives you real classes and labs such that you fulfill the admission requirements.

Also pick a place where you know you can get all As, so things like cost and support system and distractions and work options all figure in to this. It’s rare that coursework itself stops people with the chops for med school, but the other life stuff certainly does - second only to mental health issues as the biggest stumbling block. Since this has been an issue for you before, it’s probably worth figuring it in to your overall strategy.

You have a lot of work to do, but I will add that I too had a handful of Cs and Ds in equally fluffy classes my last 2 years of undergrad. My overall gpa was still pretty decent, but those blips didn’t seem to hurt much, though I was definitely asked about them. I hosed myself because I signed up for fluff classes since I was starting to travel and perform professionally, but those fluff classes all counted attendance as a huge chunk of the final grade. Oops!

Work hard and smart and I think you’ve got a shot.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 2 users
To be clear, I'm trying to understand if adcoms from *any* school truly cares if I make the effort to attend a T20 [undergraduate] school for reinvention (indeed, this is a task unto itself), versus saving money doing it at a lower ranked university elsewhere.

Many brand schools have postbac tracks (including online), and I'm sure the wouldn't mind the tuition from your enrollment. You could go to Harvard Extension for coursework.

But there are no bonus points for intentionally trying to make your path harder or more expensive. If anything, we would wonder...

Vivica A Fox Money GIF by Face The Truth


Have your exhausted your pool of federal financial aid for undergrad? For graduate or professional courses? What's your credit rating (don't tell us here)? What are your other responsibilities?

As a URM, you need to connect with mentors with the National Medical Association. I already pointed out MSPA and GLMA. Ask if their feedback should be taken into consideration (too). (We may even have a few members who already have you feedback. )
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users
As a fellow re-invention non-trad, I'll add that the advice here is great and offer my own anecdotal experience.

I had a shakey start to UG with a downward trend to eventually dropping out for a while, I eventually finished my biochem degree with a 2.17 gpa. After 4 years of application repair that included a 4.0 post-bac + SMP and a 99%ile MCAT, I was still snuffed at every MD and DO school aside from my home state schools.
Luckily there is a reset upon matriculation and prior performance doesn't carry over, and I have gotten great evals so far through M3 rotations. But super competitive specialities are another mountain to tackle, especially coming from lower prestige and resource instituitions.

My other advice would be to really understand what this career entails. You'll need to be able to articulate why you would like to care for every patient that seeks your care, not just a very specific population, and be okay providing the highest level of care to those you do not agree with or even despise. My experience in organized medicine so far have shown that changing the system is hard, and can be especially morally injurious for those doing it from within.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
My advice is to leave the specialty out of the personal statement and just discuss "why medicine." The only exception is if you are applying to a school where the mission is primary care or something else and that is what you want to pursue and you have demonstrated experiences with that area of medicine.

As far as the prereqs, find a way to get them done at a four year for the least amount of money possible. I think if you volunteer with EMS at a lot of locations, some state schools will heavily discount the tuition or even waive it altogether. You'd be killing two birds with one stone if you can get that done.

At the same time, be realistic with your goals. To get to where you want to go will require high test scores and stellar numbers...not your motor skills necessarily.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
Top