Sep 2, 2015
2
0
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Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
Hello everyone, first post here.

Quick stats: 28 yrs old, 3.6 undergrad GPA at a competitive tech/science school, 4.0 grad GPA

I am a PhD student entering my last year of graduate school in a non-health-related, quantitative field. I am doing a lot of thinking about my career, and have decided that academia is not for me. I love learning, but I don't enjoy the open-endedness of academic research. The logical thing for me to do is look for teaching or industry jobs. However, none of them excite me when I think about doing them. On the other hand, the idea of practicing medicine has been worming its way into my mind and I find myself thinking and reading about it more and more. I've started volunteering at a local hospital, and hope to shadow some doctors and PA's too, if I can find the time as I try to graduate. PA is another option I am considering, weighing the pros (fewer years of school, less debt) and cons (glass ceiling?) against those of med school.

I love the idea of helping sick people get better, or at least holding off disease or pain. I get a thrill out of feeling helpful for that, even when I'm handing out water and blankets during my volunteer shift. I envy the doctors and nurses who get to do more than that to help. If there were a way to combine intellectual stimulation and that feeling... that would be becoming a doctor, right?

Lately I have been reading a lot of articles about why not to go to med school. My main concern is that I might not be clear on what I would be getting myself into, and that I'm being blinded by my idea of it, which might be completely different from reality. I'm terrified of jumping in blindly like that, and incurring a quarter million in debt. Once I make a decision like that, it's kind of irreversible, and I'd be paying that off for most of the rest of my life. Other concerns I have are that it might be bad for my marriage, that I wouldn't be able to take care of my dog properly, and that I wouldn't be flexible geographically. I am pretty set on living on the West coast. Finally, I like my hobbies. They keep me sane, and I'm worried I wouldn't have time to ride bikes or climb if I went to med school and became a doctor.

Realistically, I'm going to find an industry job for right after I graduate. If I love it, great, no more school for me. If I'm still dreaming of medicine, I can still take the prerequisites (I've taken lots of basic science but don't have genetics or anatomy or the more medicine-specific ones) and MCAT and all that once I'm working. Right now I'm just trying to gather all the perspectives, so I welcome any thoughts or advice. Thanks in advance!
 
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Moko

Interview game face: on
2+ Year Member
Sep 7, 2015
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Attending Physician
Lately I have been reading a lot of articles about why not to go to med school. My main concern is that I might not be clear on what I would be getting myself into, and that I'm being blinded by my idea of it, which might be completely different from reality. I'm terrified of jumping in blindly like that, and incurring a quarter million in debt. Once I make a decision like that, it's kind of irreversible, and I'd be paying that off for most of the rest of my life. Other concerns I have are that it might be bad for my marriage, that I wouldn't be able to take care of my dog properly, and that I wouldn't be flexible geographically. I am pretty set on living on the West coast. Finally, I like my hobbies. They keep me sane, and I'm worried I wouldn't have time to ride bikes or climb if I went to med school and became a doctor.
Sounds to me like you're already on the right track. Switching over to medicine is definitely not a choice to be taken lightly for the reasons that you've already mentioned (cost of tuition, years of your life in training, strains on relationship, and less time to pursue outside interests); however, many people find ways to make it work (and many others unfortunately do not).

I think your plan is very reasonable and well thought out. If you can find satisfaction in your current career trajectory, consider sticking with it if it gives you more freedom to pursue the things important in your life. At the same time, you can always keep volunteering and shadowing. These can't prepare you 100% for what's to come, but they should help clarify and guide your decision. If you decide that medicine is the best path for you, you will be a competitive applicant based on your stats so far. Best of luck!
 

SLLN

pretty sure about this...
Dec 12, 2014
7
2
Status
Pre-Medical
Quick stats: 28 yrs old, 3.6 undergrad GPA at a competitive tech/science school, 4.0 grad GPA

I am a PhD student entering my last year of graduate school in a non-health-related, quantitative field. I am doing a lot of thinking about my career, and have decided that academia is not for me. I love learning, but I don't enjoy the open-endedness of academic research. The logical thing for me to do is look for teaching or industry jobs. However, none of them excite me when I think about doing them.
I get a thrill out of feeling helpful for that, even when I'm handing out water and blankets during my volunteer shift.
I'm responding because this sounds a lot like a post a wrote earlier this year.

Six months ago, I was handing out blankets and juice in a cancer hospital 4hrs/wk while wrapping up my PhD. It was incredibly humbling. My PhD was funded largely by NIH/NCI grants, but I had spent most of grad school doing math at my desk. Volunteering was more eye-opening and rewarding than anything else I did during my PhD.

Ultimately, heeding the "only if nothing else feels right" advice, I accepted an industry job in a nice location with nice pay, nice benefits, growth potential, etc. I don't regret the decision, but the novelty of a "great job" is already starting to wear off. Hopefully, you'll feel differently (I so deeply wish I enjoyed the industry lifestyle - it looks so awesome on paper).

My only advice is to keep in mind that an industry job will offer far less flexibility and access with things like volunteering and coursework than you have available to you in academia. If I end up pursuing med school, I plan on first moving back to academia because It'll probably make things a lot easier.

Best of luck in whatever you end up pursuing!
 
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trev5150

I had a great job. Cutting edge technology, wave of the future, $150K+ a year, 40 employees, influence, authority... and hated every day of it. I couldn't wait to get away from it to pursue my dream.
 

TheTao

7+ Year Member
May 13, 2011
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My time in Pharma was the single biggest waste of my time in ENTIRE life!! Cut-throat, unethical, bitchfests is what work in Pharma in Maryland was for me.
 
Oct 22, 2014
69
77
Status
Pre-Medical
You should watch this new HBO series, "The Nick" - it's a good show. That's the only reason.

My MD-PhD mentor is a national championship swing dancer - and I think whatever drives him to be an amazing doctor is the same thing that drives him to lindy hop like a madman. So go send those 12a's! (fyi: I'm only pre-meding right now, so I still have time to climb / bike / etc ... but my objectives are getting smaller. It's getting harder and harder to time and plan the big trips. I imagine most of my 'climbing' during med school will be gym only, and during residency, I'll be lucky to find a place to hang my rock rings)
 
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clausewitz2

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Oct 13, 2008
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Depending how efficient you are at studying, you might well be able to climb and bike during the first two years of school, provided there is no mandatory attendance. Abandon the idea of regular exercise at predictable intervals during third year if you want to have time for doing anything else. Fourth year is the most expensive vacation you will ever take, plus all the fun of multiple high-stakes job interviews.

Only you know what your marriage can take. Realistically with most paths you choose in medicine you are looking at least a couple of years of 80 hour work weeks, with weeks at a time of overnights. Say goodbye to two day weekends. You will just not be around nearly as much as your spouse is probably used to. The hours in medicine aren't like the long hours in academia - you can't shift your work around to when it is convenient for you.

Prepare for being back at the bottom of the totem pole. Some people will appreciate the insights you may have based on your background, but most of your superiors will want you to shut up and do as you're told. You are not rewarded for critical thinking in medical training. The preclinical years involve memorization and regurgitation on an epic scale. You will have to gain a superficial understanding of a billion-ty things. There will be no time and no patience for what would feel like adequate exploration of any given topic. You will not be able to reason your way to the correct answer in most cases, since you are mostly tested on arbitrarily true facts.

I am still glad I fled academia for medicine, don't get me wrong, but it is a huge culture shock.
 
OP
S
Sep 2, 2015
2
0
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
I'm responding because this sounds a lot like a post a wrote earlier this year.

Six months ago, I was handing out blankets and juice in a cancer hospital 4hrs/wk while wrapping up my PhD. It was incredibly humbling. My PhD was funded largely by NIH/NCI grants, but I had spent most of grad school doing math at my desk. Volunteering was more eye-opening and rewarding than anything else I did during my PhD.

Ultimately, heeding the "only if nothing else feels right" advice, I accepted an industry job in a nice location with nice pay, nice benefits, growth potential, etc. I don't regret the decision, but the novelty of a "great job" is already starting to wear off. Hopefully, you'll feel differently (I so deeply wish I enjoyed the industry lifestyle - it looks so awesome on paper).

My only advice is to keep in mind that an industry job will offer far less flexibility and access with things like volunteering and coursework than you have available to you in academia. If I end up pursuing med school, I plan on first moving back to academia because It'll probably make things a lot easier.

Best of luck in whatever you end up pursuing!
Hey you're right, you sound just like me! Most of what I do in grad school is math at my desk. And I love volunteering at the hospital (except for a general feeling of uselessness once I finish the few menial tasks I'm allowed to do). I might first look for an industry job that has medical applications, so at least I could feel like what I do is helping people a few steps down the line. But somehow I think patient care would be much more fulfilling/exciting.

The loss of flexibility in industry wasn't something I had thought about with regards to med school prep. I thought maybe I could get some 9-5 job and then take evening classes if I needed to. But it would depend on the job of course. Right now I am pretty sure my advisor would not be happy with me if I started taking med school prerequisites instead of working on my dissertation!
 

SLLN

pretty sure about this...
Dec 12, 2014
7
2
Status
Pre-Medical
Right now I am pretty sure my advisor would not be happy with me if I started taking med school prerequisites instead of working on my dissertation!
Obviously you know your advisors a lot better than anyone else, but you never know! I was surprised by how supportive my advisors were when I told them that I was seriously considering medicine as a career. I think they were more upset by my choice of "industry over academia" than "medicine over math." Go figure. They also didn't realize that I was taking one of my pre-req courses during my last semester until I told them after my defense. They didn't care.

I might first look for an industry job that has medical applications, so at least I could feel like what I do is helping people a few steps down the line.
A lot of companies are hiring now for computation / data analysis in the bioinformatics and health informatics realm, so if coding is at all a part of your repertoire, you're bound to find something interesting. Although, I agree, being 5, 10 steps removed from the clinic seems pretty uninspiring.

Best of luck with finishing everything!
 

futuremdforme

5+ Year Member
May 12, 2013
883
674
Status
Non-Student
Obviously you know your advisors a lot better than anyone else, but you never know! I was surprised by how supportive my advisors were when I told them that I was seriously considering medicine as a career. I think they were more upset by my choice of "industry over academia" than "medicine over math." Go figure. They also didn't realize that I was taking one of my pre-req courses during my last semester until I told them after my defense. They didn't care.



A lot of companies are hiring now for computation / data analysis in the bioinformatics and health informatics realm, so if coding is at all a part of your repertoire, you're bound to find something interesting. Although, I agree, being 5, 10 steps removed from the clinic seems pretty uninspiring.

Best of luck with finishing everything!
I just met a medical researcher who is working on bioinformatics to improve pathology diagnostics -- it's a good field.
 
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