Please Give me Some Hope (A Very Unique Nontraditional Student)

Sep 25, 2014
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My situation is . . . unique. I am currently pursuing a doctoral degree in a field that is very different from medicine. I won't give specifics, but the field is in the humanities. I will refer to my field as X throughout this post. My ultimate goal is to go to medical school and become a pathologist. If I don't want to seek a career in X, why pursue a PhD in the first place? The reason is because a PhD was the only way for me to make a significant contribution to the field of X. There is a dearth of research on my specialization in X, and I believe I can help fill in that gap during my graduate career. I also believe that, despite the seeming differences, X will equip me with the tools to not only succeed in medical school, but to also excel as a physician.
I know what my end goal is, but my problem is realizing such a goal. My PhD will take about 5 years to complete. That puts me in my late 20's when I graduate. I will also need to complete my pre-med requirements when I am done. I plan to pursue a post-bacc program, so with that factored in I will probably be about 30 when I apply to medical school. Thinking of how old I will be frightens me. I fear that I will be rejected from schools because I will have a shorter career than someone who started medical school straight from undergrad. However, I have read so many posts on here from nontraditional students who start in their 30s and do fine. So, that is not a huge problem. Really, it is just figuring out what I can do during my grad work to make sure I am on track for medical school. I want to make it clear that medical has always been my design; that I didn't change my mind the moment I graduated with a PhD in X, saw the job market, and realized I would either need to pursue a new career or find a comfy box and a bridge to live under. So, all that said, the purpose of my post is to solicit encouragement/advice. Does anyone have a similar experience or know someone who came from a similar situation? Please give me some glimmer of hope. I am from a single parent household and was the first in my family to graduate high school, so I really don't personally know anyone in a similar situation mere less someone who went to medical school under normal circumstances. Any advice about what I can do while pursuing my PhD would also help. I am working to incorporate a scientific/bioethical approach to my research. I am volunteering at a hospital. I plan to shadow physicians. I would like to conduct lab research, but I don't have any lab experience, so I am not sure who would be willing to take someone in someone like me who needs to be trained. I plan to get certified as a CNA. Finally, I spend my free time studying the pre-med subjects so that I will be prepared for the post-bacc coursework.
Also, I would really like to find a mentor; someone I can contact for encouragement and advice. The encouragement part is the most vital. I know I am going to reach some really low points while in grad school where medical school will seem like an impossible dream and I will be tempted to give up. To just have one person, someone who has succeeded and can say it is worth it and that I am capable would be so amazing. I don't even know where to start in looking for a mentor. Can anyone recommend an online network or some place for me to start?

Hopefully that was clear. Thank you in advance for any advice you can provide. This is my first time posting to a forum. Putting this information out there is a bit scary, but also feels good in that it is a step (albeit a small one) toward my goal.
 
Aug 27, 2014
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Pre-Medical
You're not that old. Good lord!

Skip the CNA, go full steam on ore-reqs. Do well in those, take the MCAT, and apply

You'll be 30, 35, 40 no matter what you do. At any age, not following your passion makes you feel old.
 

Aelius

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Aug 23, 2013
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It just doesn't make sense why you are pursuing a PhD if your end goal is being a doctor. Age isn't an issue but dedication is.
 
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QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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It just doesn't make sense why you are pursuing a PhD if your end goal is being a doctor. Age isn't an issue but dedication is.
Agree.

OP, your situation is, in fact, anything BUT unique. PhDs-to-MDs (including nontraditional PhDs) are extremely common these days. There were two of us with PhDs in my med school class, and that's probably typical for just about every med school class in the country. Being a med student in your 30s is also a non-issue; I was 31 when I started med school, and again, just about every med school class in the country will have some students over age 30 matriculating.

The more important issue in your case is, if medicine is your passion, and you already realize this now, why on earth would you spend five years getting a humanities PhD first? Seriously, unless you plan to work as an academic in your PhD field, there's no point in going to grad school at all. You're very unlikely to make any earth-shattering contributions to your field while still in grad school. If you truly want to make a contribution to your field, then dedicate yourself to that, and forget about med school. But if your dream is to be a physician, then go work on getting yourself ready for med school, and forget about this grad school boondoggle. Either way, you only get one lifetime, and you have to choose where you want to direct your resources, time and energy. If you do decide to go to medical school, you will not be making a major contribution to the humanities, and vice versa if you decide to go to grad school. So you need to do some soul-searching and think about where you want to be in ten years, then let your other "dream" career go.
 

PlasticBag

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Depending on your ambition for medicine (do you want to practice primarily or also do research, teach residents, be a dept chair, etc), it is possible to work part-time as a physician and do your PhD part-time. I'm not sure how common this is and more elite schools would probably not allow their students to be part-time but I remember reading "God's Hotel" by Victoria Sweet and feeling pretty inspired. While working part-time as a hospitalist (if i remember correctly), she obtained her PhD in medical anthropology.
 

LabMonster

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I was 30 when I started med-school. Age is a number and not a factor. Do your work and live your life. Make your scientific contribution. Do not assume medical education is solely a game of numbers, because it is not. For the 22-23 years old straight out of college, medical school is a game of numbers - but at that age, one hasn't really sampled the buffet - but one is full of salad.

Agree with others, get your classes in at 4.0, destroy the MCAT, apply your brain to a humanistic cause and apply.
 

xffan624

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Every time one of "these very unique" posts pop up I eagerly open to read a really unique life story (grew up in a family of circus performers, escaped war torn country to raise self, etc.). Always disappointed with how dull they are. PhD to MD, yawn.

OP, also if you're going to rely on random internet strangers to validate your worth as a future physician, you're going to have a tough time, especially when there's no one to hold your hand to get through medical school. Strength comes from within, not some internet board. As a non-trad you should know that. Good luck and I would listen to QofQuimica's advice and make up your mind what you actually want to do. Just getting a PhD and then jumping to medical school seems like a waste. I say this as someone who did get an MSPH, but also spent 5 years using my degree in the workforce. That looks a lot better than just getting a random PhD and jumping ship to another section of academia. If you are passionate about X enough to pursue a PhD, why not continue with it? If not, then why are you there in the first place?
 

kthxbai

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Nov 9, 2013
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Agreed with all the above on quitting the PhD and focusing full time on medicine.

On another note, you're right about having a really hard time finding a research position. I hire people just for these kinds of jobs, and I can tell you that I've passed over ANYONE without previous experience - and that's for an entry level too. It's expected that people get at least some lab exposure in college.

Your best bet is to volunteer in a lab. Be a dish washer, bench cleaner, or trash collector. You need to get through the door and worry about experience later.
 

Doctor Bob

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Every time one of "these very unique" posts pop up I eagerly open to read a really unique life story (grew up in a family of circus performers, escaped war torn country to raise self, etc.). Always disappointed with how dull they are. PhD to MD, yawn.
I have a question about my very unique career path.
I am half of a conjoined twin. My brother and I are attached at the head and share control of one arm. His passion is corporate accounting, but I want to go to medical school. The doctors have said that there is a surgery we can undergo to separate us, but each of us will have a 30% chance of dying during the surgery. I'm wondering if medicine is worth it? Can we each do our prereqs before our surgery? Are there any classes we should take that would satisfy both his accounting prereqs and my medicine prereqs? Should I ask the surgeon to give me the shared arm during the surgery so I can have two working arms later in life? Are there fields that I can go into with only one arm? Is there a way to ask the surgeon to do this without letting my brother know?

Something like that would really liven up the forum.
 
OP
L
Sep 25, 2014
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DO/PhD Student
Wow, I am so proud to have laid the foundation for such a beautiful circle jerk over my inappropriate use of the word "unique." I am so stoked to learn that there are a bunch of people out there who have PhDs in the humanities and MDs. Now, if only I could find a few of them. In the meantime, I can troll the forums looking for posts with the word "Unique" in them so that I can reply with dickish/nonproductive comments.
Thank you to those who did provide actual advice. I understand what you are trying to say about dropping out of the program, but that is not an option. I will obtain a PhD and then my MD. That is my goal and I will accomplish it.
 

PlasticBag

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Doctor Bob's post was super funny.

OP, I wish you good luck and think that your path, if not "unique" (since some have done it before) would definitely be quite uncommon. SDN is a place where Olympic athletes would not be considered unique, publishing in "Nature" would be an EC like any other, and with a 3.4 GPA you should "get a sunblock and book your trip to the Caribbean".
 

Doctor Bob

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I will obtain a PhD and then my MD. That is my goal and I will accomplish it.
Then... and I ask this question seriously... why is your status DO/PhD? Shouldn't it be PhD student? Or MD/PhD if that's your hopeful track (although that would also be deceptive as you wouldn't actually be an MD student yet...)
 

HoboCommander

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How can you only have 2 dreams in life? Why not 5? Dentistry is interesting, as well as engineering. Synthetic chemistry is great as well.
 

kthxbai

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Wow, I am so proud to have laid the foundation for such a beautiful circle jerk over my inappropriate use of the word "unique." I am so stoked to learn that there are a bunch of people out there who have PhDs in the humanities and MDs. Now, if only I could find a few of them. In the meantime, I can troll the forums looking for posts with the word "Unique" in them so that I can reply with dickish/nonproductive comments.
Thank you to those who did provide actual advice. I understand what you are trying to say about dropping out of the program, but that is not an option. I will obtain a PhD and then my MD. That is my goal and I will accomplish it.
If nothing else, please answer this question: why should medical schools take you seriously? Out of the thousands of applicants who show a clear and dedicated path to medicine, why should they choose someone who has so obviously put it in second place?

I say it again and again, but medicine doesn't like competition. It's not that you hadn't yet realized that you want to be a doctor. You realize it full well and still stubbornly decide to pursue a degree that will be of no help to you. As an adcom I should wonder about your motivation.
 

heartsink

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OP gets thoughtful and helpful advice not just from pre-med undergrads, but from med students and doctors, and in his first reply to the thread he soundly declines their advice.

With a child-like declaration of "I'm going to get a PhD and an MD, that's my goal and I'm going to do it", this sounds like a troll in a base case scenario or in the worst case scenario he's for real, and he doesn't fully appreciate the magnitude of either of these tasks and there is nothing in this thread he is going to listen to except "Yes you will accomplish your goal, have fun"
 

QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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OP gets thoughtful and helpful advice not just from pre-med undergrads, but from med students and doctors, and in his first reply to the thread he soundly declines their advice.

With a child-like declaration of "I'm going to get a PhD and an MD, that's my goal and I'm going to do it", this sounds like a troll in a base case scenario or in the worst case scenario he's for real, and he doesn't fully appreciate the magnitude of either of these tasks and there is nothing in this thread he is going to listen to except "Yes you will accomplish your goal, have fun"
Shrug. People will listen, or they won't. There's no point in getting angry about it. Focus on the people who you can help (including lurkers who may be reading this thread), and let the others go. As I tell my patients who want to sign out AMA, this is not a prison, and you are an adult who is capable of making your own decisions, even if they are bad ones. (This is assuming, of course, that the patient is not a prisoner handcuffed to the bed, which does happen on occasion. In which case, I amend the former statement to, yes, you do still have the right to make stupid decisions, including refusing care. The nurse will be back with your AMA papers, and then you will be on your way back to prison.) At least in this case the OP is unlikely to die from not listening to our advice (unlike the guy with the active heart attack who I discharged AMA a couple of weeks ago. :rolleyes:)

How can you only have 2 dreams in life? ....Synthetic chemistry is great as well.
Well, OBVIOUSLY. :p
 
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