Pastafarians Unite!
10+ Year Member
Oct 11, 2006
Attending Physician
Is a LOA during medical school always veiwed as psychiatric problems?
I am taking a LOA but my reason is that I have to take my father from a third world country to the US for medical care. I feel like I'm still going to get hit by this and I'm not sure if I want to finish medical school if this is the case. I want to apply to surgery but If my chances are slim then perhaps I should quit. I talked to NJBMD and he said it would look negative no matter what. I am an average/slightly above average student. If I have to rock everything, for a chance, that is not going to happen. Give me honest answers. Also, I am doing this at the end of first year and it will be one year long. Will I be screwed for the USMLE? It's going to be bad enough coming back as it is with my classmates wondering what happened to me, but if I am already screwed then maybe I should just quit while I'm not so deep. Also, should I get something official from the school? I talked to the dean and he was fine with it.
No, an LOA from medical school could be due to many reasons. Medical, psych, personal, pursuing another degree, etc. You'll get a chance to explain it on your application (there is a specific question about whether or not you took an LOA, and if so you get to write a short summary of why). You don't need anything "official" from your Dean as you'll have your MSPE/Dean's letter, and it can be explained also in that.

Will you be screwed for the USMLE? Well, that's up to you. If you go away for 1 year and don't read/study/review anything, then perhaps. If you spend the year reviewing 1st year stuff, and maybe even starting on 2nd year stuff, you might even do better.

From a PD perspective, the major issue is whether a long leave like this is likely to recur. If your father gets the care he needs and you can move on with your studies, then I expect you'd be fine. If he remains chronically ill and you require other leaves, or you try to "push through it" and your grades suffer, that wouldn't be good.

Going to medical school with the plan of "being a surgeon" is fine, but you could get disappointed in the end. It might have nothing to do with the LOA, but might be due to Step 1, grades, LOR's, etc. If you are not successful getting a GS spot, you'll always wonder whether the LOA was a problem (although, again, if it's a resolved issue I expect not many will care). I guess my point is that going to medical school to "only be a surgeon" is a risk by itself, even without an LOA.
Nov 4, 2009
MD/PhD Student
This is the same situation my family faced couple of years ago. We brought my Dad from the West bank, the occupied territories for treatment. My brother who is attending medical school then, had to take a LOA.
He did not hesitate about it, and he never regretted making this decision (as far as I know). If you come from a third world country, we have a very high regards to our parents. However, I agree 100% with Mr. ProgDirector that while with your dad, you should use your time wisely, and study every second so you can be proud of your achievements one day, and Dad and the whole family proud of you. In addition to doing that, my brother got a volunteer time at a local hospital couple of hours every day. My Dad had a congestive heart failure, so my brother and I set him up with all the care he needs and we took turns to be with him and mom till he passed away. When my brother went back to school and explained to them why he took the LOA, they did not hesitate to take him back.
In the meantime, make sure you get good grades between now and the time you leave.
Good luck & may God be with you and your Dad