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Realistic career path for older non-trad?

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by Generici, Jun 14, 2008.

  1. Generici

    2+ Year Member

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    Hello all, and thanks in advance for any advice here.

    I am considering starting med school around the age of 36. My undergrad is in Biology and I earned a 3.73 gpa. By the time I enter med school, I will have eight years experience as a firefighter/EMT for the US Forest Service. My initial interest in medicine is in emergency medicine, and particularly trauma care/surgery. My concern is the required residency and fellowship commitments after med school. I have read that a trauma surgeon requires 4 years of med school, 5 years of residency, and then 2 additional years of fellowship, summing 11 years before I would be allowed to practice. I would be about 47 at that point. I have no qualms with the commitment, but my concern is getting into the programs. Am I too old to start down this path? Should I consider a different medical career?


    PS-Due to my current job, it's very unlikely that I will be able to check this post again for a few weeks. I apologize if I'm unable to respond to other posts here. Thanks again!
     
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  3. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member
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    There have been nontrads older than you who have gone into surgery. however a lot of nontrads do seem to seek out some of the nonsurgical things both because of the shorter residencies, less crazy hours (surgery is rough if you have a family or non-career related commitments, so it's sometimes better suited to an unattached 23 year old), and because surgery is more of a boy's club where you sometimes do better if you fit the mold.
    There is no reason to decide your ultimate specialty so early however -- most people change their minds at least once during med school.

    I would point out that you will be 47 in a decade regardless of what direction you take, so you might as well take a direction you enjoy. If you get into med school you are going to realize that a few more years here and there is just a few more years in a path of many. So do what you think you want.
     
  4. Captain Fantastic

    Physician 10+ Year Member

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    Well, you will be seeing patients 9 of those 11 years, progressively making more and more of the clinical decisions and taking more and more responsibility for those patients.

    What about medicine draws you in and what does being 43 versus 47 have to do with it?
     
  5. Damn, dude, that's deep. (I mean that with no sarcasm.) It's true - in ten years we'll all be a certain age anyway...why not be happy doing something you enjoy?

    :thumbup:
     
  6. Islamorada

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    Do what you love, just remember that you may not be able to do it as long b/c age related issues can come into play for a surgeon in ways that won't matter for an IM doc.

    Everything comes with sacrifices and concessions, so do what makes you happy. The only certainty in life is that there is a beginning and an end.
     
  7. Flopotomist

    Flopotomist I love the Chicago USPS
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    As a fellow "older" med student, let me just point out something that a lot of these "follow your dreams" SDN youngsters forget. If you finish all of your training at 47, how many working years do you have left to pay off all of your student loans, mortgage, build up a retirement nest egg etc?
     
  8. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member
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    Realistically about 25. But bear in mind that lots of 36+ year olds who have worked for decades before already have money in IRAs and other investments and retirement vehicles, may need to borrow less for fin aid because of savings, probably already paid down their college loan debt, are more likely to have spouses with dual incomes etc. If you did a study, I think you would find that on average the older nontrads are often in a better place financially to undertake this ordeal than the kids who still have 50k of college debt and are taking out another $200k for med school with no spouses, no savings, no prior investments. If that is the case, then "following your dreams" is not unreasonable. If, however, you are at the same or worse starting point as a kid right out of college financially, I would agree that you have to think realistically about what you do if you are unable to work after 70, but live to 90.
     
  9. nontrdgsbuiucmd

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    Given we're similar in age & I'm hoping to enroll in 09, I'd say heck no! You're not too old!

    But one admissions director told me his schools considers the number of "functional" years an MD would have in a field when the school is looking at applicants, takeaway being that you may do better not mentioning that you will be going into trauma surgery or a program requiring an extended number of fellowship years. Maybe instead you can say that you're looking at some type of emergency medicine but realize that you'll gain a lot of new exposure in medical school and are open to different medical paths.
     
  10. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member
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    Probably a wise move.
     
  11. Islamorada

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    You're right in that people who can rely on spouses can have an advantage. And depending on how they spent their money during their earlier career, they may be better off than the traditional 21 year old.

    Think of it like this: if you start at 30, and finish at 40, you can work until you're 65. Even if you finish at say 45, you can work for 20 years. Our bodies are not the same at 45 as they are at 25, and neither are our perspective or outlook on life. But i would rather spend 20 years doing somthing that I know I will love than spend the rest of my life wondering 'what if.' Whenever I have doubts, I remind myself that age is just a number, as clicheic as it sounds. It is just a number, nothing more, nothing less.
     
  12. Generici

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    Thanks for all of the replies. Many of you have touched on the concerns that I have. I share the view that I will be 47 eventually and may as well enjoy what I'm doing then. That's why I'm pursuing this, because I've always been a "follow your dreams" type.
    Apart from that, though, there are practical concerns that this career change raises. Getting in to the programs, paying back loans, saving for retirement, etc. I can manage the financial side, although I won't be as well set as you might think (you'd probably be surprised at how little firefighters are actually paid).
    My real concern here is being accepted into school in the first place, and then into the residency program after. As nontrdgsbuiucmd mentioned, there will be questions of "functional years" I would have as an MD. Age is just a number until you're old, then it's a "factor":). Anyone have experience with entrance boards asking questions about this?

    Thanks!
     
  13. teddybear

    teddybear "Teddy"
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    You're thinking entirely too much. Do what you feel like you need to do, and **** any naysayers.
     
  14. tbo

    tbo MS-4
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    :thumbup:
     
  15. DrMidlife

    DrMidlife has an opinion
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    It's illegal to discriminate on age/race/gender/etc., so you're unlikely to be asked, and thus you are unlikely to know if lines have been drawn. All you really have to go on is whether a school recently had older students, and how many. It's easy to get your student tour guides to pony up this information, among other tactics.

    I made my age an open part of the conversation at interviews, to draw out any concerns. None were raised. Interviewers were more concerned about my transcripts. Which I think is appropriate.
     
  16. nontrdgsbuiucmd

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    On the age factor -- I mentioned this as my concern when speaking with the state med school. The admission guy's response was: why are you coming back to this? We can't legally ask about it.

    But there are ways to see what schools think; some schools post age distributions of the entering class; if a school has no one at all above 33, that tells me something. My lab partner told me, applying as a 50 yrs old, that she heard an explicit reference to her age in an interview. Which is illegal, but as with any interview, would you really point out to the interviewer that they're asking a illegal question?

    I'd tried to hit up AAMC for a grade distribution, all the AAMC stats I could find listed average age only. There are some statistics in the MSAR about applicants/matriculants age, only visual (bell curve types) from what I could see. My impression is that into the late 30's we're "unusual". Hit the late 40's and some MD schools will have reservations, less so for DO schools (per my lab partner who's starting DO school this fall). I'd suggest erring on the side of overproving your case for desire to enter medicine, number of shadowed/clinical volunteer hours, recent gpa/mcat scores as much as possible; i.e. if the 22 year old has 200 hrs volunteer, go for 400 hrs. Some schools really value experienced applicants.
     
  17. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member
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    The money all depends on how many calendars they pose for, and how much loot they can pocket while rescuing pets from burning apartments. :D
     

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