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Undergrad, Sophmore- I know its years away but could psychiatry be right for me?

Discussion in 'Psychiatry' started by surftheiop, Dec 6, 2008.

  1. surftheiop

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    (See bottom for Cliff notes)- This got out of hand fast, didnt realize i had so much to say.


    Im currently a sophmore Chemical Engineer but recently I have been strongly considering pre-med mostly due to an interest in pyschiatry. To be honest I don't know much about the field besides learning about some conditions in my cognitive science class but I thought I might lay out some of the reasons im interested and areas I find fascinating and you all can let me know if these are valid reasons to consider psychiatry.

    1) Im really interested in the "common" psychiatric disorders- ADHD, depression, anxiety. To me it seems like there are tons of people who could otherwise be leading very happy/productive lives who are held back by these disorders but with proper diagnosis and treatment (im most interested in pharmacological treatments (more on that later)). I feel it would be very fulfilling to me to help people overcome these obstacles.
    B) Alot of this interest is the result of seeing good friends and family's experiences.
    i) Freshman year my girlfriend (who Im still dating) went through severe depression/anxiety/insomnia for about six months (i dont know what caused what or what the "official" terms are for this stuff). It was a very draining emotional experience on me (hearing someone you care very much for say they wish they weren't alive isn't an easy thing hear). After that episode I basically forced her to go see a psychiatrist and then she began a 6 month long journey of blood tests, trying like 5 different medicines, etc. She often talked about how she felt "crazy" or "weak for having to take a medicine to deal with my problems" but I eventually convinced her that it was no different than the fact that I have to wear classes to see or take asthma medicine to breath properly- nobody has a perfect body, it just so happens that my lungs were bad and her brain chemistry wasnt great. Now she is stable on medicine and is loving life and making all A's (she wants to go to PA school). She still hates the idea of having to be on medicine and is working with the psychiatrist to try coming off of it gradually over summer.

    ii) When he was in elementry school my brother was always a very bad student and would constantly get in trouble for disrupting class, etc. He was definately on the path of the type who would drop out of highschool once the law stopped forcing them to go.

    He then got diagnosed with ADHD and after a ton of trial and error on medicines hit the right one and now he is making straight A's and enjoying highschool.

    Seeing people go through this experience motivates me to look into psychiatry for a couple reasons.

    1) I would love the oppurtonity/challenge to help people in these sort of situations.
    2) It seemed like these disorders are not chemically well understood or else they wouldn't have had to go through all the trial and error to get a medicine that their symptoms responded to. To an outside observer this seems to demonstrate there is much progress to be made in understanding how people respond to these medicines. So from an academic or research standpoint it seems like there is so much to understand and that my chemical engineering skillset could be put to use in the development of more effective or more predictable pharmacological treatments.
    3) As the brain/mind becomes more understood chemically I feel that psychiatry could be a very exciting field with big breakthroughs in the next 40-50 years.
    4) If my girlfriend's psychiatrist could have just reassured her that she wasn't some freak or weak and was just dealing like an illness/disorder just like any of the 1000s of things humans can have wrong with them then she probaly would have gone through much less emotional pain. I feel like seeing her experience would be a very powerful motivator for me.
     
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  3. Faebinder

    Faebinder Slow Wave Smurf
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    My undergrad was in chemical engineering. It's too early to decide if you want to be a psychiatrist... work on wanting to be a doctor first.
     
  4. surftheiop

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    Thats what I figured, thanks.

    I guess the main reasons im interested in psychiatry apply to all medicine as a whole. (Help people to live as happily/productively as posible).

    Its tough for me to just think about "wanting to be a doctor" b/c medicine is such a broad field so maybe I'll find 3 or 4 specialties to motivate me in undergrad (ie. Im working really hard so i can do that one day). Knowing full well once i got to med school I would likely choose something else.
     
  5. CarleneM

    CarleneM patent pending
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    I knew I wanted to be a psychiatrist or a psychologist since the start of college. Now, I'm applying to psych residency. I'm sure for every one of me there are about 20 people who changed their mind though. I think its wonderful you are excited about the field and would encourage you to get some experience in the field and in medicine in general to figure out if its truly right for you.
     
  6. whopper

    whopper Former jolly good fellow
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    If you're interested in psychiatry now, and that's a great thing, I'd advise taking several of the physiological based psychology classes & some pre-med classes.

    Some classes I took in undergrad that helped me out very much later on...
    Physiologcal Psychology
    Psychopharmacology
    Drugs & Human Behavior
    Abnormal Psychology
    Evolutionary Psychology

    I knew I wanted to go into psychiatry my sophomore year of college.
     
  7. OldPsychDoc

    OldPsychDoc Senior Curmudgeon
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    I wouldn't be so dismissive, even though it is early. I think that given the attractions and motivations mentioned by the OP, seeing psychiatry as exciting and feasible can be something of a light to steer by as they finish undergrad and prepare for med school. One may find oneself drawn to neuroscience and behavioral biology courses, for example, or bend one's training in Chem E toward the more biochemical side. In addition, the more "personal" motivations mentioned are shared by many of us, and help us to be empathetic clinicians.

    Hang around for awhile and let us know what you think, ihop surfer person.
     
  8. surftheiop

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    Thanks for the advice all, seeing as most of the classes I take are engineering related I dont have a ton of oppurtonities for liberal studies but Im trying to make the most of the ones I can take.

    This semester I took cognitive science.

    Next semester Im taking Adult Psychopathology- heres the course description.

    "A theoretical and empirical approach to the biological, psychological, and social (including cultural and historical) aspects of adult psychopathology. Readings range from Freud to topics in psychopharmacology. The major mental illnesses are covered, including schizophrenia as well as mood, anxiety, and personality disorders. Childhood disorders are not covered."

    I never actually took psych 101 but I think I will borrow my friends book and go over it during break so I know more of the vocabulary, seems to be pretty basic memorization/common sense.

    Due to the intensity of the chemE curriculum im going to take BIO during this summer (I dont want to take 20 credits of science w/ a couple labs in one semester). Once i take bio then I would have the pre-reqs to take some classes in the neuroscience program as electives.
     
  9. whopper

    whopper Former jolly good fellow
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    Not that I was ever an engineer, but the mindset of that major doesn't tend to go hand in hand with psychiatry. Math is used in medicine & psychiatry but usually not on the order you'll see in engineering.

    Yes, I do believe all forms of knowledge do touch upon each other at some points, but if you became certain you want to go into psychiatry, for practicality you might want to consider a major such as psychology.

    Engineering, at least from all the places I've seen also is a very though major that tends to put people into lower GPA categories--something that may blow up in your face when you apply to medschool. I've seen some of the most brilliant people get a B or C in Calculus III or IV and they're up against people with higher GPAs who never had to take a class as difficult.

    Try a psyche 101 class & see where it goes from there.
     
  10. surftheiop

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    That could be a real concern to me but I think im going to stick with the ChemE for several reasons.

    1) I still don't know for sure what I want to do with my life and with an undergrad in chem engineering I know whatever I end up doing I have a 9-5 70k a year job to fall back on.

    2) Switching to a liberal arts would mean an extra year of undergrad for me (our school has massive liberal art distribution requirments engineers dont need to take.

    3) Im naturally better at verbal reasoning (SAT Verbal good bit higher than Math, Made an easy A in my writing class, etc.) But I think i will be much more succesful in life with the problem solving skills taught in engineering compared to a liberal art undergrad. (Nothing against liberal arts, just that I already have good verbal reasoning/recall abilities, etc.)

    4) You do have a very good point about GPA. Because my engineering was so much work this semester I put forth almost no effort in my cognitive science class (skipped >2/3 lectures, didnt do readings, etc.) but before the 2 tests I got notes for the class and sat down for like 4 hours and memorized them. I ended up making significantly above the class average on both tests (A to A+ range) and that class will definately be my highest grade of the semester. So yeah I do somewhat wonder if I might be shooting myself in the foot with engineering but I think engineering is the most practical choice for me now given my situation. ( I do go to a highly ranked school so med schools might be slightly understanding, but I do forsee GPA as being an issue for me)
     
  11. surftheiop

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    Left out probaly most important one

    5) I would posibly be interested in going to academic route in medicine (research/drug development/professor/etc.) so I think ChemE would serve me very well especially in research or drug development
     
  12. Doctor Bagel

    Doctor Bagel so cheap and juicy
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    We have lots of people in my med school class with engineering degrees, so yeah, it's definitely a fine major for a premed. My one concern is that lots of times engineering majors have lower gpas, so if you really want to go to medical school, majoring in engineering might make your life a little harder. It sounds like you're not 100% decided, so having a major where you can actually get a good job is nice. If you were 100% committed to the premed thing, a switch might be something to consider (unless of course you're already doing really well).
     
  13. billypilgrim37

    billypilgrim37 Unstuck in Time
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    If you're enjoying your chemE major and doing well in it, then that's what you should be doing. Pre-meds should do whatever rigorous thing interests them.
     
  14. surftheiop

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    Only issue I have with ChemE at my school is that the best GPA i could resonably expect to graduate with is 3.3-4, which is above average for a ChemE at my school, but thats not going to look good on applications.

    The problem I have is the people in my classes who are going to have like 3.7+ GPA are the people who are planning on doing MD/Ph.D at like stanford/harvard/MIT etc.

    Makes it tough on the people who only want to go to a "normal" grad school b/c its all curve based so there are a limited number of people who can make the 3.7 or whatever.
     
  15. whopper

    whopper Former jolly good fellow
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    Agree with the above...

    If you are doing fine in your major & enjoy it, stay in it. Like I said--all fields of knowledge to touch each other at some points.

    However at the schools I went to for undergrad--Engineering was near suicide if you were pre-med.

    At Syracuse U-the freshman honor society were all art majors--because that was the major where as long as you showed up to class you got a B+. Most of the people in the honor society were artists--while they tended to be not the brightest bulbs IQ wise or GPA-wise in high school.

    Same thing happened at Rutgers.

    Think about what you're doing. You can get into medschool with a 3.3-3.4 GPA, but it does make it a bit harder. While medschools really ought to factor in more things than simply your GPA & MCAT score, because of the huge volume of people applying, they have to use filters. Your GPA will be a filter and who cares if you had a decent (but not great) GPA in a tough school & tough major. They often don't.

    A medical school Dean I knew told me a 3.7 from an easy major from a mediocre college will always trump a 3.1 from a tough major Princeton University. Not because its fair but because there's thousands of applications & they don't know where to start other than nixing people below a certain GPA.
     
  16. surftheiop

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    Well im just going to work hard and see what happens GPA wise.

    One thing I probaly have going for me is im pretty good at taking standardized tests (made 5's on like 6 or 7 AP tests) so hopefuly I will have above average MCAT scores to help with GPA. Also I would be applying in-state to both USC and MUSC in South Carolina, both schools that heavily favor in-state students.
     
  17. masterofmonkeys

    masterofmonkeys Angy Old Man
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    This is very true. I was Dean's List pretty much my entire career at what's usually referred to as 'the hardest ivy'. I was asked on med school interviews several times about my 'low' GPA.

    Also, a good MCAT won't always make up for a 'mediocre' GPA. Despite getting a 99th percentile on the MCAT (and being in graduate school when I applied), I got two interviews from 30 applications. One in my home state, and one at ONE of the state schools of my former home state (out of like 9 state schools).

    Get in some research while you can, boost that GPA as much as you're able, and don't be too discouraged if you end up having to wait a year. If medicine is what you want to do, it's worth a year of waiting.
     
  18. surftheiop

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    When you say "wait a year" does that mean you get rejected out of college then re-apply a year later? Why wouldnt they just reject you again?
     
  19. masterofmonkeys

    masterofmonkeys Angy Old Man
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    don't ask me why people stand a better chance of being accepted a year later, but they do. Maybe it shows spunk or tenacity or something. There are lots of things you can do in that year, most of them fluff, some of them not. A lot of people apply to MPH schools 1st semester of their senior year. Others do 'research'. others take more classes. Others do whatever the heck they feel like.
     
  20. billypilgrim37

    billypilgrim37 Unstuck in Time
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    At my home state U affiliated with my undergrad, there was a well-known rule that if you applied three times, they would let you in the third time. There were quite a few instances to prove this rule, and no known exceptions to it. Based on some of the "third year admissions" I saw, I think applying three times, a 20 or better on the MCAT, and the ability to not drool on a patient were sufficient criteria for admission.
     
  21. surftheiop

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    Something I was thinking about today, made me curious about how med school works.

    How do they structure the first time you do something that is painful to patient/ could cause harm/ etc?

    Ie. the first time you put an IV in a vein. Do you do it to yourself, some other med student or you just do it on a patient with someone watching you waiting to save the day if you screw it up and stab out through the other side of the vein?

    I guess i dont really know much about the clinical learning in med school.

    Personally that is one of the things that scares me most about the prospect of becoming a doctor, the chance that I mess up (specifically the first time I try something) and hurt someone.
     
  22. masterofmonkeys

    masterofmonkeys Angy Old Man
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    see one do one teach one.

    That's basically how it goes. Granted, the first time i removed a bullet it was 'ok do it'. First day of surgery clerkship.

    Often times there are patients that are quite happy to let students learn on them. Fewer now than the old days to hear how some tell it, but they're still common enough. especially among older VA patients. The general demeanor of these patients and their immense (and often in my opinion unearned at least on my part) gratitude makes for some of the most rewarding times you'll have in med school.
     
  23. OldPsychDoc

    OldPsychDoc Senior Curmudgeon
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    You will hurt someone sometime. Hopefully it won't be a "never happen" Critical Incident kind of error, but you will make mistakes. You will learn to tell the patient, "You know, I thought you'd do OK on this medication, but I didn't catch your history of _____ and now you're here in the hospital with <insert bad reaction here>, and we're going to try this instead".

    Really the nice thing about medical education is that you almost always have someone more experienced looking over your shoulder as you do things, and the oversight is usually proportional to the level of risk inherent in that thing.
     

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