"Very Old" Medical Student Advice

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by ut2010, Apr 12, 2007.

  1. ut2010

    ut2010 Medical Student
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    I am first year medical student and faced alot of obstacles in getting into medical school and during my first year. Some of the obstacles happen to any pre-medical or medical student, some are likely due to being over 40! :laugh:

    I will be happy to answer any questions about challenges faced by someone applying to med school after 40 and dealing with medical school itself.

    Instead of giving a long "boring" autobiography, I think it would be more interesting to answer questions and I will share my experiences as I answer questions.

    But briefly, I applied to medical schools 3 times before being accepted, have a Ph.D. and currently am working two jobs while in school. I have done very well in all of my classes, except one class that I failed because of a personal crises (will remediate in the summer).

    I have alot of life experiences in several areas and hope my experiences can you all! :D
     
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  3. walkingshoes

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    1. How are you working (two jobs, no less) while in medical school? I think that's pretty amazing.

    2. Of course, the obvious question: Why medicine? And at what age do you expect to finish? In what ways have you experienced age discrimination?


     
  4. DrMidlife

    DrMidlife has an opinion
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    Troll. Nice troll with nice intentions, but troll.
     
  5. njbmd

    njbmd Guest
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    Started medical school at age 46. Did not work except for during summer between my first and second year when I was an instructor for my medical school's Pre-Matriculation program. Did very well, no problems with age discrimination and now completing General Surgery residency headed for fellowship at the ripe old age of 54. If you can do the job, age doesn't matter.
     
  6. Flopotomist

    Flopotomist I love the Chicago USPS
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    If you START medical school at 46, graduate at 50 finish gen surg residency at 55, and are starting fellowship - you won't be done until you are 57???
    Assuming you have an average amount of debt (~150k) how do you plan on paying down all of your student loan debt down before you retire?
     
  7. njbmd

    njbmd Guest
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    Fellowship is one year for me. I owe $40K. Will have all of my student loan debt paid off in first year of practice. It can be done.
     
  8. cawiau

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    Scholarships???

    If yes....how?

    Looking for all the ways to minimise medical school loans.:(
     
  9. njbmd

    njbmd Guest
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    I had a full-ride scholarship (merit) that covered books and tuition. Borrowed for living expenses (minimal cost lived with fiance). Scholarship package offered with acceptance letter. I filled out FAFSA and sent to every school that I applied to. Filled out supplemental financial aid forms when I interviewed as earlier is better with financial aid.
     
  10. cawiau

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    Thanks, will remember that.:thumbup:

    How about undergrad? No student loans from than?
    I will have about 40K after I graduate and that is undergrad only.
    My fiancee will have more or less the same:(
     
  11. njbmd

    njbmd Guest
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    Went to state school and had scholarship. Graduate school paid for by department (was teaching assistant).
     
  12. njbmd

    njbmd Guest
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    Went to state school and had scholarship. Graduate school paid for by department (was teaching assistant).

    Remember: When it comes to financial aid/scholarships in medical school, apply for everything that you can find. Bug your financial aid office as soon as you get your acceptance letter (if they don't offer you a scholarship outright). A couple of my classmates ended up with partial scholarships because they were persistant visitors in the FA office. They did loads of homework (looked up scholarship resources) and kept their grades up too.
     
  13. cawiau

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    Thanks:thumbup:
     
  14. hilseb

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    I don't count, but I will be forty by the time I am done with residency. I am 34 and starting med school this year.

    I was thinking by the time I am in my residency, I may have the opposite age discrimination...people may think I am a more experienced practitioner than I am, because I am older. Does that make sense?

    I also think I will shmooze less, as i did during my post-bacc, and it did hurt me by the time I needed to apply and needed rec letters.
     
  15. ut2010

    ut2010 Medical Student
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    Wow

    This thread came alive before I could come back and post!

    Some very good points were raised in the posts.

    I dealt with several of these issues during the admissions process.

    Regarding how I work two jobs: I am a writer so I work when I have time, I have two contracts presently. I love to write, it is a great way to remained grounded and to remember there is life outside of medical school. Both my employers know I am in medical school and know that my academics comes first.

    Regarding stduent debt: I want to work in underserved communities, it was one of the first goals I had once I decided to become a physician. I am applying for the NHSC scholarship and if I don't get it, I will participate in the Loan Repayment program.

    Oh...and another thing, I never plan to retire! :laugh: :laugh:

    njbmd is my hero!!!:thumbup:
     
  16. MOMSA3MD

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    ut2010,

    I am 39, soon to be 40 in two months, I am currently working on completing my undergrad degree. My initial stint in college was aimed at becoming a dr and then life took over. So my BIO and Chem, Cell Bio and Micro courses are old. I want to apply for 2008 admittance and am scheduled to take the MCAT on June 15th. Although, I haven't taken org chem and physics, I am a great self-studier and feel I will do very well on the exam.Yet, my concern is - if I will not complete the Org and physics courses until late summer 07 or fall 07, will that hurt me with the admission committes.

    In addition, I live in Texas and plan on applying to all SE TX medical schools. So, is any one school more non-traditional friendly than another?
     
  17. njbmd

    njbmd Guest
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    If you are a competitive applicant, no medical school is going to reject you because of age alone. As a non-traditional applicant, you need to be as competitive as possible, meet and meet or exceed every deadline. I can't think of any medical school in Texas that does not have any non-traditional medical students. Make your application as strong as possible.
     
  18. remo

    remo Senior Member
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    Hi njbmd - I'm starting med school this fall at 37. I want to do general surgery and maybe a critical care fellowship. I guess I should be done at about 47. How long do you think a general surgeon can practice? Most of the surgeons I have known seem to wind it down in their late-50's or early-60's.

    Also, what can a surgeon do if they are too old or injured and can't operate? I'm wondering what type of practice I could go into if something happens.
     
  19. njbmd

    njbmd Guest
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    A 32-year-old friend of mine a couple of years out of general surgery residency, contracted meningitis and was unable to practice. He is presently teaching. One of my surgery mentors in medical school is still practicing in his late 70s (part-time) and teaching . He began practice at age 29.

    Effects of age are very subjective and the effects of trauma can affect practice at any age. What happens to a surgeon that becomes injured? The same thing that happens to anyone that become injured. One alters practice within the parameters of ability. This is not something that is "special" for surgeons.

    I have never encountered any surgeon that was "forced" to retire. Every surgeon that I know (and I know plenty) plans to practice as long as they enjoy their work and are safe. These criteria are not age-specific. One of my vacular surgery mentors is in his late 60s and maintains a practice that includes both cardiac and vascular surgery. He is by far the wealthiest person in the department and loves what he does. He is an excellent surgeon and teacher.

    I can't think of any specific age when I will "retire" and if I am physically unable to operate (can't imagine that), I would teach (the same thing I did before medical school). I am no more tired or less physically able to perform cases than anyone at my PGY level who is half my age. Many of my younger colleages are already "mentally exhausted" where I am in constant pursuit of things to challenge myself both mentally and physically. This year's Marine Corps Marathon is my goal for October.
     
  20. Nasrudin

    Nasrudin Apropos of Nothing
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    Very inspirational. Your stories help me relax more and concentrate on enjoying my journey to medical school. Keep the wisdom coming. This process seems to want rob us of it if we are not careful.
     
  21. OncoCaP

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    So if I read this thread correctly:
    * There are basically no specific issues for "older" medical students that don't apply to "younger" medical students.
    * It just comes down to the whether the person can do the classwork & training required.

    I'm also an older non-trad who will be starting at my first choice school this summer/fall 2007. I remember thinking that I would be penalized for being older, but it didn't happen ... everything was very fair. I did get questions about why I would make the change now, but that was a question I was expecting, so I was very comfortable talking about my career decisions.
     
  22. ut2010

    ut2010 Medical Student
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    I agree with what has been posted about relative difficulties for older applicants. It is fair if your numbers are very competive. Since I had to apply 3 times, these are the things I have learned:

    If your numbers are lower (MCAT, GPA), then you need to have outstanding ECs as well as demonstrated a passion for medicine. While that is true for younger applicants, it is absolutely essential for much older applicants (over 40).

    To make sure medicine is what I truly wanted. I worked as a nurse aide in a nursing home. I wanted to know what it felt like to help someone on the most intimate level. I knew I wanted to be a physician the first time I took care of someone close to death...it affected more than any other experience I have had.

    While volunteering in a clinical setting is also good, I think actually having a clinical job gave me much more meaningful responsibilities and experiences.

    I personally met alot of skepticism while applying but once I had clinical experience, that skepticism was reduced. :thumbup:
     
  23. walkingshoes

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    Onco-

    1. How did you answer the question of "Why medicine now?"

    2010-

    2. Where did all this skepticism come from? How did you deal with it?
     
  24. Non-TradTulsa

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    Hi, Flop, always nice to see you in the one weekend after test block that I can truly enjoy - this block, which included Spring Break, was hard on an old man. And studying kidney physiology by the pool in Palm Springs while I was on vacation was just wrong. So wrong. But I enjoyed the change of scenery even though I had to do some reading. (And managed to talk about things other than medicine while in the desert.)

    One answer to your question, though, is: assets. I'm not rich by any means, but I'm old enough to have acquired a few nice things in life. I turned 45 a couple weeks after my MS-1 year started. But, I plan to practice general internal medicine, so I will still be 51 when I end residency. I admire njbmd, but I wouldn't have considered surgery at my age. But I'll defend njbmd's right to do it! (And be quite successful, as is already established!)

    I worry about debt, though. I plan to practice until I'm 70 - do the typical internal med thing of just gradually scaling back my hours rather than actually retiring. But you never know when your health might fail. But - what I can do is: 1) cash out house. 2) take house equity and pay off loans. 3) put new mortgage on house which is tax-deductible - medical school loans aren't. Big, big difference once you're making a physician's salary. While I appreciated the Congress trying to lower our interest rates, if they want to encourage more people to go into medicine, just making the loan interest deductible is worth a fortune.

    Hope things are going well in the windy city! This last 4-week block is gonna fly! You staying up there or going back to the Left Coast for your last free summer?
     
  25. narceron

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    Wow,

    I thought I was alone in considering medical school past 30.

    This has been a great read, I hope it continues.

    My only question is how many of your instructors have been younger than you and does that pose any sort of difficulty?
     
  26. OncoCaP

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    I would give a variant of the answer shown below. I changed it up every time and adapted the length and tone of my answer to my interviewer (some liked short, snappy answers; others were more talkative and personable). I'm convinced that there isn't a "right answer" to this kind of question. It's all part of the interviewer getting to know you. It's very much about you just telling them what your reasons are in a way that shows you have qualities that would make you an excellent student and eventually, an excellent physician. Physicians are trained to read people so my answering this question was more a vehicle for them to get a "read" on me as opposed to convincing them that I really had a iron-clad case with powerful reasoning or logic.

    I expanded on those aspects they found interesting and cut off those parts that didn't seem to be communicating anything that they wanted to know. Since this answer is "static" and not adapted to you, the reader, it really doesn't give you a very good picture of how I answer questions:

    This just gives you a very rough idea ... a long answer that might serve as an introduction/overview to get things started. Later answers in the interview would tend to be much more specific to a particular experience or interest:

    I was running a small engineering company when I made the decision. Basically I traveled more & more and was away from my family more & more. I didn't mind working long hours, but my family didn't like it that I wasn't around much. Even if I was only working a mere 40 hours while traveling, I might as well have been working 168 hours/week because they didn't get to see me.

    I decided to look into a career change that didn't involve travel and considered career options outside of engineering as well. I could have gotten a business or engineering job that didn't involve much travel, but many of those jobs were not as challenging as I would like and would have required some significant retooling anyway, as they were different from my experience. Teaching in my field was another option, but somehow I never had much satisfaction from publishing papers; I wanted to make more direct & tangible contributions.

    One trend I found as a business owner is that health insurance costs kept going up every year and coverage was going down. This was curious when many other costs were going down or changing with inflation. Through researching the field, I found that we have an aging population and the number of physicians were unlikely to keep up -- a potential problem in the future. I considered many ways I could help with that issue, everything from becoming a government lobbyist to going into teaching. After much soul searching, I came to the conclusion that medicine, perhaps academic medicine with a significant hands-on clinical role, was the best fit for me.

    There were many other factors that guided me toward medicine. My wife is in the healthcare field and she was also an inspiration in this respect. I would never have made this career change without her encouragement and strong support. I volunteered at a hospital and hospice and those experiences helped validate the idea that medicine would be a great field for me.

    I did well in my career and have always had a love for science. Medicine also seemed to be a good fit for my interests with respect to science and problem solving, didn't involve travel, and enabled me to give something back to society. I was also looking for an area in which I could make life better for people. In engineering, I was able to reduce costs and help develop products to improve life. In medicine, I could see a new opportunity for me to accomplish the same thing, but in a different way.

    When I was younger I though medicine was "too slow" because you basically diagnose and treat patients one at a time. In engineering, you have the opportunity to make a product that will help millions of people at one time. However, now that I'm older I realize that it's not just the number of people's lives you improve. For one thing, in engineering the work is often far removed from the life you are making a difference in because you sit in a lab or office and only see your coworkers and clients. Thus, there are many ways of making a contribution, and even just helping one person seems worth a lot of effort to me now.

    There are many personal reasons why I considered going into medicine. I am a parent and have had numerous exposures to the medical profession, usually in something related to my kids or another family member. I would say those experiences where I was able to administer first aid and actually do something to contribute to the health of another person were particularly rewarding for me.

    Finally, I'm also doing a post-doc now that is helping me explore my medical research interests. I have spoken to numerous physicians, and I don't have an idyllic notion of the medical field. Many said they could not see themselves going into this field at my stage of life. However, I'm a bit of a workaholic, enjoy a challenging job, and deal well with stress. I look forward to serving in the medical field and will look for opportunities to combine my new clinical knowledge with my research, engineering, and business experience.
     
  27. ut2010

    ut2010 Medical Student
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    I think the skepticism came from the fact I already had several degrees, they thought I wanted another "degree" on the wall. In reality, based on my experiences in biomedical research and taking care of very ill parents, getting an MD was a logical progression for me.

    My job was to explain to Adcoms why it was a logical progression.

    A point of clairty, I think adcoms absolutely love applicants over 30 because of the life experience they have.

    Several people have told me, I am over 30 and did not have a problem with admissions (if they have competitive numbers). And that is what I expected.

    One reason I started this thread is to give advice and encouragement to people who are over 40 and applying...believe me it is a totallly different ballgame at that point.

    I will give more advice later this week, I think it is totally cool that other students are sharing advice as well!

    Anyone else over 40 out there or am I alone? :scared: :D
     
  28. Non-TradTulsa

    Non-TradTulsa Senior Member - Resident
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    Nope, you're not the only. But I do agree, barriers to over-30 folks have largely come down, but it's still a difficult thing to do after 40.
     
  29. eggtart

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    njbmd

    i would like to ask you something

    can i pm you?
     
  30. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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    I am "only" 32, but I can answer this question. There are several faculty and instructors at my school who are around my age or younger, including my advisor. My age hasn't been a problem at all. As long as you remember that in this context they are the teachers and you are the student, I can't imagine why there would ever be any kind of issue. Even my youngest instructors know way more about medicine than I do, so they can certainly teach me. I do think though that many of the instructors of all ages tend to treat me more as a colleague, particularly if they know that I am a PhD and a former instructor. For example, I am on a first name basis with several of them. Interestingly, the ones around my age are often the ones who insist on being called Dr. So-and-So. ;)
     

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