Medical When can you take gap years during or after medical school?

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MusicDOc124

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    I had asked a question on a similar topic earlier, but if the mentors reading this are on residency admissions committees I'd like to get a better sense of how my outlook would be. I went to medical school without a gap year and never really considered other career opportunities. However, the more and more I do medical school, the more and more I think I would like a career in biotech banking / PE / VC instead. I have a BME background and some business experience, and I miss math and problem solving that I can't find in medicine.

    My question to that is can I take a gap year in between 3rd & 4th year or right in between medical school and residency to do a job in biotech finance to see if I like it? If I do that, what will happen to my ability to match into residency later if I decide I want to come back to medicine? If I do medicine, I want to subspecialize in an IM field like GI or heme/onc. Will leaving medicine briefly to test a finance or business career put an irreversible end to my medical career? While I really want to try a finance career, throwing away an MD is a big price to pay.

    Thanks
    Any gaps during medical school must be explained, and if not for an illness, another degree, or some sort of extenuating circumstance, it is looked down upon. Most, if not all, residencies have a limitation in how far out from graduation one is for them to be considered. Most places that have a set timeframe are 5 years give or take. Graduating and applying to residency leaves you at a disadvantage and therefore less likely to match. A gap then will also bring about questions just the same as previously listed. If you truly want to try that path without AS MUCH risk, then you should go straight through and do a 1 year internship, be it a transitional year or prelim year. Completing that year will allow you get get your medical license and keeps you on the ball during the year while studying for step 3 and/or level 3 which is what will allow for the license after completing PGY1. The catch here is that if you want to get out of medicine, then you may as well go for IM as you mentioned because it's only 2 years longer than what I just mentioned, and at least here you can become board certified and no longer play "what ifs" and you can change careers completely or have both at the same time, or be able to stick with medicine if you "dont like" what you tried, but at least in this last case, you're completely set. And with IM you'll have the opportunity for fellowships like GI as mentioned. Also, being board certified in anything leaves you more valuable in many cases, especially anything healthcare related than compared to simply licensed, or especially unlicensed (and therefore not board certified).
     

    Mr.Smile12

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      You need to connect with your university tech transfer office and find some physician entrepreneurs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but you need to find out how much value that residency experience will be when it comes to any business ventures you want to be considered for. I'm very certain that career track will always be available to you, so it's a question of how you on-ramp into it and whether it's worth an internship between 2nd and 3rd year, after you graduate, or even later on. I also cannot guarantee that how you describe the consulting world is really what you will wind up doing... but you hopefully have an idea about that.
       

      gutonc

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        If you want to take this "pause" in your medical education/training, you'd be best served doing it sooner than later. M2/M3 would probably be best, followed by M3/4 and then after you finish your initial residency (you say IM but since it's not clear where you are in training, I don't put much credence in you really knowing what you want at this point), prior to starting a fellowship. Finishing med school and deferring the Match is the worst possible option as the longer you're out of school without a residency, the less likely you are to get one.

        Thanks, these answers help a lot. I am an M1 and don't know what I want to specialize in. I'll rule out the delayed match option. Unless I 100% decide to leave medicine, I'll go through match as a 4th year. I understand people often take time in between medical school years to get an MBA, PhD, Masters, etc. but can I take a year or two off to do a biotech or healthcare related business job? Is that viewed in the same light if I explain that I believe that job experience would add more value than an MBA in my quest to becoming a leader in healthcare / biotech? The MD Fellow programs at McKinsey and BCG seem designed for this, or maybe I could network my way into a healthcare VC fund for a 1 year internship type thing. I have connected with my career counseling office and they've said they'll support me for the MD fellow programs. I'd like to know if this type of gap is a safe one. Obviously waiting to finish training is the best option, but I'd rather not go the next 10 years of my life with the thought nagging at me that there's another career that could potentially suit me better. I want to get that experience so I can make a more informed decision and have more peace of mind ASAP without sacrificing everything I've worked towards so far.
         

        MusicDOc124

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          Unless I 100% decide to leave medicine
          I'd rather not go the next 10 years of my life with the thought nagging at me that there's another career that could potentially suit me better.
          If you're already thinking this way as an M1, then leave now and cut your losses while debt is minimal and pursue what it appears you want to pursue. You'll make money instead of spending it on tuition, then you'll make more money compared to doing a residency, plus the 3 years you have already at that point.


          I understand people often take time in between medical school years to get an MBA, PhD, Masters, etc. but can I take a year or two off to do a biotech or healthcare related business job? Is that viewed in the same light if I explain that I believe that job experience would add more value than an MBA in my quest to becoming a leader in healthcare / biotech?
          It's not the same. Experience speaks for a lot, but it won't speak as much for a gap in education while not pursing say an MBA. However, this is more opinion and up to the evaluator.

          I want to get that experience so I can make a more informed decision and have more peace of mind ASAP without sacrificing everything I've worked towards so far.
          Your best bet is to take off ASAP to figure it out before acquiring more debt. Between M1 and M2 in this case as if you decide on the business side, you save that extra year of tuition and stress (and cost) associated with Step 1. And since it's experience, if there is anything to be done from home or whatever, with everything going the way it is, now is also the time to do it.
           
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          gutonc

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            The problem is that I can't just "take a break." Consulting firms & the PE, VC funds hire MDs for expertise. As a person who graduated undergrad with a BME degree a year ago / med school dropout, I won't have the same opportunities to get into top consulting firms or banks that I could have right out of undergrad at my target school or after my MD. Plus I'm not a finance or business major. I'm also not 100% sure I want to quit medicine since I like biotech as an industry, and if I do quit now, there's definitely no way I could go back. I acknowledge the cost of staying the course too although I'll graduate medical school debt free. I realize I made a mistake not taking a gap year to get a job and evaluate then, and I feel paralyzed in my situation. At this point, I just have to make the best out of the unfortunate situation I'm in currently, and I'm not sure how to do this.

            Am I wrong in my evaluation of the opportunities between M1 & M2, would any reputable consulting firm or investment bank want to hire me? PE & VC are out of the question with no work experience and no terminal degree.
            The only time this is going to change is after med school, and, quite honestly, after residency. You're not going to be magically more valuable to a consulting/banking firm after M3 than you are after M1.

            My advice was simply that, if you think you want a job outside of medicine in biotech related finance or the like, you should do something in that arena now. If you find that you like it, you can come back to it after med school and get the job you "really" want. Or maybe you like it so much that you stay on, get them to pay for you to get a good MBA and you never darken the doors of med school again. Or perhaps you find it's a total s***show and you run screaming back to your M2 year with a renewed focus and commitment.

            But finishing med school solely as an onramp to a career in finance/VC/etc is a horrible career move.

            That makes sense. All three of those outcomes are MUCH better than my current situation. If I dislike a business, then I'll be even happier and super motivated to succeed in medicine. If I find that biotech business is my true passion, then I'd also be set that way. How would you suggest I start seeking out those opportunities in the biotech business space? Do I just go through the standard undergrad recruiting process? Many of the biotech focused jobs in this space seem to require an MD or PhD, which is understandable since I can confirm how little value an undergrad BME degree even from a good program has.

            If I do go that route, I think I'll do that after M2 year since I don't want to lose momentum for step and have to relearn all of M1 material later. I don't mind waiting one more year, plus I like my med school friends. And just to clarify, by doing something like this, I would not be closing any residency doors, correct?
             

            Mr.Smile12

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              What are the leave of absence policies at your medical school? You can always explain why you left medical school after one year more easily. Talk to people through networking, again with the technology transfer or innovations office on your campus. In the end, it's your happiness and satisfaction with your career path that matters.
              People often take years off as research years. I can check with the school to inquire about the LOA policies in earlier years. I'll take your advice on talking to the tech transfer office, and talk to the doctors affiliated with that department. Thank you all for your comments.

              I know it's uncommon for people to be in the situation I am in, but in your greater experience, have you come across individuals like me? What have they ended up doing? Which paths ended up leading to greater happiness and success?

              Another thought is this. My med school has an 5yr MD/MBA program I can apply to, but our MBA is only ranked in the #50-100 range. Is that worth it? If I apply to good MBA programs elsewhere to do in between M3 and M4, would the accept me considering I have no work experience? These MBAs would also be double or triple the price. Obviously my undergrad grades are good since I got into med school, and I'd likely get a good gmat score.
               
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