A Farewell Letter to Being Premed

OPM 29

Session 29

Today’s episode is a lot different from the previous sessions where Ryan and Rich pull out a question from the OldPreMeds.org forum. In this session, Ryan reads out a post sent by someone over at the same forum as he bids goodbye to being a premed.

Hopefully, this session will help you gain insights into your journey towards becoming a physician and pay attention to your thought process as to whether this is something that you really like and if so, whether you’re willing to put all the work in.

Some points from the poster’s letter:

  • Realizing this is not a path he/she will complete
  • Struggling for the past six years to study for the MCAT but unfruitful
  • Having very poor study habits and knowledge of the MCAT sciences is very lacking
  • Only made it through college because professors were generous at allowing them cheat sheets during exams and having open book during the final exams

“You have to ask yourself if you want it. Then you have to ask yourself if you want it bad enough to actually put the work into it and do it.”

Poster’s realizations:

  • Not willing to put the effort into overcoming the barriers of entry to medical school.
  • He/she values time to self and family more than the prospect of becoming a doctor
  • Enjoys being a musician more than studying for the MCAT which he/she finds stressful and depressing

“My admission here is not that I do not think I’m capable. It is that I do not think I am willing. Too much false hope from too many people and not enough listening to those who warned me along the way. Not enough paying attention to how the really hard classes indicated that I would not make it.”

Here are the insights from Ryan:

This is a very common thought process for people as they make the decision of whether or not to continue this path or jump ship and find something else to do.

  • Take some time and do some self-inspection.
  • Figure out if this is really what you want to do.
  • You have to be willing to put in the time and effort to do well in your classes.
  • Take a deep look inside yourself and ask yourself if this is worth it.

Transcript

Introduction

Dr. Ryan Gray: Old Premeds Podcast is part of the Med Ed Media network at www.MedEdMedia.org.
This is the Old Premeds Podcast, session number 29.

You’re a nontraditional student entering the medical field on your terms. You may have had some hiccups along the way, or you’re changing careers, now ready to go back, change course, and serve others as a physician. This podcast is here to help answer your questions and help educate you on your journey to becoming a physician.

Welcome back to the Old Premeds Podcast if this is not your first time joining us, and if this is your first time thank you for taking some time out of your day to join us here and learn what it takes as a nontraditional student to get into medical school. Usually I am joined by a co-host, Rich Levy, but he is not with me today. Now Rich was the former director of the National Society for Nontraditional Premedical and Medical Students, I am now the director of the National Society for Nontraditional Premedical and Medical Students. I am Dr. Ryan Gray, again if this is your first time joining us I’ll introduce myself real quick. I’m Dr. Ryan Gray, I was an Air Force physician for five years, started the Medical School Headquarters back in 2012, and I have The Premed Years Podcast as well. That’s been out for three and a half years as I’m recording this. So there’s a lot of awesome information out there to help guide you on your path to becoming a physician, and this episode will be another one.

This one is an interesting one. We take questions directly from the www.OldPremeds.org forum, which if you don’t have an account, go over there, register for an account, say hello, if you have any questions go ahead and ask them on that forum. We’ll take questions from there, answer them on here. Now this post that I pulled is actually an older one and it caught my eye for some reason, and it’s not really a question but a goodbye. And I wanted to read it because it was very profound, and it gave a lot of insight into this student’s thinking, and process, and ultimately why they left being a premed. So I’m going to read it and then I’ll give you some thoughts afterwards.

A Farewell to Medical School

‘This is a farewell to my pursuit of being a doctor. Good bye, MD. Goodbye, DO. I have come to the realization that this is not a path I will complete, so I am cutting my losses and giving it up.

I have been absolutely struggling, for the past 6 months, to study for the MCAT. I’ve already taken a crack at it once this past summer, but I realized my studying was unfruitful and thus gave it up for a few weeks. Now that I’ve been at it again I realize I am going through the exact same cycle. I put the physics book away and tried to start on organic chemistry, and couldn’t make it through the first section of the book without realizing that I would basically need to re-learn all of o-chem in order to complete the course of study in my study guide. I really struggled with this in college…and to be quite honest I only made it through with decent grades because the professor was incredibly generous and there was a lot of fluff in the final grade. Lots of curving, lots of extra credit, lots of cheat sheets allowed during exams, and the final was open book. Physics was the same way. Bio and chem, I did okay…still lots of fluff and generous profs. I acknowledged, for the first time tonight, that I stand a very poor chance of getting into medical school because I have very poor study habits and my knowledge of the MCAT sciences is very lacking.

Somehow I thought I would be able to “kick it into gear” when it came time for MCAT study, but that continues to not happen.

The thing is, I gave some advice to a buddy who is slogging through pre-med right now (I graduated last year). At the end of a very lengthy exchange, during which he flat out told me of how his struggling through calc makes him question his academic abilities with respect to med school, I told him this: you have to ask yourself if you want it…then you have to ask yourself if you want it bad enough to actually put the work into it and do it. I am afraid I had to face that question myself tonight, finally. It has been floating somewhere in the back of my mind for a while now, but I have refused to acknowledge it. Well, now it is time. The honest, barenaked truth is this: I like the idea of being a doctor, but I am not willing to put forth the effort into overcoming the barriers of entry to medical school. I got through my bachelor’s, yet despite my efforts there I am simply wasting my time with studying for the MCAT.

Biology was my strong suit – I aced classes that brought other pre-meds to their knees – but I even have a hard time studying for the bio section of the MCAT. I know even less than I thought I did. I guess, if I were to be honest, and despite that I claimed to acknowledge how hard this would be, I must have thought it would be much easier than it is.

My admission here is not that I do not think I am capable, it is that I do not think I am willing. Too much false hope from too many people, and not enough listening to those who warned me along the way. Not enough paying attention to how the really hard classes indicated that I would not make it. I could take the MCAT on my target date, but I have accepted the fact that I may get a 25 at best. That would put me in a percentile wherein the vast majority of students are rejected. There is nothing terribly special about my application which would help me to overcome a poor MCAT score, either. No research, no ECs during college, and no community involvement now that I have the time to do it. Being older is not going to get me in. I value time to myself and with my family more than I value the prospect of becoming a doctor. I am a somewhat decent solo guitarist/singer, and I put waaaayyyy more time into my paid gigs than I do studying for the MCAT. I enjoy a lot more as well. That is a red flag, and I now realize that I need to pay attention to that. Studying for the MCAT is stressful and depressing; doing the things I love, are not. I cannot change these facts.

The worst part about all of this, is that I work in a primary care office with many doctors, and a most of them know my plans for med school (up to now, anyways). It is going to be utterly humiliating to admit my defeat to every one of them. I know for a fact I will be looked down upon by some of those doctors, whom I work for/with. For lack of better terminology, this sucks. It also sucks that I will have to work vis-a-vis with those in the very occupation which I essentially failed at achieving. To be reminded throughout the day that I failed at overcoming that barrier of entry by a wide margin.

Being an epidemiologist appeals to me (I think). My next step is to sell my MCAT study books and start looking into studying for the GRE so I can get into some other graduate program. The local university has an MPH/MPA program that sounds interesting and is dirt cheap relative to medical school. I could work for the CDC as an epidemiologist…maybe even be one of those poor blokes who is helping to curb the Ebola outbreaks by sourcing the spread of the disease, out in the field. That sounds like fun. I refuse the PA route because I do not want to work for the very person I could not be. Sure, there are fairly independent PAs out there, and the barrier to entry is much lower, but I have no interest in being a practitioner who cannot prescribe certain courses of treatment without the direct supervision of a doctor. Shallow? Perhaps, but it is how I have always felt about being a PA. I have played that role as a military medic once before…if I wanted it, I would have stayed in and advanced up the ranks. I have no interest in becoming an NP (I have a lot of respect for the NP with whom I also work) because I have no desire to be an RN. Not my cup of tea.

So…farewell, MD/DO. With a teary eye and somewhat self-loathing spirit, I bid you farewell. I hope the seat I was fighting for goes to someone who will serve it well.’

Final Thoughts

Alright so that is the insight of somebody who posted on the www.OldPremeds.org forum, it was actually October of 2014 so this was a little while ago, and this is a very, very, very common thought process for people as they make this decision of whether or not to continue down this path that they’re going down, or jump ship and find something else to do. And I thought because it was so true to what many people go through, I wanted to read it, and I hope it was powerful for you. If you are having these thoughts, re-listen to this, take some time and do some self-inspection, and figure out if this is really what you want to do. What he said here, ‘It’s not that I do not think I am capable, it is that I do not think I am willing.’ That is very, very profound, and the fact that he knows that, or she knows that is great. You have to be willing to put in the time and effort to do well in your classes, and it looks like unfortunately the professors in this person’s undergraduate classes didn’t do them justice by making the classes easy, giving them open book tests, allowing cheat sheets; that doesn’t do the student any good. So what you need to do is take a deep look inside yourself, and ask yourself if you think it is worth it, and only you can answer that question.

I hope you join us next week here at the Old Premeds Podcast.

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