Today on the OldPreMeds Podcast, our question comes from a 30-year-old nontraditional student with a professional background in pharmaceuticals who’s now looking at changing her career and committing to medical oncology. Her question is about figuring out if medicine is right for her at 30 and what steps to take next.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
OldPreMeds Question of the Week:
As usual on the OldPreMeds Podcast, our question is taken from the Nontrad Premed Forum:
“I am so happy to have found this community. I’m 30 years old with a professional background in pharmaceuticals, formerly a QC Chemist, and currently an oncology R&D project manager. I have an academic background in microbiology, a B.S. with a GPA 3.3/4.0, and a business MBA 3.8/4.0.
Fairly recently, difficult life experiences have helped align my priorities and have increased my desire to help people who are suffering. Because of my interest in solving complex problems, my desire to aid people in life and death situations, and my passion to contribute to a relatively nascent scientific field, I believe that I can best serve patients as a medical oncologist.My goal is to decide whether or not to commit to the medical school route by the end of February.Click To Tweet
Although I really enjoy my current job, I feel a strong urge to contribute to the enrichment of patients’ well-being on a more intimate level. My goal is to decide whether or not to commit to the medical school route by the end of February. To aid in this decision, I have spoken to a NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) resident and an Oncology Fellow, and I’m setting up time to shadow physicians.
I am also trying to better understand what would be required for me to be a strong medical school candidate. I would apply in 2018. Does anyone have suggestions they’d like to share? I believe I’d need to take some classes to boost my undergraduate GPA, attain a very strong MCAT score, and start volunteering in a clinic. I want to be sure that if I applied to medical school in 2018 I would be seriously considered and could start my training as soon as possible.”
Be Careful Who You Take Advice From
First, just a quick note about one thing our poster mentioned. As you go about this process of trying to figure out if medicine is right for you at 30 years old, be careful of who you’re asking. I would be wary of talking to residents, fellows, and medical students about their experiences. This is because you’re talking to them at some of the most difficult and stressful times in their life.
A fellow is probably a little bit less stressed out, but the resident is going to be super stressed out, so they may not have the best advice for you. Medical students are also going through a tough time in their life. Hence, I’m here to give you advice as someone who is on the other side of their medical training and not in the thick of it.
[03:10] The Key to Deciding If Medicine Is Right for You at 30, 40, 50, and Beyond
Our poster has a great background for wanting to enter medicine. She has been exposed to one side of medicine but has found a passion to work more closely with patients. The best thing to do now is to start shadowing physicians so you can get one-off experiences and see their points of view. The best way to tell you if you’re going to like the life of a physician is to experience it yourself though shadowing.
This is the key to deciding if medicine is right for you, whether you’re 30 years old, 40 years old, 50 years old, or any age: You need to observe what it’s like to interact with patients. You need to get that clinical experience, being around patients and interacting with them. Making sure that you like being around sick people is very important. And shadowing will help you know if being a physician is the right specific role for you.Making sure that you like being around sick people is very important.Click To Tweet
[Related episode: Can I Get in Enough Shadowing and Clinical Experience?]
[05:15] MCAT and Coursework
You’re going to need a good MCAT score. Your GPA is okay. Having a microbiology degree, 3.3 is not a great GPA, so retaking some of your courses could help boost your GPA assuming you do well in those classes.
As far as how you take classes, do what is easiest for you. Taking the classes at a community college is fine, especially when you’re working full time. Taking night classes offered at your local four-year university is fine, too. Either way, those classes will help prepare you for the MCAT, which is going to be the biggest hurdle for you.
The MCAT is a beast, so take it seriously. Listen to The MCAT Podcast for solid advice on how to prepare for the MCAT. The early episodes have a lot of general information on how to approach the exam, and a lot more of the later episodes focus on breaking down practice problems.
[06:00] Final Thoughts on Making the Switch to Medicine After 30
You’re not too old for medicine if it’s what you want to do. Just be sure to shadow and get clinical experience. Make sure this is right for you.You're not too old for medicine if it's what you want to do.Click To Tweet
Maybe it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get in since it sounds like you enjoy your current job. But if you truly want to go down this path and you really decide to be a physician, then even if you don’t get in your first year, figure out why and reapply.
Links and Other Resources
- Check out my Premed Playbook series of books (available on Amazon), with installments on the personal statement, the medical school interview, and the MCAT.
- Related episode: 5 Reasons to Go to Medical School, and 5 Not To.
- Related episode: How Do I Know If Medicine Is Right for Me?
- Need MCAT Prep? Save on tutoring, classes, and full-length practice tests by using promo code “MSHQ” at Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)!