Monday, April 15, 2013

MiM Mail: College freshman fears

Dear MiM:

I am about to finish my freshman year of college and have started to second guess my dreams of becoming a doctor. I know, it's early, but each step I take now is one step closer to my future. It's somewhat silly, and I have so much time, but my fears are haunting me:

1) Prerequisites for med school: I have yet to take chemistry at a college level. I am terrible at math and chemistry and fear that I don't have what it takes to even make it to med school (or in med school)
2) Nausea: I have somewhat of a weak stomach and am concerned about certain rounds. I know it's part of the job, but not EVERY job, right? Fainting or throwing up is probably not received well.
3) I am 100% positive that I am currently dating the man I will marry. Which means that marriage will come right before med school (and grad school for him) and, more than likely, babies to follow. I know that you women do it everyday, but it seems so daunting. Especially since we will more than likely have to move away from our families in order to both be able to attend a school in the same town. But on the flip side, I don't want to wait forever to have children, and even waiting until my early 30's seems too long to wait for my desire for a large family.

Thank you for reading this and attempting to ease a potential MiM's fears. Likewise, if you truly think I should not be in medicine due to any part of this, please be honest.


  1. Deep breath, hon. It's going to be okay.

    You can go to med school without being good at math. Everyone gets over squeamishness. And yes, you can have children while in training, but you don't need to decide on that right now.

    Now please send us an update in three years to let us know if you if you are actually going to med school and if you're still marrying your freshman boyfriend.

  2. Yes, it can be done!

    Regarding 1): Getting into medical school is harder (academically) than medical school itself so I wouldn't stress over the math/chemistry in itself. Most of it is not really that hard and can be completed at least adequately (if not stellarly) with a lot of hard work and motivation (eg go to office hours, ask for extra help).

    Regarding 2): I think almost everyone has said this at one point or another. Take a gross anatomy course or spend some time volunteering in a hospital as an undergraduate and see how it goes. My guess is that you'll acclimate quickly to the gross-out factor.

    Regarding 3): I married my highschool sweetheart/freshman boyfriend when I was barely 21 and we now have what I guess is considered a large family- 5 kids- and I work full-time as a physician. The key for me, though, is that we discussed this a LOT before we got married and started making babies, and it was clear that, for us, a priority was for one of us to be home with our children. At times, this has meant him working full-time and me staying home, or both of us working part-time, but for the most part it has been me working full-time and my husband at home. Of course not everyone has to do it this way, and day care/nannies are a wonderful option for many, but my point is that you should have this discussion early and often with your future husband.

    Having said all that, you're young, it's early, and things change. Don't feel like you're locked into anything already!

    1. Hi! I am currently a junior and am engaged to my high school sweetheart. We both come from big families and want at least 4 children. We want to have a child during my third year of medical school, but lately I am having doubts. I wonder if I will have time for my children, especially when it is time for residency. My fiancé will be working full time while I am in medical school. When did you have your children? I do not want to wait until after residency to have kids. Thanks for your post, it is encouraging to hear that someone was able to achieve what I hope to one day have.

  3. "The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry."

    I think that everyone should keep this in mind, no matter where they are in life. If medical school is your dream, go for it. Focus on doing well in the courses you are taking now and cross the math/chemistry hurdle when you get to it. Also, for all you know, in your pursuit of medical school, you may find a dream that resonates with you even more and change direction completely. As a freshman, you have so much time ahead of you- keep yourself open to whatever might come your way.

    I am not a MIM, but I know several, and yes, it is daunting and a juggling act, but it CAN be done. Honest communication, compromise, and a strong support system (spouse, family, friends) will get you through it.

  4. #1 - I changed my major in undergrad from chemistry to biology mainly to avoid the requirement that chem majors took Calc 3 & 4 rather than only Calc 1 & 2 for bio majors. I hate math & don't consider myself good at it beyond basic calculations. So med school is do-able for us non-math people!

    #2 - Agree with the advice to do some volunteering & observation in a medical setting. It will give you a chance to see how you do after you have somet time to adjust to seeing the "gross" stuff.

    #3 - How you work the marriage/kids part of things is totally up to you & the person you one day decided to have those adventures with. But there as many ways to do this "right" as there are people. It just takes a lot of talking, plenty of honesty & recognizing that however you do it, it's not going to be easy. And that that's OK.

    Lastly, keep in mind that dreams & plans change. Don't be afraid to accept that if it ends up that's where things go. My husband's mentor in undergrad made it through 5 years of a 6-year combined BS/MD program before he realized that medicine was not his calling. He withdrew from the program, started over & is now the curator of an amazing history of science collection at a university library. He was clearly made for this job. But if he hadn't taken a scary leap & gave up his first dream, he would never have found that out.

    Best of luck to you.

  5. I decided to go to med school after I couldn't make a good enough math score on the GRE to get into a Ph.D. program in psychology (despite taking higher math in high school I had NONE in college). Post college pre-med chemistry was a breeze for me compared to higher math, even organic. My most troublesome math issues this year, as a pathologist, were working on my taxes. Don't let your fear of math hinder you.

    I was the girl that fainted in blood draw lab. I also had to carry juice and Life Savers in my backpack on early morning surgery rotations during clinicals. I fainted watching a bone marrow in residency (I was early preggo and didn't know it yet), and frantically searched the morgue for food to keep from passing out on my first day at the crime lab during residency. Yes, you get used to it. Your mind adapts. I was recruited hard by orthopedic surgeons for my competency handling hardware during surgery and by ophthalmologists for my steady hands during pediatric muscle surgery.

    I agree also to keep dialogue open with future husband about the hows of childcare and careers. I careened into all that blindly and made many mistakes. But despite a divorce behind me, I've got two wonderful kids and a great career. We are currently recruiting a resident mom who started her career in research and had her kids before even going to med school. She is a stellar candidate, and oh so balanced in her maturity and wisdom from motherhood.

    All things are possible. Follow your heart. Good luck to you!

    1. I was/am also a fainter! And I do procedures all the time (minor ones). You just have to get used to it, "it" being surgery, childbirth, blood draws, etc.

  6. I was exactly where you are asking the many of the same questions. I was a junior in pre-med and met the man of my dreams. I decided I was going to put my husband and future kids ahead of my dream, so I didn't go to med school. It's a decision I have regretted now for 10 years.

    I would encourage you to learn from my mistake and not let your fears or your idea of what may or may not happen in the future (I never had kids) keep you from pursuing your dream.

  7. I agree with most of the above but have a slightly different spin as well. I wasn't great at chem but muddled through and am a good internist despite it. Also passed out a few times - it "passed" quickly.

    My biggest question for you would be what is your vision of this family life. You want a "big" family - how big? How were you raised and what is important to you as far as child rearing? Is daycare 10-11 hours per day 5 days a week ok? Is having a nanny "raise" your children ok? What does your potential future husband have in mind for a career?

    I had no idea what I was getting into when I started my path toward medicine. I did great with med school and residency. I married my doctor husband at the end of med school. We didn't start trying for children until the end of residency and ended up with fertility issues (I think partially stress induced) and a baby 2 years after starting practice. I work 75% in an academic practice doing Med-Peds primary care so am in the office 3 full days. I daily miss my son, have mommy guilt, and wish I could quit but Medicine isn't something you can walk away from easily. My husband is a hospitalist and works crazy hours. We have a nanny. We were both raised by stay at home moms. Managing my disorganized husband, home, personal life, son, and work is a super hard job that I really struggle with.

    That being said I can't imagine another job and hope with time and support things will get better. Like I said above, if you are someone who thinks that her husband will work a busy job, wants a big family, and wants to be very involved in her children's lives (think stay at home mom, homeschooling, very involved in school activities, etc) then medicine may not be a great idea.

    I personally think we get too hung up on "women can do it all". We CAN but we CANNOT do it all well and something always suffers. With a high powered career family, personal issues, and relationships suffer. If you are like me and put family first then work suffers.

    Hope that helps and I agree with the above to relax, do some more shadowing, get a MiM mentor in your community, and continue to explore all options!!

    1. I agree with this post very much. You can do anything, just not EVERYTHING. Figure out what makes you happy because a career in medicine will require sacrifices. But I have two kids and a great marriage and can't imagine doing anything else. But yeah, my kids spend a lot of time in daycare...

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  9. Ahh, I didn't mean to delete my post earlier. Glad I copied it!

    You can still do it! Questioning is such a part of the process so you are already on your way. :)

    I'm not taking inorganic Chem until second (next) year, Organic Chem third, and MCATs that spring. You can take the MCATs while still in organic chem (and/or physics) because the MCAT Qs don't tend to include what you learn 3rd quarter. You can always do later too.

    You can overcome your fears! There is already a lot of great advice for you. I, myself will focus on billygoat's comment that, "Getting into medical school is harder (academically) than medical school itself so I wouldn't stress over the math/chemistry in itself."

    I will begin medical school as a nontraditional student and I know that in my 30s my degree and career will collide with a family and children. I also worry if my significant other will be called elsewhere than where I get into school. You are definitely not alone! Just take it one step at a time. And maybe in three years you will be posting that you got into a school and your mate is in the locale with you.


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