Tuesday, June 24, 2014

MiM Mail: Pharmacy vs MD

Hello Mothers in Medicine,

I came across your blog while researching whether female physicians could balance a family life as a working mother. Your blog has been very inspiring and I commend all of you.

Regarding my situation, I have just finished my first year of pharmacy school and have job shadowed in both the retail and clinical setting. I found the retail setting to be boring and tedious for the time I was there and figured the hospital setting would be more... upbeat. However, I was disappointed during my time at the hospital.

Now I am faced with the decision do I stick with pharmacy hoping to find some sort of specialty or other path in pharmacy that I will like that accompanies the stability and amount of schooling that pharmacy takes or I was considering a career in medicine.

My parents and friends haven't been very encouraging for the doctor route saying how could I have a life outside of school and then my work. When I bring up the issue in conversation I feel insulted because I have always been driven and decently gifted intellectually (I was Valedictorian) and yet I feel like the only person who believes I could do this, and I definitely have my own doubts, is myself.

I know you posted a blog similar to this, but I suppose the gist of my question is would you choose medicine as the same career path? And what is your recommendation for me between pharmacy and MD?

Thank you for your help!



  1. I think that if you want to do medicine, do it. There are SO many options for you in this career. You will certainly be able to find something that suits you. This sounds like something you might regret if you don't do it... I was 27 when I started med school. I just thought 'I'm going to regret this when I'm 70 if I don't become a doctor'.
    Fast forward ten years and I'm married with a 2 year old, pregnant with our second, working full time training in anaesthetics. It is hard at times to juggle it all, but I love my job and I'm very happy. And there are plenty of other options... Good part time options are emergency, general practice, rehabilitation.... Plus plenty of others. Medicine is not easy but people are fascinating and this is truly rewarding work. I think if you want to, you should do it. The hardest thing about med school is getting in!

  2. What does your dream work day look like? What do you see yourself doing? Does anyone around you have days that you would love to have? Your post doesn't say anything about why you chose Pharmacy School or why you are considering Medical School. I have worked with some amazing Pharmacists (some that pop up are an amazing General Pharmacist who works nights in my children's hospital, an amazing/ well rounded NICU Pharmacist with a busy young family) and some amazing Inpatient Hospitalists and some amazing Outpatient Pediatricians. I knew that I wanted to be one of the amazing Outpatient Pediatricians so that's what I'm going into.

    I would suggest envisioning what your days look like and then going to the school that is necessary. You may find that you don't want to do Pharmacy or Med School.

    Side note: been reading "Lean In" and for you to say you were "valedictorian" and "decently intelligent" is just an unfair assessment of your intelligence and commitment. You go girl!!! Stop stifling your radiance!!!

  3. I agree with Mommabee. But I was a valedictorian with big time doubts about my ability too. Doubts fuel desire and achievement. Use yours to get to where you want to be in life. And that changes . . . I say follow your dreams.

    I dreamed of being an astronaut then a psychologist then a doctor then a psychiatrist then an ophthalmologist then pathology. I ended up here in path - exactly where I was meant to be. Next stop is rock star ha ha.

  4. I second (third) the advice to think more about what you want in a career…there are lots of options in both fields. I know pharmacists that have academic research careers and participate in clinical research, that round with teams and play an active part in their medical care (a pharmacist once saved my butt managing a patient in the ICU when I was dealing with 2 other codes, she monitored labs on a DKA patient and made up the appropriate IV fluids and brought me the chart to sign), another helped us come up with a literature review to support the use of a non-approved drug and eventually helped write the research protocol around that, I sat on an IRB committee that included a pharmacist. And you know the myriad possibilities in medicine. so try to envision what you want, talk to/shadow some people who seem to have what you want (to make sure you really want it) and then make a decision without listening to the naysayers. Of course you CAN do medicine or whatever you desire, the question is more what you want.

  5. I have a love for biology and chemistry and wanted to do something that could help others. Pharmacy always seemed to make sense because it felt like it synthesized those nicely, where being a physician was glorious, but just felt out of reach. I suppose I feel like I'm settling if I go for pharmacy when I would prefer to be a physician, but have a fear of failure. I'm also worried if I would choose pharmacy that I would be stuck in retail which I have no desire to do because it seems like pharmacy schools are popping up like weeds leading to an over saturation of the market.
    Thank you for the advice and support! More women should be encouraging like you instead of bringing other women down. I've read multiple comments on this blog about "Lean In" and I think it's about time I read it.

    1. What about Toxicology at a Poison Control Center? It's a mix of medicine and pharmacology. I am trying to spend some time with our State Poison Control Center. They are invaluable for managing overdoses in the Emergency Department, for families, and for patient care.

  6. I can completely relate to your situation. I made the choice in undergrad to take the 'easy' road (it wasn't all that easy!) and go into pharmacy instead of applying for medical school, even though I had always dreamed of being a doctor. I wanted a career that would allow me to be done school faster and be more family friendly. However, a few years into my pharmacy career I realized that I just felt limited by my scope of practice, and generally felt unfulfilled. While there are some very interesting pharmacist positions, they are the minority. I have worked in both retail and hospital, so know the advantages and disadvantages of both.
    I'm trying not to regret past decisions, but now am waiting on my MCAT results and planning to apply as a mature student to medical school. With two children and nearly a decade of pharmacy experience I think my background will be a huge asset to starting a career in medicine. The other advantage is that I can still work part time during medical school at a rather nice hourly wage!
    Don't ever think that the door is closed to you - it seems to be increasingly common for people to choose medicine as a second career, and the maturity and life experience that you will bring is invaluable.


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