Friday, October 4, 2019

MiM Mail: Considering medicine as a new mother in her 30's

Hi there! I've just discovered this blog, and have been binge-reading posts for the past three days!

I am a 35 year old brand new mother to a baby girl, living in Toronto, Canada. I have a successful career in Management Consulting (commerce undergrad, MBA), and while I enjoy many aspects of the work I am not personally or emotionally fulfilled by it. I began my undergrad in science, and for a variety of reasons (including a lack of confidence and discipline at the time) I decided being a doctor was not for me and I transferred programs. I've questioned this decision, off and on, for the past ~10 years. At the risk of sounding cheesy, with the arrival of my daughter I feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility to provide an example of pursuing a life and career that is meaningful and fulfilling. And so, I am considering applying to medical school at the ripe old age of 35 (I'd need to start from scratch with post-bacc and MCAT, and so I'd likely be at least 37 beginning medical school).

I'm hoping some of you might provide some insights / POV on the following:

Has anyone here pursued a similarly non-traditional career change? If so could you share your application preparation and process? As much detail as possible would be extremely helpful, including MCAT prep and approach for gathering the necessary volunteer and shadow hours.

Has anyone here pursued this path at a similar stage (mid-late 30s + kid(s))? I could be mid-forties by the time I complete training. Am I totally insane? Are the extraordinary costs (foregone income, tuition, time) to my family too great? How awkward/uncomfortable/lonely (or not) is it to be so much older than your classmates and colleagues?

Can anyone provide more detail on the hours and schedule during medical school and residency? I know it's intense and unpredictable, but exactly *how* intense and unpredictable? I come from a career with long hours and lots of travel, so I'm trying to understand specifically how my work/life balance would change during school, residency, and practicing. My interest is in either OB/GYN or FM (at this point).

Thank you in advance to anyone that is able to help me think through this very difficult decision. This is a wonderful community and resource.



  1. Hi! I can relate to your decision - I took the MCAT at age 36 when I was seven months pregnant with my fourth child. I waited a couple of years before I applied, deferred a year once I had been accepted in order to get state residency (and MUCH cheaper tuition), and then started medical school at 40 when all my kids were in full-time school. I am now an MS3, will graduate in a year and a half, and I am incredibly thankful I chose this path. I love it! I plan to practice full scope family medicine until I'm 70 if I am graced with that many years on this planet. A few things that may help you in your decision:

    1. I was aided by a very strong natural and social science background. I worked at my job (science teacher and professor) as studying for the MCAT. That was pretty much all I needed.
    2. My main clinical experience going into medical school was life, which counts for a lot. To gain more clinical experience or formal hours, I would recommend becoming a trained phlebotomist, scribe, or CNA.
    3. I have been aided by an incredible support system - my husband, kids (two in HS, two in elementary), my sister's family three blocks away, my medical school administration, and our local public schools - amazing. I couldn't do it without them.
    4. Hours for medical school vary by your school. Mine are quite flexible and I found the first two years full, but not bad. I still go to most of my kids' school activities and do things with my family on the weekends. Compared to working full time, I get much more vacation! Third year clerkships alternate between intense (65 hours/week) and then much less so. I make the most of the less intense times. Residents I have observed typically work 10 hours/day with a few longer/shorter days thrown in, about 6 days/week.
    5. Because of my science background and time constraints, I do not study as much as most of my classmates. I do prioritize learning that will make me a better clinician.
    6. If I had a skill set like yours and good vocational background as you do, making the complete transition to the field of medicine may not have been worth it for me. There is so much need for compassionate, savvy business people in medicine - some MDs get an MBA, which you already have. Currently the business side of medicine is driving health care into the ground. You might be able to apply your skill set in a fulfilling way without going to medical school. I was at an awkward position with my teaching career where I was going to need to go back to school regardless, so the cost/benefit of medical school was worth it for me.
    7. My classmates are amazing people and have completely embraced me as a non-traditional student. I love them.
    8. Medical school is still a lot of theory. You have to wait awhile to get to practical skills. To make the medical school journey worth it as a non-traditional student, you have to enjoy the process and not just be looking to get through it. If that is your mentality, go for it!

  2. Hi! I am currently an M2, turning 40 this year. I am a single mom of three year old twins, who used to be a management consultant in a previous life. It’s possible, doable and enjoyable :). It is time consuming, though, and you need to constantly remind yourself why you are doing this. I am not yet in my clinical years, but so far I have only gotten positive feedback from everyone I encountered during my medschool career. People are in awe at the dedication it takes to change career. Nobody has ever told me I was foolish...they might think it, though ;) feel free to message me if you want more side note, I went through a divorce before starting and I do not have any financial worries when it comes to kids or paying for daily living expenses, so that defenitelt helps...not sure I would have done it if I had to take loans.

  3. From the MiM Facebook page in response to the post:

    "I started medical school at 35, with a six month old baby and went on to have another child during medical school and one during fellowship. It was incredibly hard, but worst during my first year of clinical rotations (when I was pregnant) and soul-killing in residency. My ex-husband stayed home with the kids, which helped with childcare, but made the finances nearly impossible. I also worked teaching MCAT prep during medical school.

    Looking back now in my fifties, I am really glad that I did go to medical school, but I might have chosen a different path if I had known how incredibly high the demands and hours would be and would stay, even into my career."

  4. I think you need to work backward and think a lot about what you want your day to look like. You say that you are not "personally or emotionally fulfilled" by your current job and honestly those are some of the top complaints of physicians these days. What do you want your days to look like? Do you see yourself working for a large practice seeing a lot of patients and doing a ton of admin work (typing, billing) or do you see yourself working for yourself in a small practice (direct primary care)? Do you see yourself delivering low risk babies at a birthing center (think midwifery) or do you see yourself counseling and supporting those women (think doula) or do you see yourself working in a hospital going from vaginal to c-sections (think Obstetrics). I say all of this to mean, that you need to have an end goal that is sustainable. An end-goal where everyone is miserable and burned out doesn't make sense. With your background, you may be very well poised to run your own successful, innovative practice, but to make it through this very long and arduous path, you have to know what you're working toward. Signed a Pediatrician whose first "dream job in medicine" was toxic and dreadful but is now a happy (yet side-hustling - meaning I run my practice and have a few side-gigs) self-employed Pediatrician.

  5. I'm not in the same position but had a slightly nontraditional path and will finish training/fellowship in my mid 30s. Currently I'm in my 4th year of residency and have a 4yo daughter and one due any day now I was just talking to my husband about how if our kids were older, I probably would not do this/medical school again. My daughter notices me missing now more than ever if I'm on call or work late. I want to be somewhat involved in her school as she transitions to Kindergarten etc and that would NOT have been possible during residency, not at all. At least as I switch to a fellowship that is more research and outpatient based, I will be able to do this a little bit more and to have many more weekends. You asked about what the schedule looks like- residency I found to be much, much busier than med school. I'm in a specialty that has light-to-middle of the road hours during residency. For the first couple years of residency I easily worked 70-80 hrs a week. I left the house ~6/6:15am (before daughter up) and left work around 7 or 8pm, trying frantically to get home just to kiss her goodnight, unless of course I was on call (often q4 24h call) in which case I did not come home at all. That has gotten a little better the last year especially, but.... personally, I wouldn't start the process over now. I would miss too much of my kids' lives and I think they would really notice the absence. If going back to school now, I would either go the straight research route, or if I really wanted to practice clinical medicine I'd choose a midlevel goal with nearly as much autonomy as a physician like PA or nurse anesthetist/CRNA. Just wanted to add my perspective!


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