Things you know now, as an MD

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    Hello everyone

    I am a 27 year old woman from California, who has just turned down an acceptance letter to a pre-medical post-bacc program. After many anxious hours spent contemplating if medicine was my route (I’ve been working in education), I couldn’t get myself to take the leap of faith. It wasn’t so much the academic workload; it was more about the financial and emotional load that I couldn’t fathom handling. Maybe I was a bit of a coward.

    Anyway, I was wondering if any nontraditional MomMD’s would like to share the chronology of your changing views on medicine as a career. To be honest, as an outsider, medicine as a career is so ideal and profound. I wonder if it is a fantasy of mine that developed as I watched my colleagues and friends go through the training. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to put off this feeling of “what if I went with the post-bacc?”

    Please share some stories…

    Thank you all!


    I don’t fit in the non-traditional route, but I encountered this article that I thought was interesting– especially since I’m a primary care doctor. I love the profession on a good day, but it gets harder and harder to do right by your patients with all the governmental & insurance red tape and just having middle management who doesn’t see patients dictate patient care. I’m sure you will get a lot of feedback from women who love the profession and practice of it, but I’m not sure if you can find a full time primary dr who would say the same. Sad since we take care of the bulk of the community’s health concerns. Good luck!


    Ha! I was going to post a link to the same article.

    I’m not a PCP – I’m a specialist. I make good money. I really love what I do some of the time, and sometimes, I can’t wait until my shift is over. I don’t have to deal with insurance red tape, but it is very different than it used to be.

    I only owe 90K on school at this point, and I’ve been in practice (out of residency) for 6 years. And as I mentioned, I make pretty good money (not nearly what some make, but better than a PCP.) I don’t have offspring, and have no idea how women with children do it. (And yes, I know this is MomMD… I’m the odd one out. I still don’t know how they do it!)

    I hope I’ve made the right decision to send that chest-pain patient home today. Or the abdominal pain. Or the vague shortness of breath patient. I could be wrong. I could get sued at any moment, just because I happened to pick up the chart of someone who was going to have a bad outcome no matter what I did. The 5th shift in a row isn’t terribly fun. It’s exhausting and terrifying and please-God-don’t-let-me-miss-something. Even though people make mistakes and doctors are only human, we aren’t allowed to make mistakes. Stressful? You bet.

    There are plenty of docs here who will tell you that you are absolutely making the right choice. There are a lot of wonderful, fulfilling careers out there. Medicine can be one of them. At the same time, it’s a grueling life and it tends to take over everything.

    SW to MDSW to MD

    Not an MD yet, will be next month. I am as nontraditional as it comes- married, with children, and had a whole other career before med school.

    I would do it again in a heartbeat, even after going through the exit counseling today and seeing the true amount I owe. (Yikes- had to take a few DEEP breaths after that)

    That being said, it has been a very draining path- emotionally and financially. I am on the ‘hopefully I will retire without debt’ plan. Recently with having so much extra time at home, I have really been feeling inadequate as a parent, and have had moments of ‘gosh, I wish I could be at home more’. But I also know deep-down that I am a better parent/wife/etc when I work full-time, as the day-to-day get to me.

    I do still have four years of residency in front of me, so perhaps I will have a different answer at that point?


    Yes, SWtoMD. It will be interesting to ask an OBGyn in 10-15 years what you think of it 🙂 But then, u managed very well during the med school with 4 kids so, may be you will be one of those OBGyns who will enjoy their career. Good luck to you.


    Honestly, it’s a long hard and expensive haul. It changes you completely. I too love it some days and hate it others. But the debt is sizable and really the best options for lifestyle don’t pay particularly well (except derm), making it hard to be a mother, wife and good doc. If I had it to do over again, I can’t say I would do it. But I can’t say I wouldn’t. I wanted to be a doctor since I was 5 and wouldn’t have accepted anything less (largely bc my ambition and ego in youth dominated my decisions). Medicine is not what you expect it I be at all. The politics, regulation, constant insurance battles, and overall clerical workload have transformed it completely.

    I currently work as a medical liaison for a drug company in which I teach other docs about diabetes treatments, answer scientific questions and work from home. It’s a sweet gig and can be attained with a pharm degree, which doesn’t require 3-6 years of residency. It doesn’t pay as well as some physician jobs but the lifestyle is much much much better.

    For what it’s worth I guess.

    And if you want kids or to see kids you have, don’t do it. You have to sacrifice a lot just for training and I don’t think it’s worth it.


    You’re only 27. You have time to think about this another year if you want to. It’s a very hard road, no question. Expensive financially, lots of emotional and physical (ie, sleep) sacrifices. Would I do it again? I don’t know, but probably yes. Being a doctor is a meaningful profession in which I have the privilege of serving others. Residency is hard, but it’s also wonderful. The feeling of being brought under another physician’s wing as they teach you the craft, and the feeling of confidence that comes from learning the craft, is wonderful. It’s an experience I would not trade. Residency is hard but I do love it. And I’m a mother too. I still wouldn’t trade it, even though I am a parent. I will say, I am in a humane field where I get time to read, think, and sleep — ie, psychiatry. I do think specialty choice and practice setting make a difference in how people feel about their jobs and there is wide variability.


    I agree with newmommdphd – I am very glad I did this. I have a 3 yr old, and I am pregnant again. About to finish PGY-1. I think specialty choice is really important. My life gets so much easier next year as far as schedule, and the ability to accomodate even a pregnancy. Other specialties would not be this flexible. Just wouldn’t be able to. I could have been happy in many specialties, but I really thought about what would make not just me happy, but my whole family, and my specialty is perfect (Anesthesiology). I really don’t think I would ever redo my choice. Hopefully, I am good at it! Being a mom and a physician is very very very hard. I wish I had more time to read, but holding my 3 yr old and playing with him is time I won’t trade. I do the best I can. I bet a single person without a family does a better job. That said, I’ve been told my fund of knowledge is excellent, and I had an attending all but offer me a PGY-2 in IM next year if I wanted it, and an EM attending tried to get me to switch to EM last week. So I think you can be an excellent physician or in my case PGY-1 and still shirk reading as much as you want and spend time iwth your kid! Residency is very empowering, I agree with newmom. However, it is also exhausting. I just finished four back to back night shift with the last two 7p to 7am in the ED, and that is just exhausting. I hate those shifts. But you have to do it. Those are things you can’t control in residency. You are too tired to do anything for a week at time, becuase you are a poor nocturnal person? Tough %^&*. For all the tough days – I wouldn’t change a thing. I definitely am glad I’m an MD. Do I wish I was a 33 yr old going to Europe, because I was financially sound with my family right now with actual retirement? Yes. But that’s life. Sometimes you can’t get everything you want right away, so you go with the things most important to you. For me, that’s my family and medicine. We’ll trek Nepal and take extended vacations later on.


    Freedom00, FWIW knowing what I know now I wouldn’t start MD training with small kids in tow.

    I’m extremely happy with my work and life right now (academic/research psychiatry 3 years post residency, I attend part time and do research the rest) but I would not start this road with small children. There are just too many years where you are forced to spend so much time away from them, it wouldn’t be worth it to me. I had my first at the end of my 2nd year of residency and that was fine, since the way my program was structured I got most of the hard stuff out of the way before the baby stuff hit. And now I’m in a position where I have total control over my schedule, it’s fantastic.

    But prior to this I spent years and years working 60/70/80 hours per week in grad school, med school, and residency. I never would have done it if I’d had a kid. I would have quit.

    I agree with others who have said that experiences differ vastly among specialties. Psychiatry is very cushy comparatively. Many other specialties continue to demand intense hours and uncontrollable schedules for the duration of the career. (Also I have no med school debt which is a huge factor in allowing me to maintain the controllable schedule I enjoy.)

    I think you’re really smart to think about this now *before* you sink in a lot of years and money that you can’t get back.


    Hi Freedom,

    There’s really no way to know if medicine is right for you until you do it. Look in to what it takes (7+ years, 60-80h/wk, 250K debt not including lost income) and see if you still want to do it. Medicine will probably get more frustrating and less lucrative as the years go on, but it will always be a useful, service-oriented, intellectually stimulating, and in-demand profession.

    Your happiness in medicine depends on so many other factors: are you naturally happy? is your spouse supportive and available? would you have trustworthy, affordable childcare? do your kids have special needs? would you only be happy in certain specialties? do you need/want to work part time? can you function without sleep? do difficult concepts come easily to you? etc.

    Try out the post-bacc program next year if you’re up for it – after a semester, you’ll have a better idea.


    Oh my, this is a question I could go on about for an hour. Things I know now…. well I am a nontrad, started med school at 28, finished at 33 because I had Plump – you can read that journey on my blog PlumpChkn. I struggled in med school, more so when I had my daughter because everything changed – and I mean everything. Would I do it again? I’m not sure – there are other options that would be a lot less stressful that make good money and would have allowed me to have less debt ie PA, NP, or even nurse anesthetist. I just don’t know. But my path brought me to med school, into a residency where I was completely out of place and I had to complete a full other residency after doing 2 years in a specialty I hated. SO, I ended up graduating not only 2 years longer for med school (baby and research year) but 5 years later for residency. So, I didn’t even start making money until I was 39! It was a lot of heartache, there were a lot of doubts, but in the end I definitely know I”m an excellent clinician and belong in medicine somewhere. What I didn’t know that I know VERY well now is that medicine is a male dominated field, no matter what anyone tells you or says – it IS a mans world. And the women in charge, are very much like men. I know, I’ve become one of them (women in charge that is) and I see how its changed me. It makes you a little less tolerant, a little less forgiving and a lot more competitive. And in a way I guess you have to be, afterall, this is a male driven field.

    I didn’t know how much worry I would have for my patients – as a student/resident, etc you kind of have more worry about being judged by peers/attnedings. Its funny though, as an attending, you have the worry of being WRONG.

    I didn’t know that the debt burden would get so big by putting my loans in deferment. What started out as 250 became 300 very quickly through residency – I should have paid them down during residency but as a single mom that wasn’t an option.

    I didn’t know you can find great support from unusual places – nurses were my best friends – they helped me to care for my daughter throughout the endeavor.

    I deifnitely didn’t know how much medicine would veer toward quality driven practice and management by insurance companies – this is very real and consuming in your day to day practice. I’m a hospitalist and even as such I am bombarded by quality measures I need to make sure I and the other physicians meet to get reimbursed.

    All in all, I don’t think any of us “knew” this was “definitely” the right thing to do – the mere depth of commitment makes you really scared from the beginning and onward throughout – but if its your passion, it will all be worth it in the end.

    My plump is very proud her mom is a doctor and I know she would rather see me working and happy rather than have me home all day every day resenting it.

    I wish you all the luck in your journey and hope I may have helped a little bit!


    Good to see you back, plumpchkn!


    Hello everyone,

    Thank you so much for sharing your insight into my story. Thank you for taking the time to write me something; you women are really, really amazing.

    I realize that it’s been six months since I first posted my story about declining the acceptance letter to a pre-medical post-bacc program. I thought I owe it to these wonderful ladies an update on myself.

    To be honest, I think I’ll have this “what if” question mark with me for quite some time. What if I went with the post-bacc? What if I regret this decision later in life? The list can go on and on.

    But these questions have also developed something a lot more profound and permanent within myself. It’s the belief that you don’t always have to do something just because you can, and the belief that regrets are based more on how one feels about oneself and the imagined results more than on real lost opportunities. Also, it nurtured in me the belief that while anything is possible, not everything is possible.

    When I decided not to go with the program, I was first overwhelmed by feelings of great relief. I felt a huge load off my shoulders. Then those thoughts of “what if” came creeping back to me, and I feared that these would be with me for a long time! That wouldn’t be good.

    But instead of dwelling on these “what if”s, I am deciding to channel that energy and brain power to what is present—my work and my studies. Looking back at my life, I’ve always done better when I wasn’t contemplating about choices. I guess things can only be analyzed in retrospect; it’s impossible to analyze how I would feel about becoming a physician or not becoming a physician decades down the road. I think one of you mentioned that there is no way of knowing if being a physician is right for you until you become one. What an advice. Thank you for that. Now I can stop thinking I can figure it all out.

    But again, damn, the profession is one attractive one. I really admire you all for taking down that path. I think I’m beginning to also realize that becoming a physician is less about
    intelligence than I had once thought; it’s more about how much you want it. And the fact that I can imagine myself doing something else just alludes to the conclusion (?) that I don’t want it so much.

    Thank you, moms. I have my ups and downs about the thought still, but I’m not breaking down =)

    I’ll be back when I am, though.



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