Dr. Windykites- realistic goal or foolish pipe dream?
December 29, 2013 6:03 PM   Subscribe

I want to become a Doctor. With my history and circumstances, is this a realistic goal or just a daydream?

-Canadian, Ontario resident
- Registered Massage Therapist. I hold a college diploma from a private career college with credits that are not transferable to any other institutions.
- I dropped out of high school in grade ten and got my GED. All of my maths were essential, or applied, or whatever the easiest one was.
- School's always been easy for me except math because I get distracted and do the steps wrong, or get bored of the tedium. But if I apply myself, I can do it. Massage school was a joke, I slept through most of it.
- I'm 27 with $20 grand in unpaid loans.
- I want to go into rehab, probably orthopedic rehab. Desperately.

I guess it would take me 12-15 years to complete this. So if I started September 2014 I'd be at least 40 by the time I finished. I'm worried that I'm a bit old to be trying to cope with the workload this education would require.

So, is this something achievable? I mean, is being admitted even achievable, or does it take more than what I can bring to the table? Are adult or non-traditional students ever successful at this?
posted by windykites to Education (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What do you mean by credits that are not transferable to any other institutions? If you have the diploma, you don't need to transfer any credits.

It seems like you could do it in more like 10 years. 2 years to finish your pre-med requirements, 4 for med school and ~4 for residency (I don't know how long ortho rehab residency actually is but I bet it's around there). The pre-med stuff shouldn't be too expensive and it's no commitment. If you study your heart out, you should be able to do all right on the MCAT (with those pre-med classes fresh in your mind) which will hopefully get you into med school somewhere. After that, in residency, you'll actually be making money.

Find out if you can defer the 20k while you're back in school (some student loans let you do that).

As far as being 40 when you're done, you have no choice about turning 40. The choice you get to make now is whether, when you turn 40, you're saying "yay, I'm a doctor" or "wow, if I'd started back then, I'd be a doctor now".
posted by originalname37 at 6:18 PM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

I mean I can't use those credits to gain advanced standing in any other programs.
posted by windykites at 6:24 PM on December 29, 2013

You want to be an MD kind of doctor? If so first consider exactly what day to day role you imagine having in rehab, and then consider whether there are MDs that do that sort of thing.
posted by sanderman at 6:26 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lots of adult and non-traditional students are successful at becoming doctors, and lots start at approximately your age. I know several.

Maybe it's because I'm less familiar with the Canadian system, but I can't tell from your description if you actually have a bachelor's degree. If you do, it's just in an irrelevant subject, that's no big deal. If you don't, that will be a barrier, primarily because I think you should think carefully about taking on a significant amount of school debt.

Regardless, I think you should do two things:

1. Find a volunteer opportunity in a rehab clinic, hospital, or somewhere else where you can gain medical experience ASAP.

2. Sign up for one of the med school pre-recs (chemistry, physics, biology) at the extension school of a local university.

Daydreaming is easy and you could waste several more years wondering if this is the right path for you, but you'll know pretty damn quickly if it's wrong for you once you start it. Other than the cost of one of the class (which should only be only a couple of hundred bucks at a community college) this is a relatively low-risk way to figure that out. If you do both 1 and 2, but continue to work full time, you'll be very very busy, without much time to think about anything else. Of course, that's the point. Does it feel worth it, are you doing well in your class, and are you motivated to keep powering through? If so, that's a really good sign you're on the right path. If not, it's time to reconsider.

All that aside, is there a reason you haven't considered getting a degree in physical therapy?
posted by pretentious illiterate at 6:39 PM on December 29, 2013

No degree. I only have a massage diploma.
posted by windykites at 6:42 PM on December 29, 2013

This has some info/stats of interest to you. I could be wrong but I am pretty sure the path to being an MD is shorter in Quebec. Most MDs practise well past "normal" retirement age so I don't see how you are starting too late. Good luck!
posted by saucysault at 6:50 PM on December 29, 2013

I can't talk to to medical/schooling side of things, I just want to say that 40 may sound really old to you, even at 27. There may be practical reasons why this path might be difficult for you, but please don't dismiss your dreams solely because 40 seems old or too far away. 40 is the new 30, or something like that.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:59 PM on December 29, 2013

I want to go into rehab, probably orthopedic rehab. Desperately.

If you wish to work in rehab, I recommend becoming a licensed physical therapist rather than a medical doctor. It will be a lot quicker, you will incur much less debt, and you will still be able to make a very good living.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:21 PM on December 29, 2013 [13 favorites]

The premed101 forum is a great resource for Canadian premeds, there is even a section for mature students.
posted by Harpocrates at 7:52 PM on December 29, 2013

I've mentioned this before, but there were several people in my medical school class who started medical school at 40+ who nonetheless expect to have long and productive careers. I was an older student myself (started med school at 28 though, so a little ahead of you but not much). I fretted about the age thing too but as my father pointed out, I'd be 40 either way, so I might as well spend the time doing something I actually wanted to be doing rather than getting to 40 and wishing I'd gone to medical school at 28. So if you're focused and motivated, this is totally doable.

Do keep in mind that if you are focused on orthopedic rehab, it will be a long time before you get to focus on the specific stuff that interests you--you'll need to learn a lot of general medicine, pediatrics, pathology, etc. in medical school. Even a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation residency is going to devote a lot of time to general debility, stroke rehab, brain/spinal cord injury rehab, burn rehab, etc. So it will take a long time before you're able to focus on the thing that interests you full-time. I would do some background research and really make sure that you want the MD and not an advanced degree in physical therapy or kinesiology or something of that nature. PM&R physicians focus on diagnosis and developing treatment plans that are primarily implemented by other people, rather than performing the therapies themselves.

I don't know how the Canadian system works in this regard, but there are a growing number of US programs that combine undergraduate and medical education in one 6-year program. You might look into something like that--they seem ideally suited for someone like you.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 8:55 PM on December 29, 2013

Definitely a realistic goal, and I think you should start with some research on the different Canadian medical schools and their entrance requirements. Canadian medical school admissions are very different from US medical school admissions, and probably more competitive. Canadian students often use US schools as a backup. The best place to start is the premed101 forums. You should also google OMSAS, the Ontario Medical School Application Service, they have a pdf booklet detailing the Ontario med school application process.

Some schools do require a bachelors, but some only require 2-3 years of undergrad credits. Some have prerequisite courses and some don't. Some require the MCAT and some don't. In general, admissions are heavily weighted towards grades; unlike the US, the MCAT isn't quite as important. So, at some point you will need to enroll in undergrad, full time (almost all schools require full time). I do not know of any premed post-bac programs in Canada like they have in the US. I'm jealous, I wish we did!

Also, most Canadian med schools give preference to students from their province - except Ontario which generally doesn't give anyone preference. So it can be tougher to get into med school in Ontario than other provinces, I've had many friends move to Alberta/the maritimes to improve their chances.

pretentious illiterate had great advice about starting a distance ed course and volunteering. Athabasca is the most prominent, reputable distance ed university in Canada, but it's expensive. Community college classes might be a good place to start, but in Canada, I don't think community college classes will count towards prerequisites (even if they're transferable to a university for credit), they have to be university courses. They will not look at your community college grades at all. You'll have a completely fresh start!

Good luck!
posted by piper4 at 9:40 PM on December 29, 2013

By all means, go be a doctor. There's nothing unrealistic about this at all.

I agree with The Elusive Architeuthis, though. Make sure that being a doctor matches up with your expectations of what you want to actually do on a day-to-day basis. Do you want to diagnose, write orders, and possibly surgically install hardware, or are you more interested in direct patient care? I only ask because you are already a massage therapist, which obviously a hands-on sort of thing. Maybe you hate that and would rather just do research or diagnose people.
posted by xyzzy at 5:06 AM on December 30, 2013

My SO went through this at 27 too! First thing he did was volunteer at a nearby hospital -- looked good on his applications to med school, plus it helped him get a taste of what ER was all about. His cousin had changed careers in his early 30s and became a doctor too, so it's doable. Do consider whether relocating to a province with cheaper fees/cost of living/less competitive admissions would be worth it.
posted by bluebelle at 5:50 PM on December 30, 2013

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