T Nation

Reality of becoming a Doctor

Hey, I’m in my 2nd year of college and I’m thinking of changing over to a Pre-Med program, Biology, Chemistry, or something of the sort so I can go into medical school once I finish my undergrad. A couple of things that worry me: 1) My grades are average (3.0) and 2)I hear that malpractice lawsuits are making the life of Doctors unbearable. How hard is it to get into medical school with average grades, and are there any doctors on here that can share experiences. Also, I’d be interested to hear from anyone who considered becoming a doctor but decided against it.

I do know it gets extremely competitive - especially if you want the more ‘brand-name’ med schools.

You should try your very hardest to improve your grades and possibly look into extra-curricular activities.

My roommate had around a 3.25 gpa, volunteered in a hospital and spen a summer of work doing some kind of medical research at school. His MCAT score was average and he can’t get into any of the schools he wanted to get in.

If you really want to get into medicine, I suggest you do a couple things:

  1. Find some doctors-to-be that are going through their internship and residency, and REALLY get into their lives (as in – they don’t have one). Make sure you have the mental toughness to get through that.

  2. Find several doctors who have been in the business for 10 years, and REALLY get into their lives. How much free time do they have? Are they totally stressed? Debt load? It may not be the rosy life you think it is.

Malpractice? Sure, lawsuits can make ANY ONE’S life a hell. But the malpractice insurance is HUGE. Most people work about half the year for the government. Doctors end up working another 3 months for the insurance. That leaves 3-4 months for yourself.

BTW, I considered becoming a doc, but decided that my mental outlook wouldn’t allow me to deal with patients appropriately.

I could just see myself in the cardiac ward, sitting on the side of the bed of a patient… “You know why you’re in here, don’t you?”

Since you are only in your second year of college you have a while to raise your GPA. Most “traditional” applicants put in their med school application at the end of their 3rd year (the application process takes a while) so that they can matriculate after they graduate. Nothing says you have to do this though, and if your GPA is better after four years than three it might be better to wait.

Have you taken any of the medical school prerequisites yet? These are 1 year each of general chemistry, organic chemistry, Physics, and Biology. These and a few other classes depending on the school you are applying too are the bare minimum of classes they require and thus you should try to get A’s in them if at all possible.

I would also reccomend that you reconsider automatically becoming a biology or chemistry major. Medical schools will accept someone with any major as long as they have the above pre-requisites. They also get inundated with applications from biology and chemistry majors, so if you were say a English, Philosphy, or Business major you will stand out more. In the medical school application process this is a very important thing.

If your GPA is a little bit on the low side it becomes even more important to ace the MCAT. Take this test very seriously and if possible take a course such as Kaplan or The Princeton Review. The key to doing well on the MCAT is to know the material from the classes (again, the prerequisite classes) and then do TONS of practice questions. There are a lot of these available.

It is also important where you apply to med school. Apply to a variety of schools and be sure to apply to every public school in your State. Don’t get hung up on one school being better than another or silly U.S. News and World Reports rankings.

In the next few years get some sort of hands on medical experience either through a job or volunteer work. Join some clubs and get some leadership experience. These are all things that will help you look more well rounded to the admissions committee.

I’m not really going to touch on the malpractice issue. This is going to vary from State to State anyway and it MIGHT be getting better with the recent Tort Reform movements.

Good luck!

As a just graduated senior I just wanted to pass along some advice that our guidance counselor gave us. She said that she tlaked to several doctors and several recommended becoming dermatoligists since you are a specialist but they are not on call. Something to think about.

As a just graduated senior I just wanted to pass along some advice that our guidance counselor gave us. She said that she tlaked to several doctors and several recommended becoming dermatoligists since you are a specialist but they are not on call. Something to think about.

Or, if you are interested in quasi-medical careers, you could consider dentistry. It’s financially rewarding, there’s very little “call” and the malpractice is probably almost nil. Or, you can specialize like I did. Orthodontics is the “dermatology of dentistry”. Salary is about double what any MD makes (surgeon), on a 4 day (at most) work week, with zero call. Plus, everyone WANTS to see you because you’re going to make them more attractive.
Grades have to be good, no question. 3.6 minimum GPA, but we only took people with about a 3.8 or better last year. It’s very competitive for obvious reasons.
It’s a little known secret that this is the absolute best profession to be in right now. Those teeth aren’t gonna straighten themselves.
pm me if you want more info.
Doc D.

To add a bit to what MD2006 said about getting into to medical school, it is definitely important to maximize the GPA and MCAT. I ran The Princeton Review’s graduate division in San Diego before I decided to go to law school, and I counseled a ton of pre-meds. I also taught MCAT verbal classes then and while in law school.

Unlike with law school, the number of total spots for medical school is strictly controlled by the AMA – they haven’t accredited any new med schools in a long time, despite the graying population and the increase in the number of applicants. Basically, there are 3 applicants per spot in any given year (the last set of numbers I saw were for 1999).

Knowing that, you also know you have to distinguish yourself from the pack. The single best way to do that is to max out the GPA and MCAT. I would go so far as to suggest picking up another major in a subject known for grade inflation, or doing as MD2006 suggested and simply majoring in such an area. The higher your GPA, the better off you are. Take the required science classes, and even keep a science major if you love it – but know that the curves in hard science tend to be much less forgiving than in the humanities and soft sciences.

Another reason to add a humanities major is that acquiring reading/analysis skills will help you on all sections of the MCAT. The MCAT is a reading test – there are only a small number of stand-alone problems. The rest come from passages you have to read and analyze. The numbers indicate that the average humanities major will outscore the average bio major on the MCAT – not just in verbal, and not even just in verbal and physical, but even in bio. Bio majors tend to get in the habit reading to memorize and regurgitate all the information on a page, whereas the MCAT requires analyzing what’s important in the passage, as well as deciphering the questions (a skill in itself, which requires superior language skills).

One last reason to pick up a humanities major or minor. Go back to the idea of too many applicants, and the idea that you need to distinguish yourself. Given that the majority of the test takers are science majors, the average scores in the science sections are higher than those in the verbal section. Even the scales reflect this: In science, to properly show the percentages, the maximum score one can get is a 15; in verbal, because anything over a 13 is the 99th percentile, the maximum score is a 13+.

Put yourself in the position of a med-school admissions officer. With too many applicants, the initial search is for reasons to eliminate applicants. The verbal score tends to be such a weed-out device. On the other end, a high verbal score will distinguish you from the majority of other applicants.

Therefore, I cannot stress enough the value of reading difficult material, even should you not decide to take a humanities major or minor. Reading every day is all fine and good, but it needs to be advanced, academic-level stuff – People and USA Today won’t pass muster. Critque pieces are excellent, such as high-brow book reviews. Political pieces that make arguments are also good. And, I would suggest brushing up on Stephen Jay Gould – for some reason, he is among the favored authors from whom to cull passages.

Anyway, hope that helps. Feel free to PM me if you would like some more info or more specific recommendations.

I can’t really add a whole lot to what’s been said.

Just make sure that it’s REALLY what you want to do with your life, because it’s hardly easy in school, in residency, and in the private world.

If you have any specific questions, feel free to PM me or just ask them here.

SmileCreator -

No offense, but I wore braces as a teen and hated them. Didn’t really look forward to seeing my orthodontist. Wore my retainer religiously (still have dreams sometimes that I have to wear it). After all that, my teeth shifted back slightly. Nothing serious - my teeth are not nearly as bad as they were, but there was still some shifting.

Actually, the 3:1 ratio of applicants to slots doesn’t sound too bad.

One other consideration - consider becoming a physician’s assistant (PA). Their salaries aren’t too bad and you get to work with patients. Job stats seem to suggest that this field is in demand. Down the road if you feel you really want the M.D., you will definitely have an edge.

DocT - Are you no longer a ray of fucking sunshine? Just curious - what’s your specialty?

I ceased to be a ray of fucking sunshine when they disabled the feature of being able to fill in whatever you want for location. As such, I’ll move around the globe constantly for your viewing pleasure.

I’ll always be a ray of fucking sunshine in my heart though.

And my chosen field is Internal Medicine.

Orhtodontics is a great field. I was an Ortho assistant for several years…trust me, your assistants do most of the work for you! :wink:

Chiropractic is another option you might want to look into.

Horrible experience with orthodontics and teeth in general…

Had my braces on for 3 years. Finally got them off and 2 weeks later got my 2 front teeth bent back to almost the room of my mouth playing soccer. It was in a small town that we were playing in and that town only had 1 dentist and he happened to be at the game. Then I call my parents who are at my brothers football game back home and while my dentist was gone on vacation the dentist who was taking his emergency calls happened to be my brother’s football coach. It was pretty amazing, but to make a long story short I had to get a slint, 2 root canals and braces again!

I agree w/ DocT post and would take his advise on the doc part any day. By the way in order to get into a good med school your grades have to be up there. Thus, my younger brother is in the same situation as your in but, I not sure that he even wants to be a doctor anymore. But if he does he needs to pull his grades up in his senior year.

Don’t worry about the malpractice suite either. But if this is what you love to do I say go for it! You’ll regreat it if you don’t do it.

By the way DocT you are my ray of sunshine;)

In health,

Silas C.