× Thinking of a Becoming a Doctor

36, have PhD, 2 kids, thinking about med school

9 years 3 days ago #77183 by klp
Hi all,

Well, I could use some advice. I am 36 years old and have a PhD from a highly regarded research institution. I am an assistant professor at a liberal arts college, and I am happily married with 2 children (ages 3 and 6). While I like my job, I don't have much time for research, so most of what I do is teach...I can't really imagine doing this job for the next 30+ years, and I can't imagine my low salary for that long either. During the academic year, I work a lot. I do have much more flexibility over the summer, but the academic year is quite busy. I have many friends who are MDs, so I know a good bit about their hours. I could more than handle those hours when I'm done, but it is the training that I'm worried about.

Prior to obtaining my PhD, I was interested in medical school as well. I opted for the PhD route partly because, at that time, I could not imagine "training" for 7 or 8 years before working. Ahhhh, how naive. So, now I am thinking about applying to the medical school in my town. Ironically, they recently recruited me for a faculty position. I can't decide if I'm crazy to think about taking on this debt and losing out on time with my family, or if it would be a wasted opportunity to not give it a try. I think I would only have to take the Organic Chem sequence (and MCAT) to be able to apply (which I can actually take for free at the institution where I teach.)

So - any advice would be helpful. How high is the debt from Med School? If you are a reasonably efficient individual, would you still be able to spend time with your family during the training period? What is the best and worst part about Med school and residency?

Thanks so much.

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9 years 3 days ago #77184 by Emily2651
Oh, man, the grass is always greener, isn't it? My best friend is a professor of mathematics (large research institution) and I am just green with envy over her career.

Honestly, I think the piece of the equation that will matter most for you is your husband. What does he do for a living? Does his income cover your expenses? How willing will he be to shoulder a greater share of the family burden over the short-to-medium term?

Re: debt, this will vary greatly from person to person and from school to school. Your best bet is to look into tuition at the school you're considering and run some numbers for yourself. My husband was able to meet our household expenses while I was in school, so my debt is low; I graduated with < $50K in debt, at a weighted interest rate somewhat less than 5%; my payments are around $200/m and I feel a tremendous amount of professional freedom due to this blessing.

As far as spending time with family is concerned, you can probably expect to spend a reasonable amount of time with your crew during years 1, 2, and 4. Third year is the most demanding and you will be at the hospital most of your children's waking hours. Internship is a complete disaster, in my opinion, but it doesn't last forever. After that, it will depend largely on the specialty you choose.

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea. -- Isak Dinesen

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9 years 3 days ago #77185 by klp
Hahahaha..the green grass. Yes, it does look pretty green over there. But let me tell you that my salary is going to tap out at about 60K at this institution (I make 48K right now), and that just seems silly to me.

My husband is currently finishing an MFA in creative writing, and he runs a wilderness tripping camp for teenagers. Once he finishes the MFA (i.e. this summer), he his hoping to find an academic job (like the one I have right now!) Job options in our relatively small town are fairly limited, but he could cover our expenses during med school, just not med school itself. He would be willing to shoulder the family burden while I'm in school - he is an excellent father (especially with school age kids.) So, as long as I wait until the wee one is in school (2 years), my husband would be supportive.

Good to hear that years 1,2 and 4 would include family time. And good to hear your debt burden is relatively low. I will take your advice and look into cost at the local med school - I didn't realize price varied so much.

Interestingly, I just spoke with my father and he suggested I scrap med school and take the faculty position over there. He has never once told me what to do, so that gives me pause.

Anyway, thanks much for the advice. I really appreciate it.

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9 years 3 days ago #77188 by Emily2651
Re: salary, ha! You do realize I make $55K, right? This will go up when I finish training, but that's four or five years out for me; I'll be 36. If you start medical school at 38, you'll be 42 when you finish school and, best case scenario, 45 when you start making more money than you do now ... right about the time when your first kiddo is rounding the corner on college. I dunno, your dad may really be right.

I'm sure there are non-monetary reasons that you're considering this path, but it also sounds like you're thinking seriously about your role as breadwinner for your family. I commend that; I don't think women consider money enough when making career decisions.

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea. -- Isak Dinesen

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9 years 2 days ago #77220 by Docmomof4
Also, don't forget about the opportunity cost in terms of finances. You are going to lose 4 years of income while you are in school, plus incur debt, not to mention no retirement savings, etc. You will be negative in terms of your contribution for awhile. I went straight through college and med school and didn't have a 'real' salary until i was 29-30. My husband had already been in the workforce 7 years, had a 401K, no debt, and owned a home by then.

And the summers in academia are nice, especially once kids are school aged, plus the sabbaticals...
also, do you get a pension? I know my one friend who is a professor gets some type of retirement benefit for the rest of her life upon retirement. I'd have to save alot to make 80% of salary for life.

I'd say, do what calls to you. If medicine is it, then go for it. If you are just considering medicine b/c you are unhappy in your present job, maybe try changing something about your job before totally switching careers. I know I was miserable as a doc and wondering what the hell I had done in my prior job-the correct job for me made all of the difference....

Good luck!

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9 years 17 hours ago #77252 by klp
Thanks so much for the advice. I really appreciate it. I also know that the end of the semester is not the BEST time to make decisions ;). I have decided that in the long term, medicine would pay off financially. In the short term, however, it would be a HUGE challenge. I tend to be a longer term thinker, so I'm ok with that aspect of things. I just can't decide how stressful this would be for my family (i.e. both financially and otherwise), which is my primary concern. Also, I need to figure out if there is any kind of a statue of limitations on pre-reqs - I did them while I was in college, which means they might be too old.

So - I am engaged in lots of information gathering. I'm going to meet with an endowed chair over at the med school to chat about a faculty position there as well. It's still academia, but more money, less teaching, and more research. It's also NOT summers off, and the research (publish or perish) environment is stressful. If I could snap my fingers and switch my PhD to an MD, I would. If I did not have children, I would do it. It's just not that easy! Even my published research is medical - in cardiovascular disease and pain.

Anyway, a friend recommended I also look into nurse practitioner degrees as something that would get me into medicine in a shorter time frame, without as much stress for my family. So, I'm looking into that as well.

Docmomof3 - could you tell me more about your career switch?

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