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astrocyteKM

Psychosis (Schizophrenia) and Low Overall Average

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Hi Everyone,
I am currently a 4th year Psychology major at UBC (although been there for 6 years already). My situation is that I have been dealing with Psychosis (Schizophrenia) for the majority of my undergrad and it negatively affected my grades. I started my undergrad in Sciences back in September 2014 and majored in Biology, but because of my poor performance and lack of progress in my degree program, I switched over to Psychology in the Arts in 2018. Currently, my grades are slightly improving, but my average is very low.

I have always wanted to become a doctor, as it was always my childhood dream and what motivated me to attend UBC in the first place. Psychosis ruined my early plans to achieve this goal. Throughout undergrad aside from having a low average, I have accumulated multiple late withdrawals- for every time I had a relapse of my condition, and one F, in organic chemistry.

I don't want to give up on this dream- I've had a few health care professionals who have told me I shouldn't pursue medicine because of my low average. I know chances are quite low for me, but studying medicine is what I really want. I don't know what to do for my next steps after I finish my Psychology degree. Should I do a second undergrad degree or can I just do unclassified (non-degree) to take courses to raise my average?

Here is the breakdown of my undergrad: AVG% (credits attempted)
Sept 2014- Aug 2015: 61.76% (30 credits)
Sept 2015- Aug 2016: 74.88% (17 credits)
Sept 2016- Aug 2017: 63.76% (13 credits)
Sept 2017-Aug 2018: 61.85% (21 credits)
Sept 2018-Aug 2019: 75.50% (24 credits)
Current Year: 70% (9 credits)- this is average of term 1 only

Overall Average: 67.5%

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Frankly speaking, your chances in Canada are negligible at this point. It will be a very very steep and uphill battle from here on out. Short of doing basically 2 additional undergrads with 100% average each, your average will remain noncompetitive. The only feasible way to do medicine is to start fresh in another country and do an undergrad there, without reporting your UBC grades. This is quite dubious. 

You also need to consider how you will be able to get through medical school/residency given your condition. The stress only continues to build, and if it severely impacts your academic ability, you probably won't make it through medical training anyways.

I think you should start considering other plans. Perhaps there are other careers in healthcare that you may be interested in?

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54 minutes ago, pooper said:

Frankly speaking, your chances in Canada are negligible at this point. It will be a very very steep and uphill battle from here on out. Short of doing basically 2 additional undergrads with 100% average each, your average will remain noncompetitive. The only feasible way to do medicine is to start fresh in another country and do an undergrad there, without reporting your UBC grades. This is quite dubious. 

You also need to consider how you will be able to get through medical school/residency given your condition. The stress only continues to build, and if it severely impacts your academic ability, you probably won't make it through medical training anyways.

I think you should start considering other plans. Perhaps there are other careers in healthcare that you may be interested in?

Chances in Canada are low and your health problems may make things more difficult for you. However, it's false that you would need to do 2 additional undergrads to bring up grades. There are some schools that look only at the best or latest 2-3 years. Just one additional degree will be enough for these schools as far as GPA is concerned. It's weird that the poster above is so confident about their false information. 

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First of all, I can only imagine how you might feel having a condition completely out of your hands mess up with your life dream so badly. Do not give up, work on your mental health first and foremost, and keep studying as much as you can. Mankind always surprises himself as to how much he's capable  of doing in face of adversity. Without suggesting that you throw out any reasonable plan B's, one thing that comes to mind that might give you a chance at Canadian schools is doing a second degree, with 2 years of full course-load and a high average (like GPA 3.8/4 and higher, or a 80-90% average) at another university (there might be less demanding options than UBC) so you become eligible for Western and Queens medical schools in Ontario which don't have provincial considerations. You would need to take the MCAT as well, pass their cutoffs, and volunteer/do research on the side.

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Also if you can change your province of residence for your second degree, some provinces (other than Ontario for the most part) have lower cutoffs for residents, and leaner conditions for proving residency, while only considering your 2nd degree GPA (or latest two years which will be the same thing).

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Quote

I don't want to give up on this dream- I've had a few health care professionals who have told me I shouldn't pursue medicine because of my low average. I know chances are quite low for me, but studying medicine is what I really want. I don't know what to do for my next steps after I finish my Psychology degree. Should I do a second undergrad degree or can I just do unclassified (non-degree) to take courses to raise my average?

Do not pursue medicine as a career. I strongly recommend against it. It will not be a good fit for you if you have frequent relapses.

Getting in will be a long shot (you have essentially no chance right now for any Canadian school). Even if you are able to enter, you will need to endure and pass medical school and residency which involves class work that is much harder than what you have already encountered, as well as clinical 24h call. And if you are able to survive that, your ability and freedom to practice as a physician will still be severely limited by both your condition and your provincial college's monitoring of your condition.

I'm sorry I can't say anything more positive, but based on what you're telling us, you will be much better off pursuing another career so you can maintain your health.

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Maybe you should consider taking a break from studying for a while. Even if your grades have been improving, it doesn't do you any good to keep studying right now since your GPA is still not in competitive range. Perhaps the pressure of performance combined with struggling with your mental health is not the best environment to find good ways to deal with your condition.  

I don't know how old you are, but people starting med school in their late 30s is pretty common now, so you might as well take your time. Maybe a part time/ full time job will help you find ways to cope better, and to learn more about your limits as well as your strengths. And it may even help you build some good extracurricular experience! Then when you feel that you can achieve a degree with competitive grades, go back to school and ace it. 

I hope this helps.

 

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First off, thank you for sharing your story.  I can imagine it wasn't easy for you so I commend you on that.

Secondly, I don't agree with the posts about not going for your dream.  Although I do agree that your mental illness needs to be very well managed before you would be equipped to take on another degree and/or medical school entirely.  That being said, there are a lot of doctors with mental and/or physical conditions that are successful practitioners, so I wouldn't sell yourself short on that. 

But I would definitely evaluate your current state, and deduce if your schizophrenia is well managed on PO (oral) medication or long acting depots.  If it is not, I would advise to discuss with your physician so that you can find a medication regime that will best manage your psychosis and hopefully prevent frequency and/or duration of future relapses. 

After looking at this area, you also need to give a TON of consideration to self-care/stress management.  What do you do to manage your stress?  Unfortunately a lot of people with mental illness turn to ETOH (alcohol) or substances to mask the internal pain they experience from mental struggles.  Many are smokers.  Nicotine causes you to not metabolize/absorb your antipsychotic medication as well as a non-smoker would, thus leading you to require higher doses.  Thus, at "textbook therapeutic doses", your medication may not be as effective as it could be and you might need a higher dose.  If you quit smoking, the dose would need to be strategically titrated down (by your doctor of course) in order to prevent negative extrapyramidal symptoms (EPS) such as dystonic reactions, tardive dyskinesia, parkonsonism, akinesia, akathisia, and neuroleptic malignant syndrome(<-- life threatening, needs acute medical intervention).  

You need to develop a self-care plan that positively influences your mental state, and keeps you at your baseline wellness (your most normal/most sustainable/highest level of functioning) more often than not.  This looks different for everyone. (i.e. for example mine is, 30 minute work out in the morning, 5 min meditation at lunch and after work, sometimes yoga in the evening if I'm up to it, playing guitar/Dj'ing, and journaling shit so I can then tear it up and throw it out and feel oh so great haha).  You also need to make sure you're fueling your body with adequate nutrition/hydration as anything causing stress on your body may cause you to relapse or decrease in functioning.  Some of this may seem childish but it 100% helps and I've seen a HUGE change in my ability to manage stress from implementing these daily self-care activities.  Like an above poster said I don't know if you need to take some time off of school and/or work or whatever in order to really focus on achieving these things, but it's paramount that you do this before attempting to further your education etc. as you want to set yourself up for success however you can.  After finding your self-care regime, you can then look at your baseline level of functioning, and be really honest with yourself whether you would be able to continue your self-care while managing education and then a career in medicine.  I will not say it's impossible, but I will say it is an uphill battle you need to be greatly prepared for.

I wish you the best on your journey, and if you ever want further impartial support/guidance or help developing a self care plan feel free to shoot me a message, I've been a registered psychiatric/mental health nurse for over 7 years so I may provide some insight, but I also urge you to first and foremost keep a close connection with your treatment team in order to manage your symptoms and promote the best version of you that is very much in there just like everyone else.  They will also be critical in supporting you through a med school journey should that be where your story takes you, so it's important to cultivate those connections early.  :) 

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Thanks everyone for the replies. I am carefully considering my options based on what everyone has said.

As for my mental health, my most recent relapse was in 2017 summer. My condition has been quite stable after switching over to a monthly injection instead of taking oral medication since that last relapse.

Currently for term 2, I am taking 4 PSYC courses (15 credits) and will only have 6 credits to take in the summer before graduating.

I know that there are lots of factors to consider whether I have the essential skills required for medical school and that my chances for admission are quite low because of my grades. But for now, I just don't see myself giving up on this goal yet.

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Hey AstrocyteKM!

So first off, congratulations on being so proactive in managing your mental health. Regardless of the field you wind up in that will serve you very well!

In terms of medicine specifically, I would never tell someone to give up entirely on something that mattered so much to them, but because of the structural issues in medicine there are a few things I would strongly caution you to explore BEFORE heading down the road to medical training. Some of these are considerations for you personally (how to manage call and maintain stability of your health, for instance) but others are very much out of your control (will the college of physician and surgeons in your province of residency refuse your license). Unfortunately many of these issues will not come up until later in your medical training - after you have already invested many many tens of thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of dollars into your training. This is incredibly unfair to learners who make the (very understandable) assumption that if they make it in to medical school and pass medical school that there should not be a problem licensing them as a doctor and that if they received accommodations in medical school that can receive the same accommodations in residency (which is not the case). Medicine has multiple points where you can get derailed or suddenly be denied entry (medical school admission, graduation, residency matching, licensing etc.). Every year there are people who get stuck at these barriers, unable to move forward, and face huge financial, emotional and psychological consequences. 

Here are some things I would suggest if you are considering going for medicine (some of these have already been suggested above):

1. Contact the admissions office and/or wellness office at your local medical school and find out if there is anyone at the school who would be willing to meet with you and discuss the realities of medical training, the potential challenges that could arise for you and what schools/residency programs can (and cannot) do to accommodate you. Some specific things to discuss would include: 26+ hour call shifts, overall work hours, any mental health monitoring policies in place, additional resources the school can offer, accommodations for exams etc if needed and what the school would do in the event that you had something arise with your health (mental or physical) requiring an extended leave (particularly what would happen if you needed multiple leaves because some schools have limits on this). Talk to them about the grade issue as well to find out what the best options are.

2. Contact your provincial college of physicians and surgeons and ask to talk to someone about any barriers you might face in getting a license to practice medicine for residency or beyond. The college will have monitoring requirements and those can be intrusive and/or costly depending on the province you are in. I would ask specifically how they would manage your licensing if you were to have a relapse during medical training or once you are licensed. If you get wind that they might refuse to license you then I would very much caution you about heading down the path of medical training because without a license you cannot enter residency or practice medicine and you don't want to be 200K in debt and get a letter stating they won't license you. 

3. If available in your area, consider shadowing some physicians in fields you might be interested in. Talk to them about what the job is like and what the demands are. Talk to them about the challenges they have in maintaining their mental and physical health. Talk about work-life balance and what you need in your life to maintain balance and stability and ask if this is something attainable in X specialty or not.

4. Talk to your psychiatrist and your family doctor about your goals. They have completed medical training at some point and they (hopefully) know you well (strengths, challenges, talents etc). Explain how important this is to you and ask for their help in seeing if there are ways to problem-solve around the barriers. If you have a therapist it would be worth it to talk to them as well! The road to medicine has a lot of stress and disappointment along with the excitement and rewarding experiences so making a plan and building your skills to manage the emotional experiences you will encounter along the way is an important part of maintaining your health (honestly everybody applying to medicine, regardless of their mental or physical health history, should invest the time to build these skills).

5. Consider your plan B. Anyone and everyone who is interested in medicine should have a solid Plan B that will also make them happy. There are so many truly wonderful and meaningful careers both in healthcare and outside of it. Think about the things that most draw you to medicine (what is it about medicine that aligns with your values or makes you excited about it) and break those things down into components. For me, the opportunity to interact with people every day, the privilege of being trusted with their story, being able to support people in some of the best and worst moments of their lives and helping people achieve their goals are some of the things that make medicine worth it. They are also the things that made me love the career I had prior to medicine. I would have been VERY happy continuing down my previous path if I hadn't gotten in to medicine because both of them align well with my values. Find the alternate careers that align with your values and explore them. You could find something that is more appealing than medicine or if you discover barriers to medicine that make it too risky for you to pursue (only you can decide how much risk you are willing to tolerate) you will have another pathway to explore. 

I hope the suggestions above are helpful. All the best as you continue to explore your career options going forward!

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I know for the UBC medical program, it says that applicants with disabilities can submit a "Request for Special Consideration for Disability-Related Reasons for the MD Undergraduate Program". I am already registered with the Centre for Accessibility, so UBC already has documentation about my illness. I would still have to raise my average up by a lot since they still expect competitive average. But in this request form it does say in certain cases, the applicant may be eligible for special consideration in calculation of grades.

If I can raise my average high enough, will I still have a shot at medical school admission in BC, if I use this request form in the future?

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14 hours ago, astrocyteKM said:

I know for the UBC medical program, it says that applicants with disabilities can submit a "Request for Special Consideration for Disability-Related Reasons for the MD Undergraduate Program". I am already registered with the Centre for Accessibility, so UBC already has documentation about my illness. I would still have to raise my average up by a lot since they still expect competitive average. But in this request form it does say in certain cases, the applicant may be eligible for special consideration in calculation of grades.

If I can raise my average high enough, will I still have a shot at medical school admission in BC, if I use this request form in the future?

I think your best bet so that you have a reliable answer directly from the source might be to contact med admissions at UBC, see if you can get some legit answers there so you know exactly what your options are and then you can formulate an appropriate plan of attack per se.  UBC also does an AGPA dropping some of your "worst credits" as long as the remaining credits suffice for required # of credits in applying (don't remember the number, check the website).  Off the record from what I know UBC evaluates applications very holistically (fellow BC'er here!), and if you take the time to ace the MCAT, and get your average up to their min (at least), you have a chance academically.  I've seen many success posts from people with 75-80% averages from years prior that self studied and aced the MCAT and gained admission (obviously having the rest of the package in ECs as well).  But UBC will be able to provide more information on the available accommodations for you etc.  Good luck! :)

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