Jump to content
Premed 101 Forums
ftronic

Having Some Second Thoughts About Medicine Due To "better" Options Elsewhere?

Recommended Posts

I posted this on SDN because I thought more people would see it, but the schools I applied to were mostly Canadian (and I am a Canadian). Basically, I have been pretty successful this cycle in terms of interviews and though I have no official acceptances yet, I am pretty likely to get at least one. Part of me really wants to go through with it, especially after putting so much time and effort into getting to this point, but part of me wants to go into the tech industry.

My bachelor's was in computer science, and my interest in medicine came later through some research experiences and courses I took. The more I considered and researched medicine as a career, the more I wanted to do it, and I do think I would be good at it. However, my interest in software has continued as well, and despite not actively looking for a job I've had interview offers at good companies (in Silicon Valley, Seattle, etc.). If I set my mind to it and brush up my skills, I'm pretty confident I could get back into the field within a couple of months.

Now that I'm just a step away from reaching my goal of going to med school, I wonder if I'm making a big mistake by not going into software instead (specifically machine learning-related applications). Instead of making a good salary for the next 4 years, I'll be going into significant debt. Then, I'll be spending another 4-5 years in residency, likely living like a student, and still making less than I would be in tech. I probably will never recover from the opportunity cost from a financial perspective, but more than that, I honestly feel like tech and machine learning is at a turning point right now, changing almost all industries (including medicine), and it feels like it's "now or never" to be a part of it.

Any advice in this situation? Particularly, do you know if schools in Canada keep a record of acceptances, and if I turned down an acceptance, would that be a big negative (or even bar me completely) from applying to that school 2-3 years down the road?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Howdy OP!

Congratulations on all your success both in terms of interviews and in the tech industry! I think to answer your question, you really have to ask yourself a few things:

1. What do I want my future to look like? Can I imagine really liking medicine enough to do residency, to be on call, and work potentially crazy hours until I retire?

 

Yes you can choose a "life-style" speciality, but if you wanted life style from your career, I'm more than sure a career in software will assure that in no-time with less debt.

 

2. If you knew you were going to die from cancer 7 years from now, would you still go to medical school and pursue medicine?

 

If you talk to a lot of physicians, they would agree that what you gain at the end of all the studying, late nights, and endless exams is not worth it. Actually in a survey of surgeons in all specialities, at least 40% of them said they wouldn't want their child to pursue a career in medicine. Now some surgical specialities were higher in percentage and some lower, but this just speaks volume about how tough the road is.

 

3. What is the flexibility with each career?

 

With a MD degree you could take it several ways beyond clinical practice. You can become a full time researcher, become a professor that teaches med students, become school administrator (dean), become a politician, become a hospital administrator and probably few more I can't think of. You never know what will happen to you in the future, and you need a career that's adaptable so that you can still earn a living. Is a career in software flexible enough to allow you to adapt to unforeseen circumstances? What's the career length of someone in the field of software? Is it cut throat? Or is it similar to engineering?

 

These are just a few of the questions from the top of my head and I'm sure others will have plenty to contribute, but most of the dilemma I suspect, will revolve around the first 2 questions. I personally know that if I could imagine my self in another career besides medicine, I would do that instead of medicine.

Hope this helps! And if you are passionate about both fields and think your "work" won't be like work at all, then consider yourself lucky! Most people spend their whole life trying to find a career that makes them happy, but will also make a living.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I posted this on SDN because I thought more people would see it, but the schools I applied to were mostly Canadian (and I am a Canadian). Basically, I have been pretty successful this cycle in terms of interviews and though I have no official acceptances yet, I am pretty likely to get at least one. Part of me really wants to go through with it, especially after putting so much time and effort into getting to this point, but part of me wants to go into the tech industry.

 

My bachelor's was in computer science, and my interest in medicine came later through some research experiences and courses I took. The more I considered and researched medicine as a career, the more I wanted to do it, and I do think I would be good at it. However, my interest in software has continued as well, and despite not actively looking for a job I've had interview offers at good companies (in Silicon Valley, Seattle, etc.). If I set my mind to it and brush up my skills, I'm pretty confident I could get back into the field within a couple of months.

 

Now that I'm just a step away from reaching my goal of going to med school, I wonder if I'm making a big mistake by not going into software instead (specifically machine learning-related applications). Instead of making a good salary for the next 4 years, I'll be going into significant debt. Then, I'll be spending another 4-5 years in residency, likely living like a student, and still making less than I would be in tech. I probably will never recover from the opportunity cost from a financial perspective, but more than that, I honestly feel like tech and machine learning is at a turning point right now, changing almost all industries (including medicine), and it feels like it's "now or never" to be a part of it.

 

Any advice in this situation? Particularly, do you know if schools in Canada keep a record of acceptances, and if I turned down an acceptance, would that be a big negative (or even bar me completely) from applying to that school 2-3 years down the road?

Financial perspective is important but shouldn't necessarily dictate your career choice. That being said, there are some possible details worth considering: the software jobs are in high cost areas so direct comparison may be misleading; lifecycle of a software engineer is usually relatively short -long term would have to move into management; if there's a boom, there can always be a bust. Maybe try to reevaluate what drew you to medicine vs software without thinking of your perceived financial loss. Finally, as far as I know there's usually no adverse effects of refusing an offer (but some schools like Ottawa have interview limits), but since medicine becomes more competitive each year it may be harder to reach the stage you're at now in the future.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This will sound cliched but it is something I have found to be absolutely true: if there is something you love as much, or more, than medicine (and especially surgery) -> do that. The only way to get through this is the knowledge that there is nothing else. No word of a lie I have thought about bailing on this every single day for things like being a janitor or collecting bottles, i couldn't imagine if there was something else I was talented at that paid reasonably that I could switch too. Most of the times these are just passing thoughts, other times they are seriously alluring. This isn't a "job" it is not  a"career" it is something much more (not to pump it up and sound all douchy) and at 0300 in the morning on your 7th night on call in 3 weeks when you have to go see the whiny hernia lady who's husband is an obnoxious prick and insists that you reassure him that she isn't in adrenal fatigue, you may just walk out the door and head home if this isn't the only thing you want to do.

 

GL   

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is no way to know if you will regret it or not for sure until you are in it, but I agree with Fresh Fry said, especially <<This will sound cliched but it is something I have found to be absolutely true: if there is something you love as much, or more, than medicine (and especially surgery) -> do that. >>

Keep in mind this:

- the training is long. You frequently hear about people doing 2 fellowships after residency. One story I heard this week: cardiologist who had to do 2 x 2 year fellowships. In other words, the guy did whatever they did before med school, 4 years of med school, and then 6 years of residency and 4 years of fellowship. IMO, that is starting to be a bit of a waste of his precious lifetime. 

 

I am not aware of any negative impact by refusing, but do realize that an acceptance this year cannot guarantee another acceptance in the future.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I highly doubt that any admissions committee will hold it against you if you turned down their offer to pursue your passion, if you decide to reapply after a few years.

 

To the contrary, I would say that your work/life experiences beyond academia will be seen as a bonus and will bring diversity to your class. Don't let this be the reason you chose not to pursue your other interests! 

Edited by ArchEnemy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Both fields are well paying and if med, you will be able to repay relatively quickly. Money should not  be a consideration in the circumstances. You want to live with no regrets, therefore, self-reflect, consider your options after you receive at least one acceptance, and then follow your gut. Should you not receive any acceptances (which does happen with stellar candidates - as lady luck plays her role), you can follow the other path and decide if you wish to reapply down the road. Good luck! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the replies; lots of good points. It's true that it's a bit premature and I might not have to even make this decision if I don't get acceptances in May, but I'd rather have it thought out by then. I disagree slightly that money should not be a consideration, at least in the short term (basically 8 more years of living like a student), but I do ultimately agree that the decision goes beyond financial considerations. If people are sure that there are no formal repercussions for turning down an acceptance, that tilts the balance toward trying tech now and returning to medicine later if necessary. People on SDN seemed to think that turning down an acceptance WOULD matter (schools would be able to see it and it would count against you), but this could be a specifically American thing. Ultimately I think the consequences of starting med and then switching to tech are worse than doing the reverse, but it's still a hard decision.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is no way to know if you will regret it or not for sure until you are in it, but I agree with Fresh Fry said, especially <<This will sound cliched but it is something I have found to be absolutely true: if there is something you love as much, or more, than medicine (and especially surgery) -> do that. >>

Keep in mind this:

- the training is long. You frequently hear about people doing 2 fellowships after residency. One story I heard this week: cardiologist who had to do 2 x 2 year fellowships. In other words, the guy did whatever they did before med school, 4 years of med school, and then 6 years of residency and 4 years of fellowship. IMO, that is starting to be a bit of a waste of his precious lifetime. 

 

I am not aware of any negative impact by refusing, but do realize that an acceptance this year cannot guarantee another acceptance in the future.

sounds like my family member that did cards, trained for 10-12 years...2 fellowships. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the replies; lots of good points. It's true that it's a bit premature and I might not have to even make this decision if I don't get acceptances in May, but I'd rather have it thought out by then. I disagree slightly that money should not be a consideration, at least in the short term (basically 8 more years of living like a student), but I do ultimately agree that the decision goes beyond financial considerations. If people are sure that there are no formal repercussions for turning down an acceptance, that tilts the balance toward trying tech now and returning to medicine later if necessary. People on SDN seemed to think that turning down an acceptance WOULD matter (schools would be able to see it and it would count against you), but this could be a specifically American thing. Ultimately I think the consequences of starting med and then switching to tech are worse than doing the reverse, but it's still a hard decision.

As other members of this forum have learned the hard way, an acceptance one cycle is no guarantee that you will ever be accepted again!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the replies; lots of good points. It's true that it's a bit premature and I might not have to even make this decision if I don't get acceptances in May, but I'd rather have it thought out by then. I disagree slightly that money should not be a consideration, at least in the short term (basically 8 more years of living like a student), but I do ultimately agree that the decision goes beyond financial considerations. If people are sure that there are no formal repercussions for turning down an acceptance, that tilts the balance toward trying tech now and returning to medicine later if necessary. People on SDN seemed to think that turning down an acceptance WOULD matter (schools would be able to see it and it would count against you), but this could be a specifically American thing. Ultimately I think the consequences of starting med and then switching to tech are worse than doing the reverse, but it's still a hard decision.

 

US schools I believe sometimes put limits on the number of times one can apply.  Canadian schools, in general, don't.  I've heard of graduates from some top west coast med schools actually turning to tech (but more health related).  So the two options aren't necessarily mutually exclusive in the other sense either.        

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've actually declined a med school offer in favour of certainty, in light of a pressing financial need.

 

It may have been the best decision I've ever made (though really, I'll always wonder about what could have been), despite having pursued medicine for a very long time.

 

In essence, what convinced me was, "if you're having these feelings now, imagine how you'll feel when you're in the midst of everything."

 

Feel free to PM me if you'd like to chat privately.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for the replies, all. Even though there is definitely no certainty getting a future acceptance, the knowledge that the schools don't explicitly hold it against you is a bit reassuring (are people sure that's the case?).

 

I feel as a software programmer/engineer who went to medical school  I should reply to this. I will do so when I am outside of this conference.

 

Looking forward to hearing your response if you have the time!

 

I've actually declined a med school offer in favour of certainty, in light of a pressing financial need.

It may have been the best decision I've ever made (though really, I'll always wonder about what could have been), despite having pursued medicine for a very long time.

In essence, what convinced me was, "if you're having these feelings now, imagine how you'll feel when you're in the midst of everything."

Feel free to PM me if you'd like to chat privately.

 

Yes, I will send you a message, thank you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for the replies, all. Even though there is definitely no certainty getting a future acceptance, the knowledge that the schools don't explicitly hold it against you is a bit reassuring (are people sure that's the case?).

It may be worth double checking the policies at the faculties/schools of interest.  As much as forum members can contribute, it's probably a good idea to check at the source. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you don't love medicine, don't do it. Yes, there are many people who went  to medicine without love, but the main alternate motivator is money. You are not  in this position. You have  good profession and good financial prospects, why suffer through huge workload, sleepless nights, years of poverty and debt. There is a good chance you'll be send to a place you don't want to be --it's not exactly pick and choose with residencies.  And you could possibly regret that you gave up something that interested you more than medicine. 

 

Having said that, world is changing constantly. What is an excellent profession today, and the turning point, may not be so in several years. But this applies to medical profession too. It  not what it used to be, and some aspects of it can get worse - opportunities, pay, pressures, the entire environment of the health system.  So  the risk is both ways.

 

Do what you love and get paid for it. That's the best advice I know.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not in med, but. Whether or not you want to read something from a premed behind you is up to you. But

 

In your initial post it was quite clear finances are your main concern, as well as possibly doing something innovative in ml.

 

So let's take scenario A where we assume finances are a legitimate concern.

 

How much can you make rn? Like 80kish?

 

If you're 25 the opportunity cost is about equal by 40, so your physician you will be caught up to your computer science you by about age 40. And then anything after 40 is just gravy for physician you because I don't think you'll make more in csc annually than you would as an MD. Unless you are incredible in management as others have said and climbing the ladder.

 

Unless that is an ignorant statement? But honestly how would you ever pull in 250k as an employee? The people I know in Seng tech have good salaries for our age, but I mean it's still like less than half of the average MD. Think of the end game. Do you want to cut your earning potential in half?

 

once again, assuming finances are a legit concern, long term an MD makes more sense financially. The problem is you don't start reaping the financial rewards until 40ish if you start med at 26.

 

So I think the key question is, do you want to go through all that pain in med to probably make more money in your 40s and 50s, but as you said, live like a student for the next decade. The converse is that you have tons of money now for a 20 something year old, and have a very comfortable 20s and 30s, with a salary that might not increase by too much in your 40s or 50s, in which case you will get passed by MDs of your age. Being young is great, but if you live to be 80 then you might be happy you worked extra hard that one decade 60 years ago. You can see how the question you posed is so personal. To some people, it's all about being young, to others they are more concerned with longer term goals that span 40 years. I could argue your question isn't even an appropriate question, because so much depends on who you exactly are as a person.

 

Ok now im glad we are done talking about finances because as others have said, it does not matter much. If you don't have any special considerations in life like supporting S.o., kids or other dependent family members, then the fact you even bring up opportunity cost when an MD school could accept you is laughable. As mathtomed said if you have a seriously pressing need this is different. But in terms of opportunity cost, I just left my post making a sizeable salary (minimum 90k but last year I made 200k) so I could commit to full time undergrad studies and MCAT studying. I probably won't be competitive for a little while still too. The point is you have to be able to sacrifice. Sacrifice a decade out of 8. Sacrifice most of life as you know it.

 

You wanna know my honest opinion? If you were a friend and you told me those exact words in your posts. I'd say don't do it. Don't go into medicine because we don't need any more unhappy docs. I'd rather my doc be both competent and happy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But in terms of opportunity cost, I just left my post making a sizeable salary (minimum 90k but last year I made 200k) so I could commit to full time undergrad studies and MCAT studying. I probably won't be competitive for a little while still too. The point is you have to be able to sacrifice. Sacrifice a decade out of 8. Sacrifice most of life as you know it.

 

You wanna know my honest opinion? If you were a friend and you told me those exact words in your posts. I'd say don't do it. Don't go into medicine because we don't need any more unhappy docs. I'd rather my doc be both competent and happy.

Uh, what were you doing making 200k? Or am I misreading that. 

 

As for happiness in medicine, plenty of people who seemed happy going into it, come out bitter. And plenty of people going into it not that super elated, come out just fine.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Own a consulting company.

 

And yeah very fair points. But I just don't know if advising someone to do something they are dreading doing is a good idea. I mean OPs biggest gripe is definitely living like a student for a decade. Or seems to be at least.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks again for the posts, all.

 

Own a consulting company.

And yeah very fair points. But I just don't know if advising someone to do something they are dreading doing is a good idea. I mean OPs biggest gripe is definitely living like a student for a decade. Or seems to be at least.

 

I'm definitely not dreading it; I would be pretty excited to go. And as I said in my original post, I do think I would be good at medicine and I'm sure there are aspects of it I would learn to love. I guess the main issue is that I'm being drawn to something that seems even more attractive to me (at least in the short term), not that I would be doing medicine begrudgingly (which, I agree, would be a bad idea).

 

I agree that finances aren't everything (and are not the most important consideration in most cases), but you can make some serious money in tech right now; I think people are underestimating this a bit in terms of their responses. Especially working in the US, six figures is the norm, and that is in USD (i.e., factor in a 30% raise if the exchange rates continue the way they are). You are probably still making less than a full physician in most cases, but again, that would be 8 years away versus right away. I'm really not as money-motivated as it probably sounds in these posts, but this makes a huge difference in terms of quality of living (i.e., having a very high standard of living starting almost immediately, versus living frugally for 8 years, and even after that, likely still paying off student loans). In either case I doubt retirement savings would be a problem... my bank account might be slightly larger by the time I retire if I went the medicine route, but I really don't care about that. 

 

In my mind, the question is more about choosing between a career that seems kind of risky, but in some ways more dynamic (i.e., tech, especially a startup), versus a more "conservative" career with a more secure job, and work which is still interesting but maybe less dynamic. I'm also aware that this is a pretty "first world problem" and either option is a pretty good one... I'm definitely not complaining, I'm just trying to get a sense of what I would be happiest doing in the long run.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

EDITED: Just try your best to approach people in your fields and get a better sense from them. Go and meet them and talk to them. I find it's easier to hammer things out in a real conversation. People are surprisingly happy to help, and many will help out a smart young student finishing their degree and entering a career crossroads. Can also call them if unable to meet.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Your bank account most assuredly will not be "slightly" larger. 2+2 does not equal 5. I can also assure you everyone in this thread was aware US workers get paid in USD. I guessed what your salary might be, but ok I don't know what "serious money" is to a college student. If you can make 250k go do that. If you make 110k the scale is still tipped the other way. And why are you explaining the correlation between qol and income? Anyone who has worked more than a summer job and isn't supported by anyone, knows this. So why you are explaining this when most of the respondents are medical residents is beyond me. Also why are you reiterating that the training period is 8 years? Everyone knows this as well. This shows your immaturity because maybe you think everyone except you forgot about this? But it's ok we get it, you don't want to wait to get paid big bucks. And there's lots of other things. Like for example I find it hilarious you are absolutely convinced that you will be so great at medicine, because seems like you state it every and any chance you can get. And you don't care about retirement, obviously, because if 8 years is a long time to you then I can't imagine how you must feel about a timeframe much longer than that.

 

You seem to be lacking the social skills and common sense, and seem quite ignorant as a result. The positive is if you do med the training period should develop the areas you lack.

 

But in all seriousness, you're clearly way more attracted to starting your tech career now, so why not just do it then? The main problem for you is not whether or not you will succeed in medicine (because remember we all now realize that you will be good at it after you made sure to let us know in writing twice in case we underestimated you), but rather the problem is geez 8 years to continue how I'm living now? Seems kinda long when I'm already an expert in tech with my bsc in csc. And despite that there are a quarter of a million software developer job openings in the US right now, you will actually excel against all of the worldwide competition from China, India, and other areas from abroad. So differentiating yourself as more than just another employee in this field should be pretty straightforward right?

Okay, personal attacks are quite unnecessary here. OP, while potentially a bit naïve about medicine, has been quite polite. Tone it down.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Your bank account most assuredly will not be "slightly" larger. 2+2 does not equal 5. I can also assure you everyone in this thread was aware US workers get paid in USD. I guessed what your salary might be, but ok I don't know what "serious money" is to a college student. If you can make 250k go do that. If you make 110k the scale is still tipped the other way. And why are you explaining the correlation between qol and income? Anyone who has worked more than a summer job and isn't supported by anyone, knows this. So why you are explaining this when most of the respondents are medical residents is beyond me. Also why are you reiterating that the training period is 8 years? Everyone knows this as well. This shows your immaturity because maybe you think everyone except you forgot about this? But it's ok we get it, you don't want to wait to get paid big bucks. And there's lots of other things. Like for example I find it hilarious you are absolutely convinced that you will be so great at medicine, because seems like you state it every and any chance you can get. And you don't care about retirement, obviously, because if 8 years is a long time to you then I can't imagine how you must feel about a timeframe much longer than that.

 

You seem to be lacking the social skills and common sense, and seem quite ignorant as a result. The positive is if you do med the training period should develop the areas you lack.

 

But in all seriousness, you're clearly way more attracted to starting your tech career now, so why not just do it then? The main problem for you is not whether or not you will succeed in medicine (because remember we all now realize that you will be good at it after you made sure to let us know in writing twice in case we underestimated you), but rather the problem is geez 8 years to continue how I'm living now? Seems kinda long when I'm already an expert in tech with my bsc in csc. And despite that there are a quarter of a million software developer job openings in the US right now, you will actually excel against all of the worldwide competition from China, India, and other areas from abroad. So differentiating yourself as more than just another employee in this field should be pretty straightforward right?

But-Thats-None-Of-My-Business.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

EDITED: Just try your best to approach people in your fields and get a better sense from them. Go and meet them and talk to them. I find it's easier to hammer things out in a real conversation. People are surprisingly happy to help, and many will help out a smart young student finishing their degree and entering a career crossroads. Can also call them if unable to meet.

 

Really don't understand the vitriol (referring to your original post, not your edited one). Once again, not to make it all about money but I really don't think doctors are as well paid as you seem to think (relative to some alternate career paths) after all is said and done. I haven't actually crunched the numbers in detail, but career advancement exists in tech too; you don't stay at your starting salary for 40 years, and almost a decade head start is extremely significant because of exponential growth. I would be willing to bet that what you're left with at retirement is pretty comparable (depending on specialty), but my larger point is that both careers are well paid and retiring comfortably versus "even more comfortably" is not something I particularly care about. But how myself (and potentially my partner) have to live for the next 10 years is something I care about, and it factors into my decision (as it should for anyone, unless you are lucky enough to come from a family that pays for most of your expenses anyway, which admittedly seems to be quite common in the medical applicant crowd; definitely not my situation).

 

And I am definitely reaching out to people in person for advice, but I don't see the problem looking here for some as well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was at a similar crossroads (although much earlier than the interview stage)!

I agree that salary isn’t a deciding factor at all. I think a common misconception is that money = wealth. This is not true.

Money is simply a technology used to store and transmit value through time and space. If you take all the money in the world and redistribute it evenly among the population, say each person gets $1 million. Quickly, we will end up with a similar distribution to what we started with, because the people who own the means of value production will get all the money back since everyone is paying them for the things they need to live.

So what it came down to for me was value creation; what problems do I want to spend my career trying to solve and what contributions do I want to make for the world? Having suffered through the loss of a parent and experienced the impact of disease on quality of life, I made my choice to take the medicine route based on personal experience. The treatment of disease and the medical problems that I would like to work on solving are more meaningful to me than the problems I would be trying to solve had I taken the computer science route, and hence I see more value-creating potential. This is obviously subjective - if it was objective, then I suppose it would be a much easier decision to make.

Hope this helps :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...