Tag Archives: Mothers in Medicine

Should I go to medical school? An advice column.

Check out my post over at Mothers in Medicine:

Should I go to medical school?

It is an answer to a series of emails I have received over time asking me advice about the whole single parent medical school doctor used to be in the natural birth community thing.

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What I’ve been up to

Applications in. Lots of them. Interview invites. Not enough of them. Abstracts in. Four of them, to two conferences. Presentation done at one conference, and one pending for another. Rotations down. Three of them. Election pending, with women’s health issues cropping up frequently. Z had a birthday. I had to put a cat down.

So what prompts me to break my blogging fast?

Being a snarky know it all on Facebook.

I wrote about it on Mothers in Medicine. Go check it out.


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Reply turned post, single mother in medicine style

I am a contributor at the wonderful site Mothers in Medicine, and this week a guest poster wrote in to ask Do Single Mothers Go to Medical School? Please go read her original post and the other comments. Here is my very long-winded reply:

Hi! I am a single mother who just finished medical school. I would be happy to chat with you through email, if you’re interested. Please feel free to let KC know, and she knows how to get ahold of me. Also, you can read the posts I have written on here (click on the MomTFH link in the labels to the right–>) or read my blog at https://momstinfoilhat.wordpress.com. Not all of my posts are about being a single mom, obviously, but it is my constant reality as I write. As I hope you have discovered, it is easier and harder to be a single mom than you may have expected, and it does not dominate all of my thoughts, conversations and interactions.

OK, on to your questions. Let’s start with the simpler one. I took the MCAT after being out of the basic science classes for several years, too. I used a single review book and did OK. I happen to be a good test taker. If I had a time machine (Oh, geez! the things I could fix!) I would have taken a review course and probably scored higher. I think taking a targeted MCAT review would be higher yield for you than retaking all of your premed. That will also take quite a while. But, if you think having domestic good grades will improve your chances of admission, it’s definitely an option.

As for RN vs. NP vs. being a physician, that is really up to you, and I don’t think there is an easy answer to that. There are many days in which I wish I had the time machine and could go back and be an NP, but I may be a unique case. I am older than you, I want to go into obstetrics, and I didn’t match into residency last year. If I was a nurse practitioner / midwife, I could be working already, no residency required, and be doing everything I want to do as a doctor (I am not super gung ho about being a lead surgeon and am more interested in low risk obstetrics, obviously, but there are plenty of NPs that assist in the OR, just don’t lead surgeries).

Obviously, yes, single mothers do go to medical school. I was pleasantly surprised at the diversity in my class. I sat next to a grandmother all of 2nd year, and I was not the only single mom in my class. Also, single mothers do a lot of things that take them away from their kid(s). Many single moms work outside the home for long hours and have to rely on different forms of help and childcare. And, most of these single moms are not pursuing a life long dream, one that will most likely provide financial security and a fulfilling career. Moms have guilt, single moms have guilt. I don’t let that keep me from pursuing my career in medicine.

Medical school is not a bad situation to be in as a single mom. Especially the first two years. There are many schools that even stream most of the classes online, and do not have an attendance policy for many of the classes (mine did). Your clinical years may be more difficult. Your schedule can change from month to month, and I have had to ask a caregiver to show up at my house at 4:30 am some months so I can get to my rotation on time. Even more difficult, my schedule would change in a month. My kids were in school and had after school care from a trusted family member, so my main issue was the early mornings.

As for being able to handle it, I was the president of more than one extracurricular club. I won a research fellowship and full tuition scholarship. I was recommended and inducted into the humanism honors society by one of my attendings / professors. I qualified for the regular honors society, but I won’t go into the political BS that kept me from that group. I aced my boards and never failed a class. I am not just tooting my horn here; I am telling you that, if you work hard and have the aptitude and right attitude, you will do well.

I have written on my blog about my sometimes frustration with some of my former classmates. These are things my single, childless classmates have told me: I gave up using any washable dishes or glasses during medical school because I don’t have time to do any dishes. I gave up my dog to my parents during board review because I can’t take care of it. I don’t have time to do _____ activity or ______ club. I didn’t have time to take the required scrub class before rotations started because I wanted to go on a vacation. I need to take off a month because I am planning a wedding. I can’t make the meeting at that time because that’s when I nap. (Yes, for real) I would see some of these same students go to yoga 3 times a week, or party frequently, or get their mani/pedi once a week, or watch every episode of the Jersey Shore, or make what ever bargains or compromises they chose. So do I. (Make compromises. I don’t do any of those things on the list. I have a dog and two cats, I cook and use real dishes and plates, and I don’t get to work out often if at all, watch much TV, or take care of my fingernails, hairdo or other beauty routines often. I also schedule my naps, rare as they are, around my obligations, not the other way around). So will you, compromise, that is, regardless of your path.

As for divorce, moving, family support – that stuff is not easy. If you email me and are up for it, I can regale you with the soap opera that was my divorce and coparenting (they don’t call it custody anymore) agreement, and the sacrifices I had to make to be able to move if I matched out of the area. Single parents relocate all the time for many reasons. It is not fair to expect every single parent to remain, forever, in a 50 mile radius of where they divorced. There are a lot of moving parts to this, and I could write more words than this entire post already (seriously not kidding) about it. A lot of this depends on your ex. This battle was infinitely harder than medical school for me.

Anyway, I hope this wasn’t too much, and was helpful in some way. Good luck, and please keep us up to date.


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Career day embarrassment

I am one week and three days from graduation. WOOOHOOOOOOOOO!

I am incredibly busy, which means I am also paralyzed in the face of all the crap I have to do, and procrastinating on the internet. Hello!

Yesterday I was a presenter for career day at my 7 yr old son’s school. I wore my white coat, wore scrubs, and brought my stethoscope and other tools. I presented in six classrooms (exhausting!), but started off in my own son’s first grade class.

I had an apron with sort of anatomically correct removable velcro body parts, which I used to play a matching game with the kids. If a kid guessed which organ I was describing (this organ is a muscle that pumps blood to the body!) then that kid got to put that organ on the volunteer kid who was the “body” wearing the apron. It was especially fun when we got to the kidneys and the large intestine. Poop! Pee! “EWWWWWWWW!”

There were only seven body parts, though, so I brought in my ragtag collection of toy doctor tools. Several people bought toy doctor sets for my kids when I got into medical school, so I had four plastic stethoscopes, a plastic syringe, toy otoscopes, etc. I passed those out to the kids who didn’t get to put on an organ, so thy could guess what they were used for, and was one kid short. So, I gave that kid my coffee mug. I made a joke about how that was the most important doctor’s tool, since it helps keep doctors awake, and remarked on how much coffee I drink.

My son rose his hand, and offered, “She drinks beer, too!”

I said “And, goooodnight everybody!” and quickly defended myself. “I didn’t drink any this morning! I didn’t have any last night!” and spent the rest of the half hour trying to convince my son’s teacher that I don’t have a drinking problem.



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Match Madness

I wrote about sitting and waiting for the residency match here at Mothers in Medicine.

We had to certify our match rank lists February 22nd. We don’t get informed whether we matched until March 12th, and where we matched until March 16th. I am sure at one point in time they used slide rules and pencils and paper to figure this stuff out, but I’m pretty sure this algorithm could be done on an iPad in 2012 in less than a minute. I think the NRMP just wants me to freak out and eat chocolate for three weeks.

(The Mothers in Medicine post above has links to explanations about the match, if you are one of the uninitiated.)

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A day in the life of a single mom med student

I have been really busy on my ob/gyn rotation. Loving it at times, cringing at it at times, and spending almost every waking minute either there or stuck in traffic trying to get there.

Sorry about the lack of posting here. I put up a post on Mothers in Medicine about a day in my life as a single mother and medical student on her obstetrics rotation.

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Reply turned post, Mothers in Medicine specialty style

There is a new post up at Mothers in Medicine. It’s a letter from the mailbag, from an ambitious high school junior named Taj, who knows that zie wants to go to medical school, and will be starting an accelerated BS/MD program soon.

Taj writes:

I am really interested in anesthesiology and cardiology so my question is really for MommyDoctor and JC. I wanted to know how and when did you ladies juggle and decide when to have kids and also what do you both love about your careers?

Taj goes on to say that zie is also interested in ob/gyn and thoracic surgery. I was surprised to see such a wide range of specialties that I see as really, really different from each other.

I wrote a reply that I wanted to reproduce here, since it’s about how I ended up where I am. But, please go check out the original post, especially to see if the contributors that Taj asked talk about their choices and paths, too.

Here is my reply:

I know I wasn’t specifically addressed, but I just wanted to jump in and say something. Hope that’s OK.

I have a different perspective than the contributors you asked, and I hope they weigh in from the point of view as someone who is living with their career choices. I am sure they all have really good things to say about the specialties you are interested in. I am halfway there, and you sparked some thoughts.

Congrats on knowing that you want to do something in the medical field, and good for you for planning and thinking in advance. I am a big advocate for dreaming and planning ahead, because the shlep to the light at the end of the tunnel in medicine is a long one.

I noticed that the three areas you are interested in are quite different types of medicine. Anesthesiology is a completely different life, not just lifestyle, than ob/gyn, with a completely different type of interaction with patients (asleep vs. awake, acute vs. long term).

A thoracic surgeon (9 years of training, general surgery (6)–>thoracic surgery (3) ) is much different that going into internal medicine (3 years) then a cardiology fellowship (another 2 t0 3).

I think you will see which specialty and training requirements suits your temperament and interests the best. I was convinced during my premed that I wanted to be an endocrinologist. But, after spending just a little bit of time with pregnant women, I was sold on ob/gyn and have never looked back. That was after swearing I would never be interested in ob/gyn. But, I haven’t done my clinical rotations yet.

I think I could never do anesthesiology, because I love patient interaction and continuity of care (and, frankly, I wouldn’t have the grades to go gas if I wanted to). I couldn’t do orthopedics because it seems like bicycle repair to me, and I would be miserable. I couldn’t do pediatrics, because I would cry all the time. I can barely make it through a lecture about a sick toddler without tearing up.

I am thrilled there are people who are attracted to these other specialties, and hope they love their careers. I would hate for anyone who is ill-suited for ob/gyn to end up there, also. It is a unique area in which you interact with people who are on a wide spectrum of well to sick in a lot of important and highly emotional times in their lives. It is a great balance between surgery and medicine.

I tell people to sign up for email table of contents of the main journals in each field, and glance over them once a month. If the titles excite you, and you want to click through and read the abstracts of at least a few of the articles, then that may be a good field for you. If all else fails, you can try out Fizzy’s handy guide to choosing a specialty.

Good luck!

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