Engineer to medical school

As I mentioned in my Introductions post, I am an engineer by training. Quite often, I see posts on the Pre-Medical SDN Forums discussing this particular path to medical school with mixed reactions. While a large number of users adamantly recommend staying far, far away from engineering and technical courses, I have also seen some posts from people who have successfully made the transition and would do it all over again in a heartbeat. While I cannot say I identify with one particular group, I do have some opinions on the matter.

My situation is slightly unique — I transferred into engineering, so I had a completely different experience for my first half of college [and also some GPA padding]. Also, I went into Biomedical Engineering, which is slightly more forgiving in terms of completing medical school prerequisites [and pretty helpful for preparing for the MCATs]. These things aside, I completed the curriculum and am now accepted at a medical school I’m very excited about.

Would you do it all over again the same way? 
Eh, not quite.

I do agree with the users that caution pre-meds to watch their GPA because it tends to be quite difficult to secure a 3.5+ after trudging through the Calculus sequence, Linear Algebra, programming, fluid mechanics, solid mechanics, physical chemistry… etc, etc. In fact, I have heard many times on the CoE (College of Engineering) Campus (i.e. North Campus) that the average Freshman GPA is something below 3.0. And honestly, starting with a GPA in the low 3.0s makes it really hard to bring it up come your application cycle. Not to say that a low GPA will completely prevent you from matriculating, but you better have a good reason, an upward trend in grades, and a stellar MCAT score.

The reality of the medical school admissions process is that numbers matter. I am not saying that they are the only thing that matters because life experience plays a big role as well… but if you always knew you wanted to be a physician, go into a major that you’re either 1) good at or 2) really love and thus should be good at. If medical school is starting to feel less like a fit, then honestly, you might fall in love with something like engineering [plus, if you go into the “core” fields such as mechanical, electrical, chemical and now I’d say computer science, you’re a lot more likely to find a job].

That last point also raises another one — at least from my institution, it is not that easy to secure a full-time engineering position after graduating with a Bachelor’s in Biomedical Engineering [a number of my pre-med peers did find full-time positions, but it takes a bit more searching and sometimes more sacrifice to land the job]. The market is definitely looking up for BME grads though, so that is promising. Either way, keep this all in mind if you’re looking for a “back-up” plan [e.g. if I don’t get in this application cycle, I’ll work full-time for a little while to save up for the next cycle!] to medical school.

In the end, I believe that my technical background will serve me well in medical school [plus, my current experience working for Terumo Cardiovascular Systems has been great]. I would have considered a more humanities-based degree had I known how all the chips would fall in the end… but that’s just me. I’m happy with where I am and pleased with what it took to get here.

More on my educational background to come in future posts!

One thought on “Engineer to medical school

  • June 28, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    As a point of comparison, I know two people who did CS/CE undergrad degrees and went on to med school after that. One guy specifically said that he knew he wanted to be a doctor, but thought CS looked fun, so he majored in CS and took pre-med-type classes as electives. The other went on to get a BME Masters, and is on his way to Vanderbilt this fall.

    All of that said to confirm that while BME is certainly an intuitive choice for undergrad major, you’re right that other undergrad majors can also work out just fine too, while preparing a different set of backup options.

    Also: I’d totally do things differently if I could do it all again.

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