Age doesn’t matter at OUM

Does this scenario sound familiar? No matter what you do to rationalize it, you have a little voice inside you suggesting that you need to make a career change. Even though your profession has been extremely satisfying, you sense something is missing. This nagging feeling is a common denominator for non-traditional medical students, individuals who put off their dream of becoming a physician.

Oceania University of Medicine’s student body is filled with people who had similar thoughts. Some may have answered the “little voice” sooner than others, but many OUM students decided to enroll in medical school despite being well past their 20s or even their 30s. The average age of OUM’s student body is currently 40.5 years old.

“It’s very interesting that for several years now, the average age of our incoming students has stayed relatively consistent,” says Joy Braun, OUM’s Registrar and Associate Director of Administration. For most of OUM’s 16 years, the student body’s average age has not gone below the late 30s, even going up to 43 years old at one point.

The moral of this story: anyone considering medical school should not let his or her age be a factor in making the decision.

“Age really hasn’t hurt me, it has perhaps been to my advantage,” says Orla Weinhold, MD, OUM Class of 2014, now in the final year of her psychiatry residency. “I’ve lived some life, have experience, and during residency, I haven’t been treated any differently. In fact, there are four other residents in my program and I’m old enough to be their mother, but that doesn’t matter. We’ve all been learning.”

For those considering medical school, Dr. Weinhold says, “Age won’t go against you.” Not at OUM.

Hilary Skimming, fourth-year OUM student from Queensland, Australia had always intended to become a doctor. She visited medical schools in her native UK and chose where she would apply. But in what she describes as a “mad teenage moment,” she became a pharmacist over 30 years ago and now owns and operates a pharmacy.

Several times over the years, Hilary revisited a return to medical school, but due to family, business and financial reasons, she was never able to do so.

“I applied to medical schools several times over the years, but I didn’t quite fit the normal profile of a medical student at a traditional school. I was once told that my degree didn’t count because it was too old. On other occasions, I was told that I wasn’t what they were looking for. I must admit that I had pretty much given up.”

Then one day several years ago, a business partner placed an OUM advertisement in front of Hilary. After a great deal of research, encouragement from colleagues, and lengthy discussions with OUM, she applied and was accepted at OUM in 2014.

“For the first time in the lengthy process of revisiting and pursuing medical school over the years, here at OUM I was treated as an individual. I was looked at for myself, my experience and all my other qualities that had been completely dismissed at other schools. Getting accepted was a long process, but it has proven to be well worth it,” she says.

OUM students – past and present – agree that age and the experience that goes along with it are assets in medical school.

“Being 40-something means we bring certain things to the table that most 26-year-olds cannot,” says Terri Brewis, third-year student completing clinical rotations. “Experience is valuable. We know how to find something in a chart and during the first days of rotations, we were not touching patients for the first time.”

That maturity and experience is a positive, not only during clerkships but also when it’s time to apply for residencies and internships.

“Our CVs and resumes stood out because we were older and had clinical experience, as well as life experience. We were often a bit older and wiser,” says Jennifer Allen, MD, OUM Class of 2012, board certified family medicine physician in Missouri, USA, and Director of OUM’s Clinical Student Family Medicine Rotations. She agrees with others that age should not be a concern if becoming a doctor has always been the dream.

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