A Change is Gonna Come

Happy Monday, CR readers!

For the last week or so, I’ve been making references to a “seismic life change” in the works, and a few of you have probably noticed Twitter allusions to my “last editorial meeting” or various “goodbye emails.” It should therefore come as no surprise to any of you to hear that tomorrow will be my last day at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, the publishing house I’ve worked at for the last six years of my life. Today, I thought I’d share what I’ll be doing instead.

As all of you know, I’ve worked for the last two years as a clinical nutritionist who specializes in plant-based food coaching. I’ve loved the work, and feel confident that I’ve helped at least a few of my clients—many of whom are regular CR readers and commenters—to take lasting steps toward a more balanced and informed relationship with food. Most of the work I do with clients is psychological in nature, but much of it is prescriptive, too: I try to help my clients understand what a balanced day of food looks like, what his or her caloric and nutritive needs are, and how to prepare, store, and create food that will serve those needs.

I love my work, but it has a lot of limitations. One of the most frustration limitations is that I can’t always address health issues that go beyond the parameter of nutrition. Why? Because I’m not a medical doctor, and I don’t have that kind of expertise. This means I’ve often had to turn away clients who were looking for an answer to diabetes, thyroid disorders, endocrine disorders, cancer treatment, reproductive disorders (like PCOS), and other illnesses. As much as I have a working familiarity with such conditions, I can’t really offer prescriptive advice on how to treat them; I just don’t have the expertise.

I’ve found over the last two years that forcing myself only to focus solely on food and nutrition is often frustrating; I hate turning down people in need because I don’t have the knowledge to help them get better. And since I see nutrition as part of the much larger picture of human health (and vice versa—human health depends completely on proper nutrition), it’s difficult for me to talk about diet without wanting to deepen the scope of my advice, and talk about health more broadly. In short, I love what I do, but I’ve come to suspect that I won’t long be satisfied with its built in limitations. And it’s time for me to change that.

In January, I’ll be embarking on a long, difficult, and exciting transition from food into medicine. I’ll be starting a post-baccalaureate degree at Columbia University (my alma mater!) in pre-med studies; this is what you have to do if you want to be a doctor, but were too busy studying 19th century novels and poetry as an undergrad to take any pre-med classes. And after about a year and a half of course work, a summer of MCAT studies, and a “glide year,” I’ll be starting medical school, and the long process of becoming a doctor.

The idea of med school actually occurred to me over a year and a half ago. I had heard a friend mention that her younger sister was doing a post-bacc to go to med school, and I felt a pang of jealousy. I’ve never in my life envied anyone else’s career, but for the next few days I suffered from a persistent case of “I wish”: I wish I were younger, so that I wouldn’t have to start med school at what is (comparatively speaking) a ripe old age of 28; I wish I had known that I’d want a career in health when I was younger, so that I could have taken premed classes as an undergrad; I wish I had money, so that I could take on the necessary debt.

In the end, I decided to start exploring less expensive and time-consuming options than med school. I looked into getting an R.D., and enrolled in some of the pre-reqs for that track at night. (If you’ve ever wondered why I tend to complain about being busy, it’s because, for six months, I’ve been taking organic chem, anatomy and physiology, and statistics at night, in addition to writing my blog and counseling.) But I kept bumping into the fact that a lot of my interest is in GI health and disease, not dietetics.

A few months ago, M asked me why I’d never thought about med school, and I told him that I had, but that I’d dismissed the idea because of my age, the amount of time it would demand, and the debt I’d incur. I was surprised to hear him say that he didn’t think any of those things should stop me from doing it. If I didn’t really want to be a doctor, or if I really did want to be a dietician, he argued, that would be good enough reason not to pursue it; if I were adverse to hard work or long hours, that would be another good reason. But of course I’m not. What scared me—what still scares me—were money and time. With M’s gentle encouragement, the support of my friends and parents, the wisdom of a certain reader, and some good old fashioned soul searching, I decided that I shouldn’t let either money or my age stop me from what could be the most rewarding pursuit of my life.

To say that I’m anything less than terrified would be a lie. I’m terrified of everything: the debt, the difficulty of the work; being thrown back into student life; studying the sciences, which don’t come naturally to me, rather than the humanities, which do; leaving an industry that has nurtured me; sleep deprivation; commitment to a thirteen year education; the prospect of trying to have and raise a child in my thirties as I also battle med school and residency; and oh, did I mention the debt? It all terrifies me, and on a bad night lately it’s not unheard of for me to anxiously send out a desperate text message or email to a friend or two, asking him or her to remind me why I’m doing what I’m doing. (And they always do—thanks guys.) I’m so, so scared of what lies ahead.

But of course, I also know that this is a meaningful and exciting decision—probably the most daring I’ve ever made—and that if I can achieve even a small fraction of what I’d like to achieve with this education, it will have been worth every dollar and every hour of memorization, clinical rotation, and sleep deprivation.

What do I hope to achieve? First and most obviously, I’d like to help people who are sick or suffering to feel better, and—when I can—help them to actually get better. I’d like to place an emphasis on preventative care through diet and lifestyle. Finally, and most obviously, I hope to devote my entire career in medicine—whatever that may be—to fostering a mainstream, medical understanding of veganism. I’ve been lucky always to find doctors who supported my veganism (in part because I’m proactive in seeking them out), but I know others who haven’t been as lucky. Until more doctors are educated about veganism, there will remain a skepticism about vegan diets within the medical establishment. We vegans do have medical role models: Neal Barnard, Colin Campbell, and Caldwell Esselstyn. But we don’t have enough. As a result, many plant-based eaters will limited to naturopathic medicine, which may ultimately undercut their health care options. I want to help break this cycle, not only by using my education and knowledge to help patients who are interested transition responsibly into plant-based diets, but also by sharing my passion for veganism and my confidence in its benefits with other medical professionals.

In short, I want to bring my understanding of the vegan diet to medicine, and an understanding of medicine to my work as a vegan.

This means leaving my career as an editor behind, which makes me sadder and more conflicted than I can say. Many bloggers have written about how blogging helped them to ditch desk jobs they hated and pursue their true passions. This isn’t one of those stories. Tomorrow or later this week, I plan on writing a longer elaboration on my feelings about the publishing industry and what it means to leave it behind. But for now I’ll say that my life in publishing introduced me to some of the smartest and best people I will ever know, kept me intellectually challenged at every turn, taught me innumerable life lessons, and was in every way a worthy experience. I’m not trading a job I hate for one I love; I’m leaving behind a job I love very much for another job that I also love, but that feels more urgent to me right now.

I’m sure that many of you have questions about what this means for me and for CR. For example, will I still be blogging? Yes! I cannot wait to begin chronicling my adventures as a literary woman who’s been thrust into the world of science; to talk about the things I learn about the human body and its workings; to write about the turbulent intersections between mainstream medicine and traditional, holistic beliefs; and, most importantly, to write about what it means to be a vegan advocate within the medical establishment. CR isn’t going anywhere; in fact, one of the nice things about life as a student (as opposed to life as a student and a full time book editor) will be a little extra time to devote to my blog each day. I’ve never before had the time to make this blog a daily chronicle of my life; it’s intimate, but I’m not a diarist. Hopefully, life as a pre-med student and med student will grant me at least some time to reflect on daily experience—and to cook a lot of delicious food.

What about my counseling practice? For now, I’m sorry to say that I can’t take on any more clients. I wish I could, but school is going to devour my time–and that’s as it should be as I work toward this goal. Keep checking back, because I WILL take clients during my gap year!

Finally, you may be wondering what I intend to specialize in? Thankfully, I have quite a bit of time in which to figure that out. I could conceivably fall in love with neurosurgery or orthopedics alike. But I suspect strongly that my interest will in gastroenterology, for pretty obvious reasons. No matter what, nutritional counseling will be a significant part of what I do.

Right now, on the eve of my departure from FSG, I feel the predictable mix of emotions: fear, anxiety, excitement, exhilaration, and inspiration. Most of all, I feel gratitude to the people in my life who encouraged me not to shy away from this path because of the hardship involved (M, even with the ramen noodle and dumpster diving jokes, that means you). And I feel grateful for you, my blog readers, who have kept my interest in health so alive in the two years I’ve been writing CR. When I began blogging, I had no idea that health care would become, along with reading and writing, the defining passion of my life. You helped me to realize that, by stirring up long and fascinating conversations about health, by sharing your own healing journeys with me via comments and email, and by cheering me on as I broke into the nutrition field. Thank you for that. I hope I can ask you for the same kind of encouragement and support as I begin this challenging process. And hey: if any of my physician, med student, or post-bacc readers have (non-scary) advice to share with me, I’m all ears!

Thanks for letting me share the news, guys. It was hard to keep it under wraps in the last two months, and now that I’ve said the words aloud, I can’t wait to keep you involved with everything that lies ahead. I’ll be back throughout the coming week with more reflections on the end of this era of my professional life, some recipes, and some holiday cheer.


P.S. Columbia students! I’m about to join your ranks (again). If anyone’s interested in a meetup this winter once I’m settled, holler, and I’ll get around to setting it up.

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  1. I know I am very late here, but congratulations!! I have read a lot about the post bacc at Columbia and it sounds like a wonderful program (was thinking about doing something similar myself, but that’s on hold for now). We need many many more doctors that are passionate about preventative medicine and nutrition in general and I know that you will be a great promoter of both 🙂 So happy for you!!

  2. I’m a bit late coming to this post, but I just wanted to say that I find your passion inspiring.

    I have a humanities background – a degree in English & Political Science – and in the next 18 months I will complete my PhD in Online Culture Studies.

    However – science is calling my name so very loud.

    I really desperately want to study Nutrition (I’m not sure about the case in the States, but in Australia that’s a three-year undergrad degree) with an eye to completing a masters in Dietetics afterwards… or I want to study medicine. Like you, though, I am hesitant about starting my med school (5 yrs + practice) at the age of 29. I don’t know if I can take that risk – what happens if I don’t enjoy it, what happens if it’s not the right choice for me? – but I’m hoping the answers will present themselves to me over the next year or so.

    Good luck for your future in medicine.

  3. Gena –

    I’m so thrilled for you! Even though I haven’t read your blog for that long and I am not a vegetarian/vegan/raw foodist, I find it very inspiring. I’m incredibly pleased to hear of someone like you interested in joining the medicine professional and changing it from the inside out; you are truly planning on doing wonderful things! I’ve included a quote (and many might disagree with the person whom the quote is from) that I believe is very suited to you and this situation – as I can tell from the comments that you are already helping people look into themselves and realize that their dreams are, in fact, possible.

    “Show me your achievement and the knowledge will give me the courage for mine.” – Ayn Rand, from The Fountainhead

    You are an inspiration to all of us. Best of luck, you are going to do wonderfully!

  4. Hey Gena! I just found your blog not too long ago (actually just joined the blogging world myself!) and holy WOW you are such an inspiration!!! And a force to be reckoned with!!! Good for you for going out there and chasing your dreams. I am so happy that I have found your blog!

  5. I used to read your blog when you first started it, but had not read it in awhile, so I was surprised to come back and see that you are planning to do a postbac and apply to medical school. I know you’ve gotten a ton of congratulatory and exciting comments; I just want to give you a small dose of realism.

    I’m a neurologist; I went to med school (Mount Sinai in NYC) at age 24. I took 2 years off after college. I had always known I wanted to be a doctor; my father was a doctor and loved medicine. I enjoyed medical school for the most part. It really isn’t that hard; people will say it’s harder to get in than to flunk out, and that’s true. The tougher part comes later – residency, and the absolutely enormous personal sacrifice you will make. I did not get married until I was 32 (after I finished residency), and I had my first child at 35, after I finished my 2 year fellowship and became an attending. My personal life was completely on the back burner during my training because I had absolutely NO time for anything else. Yes, people do have children during residency, but now that I have a 9 month old baby, I don’t see how it is possible (unless you have a parent nearby to raise the child, or a stay-at-home husband). The debt you will incur is enormous. The financial gain is pretty meager. I went to medical school 10 years ago, and I have $130,000 in loans, which isn’t much compared to students today. My husband, also a physician, has a similar loan burden. It’s really, really tough. I’m not complaining, because we do make quite a bit of money at this point — but that’s after TEN YEARS of training and living on salaries of 40k a year, while seeing friends live normal lives of having kids, buying houses, making normal salaries, etc. It will be EXTREMELY difficult for you to go through this in your thirties.

    Also, it’s easy to have that wide-eyed wonderment about medicine, but once you start working on the wards, you’ll see that it isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, but almost everyone in medicine becomes bitter after dealing with patients who are hostile, unappreciative, and downright nasty. Doctors aren’t revered like they used to be. I try to teach my patients about healthy living, too (I’m very focused on health and exercise), but most don’t listen. It’s very, very difficult to change people.

    You have a very long, hard road ahead of you. You’re basically going to completely sacrifice your personal life for the next twelve years (2 years postbac, 4 years med school, likely 6 years residency + fellowship). I went into it not really thinking about the hardships and the fact that I was going to sacrifice having a family. Luckily I was able to get married and have a baby… if I were you, I would really think about whether this is what you want to do. As a sidenote, I was surprised you would choose traditional medicine after some of the earlier posts on your blog — I had often gotten the feeling that you were anti traditional medicine, and that was one reason I got turned off and stopped reading your blog. You may not agree with everything that you will learn in medical school. You WILL have to prescribe meds, birth control pills, etc. If you have philosophical issues with that, it might be a problem. Just something else to think about.

  6. Gena! I read your plans, thrilled the whole way through. It took me a while to check your blog as I’ve been very busy myself, working at my hospital. I’m a doctor, a nephrologist, and started med school at 22; the description of envy when hearing about someone else in medicine was my little voice as well. I knew it before I knew it. I tossed and turned and wondered and pondered all of the same things that you talked about in this post. I listened to the little voice finally- I had no choice. I have always felt in my heart and bones that this was the only job on earth that could love so much. Even on my worst day, I never regretted my decision. It is the most amazing job, it is the humankind partaking of the divine. I can tell you that I think you’re making an excellent choice too. What I know about you from reading your blog for several months makes ME want to write you a letter of recommendation for med school- I think you will be a superb student/resident/physician. You already possess so many of the qualities patients need in a doctor- intelligence, communication skills, poise, tact, work ethic, attention to detail, grace.

    You are the perfect age to do this. For one thing, if you go in to medicine too young, you don’t have the wherewithall to talk to people grappling with the most difficult vulnerable experiences that life can bring. You don’t know about empathy, even if you think you do. You have to fake it, and it is one of those times that people know they’re being faked with. Another thing is that if you’re too young, you pine for your freedom. If you’ve already had a big life, you can be done with all of that for a while. You won’t be pining to rave all night. And as for children, plenty of people have kids in residency, even medical school. I’d recommend having them in residency myself, but for a great read, try Perri Klass’s “A Not Entirely Benign Procedure: Four Years as a Medical Student”

    I often tell people that food is their medicine. I believe it. Obviously, I am in the business of internal medicine and kidney disease; I prescribe a lot of meds. But I am all about all of the angles. I know that a banana has 1 mEq of potassium per inch. Why take a potassium pill when you can have an equivalent dose of banana each day? I watched the trailer to Crazy Sexy Cancer (mainly because a friend of mine called me up frantically telling me that I look exactly like Kris Carr) and when Kris waved her arm at the Whole Foods vegetable display and cried “My pharmacy!” it rang true.

    Anyway dear Gena I could go on for a while here but truly do need to return to the dialysis unit and didn’t expect to type it up for so long. I am so thrilled for you, I really didn’t expect this news or to be so happy for you, but I am, and I wish you the very best.

  7. Brand new to your blog and just wanted to say congratulations! I love to hear stories like this. It is absolutely never too late. I became a nurse at 32 and now nearly 5 years later it was the best decision I ever made. I just wanted to wish you luck. From the little bit that I’ve read of your blog so far I suspect you will make a terrific doctor. All the best to you.

  8. Congrats! I’m super behind in my google reader, but I just have to say I”M SO EXCITED! I’m actually just going back to school for a second degree program to BECOME A NURSE. I went from being a Communications major to being totally fascinated with health care. I’m starting UNC’s ABSN progrm on January 10th and I can hardly wait. I’m so looking forward to following along on your journey!

  9. This is rather belated, but I wanted to congratulate you on your decision! I’m sure you’ll have many of those “what am I doing!?!” moments. I know I do! But you know you’ve made the right choice, and we’re all going to be cheering you on during your studies!

  10. i dont know why it took me so long to comment here, but as you know, i am 100% behind you and sooo thrilled to have a fellow well educated vegan joining the medical ranks. people like you are who we need to bring some change up in here. i realize plant based diets are only the tip of the iceberg, though, and i am just elated that you are so excited about your new career move. xxx

  11. Hi Gena,

    Congrats on the career change! I am a registered dietitian with a masters degree and have been reading and enjoying your blog for about a year. I wanted to say how impressed I am with your writing, recipes and quality of the nutrition topics you post on your blog.
    As someone who works closely with physicians in a research setting, I feel we need more nutrition focused and open-minded doctors. You will be a much needed and refreshing addition to the medical community! I will definitely be cheering you on!!


  12. good for you!
    Just make sure this is the right decision for you now and in the future.
    Pre-med courses are very hard and they take up a huge chunk of your social life
    A doctors life is very hard. My entire family are doctors and they never stop working
    Its hard but people do it all the time, just make sure you weigh all your options (8 years of schooling not including residency is not fun).
    Good luck with whatever you decide to do

  13. Congrats Gena – I’m so excited for you. I’ve considered changing careers and it’s definitely terrifying but I think it would be worth it!! Best of luck on your new journey.

  14. Wow…..good for you! Sometimes I think about changing careers too. I’m probably older than you so for me, it’s not as feasible. Right now, just thinking about moving sideways into another department of the music business. Good luck to you!! You’re amazing…and I’m so glad you want to bring knowledge of veganism to the world of doctors 🙂

  15. My dad is a doc, and teaches at Upenn med school. He often teaches residents much older than you, so don’t fret about being *gasp* 28!

    Speaking of doctor, did you know raw expert Dr. Gabriel Cousens attended Columbia Medical school? I bet he’d love to chat about the experience with you if you were ever interested. E-mail me sarah@treeoflife.nu if you ever care to get in touch about this subject.


  16. So excited for you! I definitely agree…there are lots of avenues open only to those with a doctor’s credential. Does Columbia have a focus on holistic nutrition? I am sure your classmates will learn a lot from you, regardless of the type of program!

    There’s nothing more inspirational to me than someone who chooses to take a giant leap in the direction of her dreams…that is something that we’ve definitely lost in today’s society, something for us all to strive toward.

    Congrats and best wishes!

  17. Congratulations! That sounds great.
    From my understanding, I think that nurses get to be much more personal, and more preventative than doctors are, so maybe you should consider nursing as another option!

  18. Gena, Wow – amazing decision. I admire your courage to follow your heart. I wish you the best.

  19. How inspiring! Good luck to you. I just left my job in media relations and communications to pursue holistic nutrition, so your post really resonated with me. What a huge undertaking – it’s very scary to change your life in such a big way, but what you’re doing sounds very exciting. Congratulations!

  20. Hi, I’m a long-time reader but this is my first time commenting. I just wanted to wish you the best of luck with your career change. I am thrilled to have a person like you become a health care profession, and am excited to support your journey via the blog. Best of luck!

  21. Gena, The world will be so lucky to have you as a doctor. I admire your commitment to service, truth, and following your heart.
    Best wishes moving forward. I know you will kick ass!

  22. Your contributions will be such a gift to the vegan community and far beyond. I feel like I just witnessed some kind of historic moment.. Anywho, “May the wind always be at your back and the sun upon your face.” 🙂

  23. Hi Sweetie,

    I am so glad you are going forth bravely! As the old quote goes, Go Confidently in the Direction of Your Dreams, Live the Life You Imagined.


    Dinner soon?????

  24. This post makes me happier than anything I’ve read in days. I am so used to thinking of health as a spectrum, with dismissive doctors at one end and your holistic approach at the other. I have never approached a doctor about my digestive issues, because I don’t trust them, and I’ve managed to heal myself with a balanced vegan diet. The fact that you are becoming a doctor is, in my mind, a BOON for the profession as whole.

  25. Congratulations Gena! As a vegan 31 year old, 4th year medical student applying for residency in orthopedics, I can sympathize with your fears! And I can tell you that the sacrifices you make to pursue a path such as this one are well worth it. I entered an MD/PhD program 8.5 years ago, with the goal of a career in academic medical research. However, I surprised myself in finding that I absolutely loved interacting with patients. 9 years after embarking on this path, I will finally be graduating and beginning another chapter on the road to an academic clinician. I am so excited to follow along with you in this new career path. And when you’re finished, would you be my doctor? I have yet to find one who understands my mostly raw, vegan diet! Best of luck to you!

  26. Hi Gena!

    I don’t usually post comments but this is definitely a special occasion 😛
    I just wanted to say that your blog is of enormous value to me 🙂 and I wish you the best of luck on your new pathway!! Whatever you do- please don’t stop blogging hehe 🙂

    – Emma

  27. I’ve been following your blog for quite a while and have really enjoyed it, not to mention been very impressed with your passion and dedication. The medical field needs more doctors like you will be, who know how important nutrition is to good health. God bless you in future endeavors. You are going to be an awesome doctor!

  28. I decided to go back to school and get my PhD at 28 so I can relate to your decision. Congratulations! Both my brother and sister-in-law are doctors, so I can unofficially welcome you to the club. Looking forward to the development of your blog and all of the new intellectual discoveries you will be making. I am always telling my brother and his wife about how crucial a plant-based diet is for the treatment of so many medical conditions, but they are a bit resistant. For some reason, scientists love their facts and absolutes. Anyway, I hope that your presence in the field will begin to change those types of attitudes. Best of luck to you, happy holidays and happy new year!

  29. This is amazing news!!!!!!!!!!! I’m SO excited for you! Awesome, seriously. Well done, congratulations, you”ll be a wonderful doctor.

    Whilst I’m not studying to be a doctor, going back to do nursing has been amazing and challenging. And, like you, humanities come more naturally to me than sciences but i’ve loved studying them both. Wow, so exciting. You’ll love it.

    Thanks again for all your support and time. I really appreciate it and you’ve helped me immensely. I’m definitely turning a corner and putting a lot of issues further behind me 🙂

    Merry Christmas, lovely Gena! xxx

  30. I am so excited for you, Gena! When I first was introduced to your blog, I used to wish you were a medical doctor. Your insight, compassion, and personality is what patients need! I am a second-year medical student, and I could not imagine being anywhere else! It is all about PASSION. I truly believe this.
    I am just brimming with excitement for you, and I have never even met you. 😉
    You have inspired me to become a vegan at the beginning of my 2nd year. I practice the mantra “Progress, not perfection”. My favorite posts are your ethical and nutritional discussions because they allow me to keep questioning and refining my personal beliefs.
    I wish there was someone to guide me as a vegan through medical school. I am not as vocal as you are as I am still learning a lot. It hurts me to see things like the recommendations for dairy and notice the absence of diet as a possible etiology for illness.
    Please contact me if you ever want to chat! I’m looking forward to watching you pursue your dreams. Wishing you the best, Gena! 🙂

  31. Hey Gena,
    I am an occasional reader and a med student! I am so excited for you and your journey! I think you have a lot to offer the medical community. If you have any questions or need any help don’t be afraid to email me. I not too recently was in your shoes and I know how scary (but fun) it can be!
    Best of luck to you 🙂

  32. from beginning to end u had me glued to ur words 🙂 im currently experiencing something very simlilar only in a different field – im going into nutrition after years of putting it off due to time and money. i wish u all the best in ur new endevour – and a merry xmas!

  33. Gena, first of all, congratulations girl on jumping and waiting for the net to appear! Even though you have expressed your hesitation due to your age and what is involved with taking on this new path (plus I am certain the decision was made more difficult because of your love of publishing) you are the 6th person I know to take on board the decision to study medicine, mature age. 1 has already completed his studies, at 42 he is now practicing as a GP, working on his specialty, the other 5 ARE women which hopes and desires to also start families down the track and are still in process with their studies. They, too, had previous lives and careers, and although not easy, have absolutely no regrets for the path that they have chosen. In my opinion and in their counsellor’s opinions, people with more life experience prior to studying medicine, have a higher success rate and a lower drop out rate, plus are able to bring something else to the table when they are finally practicing. I really think, studying medicine straight out of school, just isn’t the wisest choice for most students and their future patients, and I really hope the people who govern scholarships and funding (I’m Aussie so not sure how it works over there) start to realise that if they do not already. Wow this path is going to be so rewarding, although challenging at times, but I am eager to follow your progress on this life-changing moment Gena. Go girl! We are all behind you, every step of the way!

  34. Gena I am so excited for you… and even more excited for all your future patients! You are absolutely cut out for med school, to the very core. My 1st year med school roommate last year studied very hard but also found ample time for cooking and partying. I lol-ed at your thinking you would have more time to blog and consult as a med student than before, but I think you are completely accurate in that assessment given the insane schedule you’ve been juggling. I’ve seen you itching at the limitations of your knowledge, and I think you are absolutely right that you’ll be able to achieve your goals much more richly with an MD. I held the med school option open through undergrad but ultimately remained too squeamish and concerned about my stamina. Now that I have an amazing naturopath (I think their quality varies greatly, but mine is magic, and has numerous MD clients of her own), I’ve flirted with the idea on an ND from Bastyr. Unlikely, but fun to think about.
    I am SOOO looking forward to your posts as your education advances and you begin to be more able to critically evaluate mainstream medical practice vs holistic nutrition and values (where they collide, that is, which I know they don’t always). I know you’ll make an impact, but it’s a long road. Lucky for you, you bring a lot of ‘clinical’ experience of a nutritional kind, and you’ll be able to question and dialog right away.
    If you had gone right from undergrad, you wouldn’t have the experience and vision you have now that sets you apart and that will make your contribution to medicine unique. There are trade-offs in everything we do, and while you’re starting later you have so much you gained from that.
    Anyway, inspiring as always, and totally excited for you!!

  35. I am 32 and going thru a few “I wish I had known this when I was in undergrad” or “I wish i was younger so I could….” And lately, I have been wishing less and putting a plan into action. The world is your oyester honey and you will be amazing!

  36. We need more people like you! I recently figured out that the reason my cholesterol was so high was due to the healthy food I was eating that wasn’t healthy for my body. Doctors just say to eat healthier but what does that mean? I was eating healthy. Just not healthy for what my body needed. I wish you the best and know you will have an impact on many people’s lives.

  37. i love this. as an, i suppose, former vegan who has suffered from various medical conditions and been told time and again that i’m physiologically incapable of utilizing protein from strictly plant sources (note: no one has suggested that all humans are, just me) and further need to take medication that lists pig hearts as an ingredient, i can certainly see the value of studying medicine while holding vegan principles and values. i look forward to reading about your studies and wish you all the best.

    ps – as a nontraditional student, i promise you, it’s not so bad! i honestly feel it’s a better environment, as rarely do you find keg partiers in the classroom distracting from academic rigor

  38. Just wanted to add my best wishes and congratulations! I’m very excited to read about your medical school adventures. Thanks for sharing with us, now and in the future.

  39. Congratulations on embarking on the path to following your dream!! You will make an amazing doctor and I’m inspired by your drive and bravery. Look forward to following your journey!

  40. Hooray!! I’m sure I wasn’t the only reader who was anxious about the big life-changing reveal– so happy to hear that it’s such a positive and fulfilling change! Your classmates and patients are going to be so fortunate to have you in their corner; you’re so curious, compassionate and knowledgeable– you will make the ideal student and physician!

    Oh, and can’t wait for the day when you can edit your Disclaimer at the bottom of your blog… “I am in fact a medical doctor.” 😉 Congratulations again, Gena!

  41. gaaaaaaaaah I’m SO excited for you and the world who will enjoy the benefits of your wisdom and perspective!! What a positive thing to do for your community. If I ever move to Brooklyn over the next 10 yrs, I’m looking you up to be my M.D.!!

    Best wishes … I know you can do it! 🙂


  42. Wow Gena, congrats on making such a huge and wonderful decision! I love where you are coming from and I think that your presence in the medical community will do many great things for health and veganism. Best of luck on your newest venture, and can’t wait to read all about it here 🙂

  43. Congrats on making this decision and moving forward with your life! I can’t wait to keep up with your med school journey!

  44. CONGRATULATIONS Gena!!!! I was getting a little bit of goosebumps while reading this post.. I’m so excited for you : ) Good luck!!

  45. congratulations Gena! I’m sure you’ll thrive as a new student. your dedication to this blog on top of everything else you accomplish in life is inspiring 🙂

  46. Hooray! I’m a loyal reader who admires your writing, your vegan perspective and your deep knowledge of diet and health. I’ve also shared your envy of friends in the medical field for years! (I’m a professional musician by trade, but am deeply interested in treatment and patient care for Type 1 diabetes.) I think your leap of faith is an absolutely wonderful idea, and I wish I had done it ten years ago. WE NEED medical professionals who understand holistic health, nutritional counseling and veganism! Best of luck to you in your journey.

  47. Gena, I am so happy to read this!!!! We need more vegan advocates in medicine! I’m just finishing up my last year in med school at Penn and applying in Family Practice, with the goal of focusing on lifestyle change and prevention… so I am sure we will be working together one day!

    Hope to cross paths with you at some point soon!


    PS I will be in New York city for the month of February interning at The Dr. Oz Show so maybe will run into you then!

  48. Very interesting choice!!! I am pretty surprised, but super excited to read about your journey. There are a lot of great medical and nursing bloggers out there, so do a search:) As an ICU RN, I can tell you that you have a long, long road ahead of you, but if you play your cards right, then it will be a meaningful career with lots and lots and lots of hours devoted to your career:)

  49. Good luck Gena! It’s inspiring to hear that you really went with your gut feeling and made the choice to go back to school. I’m sure you’ll kick butt! Can’t wait to hear all about it :).

  50. How exciting! Congrats!
    I love this blog as it is.. but I think it’s going to get even better with everything you are going to learn! I can’t wait..

    What you are planning to do is super important and I’m really happy you are doing it. The world needs more doctors with your knowledge and insight.

    Too bad you don’t live in sweden though, here people are a lot older when they start college. And it’s FREE too!

  51. Very very exciting Gena! I admire you so much and think you will be brilliant at whatever path you choose…but being a doctor? Thats a natural fit! Well done and I cannot wait to hear about all your adventures, and will follow your journey avidly!

  52. Oh wow! Congratulations, Gena! This is a breathtakingly strong and brave decision to make, and it is just absolutely inspiring how true you are to pursuing your dreams! 🙂

    Best of luck for your new endeavors!!!

  53. Wow, Gena, this is very exciting indeed. I have been eagerly anticipating your announcement of what you plan to do and had no idea that it would be this. Fear is a funny thing and I am a big believer that the things we fear (clean fear, of course)are the very things we need to be doing.

    I will be very interested to see how all of this plays out for you.

  54. Congratulations! I am a true believer in following your dreams. It is rewarding, change is exciting and the end result clearly looks obvious in your case.
    I have been a life long learner my whole life. Some people think I am crazy, wondering what I see in going after different degrees. I am just an enthusiastic learner and I am happiest when I have a goal – however long it takes to get there.
    Good luck. I enjoy your blog very much and look forward to reading about your journey.
    As an aside, one of the greatest women I ever knew who had never had the opportunity to get an education, decided at the age of 50 years old to get started. At the age of 57 she became a teacher! She spent 13 years doing something she loved every single day. She said they were the happiest and most fulfilling of her life. Take care

  55. Congratulations Gena! I’ve never commented before but felt moved to after reading this post. I am really impressed by your desire to combine the best of natural and evidence-based medicine. I hope that the rigours of the years of study to come and the healthcare system in the US don’t make this too difficult to achieve! I look forward to reading your future posts.

  56. wow Gina it must have felt like a huge relief to share this with all of us :). Initially it seemed like you had no fears or anxiety whatsoever, but it’s good to hear that even Superwoman has those feelings from time to time ;).

    I am studying to be an RD and in a lot of my classes I have to cringe at dietetics teachers (no less…) talk about the necessity of medicine all the time. I want to scream ‘for crying out load we’re nutrition students, ever thought about preventative ‘medicine”? It’s good to see like-minded people, and I have no doubt you will cause a good deal of change in the field.

  57. This is great! Congratulations to you! It will be a long journey but it will be worth it. The things we want most out of life are always worth it : )

  58. Congratulations!
    You will be a superb doctor, and in the meantime have somehow become more of an inspiration than you already were!
    Fantastic, I am so happy for you 🙂

  59. I am so proud of and happy for you, Gena. You are going into this with eyes wide open, and for all the right reasons. I think you’ll do amazingly well. Sure, you will stumble along the way, but that’s an important part of the path. How else do we learn except by making mistakes? I think you’ll make a compassionate, talented and honorable physician, and I plan to stick with you as long as Choosing Raw exists.

    (If I may, I want to cast a vote for you as a family practice doctor. There is a severe shortage of them in this country, and we desperately need competent, level-headed people like you to go into that specialty.)
    My very best wishes and love to you, dear Gena. You’re going to shine.

  60. Gena, that’s amazing! Congratulations on your courage and determination to follow your heart. I look forward to reading about your adventures as a pre-med and med student. Good luck, and keep up the good work. I’m sure you’ll be exactly the kind of doctor we all wish we had.

  61. WOW is all I have to say. My goodness, what a genuine and strong post telling an amazing decision of yours. I have no doubt you’ll get through medical school with no problem and someday make an amazing physician. Especially with a past eating disorder and extensive knowledge in nutrition, you’ll make one understanding and knowledgable doctor!
    By the way, you TOTALLY make me want to fulfill my dreams of being an MD someday 🙂

  62. Hey Gena;

    I think that it is amazing that you are following your pang of jealousy. Most people would not have the guts to do that. I also feel that you having studied the arts first, taught you critical thought, deep questioning and the ability to see beyond what is obvious. All of which are skills that will make you an amazing doctor. Also, the fact that you have lived life a little will be sending you back to school with deeper insight into yourself and what you want, as well as realistic ideas, drive, determination and a knowledge of what the real world is like. Everything that you have done up to this point are going to be things that will make you a more successful student, and a more open, intuitive inquisitive, driven focused and compassionate doctor. And the world could for sure use more of those. And you are going to live the next thirteen years of your life anyways, right? You may as well become a doctor in the time! Take each step, one at a time. Appreciate each and every moment of this next part of your journey, which I am sure you will. I am sure you will be changed astronomically in this next time, enjoy the metamorphosis, and know that “this to shall pass.” Keep a post it in your wallet about why you are doing this, for when times get hard. You are amazing and you can do it!

  63. Gena, congratulations! How incredibly exciting. Your desire to follow after your passions is truly inspiring. Funny enough, I made a parallel but opposite decision last year — to drop my pre-med major and pursue an English degree 🙂 Pre-med wasn’t for me, but I had a hard time dealing with the idea that “professional bookworm” isn’t exactly a job title many people have. However, I’m so happy now that I’ve followed my passions — and I know you will be too! Best of luck!

  64. Wow Gena! Your news really struck a chord with me as your situation very much mirrors mine. I spent my twenties studying language and literature and after graduating I realized that what I truly wanted was a career in medicine and I came across the same stumbling blocks: age (I’m now 30), money (still have previous student loans) etc. While I have not done anything to change my own situation so far, what an inspiration to read that you will be embarking on this journey toward a very admirable goal. Best wishes! xx

  65. What an exciting new journey!!! One of my dear friends attends Columbia. Your story almost parallels my Aunts. I don’t know what age you are right now but, I think it’s safe to say you aren’t in your 40’s, like my Aunt was when she went to med school back in the 70’s, in New York, and I believe it was at Columbia!!!

    Where there’s a will there’s a way, and age is just a number. You can do it! Congratulations Gena! I wish you all the best.

  66. Gena, I applaud you for being willing to jump into something new out of pure passion for the subject matter. I wish you the best of luck in your new endeavors!

  67. Congratulations on your exciting new endeavor! After 8 years as a writer in the non-profit sector, I gave it up last summer to accept a teaching position. I had always felt the desire to serve students in the classroom, but worried that at age 30, I was too old. Despite the change of location, salary, and work schedule – I couldn’t be happier. It’s good to mix things up – at any age. Best of luck to you!

  68. congrats on the decision, though tough, sounds like you are so happy about this transition and I applaud you!!!

  69. Yay med school!!! Congrats! While I took a more traditional route here (only 24 and a 3rd year), I can appreciate the strength it will take to get to your intended endpoint. Medical school has at once been one of the most challenging and remarkable experiences of my life. And even though I’m exhausted (thanks surgery clerkship for making my hours 4a-9p…) I’m terribly excited and don’t regret a moment. Welcome to the party!

    • Hey sweetie! I recognized you right away from other smart comments on ED recovery, science, and medicine. So happy to hear your supportive words, and thanks for cheering on an old geezer like me 🙂

      • You’re not alone! One of my classmates is in his mid-thirties with twins!! I’ve mentored undergrads and underclassmen med students for years, and I’ll be taking a nice “break” next year to get an MBA so if you ever need any help/advice/motivation, you know how to find me!

  70. How exciting! I am so happy for you! My husband is an MD and currently a 2nd year resident. I’ve been with him the entire journey so I am very familiar with the commitment it requires and know how huge of a decision this was for you. Surprisingly, a good portion of people we’ve met over the years during med school and now in residency didn’t go straight from college to med school. My husband is the youngest is his entire residency program (28) because I believe he is the only person that did.

    Anyway, congratulations! I’m thrilled to follow along in your adventures and know you will make an amazing doctor!

  71. Gena, I think this is amazing. I’m so heartened to hear your story and wish an integrative MD with a nutrition bent was available to help two members of my family now.

    I’m actually glad you’re not choosing the naturopathic route–even though, of course, it’s not my business :). I think the bridge between ‘Western’ medicine and more holistic approaches needs to be built by inquisitive, broad minded and rigorous MDs. You have all of those traits, Gena, and I’m sure will bring together the best of both modalities.

    Good luck to you this January, Gena!

  72. I’m so proud of you, my dear! I mourn the loss of you as my best and most brilliant editor, but the knowledge that our friendship will continue as ever is all that really matters.

    Much love,

  73. Hello! Longtime reader / lurker, but had to stop by and offer a great big WAY TO GO and CONGRATULATIONS!

    I went back to school at 27 (albeit for a traditional mid-career MBA). It was the BEST DECISION EVER. There’s nothing better to sustain your passion than to surround yourself with other smart, passionate, risk-taking folks. I found them in my master’s program and you’ll find them in your post-bac program and in med school. Sincere congratulations on a bold and exciting choice.

    All the best!

  74. We definitely need more holistic doctors so GO GENA!! Don’t worry about anything. It will all be alright because you are such an amazing woman attracting nothing but the best!

  75. Gena,
    I am a long-time reader, seldom comment-er and a fourth year medical student at Columbia. I am so excited to have you join the ranks! I have so much to add… first of all, I have many classmates who started in their 30s and above – several even with children, and PhDs in entirely unrelated subjects. It is never to late to pursue your passion. Second of all, we in the world of MDs need people like you who are ambitious and smart enough to change the field from within. Kudos to you for going for it.
    Please feel free to email if you ever need advice or a vent session, and definitely if you put together a meet-up! Medical school is a long road that will test you in ways you didn’t know possible, but is ultimately so rewarding.

    • Jen!

      Wow, thanks. You have no idea how much this means to me. I’m excited to have a friend at CU med school, and I hope you’ll let me invite you over for a meal sometime so that we can say hello and you can share some of your wisdom with me. I’ll let you know when I’m settled up there.

      In the meantime, hearing your obvious enthusiasm is just what I need right now, and I thank you for chiming in. Seriously–thanks.


  76. Gena, congratulations! Your passion and determination to heal and teach others will be your rock throughout this process! Your announcement is such an inspiration to me, as I’m currently considering a major career shift from marketing to holistic nutrition. I’m dealing with similar anxious feelings and it’s nice to see that you’re going after it because you’re passionate about it and you know you’ll succeed. Can’t wait to read along throughout your journey. And again – congrats on the decision!

  77. Hi Gena! I’ve been an avid reader of CR but have never posted a comment. I just had to say that your decision to go to med school is incredible and inspiring. I actually just returned to school at the age of 25 to study epidemiology after having a similar realization regarding my passion and the direction I’d like to go in. Just from being on a campus surrounded by med students (and knowing a few), I can tell you that it is going to be tough but I know you’ll do well! To be honest, it blows me away that you were able to take organic chem, stats, and a & p at the SAME time!!

    I wish you all the best in the new year and look forward to future blogs! 🙂

  78. Congratulations, Gena! I’ve actually contemplated med school myself and I’m thrilled that you took the leap! It’s wonderful that you’re challenging yourself and following your heart and I know you have an excellent support system.

  79. Gena, you are, as always, an inspiration. Congratulations of having the courage to choose the tougher path and follow your dream!
    I’m really excited to see how you incorporate your vast knowledge of food, nutrition, veganism, and alternative remedies into a medical career; partly because that’s in large part what I hope to do. I just finished my first semester of medical school and I LOVE it. It was crazy busy, stressful, and amazing all at once. I love all the material; I love understanding the inner workings of our incredible bodies. But I’m also finding myself wanting to do more than traditional medicine; I want to find a way to integrate other aspects of health promotion into my practice. I’ve been vegan for almost two years now, thanks in large part to your blog, and I am a huge proponent of the effects that nutrition, exercise, meditation, and spirituality have on our health. I would love to find a way to be an advocate for that kind of integrative medicine, and to share with the world all the benefits of veganism that I’m experiencing.
    In short, I can’t wait to see how you do it, because I’m looking for something very similar. Sorry for the essay-comment, and again, congratulations and welcome to the world of medicine! Your’e going to love it!!

    • YAY! Katie, thank you thank you. It’s really inspiring to read this, and I think we’ll have a lot to teach each other — I can tell you more about what I plan to do, and you can certainly prep me for the challenges ahead. My email’s gena@thefullhelping.com, and as soon as I’m settled in January, we should trade some thoughts 🙂

  80. I am over-the-moon happy for you, Gena!

    You are such a superstar, and I just know you are going be a find wild success in med school and beyond. You are just the person to make a huge impact in the medical community and with the general public. Most importantly, you are following your heart and passion, and that is always the right path in life. You are one brave and brilliant woman.

    I wish you all the very best, and I am so excited that you’ve invited us to go along on this journey with you!

  81. WOW. You are amazing and will be a great doctor! I am experiencing similar feelings- after completing my undergrad in the liberal arts (sociology & women’s studies) I am intending to pursue a master’s in Nutrition to become an RD, and am facing a bunch of science pre-reqs. I’m super anxious about this decision, too, and it feels daunting to launch back into another 3+ years of school, but I have my heart and head set on it, as it seems you do with your decision. Congrats on your new journey!

  82. WOW!! I am soooo happy for you. I think you are so wise to just do it, even with your reservations.

    One of my very best friends is on a similar path. She had her kids young ( they are 14 and 19 now ) and four years ago, she went back to school with the goal of becoming a doctor. She’s now in Medical School… and she has never been more sure of something in her life.

    You will be such an amazing asset to the medical community. I am really really thrilled to hear this and can’t wait to read more about it as you begin such an amazing journey.

  83. This is the first time I’ve ever commented, but I just had to get on and let you know that I think that you are making a brave, wonderful choice, and I wish you the best of luck. The best gift can be to be able to do what you want to do with your life.

  84. YAY!!! You did it!!! We are both so proud of you and know you are going to not only love it, but are going to be one of the best!!! The world is so lucky to have you in it!!!

    Best wishes!!!

    Pure2raw twins

  85. Wow, Gena. I both admire and respect you. I am 29 years old and with a passionless career. Due to economy, I can’t even get a job in that now. I basically am sliding by doing very insecure jobs…I feel so on edge – I have 8 years of schooling. A ton of debt.
    Med school will be challenging, but I know you can do it. Actually getting in will be the challenge. Not everyone does.
    I’m kind of surprised you didn’t go a more alternative route such as a doctor of naturopathy. I’ve found them far more effective than mainstream medicine has ever lead me.
    But you know yourself.
    In the meantime, I have an intense interest in editing and publishing, freelancing, copyrighting, etc.. However, I don’t have the finances to return to school to pursue that. If you have any thoughts or meaningful directions, let me know!

    • I’ve actually had the opposite experience, which is part of why I opted for this path. Either way, my goal is to offer help to people who suffer.

      You actually don’t need any grad degrees for a publishing career! Truly, not a one. You do need to start networking very aggressively in NYC, getting informational interviews, etc., because that’s where the action is.

  86. Wow what a terrifying and exciting goal. Just from reading your blog the past year I know you will be fabulous at anything you really want to do. What an amazing decision to follow your heart.

  87. What a wonderful announcement, and the medical field will be lucky to have you! I can appreciate the fact that this is a big leap – I am working towards an RD, and leaving my job in 2 weeks. Yes, I took organic chem at 30 and did well, it truly is never too late. Best of luck!

  88. i loved reading this post. you seem so happy with your (informed and rational) decision. this post is glowing with positive, directed and confident energy. i’m looking forward to reading about your pre-med and med school adventures, and seeing where this takes you professionally, and the blog. can’t wait. 🙂

  89. Gena, you are/will be the MD of my dreams! As someone who has lived with Lupus for almost 10 years, I’ve searched high and low for a medical professional who has your holistic vision. Your blog has already helped inspire me to finally start the journey towards a plant-based diet. Thank you and congrats!!!

  90. It sounds like public health might be good for you. I deferred at columbia’s mph program this year- but I think they do a md/mph dual.

  91. Hi Gena–

    I don’t know you, aside from following your blog and once sending you a semi-panicked email about a consult. But this post is pretty inspirational. good luck !

  92. Okay, I had a couple of ideas of what you would announce. This was not one of them! 🙂 I admire you so much, Gena! Life’s calling doesn’t happen by a certain age or at the “right time.” We all get callings but many are not brave enough to answer the call. You are. Congratulations!

  93. Congratulations on your wonderful decision! You have to love what you do and I believe you will be very successful. I follow your twitter quotes, which helps me makes right choices of nutrition. You’re an inspiration!!! Good Luck!

  94. Gena,
    I am absolutely THRILLED for you in your decision to follow your heart and passion!!!! Bravo to “M” and all of your friends/family who supported your dreams and did what was needed to quell the fear, which would’ve otherwise held you back (and had I known sooner you know I would’ve been in their camp, FOR SURE).
    I personally think that 28 is young (however, considering I am 38 I would) and that we can at any moment decide to switch our path in life and create something new. Maybe more challenging, but if anyone is up for it, it is YOU, dolly! The rewards far outweigh any blood, sweat, and tears!
    As you have undoubtedly assisted your clients and readers of CR to find wellness, your brilliance will continue to develop and deepen to help countless others in the future.
    BE that trailblazer in the medical, health and wellness community that you are destined to become…it is SO needed as you are well aware!
    Bridge the gap. Educate others. Be a LEADER towards radiant health. Inspire along the way. The world will be a better place because of you
    (actually, already is)!
    You rock, sister!
    XXX M.

  95. Gena- How exciting and congratulations! This is my first comment and I cannot tell you how much I love reading your blog. You challenge me and continually inspire me on my vegetarian journey. (and for January well see how being vegan goes!) I am applying to law school right now and have been procrastinating and having the same doubts/worries/terrified thoughts you have. This was just what I needed to hear- Thank you! Have a wonderful holiday, and good luck!

  96. I don’t think I have ever commented, but I wanted to say congratulations and best wishes on your new journey. Oh, and 28 is young! I’m 33 and just finished my PhD in Environmental Engineering and am working on the career/family thing now. You’ll be amazed at what you can handle – at 28 I was going through a divorce (while in grad school) and since then managed to meet and marry the right man and buy a house. Sure you will be crazy busy, but life keeps on going and you will appreciate all those special moments that much more. You will be an amazing doctor!

  97. Congratulations Gena! I’m long time reader, and I just had to de-lurk and wish you the best, I am certain you are going to help better many lives.

  98. goodness. gena, you are so inspiring. i did not expect this at all. i know it may sound creepy, but i have looked up to you from afar for being a strong woman who overcame a lot of things largely by herself. major congratulations to you. you are humbling. i can already foresee you writing a book like barnard and campbell have, no doubt about it AT ALL. i can say when your book is out that i was a reader of yours from the very beginning! oh man.

  99. Rarely do I feel such butterflies of excitement for someone I don’t even know! Gena, I think this is the perfect path for you (and since I know you so well, you should trust me on that ;-).

    I often discuss with other vegans my frustration that medical doctors do not understand my veganism, and as a scientist and a skeptic, I cannot be satisfied purely with ‘alternative’ treatments. Like you, I tend to believe that a combination of both is where it’s at, and the idea that you are going to do that makes me want to pick up and move to New York when you’re all done 🙂 Keep me posted when that happpens, and I’ll try to convince my husband that we can move to the US and avoid all the right-wing crazies that he sees on TV and in the news! I’ve got years to work on it 😉

    On another note, this is also inspirational to me, as I will be going back to do my PhD in a year or two. Right now, I am being held back by immigration paperwork, but once it’s all sorted an I am a permanent resident, I will be going back to school. I feel too old to do it (I’ll probably be 30 or 31 by the time it happens), so it’s nice to see that you’ve taken the plunge. Congratulations and I wish you the best of luck. I’m looking forward to following you on this path!

  100. What exciting news!! I saw your post on twitter and had to jump over here and read all about it.

    Gena, you are taking on this challenge in order to better HELP other people. Not even people you know, but strangers, to live a more complete and fulfilling life. I can not image that the universe would not support you in that. Doors will open for you.

    Oh, and my Dad went to med school at age 30 to become a chiropractor, with my mom pregnant, and he was a teacher before that so they were dirt poor. I know you’re worried about the $, but that courageous move has only paid dividends for their health, happiness, and wealth. And he loves his work because every day he helps free people from pain. What is better?

  101. wow, gena! you are so inspiring, i really hope you know that. i absolutely love the fact that you are going for your dreams despite your age and despite your already solid career path. not very many people follow their hearts! good for you! i cannot wait to read all about it!

    you’re going to make a great doctor. know how i can tell? because of this:
    “I’d like to place an emphasis on preventative care through diet and lifestyle, which is what so many doctors seem to ignore in their concession-making to pharmaceutical companies.”

    you are so clearly a person genuinely concerned about health and not about “band-aid” solutions. it seriously makes me happy to know that people like you are going into the field of medicine. gah! what a wonderful post. the best of luck to you, gena!

  102. Congrats Gena!!! This so huge and I’m so excited for you.
    I recently applied for ND school and I have my interview in January. It is scary but for once in my life, my passion is stronger than my fear!! So,I know its right:)
    Don’t worry about the debt..you can deal with that later!!
    Enjoy the journey!!

  103. I am so excited for you.

    I have not a single doubt that THIS is what you are meant to be doing. Your gift will change lives.

    I am so very, very proud. That a girl!!!!

  104. Wow! Congratulations! What an inspiring and bold decision to follow your passion. I jumped off the corporate band wagon at 35 to go to art school, and have never regretted it. You’ll have so much wisdom and life experience to bring to your studies. You’ll be a wonderful role model for the other students..

  105. Congratulations Gena! I’m so thrilled that you’re doing something that you’re really passionate about. A good friend of mine decided recently that she wanted to be a doctor, so she’s going back for her post-bacc in the fall (she didn’t like the pesky science classes in college either), and she’s really excited about it. Once she figured out that it was something that she really wanted, that felt right, she just got this serene attitude about everything, because everything was falling into place. I only hope that you have that feeling as well.

    Best of luck! i know you’ll be amazing!

    P.S.–Another medical doctor who understands veganism–Dr. Fuhrman, who wrote Eat to Live.

  106. A fully educated and credentialed vegan MD who is passionate about raw food: what a gift to the world you are giving! Not an easy road you are headed down but your passion will get you through it, I am sure. There will be many ethical stumbling blocks I am sure. I left my pre-med major due to the animal testing aspect, which I wasn’t pressured to do, just was annoyed by mostly.

    Thanks for the inspiration for following your dreams. As someone who is trying to reinvent their life, I love hearing about people who make big changes following their passions.

    I understand about the debt aspect, but academic debt is the least worrisome of all types of debts and it will eventually end.

  107. I hoped this might be the big change you were hinting at. I’m so happy for you. And while it seems many circumstances conspired to bring you to this place, I’m glad I could be of some encouragement. I do think we outgrow possibilities, and part of getting older involves letting go of the people we might have been. But becoming a doctor is a very different dream than becoming a ballerina, and you are absolutely not too old. I have a friend who will graduate from Columbia Medical School in June, at age 45. I think age is a useful heuristic, facilitating life in linear time, nothing more.

  108. I didn’t think it was possible to think higher of you than I do, but, lo and behold, it is. You are inspiring, brave and humbling. I look forward to reading about your new life and cheering you on from the other side of the computer screen.

    You. Are. Awesome.

  109. Mazel tov on making such an important decision and life change! And going back to school at the “ripe old age” of 28 is fabulous — I returned to school in my mid-forties and I loved every minute of it. It was the best gift I could have given myself, and I suspect that you will discover this to be true for you, too. I know you will be a fabulous MD.

  110. Follow your heart….. that is the true direction and where it leads you will be pure in your soul!!! Bon courage!!! Bliss x

  111. Gena, you are inundated with comments on this post and it only showed up in my reader 40 mins ago:)

    Wow, congratulations on this seismic leap. Yes, that IS the only word for it. It all makes sense now. I get it. Wow, yes, only in hindsight and knowing the pieces of it all does everything finally make sense.

    I was a pre-med student. Then at the 11th hour i realized that I did not like the hard sciences b/c they are a struggle for me, and I changed my major from bio to psych.

    I went on to go to optometry school rather than med school (sort of like dental school, it’s 3 yr program after undergrad) but I didnt like it and quit after a semester. I went on to pursue my graduate work in psych, which was my passion.

    But I was in my early/mid 20s. If I could do it all over again…I have no idea if I would have stuck w/ becoming a MD. Or maybe a ND (but back then i didnt know what a ND was). Or maybe a midwife (But back then i didnt understand why midwives were so important..yes, i was so young).

    It’s all a long way of saying, you are rightfully feeling a bit overwhelmed with this all but honestly, you seem like you are just a tiny bit overwhelmed. Not even majorly 🙂 Hats off to you, lady!

    And the money? That is the LAST thing I would worry about. Debt? Who cares. You’ll pay it off. Money is easy to come by and to lose; it’s just one of those things.

    The thing I would care about is HAPPINESS. Is this what is going to make you happy? Sounds like it! Perfect, you’re all set 🙂

    I am rooting you on!!!!!!

    p.s. organic, inorganic and physical chemistry and upper level physics were awful for me. I hope you are faring better with them than i was 🙂

  112. What a gorgeous post. You already know how excited I am for you and how much I support this decision. Taking a step like this is indicative of who you will be as a future doctor – fearless in your pursuits. xo

  113. Gena, as someone who just finished earning my degree in a related field…I want to say congratulations on this momemntous decision from a place of having truly been through something like what you are about to embark upon. I too have my qualms about my field, but it for for that reason that I sought a degree, in order to make changes from the inside. Your fears are valid but importantly are not holding you back. I think undertaking a challenge knowing full well it will be difficult, rather than with an idealized perspective, is strongly associated with success. The thirst for knowledge is not easily sated…but with enough delicious vegan rawness and loads of articles to read, maybe?

  114. Such a brave move! I’m very, very happy to hear that you have made the decision to join the medical arena. I think it sounds like a perfect fit, even though I don’t know you personally, and am cheering for you! I have the exact same feelings about the medical community and preventive care that you do, and I love that you’re going to be joining in to make a difference. I can’t wait to read along!

  115. I’ve never commented before, but really enjoy your blog and wanted to congratulate you. I am a freelance editor and applying to do grad studies in publishing next fall, so I always enjoyed hearing tidbits about your career at FSG. I’ll miss that, but look forward to reading your reflections on your publishing career and seeing what comes next. Best of luck to you!

    • Oh yeah, I was also going to say, I started out as pre-med and made my way into the humanities. Those critical thinking skills are definitely transferable!

  116. OHMYGOSH!! This is amazing! you will be an awesome doctor 🙂 Don’t worry about debt you will pursuing a life dream, and be helping thousands of people. Can I shcedule my appointment now for when you become a doctor haha 😉 So awesome you will be a vegan doctor. Congrats, sometimes we do just need some reassurance from friends and family 🙂

  117. Congratulations and kudos on your very-well-thought-out decision!

    I’m excited to hear it because I go to GS too, but for kind of the opposite reason. I was pre-med undergrad then got my master’s in acupuncture and feel like I missed out on the whole liberal arts education, so now I’m back in undergrad studying Urban Studies (which relates to my experience and interest in the NGO sector).

    I want to validate what you’re saying in a few ways. Interestingly, I left medicine because I felt marginalized as a non-MD or PhD. (I do not mean to offend any non-MDs or non-PhDs. I respect the heck out of those paths. For me, I loved treating patients, but did not love not being able to aspire to contribute to medical journals, lead research, or join the ranks of mainstream, upwardly-mobile hospital staff.) I considered doing the MD path, but ultimately decided that there was a different, stronger fit out there for me. I think it’s a *great* idea to go all the way.

    Regarding the $, some good news. My husband is doing his MBA at Columbia and we were initially very, very freaked about the debt. But we found that it feels very different to return to school to study something where you know you will be able to make your student loan payments quite comfortably as opposed to doing a master’s in something where the job prospects are low-paying. Also, there’s always the option of going to an area in need for a while in exchange for hefty loan reimbursement. Those programs are plentiful. I worked with MDs at the UCLA/Venice Family clinic who did this and they said it was some of the best medical training available.

    Welcome back to Columbia! We could get a GS vegan dinner together if you’d like.

  118. The delay in your response makes SO MUCH MORE SENSE NOW. 🙂 I’m really, really excited for you. I, as I’m sure many others are, frequently avoid doctors because they aren’t interested in health. They’re interested in symptoms. And I want someone to see ME when I’m looking for answers. You’re gonna be that person. Woo hoo! Anyway, excited for this new adventure for you and to hear from you soon.

  119. I am so excited for you, I have nothing but faith that you’ll make an amazing change on the world. Age should never hold you back – my husband’s best friend in medical school (they are both 2nd years) is 33, and she is kicking ass!

  120. Congratulations on this exciting step, Gena! I can’t imagine someone as passionate and intelligent as you doing anything less than becoming a doctor – you are going to change the world! I’m really looking forward to following along on your journey. 🙂

  121. WOW
    CONGRATULATIONS!!!! For pursuing what you truly want, for having the guts to do it, yet again you are an inspiration to all of us (you actually made me feel empowered just by reading your post,how can we thank you for all you’ve done for us? sniff *_*) and I have no doubt at all you ‘ll make the best.doctor.ever. No I ‘m not exaggerating I truly believe that!!!Good luck with everything, I am so happy for you and I ‘ll be cheering you on in everything you do!

    Best wishes

    your future client;)
    (I ‘ll email you sometime in January)

  122. You are so inspiring and amazing. Most people would not have the courage to do what you are doing. I know you have a long road ahead but I also know you are brilliant and will do so well in medical school. I look forward to the day you can be my own doctor because you know more than anyone how much I needed someone like this (I still do, but not as much as I used to) when i was struggling for so long with my own illness. I truly believe you will make a major name for yourself as a physician and will tear down misconceptions and enlighten not only your patients, but other health care professionals and many other people (because I have no doubt you will also write a book). Good luck and I can’t wait to follow your progress!

    • Dori,

      We’ve had a lot of the same physical and emotional challenges as patients in our lifetimes, so it means a lot to me that you support me! I hope I can help people like us one day 🙂


  123. What an amazingly courageous and happy decision, and a beautifully written post. Congratulations!! At any age I would so much rather follow my passion than know every day that I was passing up an opportunity to do what I truly loved.

  124. The world needs more people like you, Gena! This is an incredibly brave decision, especially given your tendency towards the humanities rather than the sciences… I can completely relate to that. 🙂 This is going to be an exciting adventure, and I can’t wait to keep reading!

  125. Congrats, Gena! I’m so amazed and encouraged by your willingness to go after what you want. You are SO inspiring! The medical world is lucky to have you! Congrats! Congrats! Congrats! 🙂

  126. I’m so proud of you, my friend 🙂 Can’t wait to follow in your journey as you combine medicine and your previous nutritional knowledge. There’s not enough collaboration between those two fields, as you know!

  127. Oh wow, Gena!! This is quite the major change! It will certainly be a big turning point in your career…and there may be some hardships ahead (hey, studying is always hard)…but I honestly, sincerely wish you all the best. I love your passion to serve others…I think that truly is what makes you such a beautiful person, Gena.

  128. How exciting, good for you!

    I incurred over 50k of grad school debt and then went on to work with people who have HIV/AIDS, so the government paid my loans off in chunks of $10,000 the longer I agreed to continue working with that underserved population in a HPSA (health professional shortage area). Going into grad school, I didn’t even know this would be an option! It all works out if it’s meant to be.

    Also, I have a friend who started med school at age 40 and now is a successful dermatologist and doesn’t regret her choice one bit.

  129. Wow, Gena, you were right when you called this a seismic life change but what an amazing one it will be! If anyone is up for the challenge it’s you. I just wished I lived in NYC so you could one day be my doctor!

  130. Congratulations on a truly impressive decision! My daughter is a pre-med student right now, so I’ve seen how challenging, yet rewarding, this path is. I think you’ll do remarkably well and provide a much needed service. Good luck in your endeavor!

  131. WOW!! Congratulations Gena! What a huge, exciting change. As terrified as you may be, there is nothing more comforting than knowing you’re following your heart. No regrets! You are going to bring an invaluable perspective to the medical community. If I’m still in NY when you graduate, expect a call from me!

  132. Wow! I never would have expected this from you but am so amazed and impressed that you are doing it.

    I share your feelings exactly! Except instead of the literary world I was working in the business world when I realized that, though I had a talent for marketing/public relations, healthcare was the field I truly wanted to be in!

    I am taking the RD route and am starting my Masters of Science in Nutrition this January… at Columbia! I would definitely love to meet up!

    Interestingly enough, my advisor told me that many people in my program, many of whom are already in their mid-late 20’s, choose to go into medical school afterwards. It is something I am actually considering. But we’ll see!!!

    See you around campus 😉

  133. What an amazing step! Congrats! Quick question (and you may have addressed this somewhere else) — did you consider a program to become a Physician Assistant or Nurse Practioner as well? My sister-in-law is a PA and finds it a very rewarding and has lots of the same privileges (prescription writing), but with a remarkably shorter amount of schooling (think they are 2 – 3 years). I think each state has differences in terms of the licensing and in which is more common, NP or PA, but I just thought I’d ask!

    Good luck! As a girl that also spent her undergrad also furiously reading poetry and 19th century novels, I admire you GREATLY!

  134. Congratulations Gena!! It takes so much courage to follow your intuition, especially when you are already happy and secure. But I know the world desperately needs doctors like you. Reading your blog is a constant source of inspiration and I am so happy to hear you will continue to write. I myself am embarking on a year of change, leaving my job (that I enjoy) and going back to school for holistic nutrition while moving to Italy to be with my boyfriend. Change can be scary, but knowing that you are honoring your intuition, following your passion and giving back in such a selfless way are far greater rewards. Thank you again and best of luck!

  135. That’s excellent! I know you will find the area of study that allows you to do the most good. You have a wealth of knowledge and care for individuals’ health to give to the medical world and I know you’ll succeed!

  136. Chick, you are going to kick med school’s ASS! I barely know you, but I’m sure of that. I’m so happy for you!

    I have a degree in biology so I understand the science trepidation, but I promise you there’s nothing magical or mysterious about science. It just takes diligence and dedication – you’ve actually got the perfect personality type for it. So don’t worry!

    I’m really REALLY looking forward to reading about your experiences in the context of ‘a vegan in med school’. Seriously excited about that.


  137. That is amazing news! Good for you! What an exciting journey. I know you will continue to help loads of people and we soooooo need it in this country!

  138. Congratulations, Gena! I am so happy for you. I actually almost went to med school, too (so many bloggers, it seems!) and went through 2 rounds of interviews before I realized it wasn’t for me. I think it is wonderful that you know what you want and that you are going for it. And I think you will make an amazing physician, and patients will be so lucky to have you! It sounds like the perfect confluence of your many interests, too. Best of luck, and I can’t wait to see where this leads! xo

  139. Congrats, girl! This is such an exciting step, and I know you will reap huge rewards.

    Again, so excited for you!

  140. Congratulations on making such a life changing decision! I respect you so much for the choice you’ve made and I think you made the right choice. Age, money and time are usually a HUGE deterrent for people when it comes to getting an education or furthering the one they already have and I don’t believe those should be such a huge influencing factor as they are nowadays. Taking the step to do what you truly want to do in life is what, I believe, everyone should do, because if you’re not going to do what you want or enjoy, then what kind of life are you actually living? Taking a chance to put yourself out there and embark on a long but rewarding journey is a wise decision and I fully support it. I hope you really enjoy it and make the best of it and I look forward to hearing about the progress as it comes along!

  141. Congratulations!!! I took the plunge this year and started going to school part-time to become a teacher. I still work my full-time HR job during the day. I know my path is totally different than yours, but just having made the decision to do something new that I really want to do made a huge positive change in my life. I’m sure it will do the same for you! I’d be really grateful to have a doctor with a holistic approach to health and helpful science-based advice in support of veganism. (And I’m not even vegan- just vegetarian!) Good luck- it sounds like this is just the right path for you 🙂

  142. OOOOHHH I <3 organic chemistry!!! I know you'll be the one to take the medical system and make it work for you and your clients. I'm so proud, and you'll definitely do great things. Enter academia with pride Gena!

  143. Huge congratulations to you! What an exciting (even if part terrifying) time for you. I have many friends who are doctors and while the road is no doubt long, all of them wanted it so badly that they knew everything that they put into the process would ultimately get them to their goal. It sounds like you are just as passionate! This will be an amazing turning point for you to look back on once you have achieved your goals. Best of luck!!

  144. I´m so exited for you! And impressed and inspired. For you to be brave and follow the path you feel you need to follow. I hope I´m brave enough to do the same. Good luck!

  145. Oh my goodness, I am so excited for you! My mom’s a GP (now practicing as a therapist), and she a) entered med school when she was almost 30 and b) had me while she was there! I have no doubt you’ll make it work, too! Best of luck!!!!

  146. Very exciting! I’m sure you’ll succeed. I have a feeling that you’ll end up being one of those big vegan names (Neal Barnard, etc) that the rest of us look up to and refer to for information and foundational knowledge, and I look forward to that day. As for the long journey, I have no doubt you’ll handle it with grace. You’re going to be 13 years older in 13 years anyway. Might as well do something you love. Congratulations on taking this big step and being bold enough to follow your dreams.

  147. Oooh, congratulations!!! One of my bellydance instructors is also studying to be a doctor~ she returned to school when she was 50 and we couldn’t be more proud of her! (To a certain extent) with age comes knowledge and more understanding: of ourselves, of the world, of others. You have even more to offer now at 28 than you did at 18 or 22, so watch out world!! 🙂

  148. Congratulations on a HUGE decision! I love your mission of bringing your understanding of a vegan diet to medicine and vice versa – the world needs more people like that and you will do a fantastic job. Keep that mission in mind when times get tough!

  149. I’m at work and should neither be reading nor commenting…but….

    CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!! I am so damn excited for you and cannot wait to see where this takes you!

    A true inspiration, friend. 🙂

  150. Wow!! I am soooo happy/excited/thrilled for you!!!! Yay for following your dreams, you are going to be an amazing doc (and if you go into gastroenterology, you KNOW you have ME as a patient)! It would be amazing to have a doc with the same beliefs I have!!! Good luck, I KNOW you are going to kick ass!! XOXO

  151. Oh, and question: have you ever thought about becoming a nurse practitioner? They can prescribe medicine and have their own practice (independent of an MD), but it takes about 2.5 years to get that degree. Let me know if you have any questions about it, because I know some NP’s who love what they do. Good luck!

  152. Wow! Good luck, and also can I say M is a hero. I haven’t met him but anyone who encourages and supports someones dream is a keeper!

  153. Congratulations! I’m also 28 and am applying to graduate schools all over again. Sometimes I feel a little old to be giving up my career and going back to school, but like you I know it’s what I want more than anything, and that makes it worth it.

    Can’t wait to see the changes that this new life transformation will bring about!

  154. Wow, congratulations! That is a super life-changing decision.

    My curiosity is getting the better of me though – you didn’t mention any thoughts about the possibility of becoming an ND. Did that thought go through your mind too, or was it MD-Or-Bust?

    Either way, I wish you the best on your new life path, and I will continue to check in on your blog to read about your progress.

    • MD or bust, all the way. I actually haven’t developed a high opinion of NDs — and I say this as someone who has seen some very well respected ones. But of course I support what they do, as well.

  155. Congratulations and best of luck! I admire how brave you are to follow your passion and not let fear get in your way.

  156. Gena: I hope that when you write your admissions essays two years from now, you come back to this deeply honest post and pull from it for inspiration.

    If I was on your admissions board, I’d only have one word: Yes.

    Yes: medicine needs more women like this one – who believe allopathic and holistic medicine do not just coexist, but when used together, make medicine better.

    Leap, and the net will appear.

  157. Yay Gena! You are going to blossom into an inspiring doctor, who I’m confidant will shake up the medical field in terms of how it places a vegan lifestyle. I wish you luck and love. I am incredibly humbled by your aspirations in the medical field and your obvious stubborn desire to help people find health, peace and in turn, happiness. You will make an amazing doctor. Your future patients are very lucky you have chosen this path.

    Until we chow-together again, xoxo Kathy

  158. This is fantastic, inspriring, and so very exciting! Isn’t is wonderful to be human and have the ability to change our minds whenever we feel, and know that we have the freedom to do what we want, as long as we have the faith that it can and will happen! So amazing, very glad you shared!

  159. Congratulations – what wonderful news 🙂 And what a beautiful post. I look forward to continuing to follow your journey 🙂

    Also: check out Michelle Au’s blog and upcoming book – while she went to medical school right out of college, she had her first child as a resident – you may enjoy her blog 🙂

      • That would be most lovely. I am in DC over the holidays so if you come back down in the next couple of weeks, just send me an email at citylifeeats@gmail.com 🙂

        By the way, I got epically busy and did not comment for a while, but I felt bad about your visit to Cafe Green – I too find the raw soup there inedible – I have had the best luck with the cooked entrees and the raw pizzas. I also found the portion sizes and service at the place to have become inconsistent recently. On the other hand, I live two blocks from there and am so appreciative or how much gluten-free vegan eating I can do there, I still go in hopes of them getting more consistent again. I am so sorry you had a bad experience there 🙁

        • Cafe Green needs to get it together, because it could be such a success! We should go chat with the chef 🙂

  160. Wow that is inspiring, awesome, and just a huge leap to take! Can’t wait to follow along. Congrats on beginning a great new life course for you!

  161. Well, we’ve already talked about this and you know how I feel. I’m so excited for you and you’re going to be great at what you do! I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re top of your class at Columbia.
    I’m 99% sure Ada of Collegaleats.blogspot.com goes to Columbia(studying to be a doctor, too!) and would love to meet up.

  162. oh wow! this is quite the departure. i hesitate only because i work at a medical school (penn state hershey college of med). i refused to go to medical school and went the biomedical research route due to the stress factor. if you have any questions about clinical rotations, coursework, expectations etc. i can give my observations and ask my friends. it’s so intense and you are a stronger woman than i!

    i’m refreshed to read the reasons of why you are making the choice and you give a great case but i will forewarn you…med students are a certain “type” personality wise and they can be sort of grating to get along with. they remind you that they worked on an organic farm abroad or saved african babies from a flood during their year off between undergrad and med school. they are all mostly super attractive people that have 8000 talents and have been a part of 100 clubs in undergrad. i think that’s what turned me off the most besides the stress aspect. but i’m excited that a person like you who is amazing in their own right wants to go enlighten the masses and make a real change. i’d totally go see a doc like you! best of luck!

    • Ha! thanks. I’ve spent my life around type A overachievers, and in truth I am one, so I think I’ll be able to handle it. Or just ignore them 🙂

  163. Wow, Gena! This is AMAZING!!! You are SO needed in the medical community, and I know countless people will benefit from your continuted education. Ahhhh, so exciting!!! This is just so fantastic. I had chills reading your big news!

  164. How exciting! I wish you the best, you are going to make an amazing doctor! Hopefully you can influence more people going into medicine to focus on prevention vs. fixing things with pill. Congrats!

  165. Congrats Gena!!!! What an exciting announcement and a beautiful heartfelt post to go along with it. I am so excited for you and I cannot wait to see where this new journey brings you. They heart pays no attention to our age, only what it is passionate about. At 28, you could live many years of regret or you could go out and do it!

  166. Good for you! My primary care physician is a Naturopathic Doctor who is also licensed as an RN. It’s been the best thing ever for me as she really brings that allopathic approach to the table.

  167. congrats! I actually was planning to take the MCAT (to go to medical school) but then we moved abroad for a year with my husband’s job… I may still pursue it (an MD goes nice with a JD right?) I’m so happy for you!

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