Giant Leaps: From Architecture To Medical School

julian vossandreae protein Sculpture

 Model of a folded protein by Julian Voss-Andreae.

Do you ever day dream about having another job?  I mean something completely different from what you’re doing now. A couple of years ago, after years of daydreaming, I decided to start seriously thinking about a career outside of architecture. At first I wasn’t even sure what I was doing… I just knew I wanted to take a few science classes, and learn about something I had never really understood: how the human body work. I was surprised how much I enjoyed these few classes, so a few classes turned into a few more. Things snowballed after I spent a summer working in a research lab: I went to grad school, got a Master’s degree, shadowed a few folks and this past November I spent a day interviewing for med school.

When the idea first started forming in the back of my head to take these classes, I was probably picking up red lines– mindlessly clicking and typing my way through miles of autoCAD drawings. Months later, I blurted out that I wanted to go back to school while my family and I were on vacation. With their support, I moved back home, started working part time, and taking classes full time at a community college. In short order, I had transitioned from living and working in Los Angeles, to working and taking classes in rural Mississippi. What the hell was I thinking?

For years, I wondered if I was doing the right thing. Would I have the same frustrations in another career? Do I just like school more than working? But I convinced myself that I was doing the responsible thing even if it wasn’t the fun thing. To my surprise, I was never the oldest person in my classes, and many of my classmates were surprised when I told them I already had a degree and work experience. I assumed it was because I looked young, but maybe I was just that immature.

After a year of freshmen science classes, I had the opportunity to work in a research lab, and I jumped at the chance because I thought it would help me get an internship at NASA the following summer.  It didn’t work out that way.  I was working the lab of a professor at a teaching hospital, and he asked me if I’d be interested in going to graduate school. So that happened, and then the MCAT happened and then a long and tedious application process happened and then the interview happened. And then- and then- and then- I found out I was in.  I think the only person that cried more than me was my twin sister, Elena.

The whole time this has been happening, I’ve been writing for the blog and trying to have something that resembles a life. My mom was diagnosed with cancer (she’s fine now), I officiated my twin sister’s wedding (she’s still married), and I just spent a week in Guatemala on a medical service trip (where I climbed an active volcano). These years have been a roller coaster, but now I’m completely embarrassed by how happy I am. You can expect to start seeing posts from me with new and different flavors, but I will always remain deeply interested in architecture.  I’ve even used some of my skills to design and help build sets for five different stage productions since I stopped working in architecture firms. In short, I’ve gone from daydreaming about a new and exciting career path to sitting at my desk daydreaming about my original profession.  What would I be doing right now if I had stayed put? It’s been a bizarre and sometimes wobbly arc. But I’m excited about this new future I’ve built for myself.

Alex Dent

February 4, 2013 / By