Gazette Ceases Publication: Donates Archives to LHS

In 2010, the Larchmont Gazette ceased publication. In 2011 the publishers donated all contents to the Larchmont Historical Society, which will continue to make the Gazette archives available online.

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Career Doctor Archives

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Can A Single Parent Become A Doctor?

Dear Career Doctor:

I am twenty-four years old and a single mother of 3 girls. I have been attending a local community college, taking full-time pre-medicine courses because I want to major in Biology and then apply to medical school. My GPA is now a 3.5, but my advisor has been very discouraging, telling me I am already behind because I can’t take 18 to 19 hours of courses right now. I know I can’t take those many hours right now and I know when I transfer to a university I will have to take more hours. At that point I will accept the long stressful hours to fulfill my dream.

I am very determined to do what I want but my advisor has me feeling like I can’t. Do you think a single mom of 3 can get through med school, or should I consider another major that I may be less interested in?


Dear Kristina:

If I ruled the world, I would make medical school free and I would have medical students work normal hours. However, I’m not in charge, so I must tell you the ugly truth: I don’t think that a single parent, father or mother with three children can be both an adequate parent and an adequate medical student. That’s because the hours required for internships and residency are absolutely inhumane. They hardly allow any time for sleep, much less parenting.

If you have parents who will essentially raise your children, it might be possible. If not, the cost of babysitting, plus the cost of medical school is another terrible burden that keeps many people from becoming physicians.

I would suggest that you explore other similar options that take far less time in terms of years in school and hours on the job, such as nurse, nurse practitioner or physicians assistant. You will get many of the same benefits but still have the time and energy to be a good parent.

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10 comments to Can A Single Parent Become A Doctor?

  • Daughter of an N.P.

    Unfortunately, this advice is only partially true. The reality of it is that nurse practioner’s study and work many long grueling hours too – and it’s no easy life for their kids, either. While not as “inhumane” as medical school, internships or residencies, it’s still pretty brutal and a single mother of 3 should not be encouraged to believe otherwise. Because in the end, the kids lose out on valuable time spent with a parent. Life only comes around once – prioritizing our priorities is essential.

  • Christopher Wirkkala

    Dear Motivated Parent :-) ,

    First and foremost, it’s important to remove the “single” moniker as this is irrelevant when it comes to achievement of your goals (the question of ‘how involved is the father(s) is addressed below)!

    This is as preposterous as someone asking “Since I’m a minority, should I not pursue my dream?” We can accomplish anything we set our minds on, it’s simply a matter of discipline and time. The question really is one of family management (assuming, as stated above, that your priorities truly dictate your interest in medicine) – you’ll need a support group to watch the children while you focus on classes – just as we all do. You may need additional sitters, family, and/or friends to ensure the appropriate care of your children. You’ll need financial assistance potentially as well. All of these are manageable to-dos if you’re willing to prioritize and remain disciplined in completing them. I’m sure you’re dealing with similar needs already in your day-to-day family management.

    Quickly, from above, I am curious where are the father(s) of your daughters? If they aren’t equally active (and I mean at the exact same level as you) you have a responsibility to do what you can to help them become more involved. I say this for two reasons: First and foremost, assuming there was no illicit behavior between you and your exes, your children will be the better for greater inclusion of both parents equally and consistently rearing (whether you may believe this or not) and secondly, you’ll find realizing your dream of med school will be much more easily accomplished.

    If you are interested in replying to me or desire any form of follow-up, feel free to e-mail me at

    Chris Wirkkala (in Seattle)

  • Eleanor

    Gosh, I don’t think I would ever tell anyone not to pursue a dream. I recall seeing Margaret Meade’s lecture and her talking about how she had non traditional child care while visiting Africa. She would leave her daughter with another family while she traveled. It certainly isn’t up to me to judge or squelch other people in their search.

    My suggestion would be to continue her major in biology. Upon graduation she probably could work as a lab technician in a hospital until her children are grown. Medical colleges are looking for non traditional students. I know of a man, who is in his 50s and in medical school. He had been an art professor at School of Visual Art and is having a midlife change of career.

    Where there is a will, there is a way. It may take a little longer, but always follow your passions.

  • Sushi Says

    No one is telling anyone not to follow their dreams here. What the “Doctor” is saying is that there are tough enough mountains to climb as a single parent with 3 kids today. Going to Med school is one of THE most stressful career choices out there today. She isn’t just a “dreamer” she’s a “reality” checker. Some people don’t have the type of sounding boards required to keep sound decisions intact. What this Dr. is offering is a dose of reality. Not being a dream stealer but a reality checker. It would be detrimental to anyone not to allow them to weigh all the pros and cons before embarking on a VERY COSTLY career path from both a financial as well as time wise standpoint.

    • Eleanor

      Dear Sushi Says:

      We really didn’t determine from Kristina’s letter what her support system was. If Kristina truly wants to become a physician, she will have the “determination” that is needed, no matter what anyone has to say. Kristina needs to do the research herself to determine if it is possible or not. Sometimes, timing is everything. It may even be possible for Kristina to go to medical school after her children are of age. Who am I to tell her that her dreams are not possible? I speak from experience. I had life stacked against me as a young adult, and overcame many obstacles to get to a very successful career. There are always paths that will lead you to where you want to go. My advice to Kristina is “do your research, contact medical schools and talk to their admissions staff, and let her decide if it is feasible or not.” Look at what Barack Obama achieved. As a young black man, if he went for career counseling and told his advisor he wanted to become President of the United States of America, they all would have told him “never will you achieve this” and they would have been wrong. I say “DARE TO DREAM BIG AND PERSEVERE.”

  • Sushi Says

    Dear Eleanor – I think what you are really getting at here…if I may “fish” to be so bold….is the Audacity of Hope. And by all means, Kristina’s dreams should be as big as her hopes as long as reality is in check. And what the good Doctor is doing, IMHO, is saying: Look, it ain’t gonna be an easy road for you and here’s why….but by all means, go ahead an knock yourself out. And we will be the first to congratulate you at the finish line. However, the road less traveled is often a long, winding and treacherous one so beware by being prepared. Without knowing as you say, what type of support systems are in place – regardless, even for the wealthy and well prepared, and those w/out the responsibility of children yet ,becoming a Medical Doctor is a very very deep commitment anyway you slice it. Being a single mother of 3 at age 24 is tough enough….in fact, I believe it’s even MORE difficult to achieve than what Barack Obama did – he had naysayers around him, but was not raising 3 kids as a single Mother. Much more difficult than anything else out there today. Including racial discrimination.

  • Eleanor

    Hi Sushi,

    You and I are on a similar track, but I don’t think I would “scare them,” instead I would encourage them to do the necessary work and research to come to her own conclusion. I think that Career Doctor had good intentions, but we have to encourage young women to dare to try even if the odds are against them.

    My concern is also with the previous article titled “If Only You Were A Man” which discouraged another young woman from pursuing her career because of her gender as well. Thinking like that is “gender biased” and I would never have said that to a young woman. There was no documentation to prove Career Doctor’s observation. I would have appreciated seeing the numbers to validate her opinion.

  • Sushi Says

    In my world – Men and Women have equal rights and equal oppty – I would never say nor agree w/ any article condoning “if only you were a man”….that’s a terrible message to be sedning young or old, aspiring girls or women. We truly are equal – men just need to get out of the way and let women excel. Unfortunately, in the world of employment, they usually refuse to budge – no matter what the industry is – there is still a sense of entitlement that men have in the working world over women. Even today. Just look at the most recent Presidential race – whereas it was GENDER and NOT RACE – that kept Hillary Clinton from becomin gour 44th President. Which is exactly why I said to the Mother of 3 – that she has a tougher road ahead of her as a Mother of 3 young children – a gender issue – than any racial divide that Obama may have encountered on his road to the White House. I firmly believe this – yet it pains me to say so to this youg gal. She should reach for the stars – but if she only makes it to the top of Mt. Everest – well, that’s pretty darn good given her set of circumstances.

  • Eleanor

    Hi Sushi:

    Amen to your comments!

    As a successful woman entrepreneur, I have gone back to my high school and my message to underprivileged students is “If they don’t let you in the front door, there is always the back door.” I didn’t grow up in
    Westchester, and went to a tough high school in the Bronx. Despite the odds, you have to try. From my experience, if they didn’t give me the job I decided to own the company instead. The only one that could fire me…was ME. LOL

    Some men in power don’t like to share, but I found many did. I had an attorney who refused to charge me for his legal fees. When I went back to him years later and asked him why he had been so kind to me…he responded by saying “I have two daughters, and I knew you had talent and wanted you to have a chance.” There were other mentors both male and female who helped me as well on my path. But “I persevered,” and wouldn’t listen to bad news commentators.

    We have to “encourage our youths to try” no matter what the odds are. It doesn’t matter what gender you are, or race you are, because “when things get tough…the tough get going.” It really doesn’t matter if you succeed or not the first time, or many times. What counts is that you tried. From that experience you learn skills and ultimately find a path to success one day.

    I would love to see our high schools teach “some real world skills” to our students on surviving this economy. It can be done. Unfortunately, I think
    they are behind in this area. If you can’t find a job…create one for yourself instead. It’s been nice blogging with you.

  • Sushi Says

    Final comment on this topic: Having a strong Attorney in your court is a great way to protect yourself. I highly recommend anyone and everyone who is “doing it alone” to seek out a good lawyer and keep him/her on standby just in case….In this HYPER litigious world we live in, it’s very important to protect and shield yourself – especially if you are a single woman. And waiting til something happens is not a good idea as the more the attorney gets acquainted w/ who you are the better able they will be able to help you out in an expeditious manner. Whether you are an entreprenuer like Eleanor or an aspiring physician or determined Actress, etc. etc. Get legal advice from the getgo. It’s the best advice I can provide today. A one hour consultation is ususally free and shop around til you find the one you click most with – sort of like finding a mate in life – but much easier since you don’t have to actually live with them in the end :-)