This Father of Two Traded in Sales for Scrubs - Anatomy of a Nontraditional Medical Student

April 2, 2017

As a pharmaceutical salesman, Michael McGlue had worked in the health care industry for several years and held a Master of Health Administration. But something was missing in his health care career—namely, the “care” part. Although he worked with hospitals every day in the Denver area, he felt disconnected from the patients within their walls.

Meanwhile, he was moonlighting as an EMT and firefighter in Divide, Colorado. Here, McGlue had an immediate, undeniable impact on people’s lives. His sales job seemed increasingly bleak by comparison. And it wasn’t long before he decided to hang up his suit in exchange for a pair of scrubs—permanently. Today, he’s Michael McGlue, MD, a third-year resident at the University of Wyoming family medicine program.

The average age of a student entering medical school in the U.S. is 24. Dr. McGlue was 37 when he decided to follow his dream and head back to the classroom. But because he had studied communications and economics during undergrad at the University of New Mexico, he lacked the prerequisite science courses needed to apply to medical school, nor had he taken the MCAT.

Undeterred, Dr. McGlue spent the next two years fulfilling his prerequisites at the University of Colorado-Denver, studying for the MCAT, and ultimately, applying for medical school. A good friend, now an anesthesiologist at the University of Wyoming, recommended American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten.

“As an aspiring nontraditional medical student, they gave me a chance,” said Dr. McGlue. “And that was all I needed.”

A Family Affair

At age 39, Dr. McGlue went to St. Maarten with his wife, Cheyenne, and two sons, ages 8 and 10. While he recognizes that this path may not be for everyone, he strongly encourages other nontraditional students to consider it.

“I think there are a lot of people like myself who would love to go into medicine but just don’t think it’s achievable, whether because they’re older or they’re hesitant to make a big move with their families,” said Dr. McGlue. “What I want to say is, it’s absolutely doable. There may be obstacles and challenges along the way, but it was the greatest experience my family ever had.”

His wife Cheyenne, well experienced in emergency precautions, volunteered at the local airport managing evacuation drills and other safety procedures, while home-schooling their two boys. In between, they were out and about enjoying life on a Caribbean island. “It’s such a welcoming place,” Dr. McGlue said. “It’s a small island, but it’s a community.”

A New Adventure

A new adventure ensued when Dr. McGlue arranged to complete his third-year clinical training in the United Kingdom. “That was a tremendous experience for my family and me,” said Dr. McGlue. “From a medical standpoint, it gave me a big advantage when applying for residency positions, having worked in a different health care system where they focus much more heavily on physical exams. It really helped build my clinical skills.”

Outside of the hospital, a whole new continent was at their fingertips, ripe for exploration. Dr. McGlue is proud that his sons had the opportunity to see so much of the world during this time—touring the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, visiting France and Switzerland, and even taking a trip to Africa.

To capture all of their experiences, the McGlue family kept two blogs that detail their time in St. Maarten, as well as in the United Kingdom.

“Now, as they’re back in the U.S. and studying all of these places in class, my sons can say they’ve been there,” said Dr. McGlue. “It’s an incredible educational experience.”

Going back to his roots


Now, Dr. McGlue has just a few months left in his residency program at the University of Wyoming. The family medicine program, he said, has been a great fit for his skills and interests. He feels at home in the rural setting, and there’s a large component of emergency medicine involved—reminding him of his EMT roots and what inspired him to be a physician in the first place.

After residency, he has a position lined up at Christus St. Vincent in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Much like his current role, he’ll have the opportunity to work in family practice, urgent care and emergency medicine.

It’s safe to say Dr. McGlue is glad that he changed careers to follow his passion.

“What I find most rewarding is that I have the ability to change people’s lives,” said Dr. McGlue. “I’m working in the emergency room and people are coming in on the worst day of their lives, in so much distress, and I can offer compassion, empathy, and skill to get them into a better situation.”


Guest Post By Kristin Baresich

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