September 21, 2017

Alex Tipaldi: Changing careers to change the world

The path to medical school can take many forms

University of Michigan Medical School M-Home Olympics

Alex (second from left) with fellow M-Home student reps and Medical School staff at the 2017 M-Home Olympics

M2 Alex is one of the approximately 70% of non-traditional students at Michigan Med who've taken at least a one-year gap before starting medical school. She applied to the University of Michigan Medical School through a linkage agreement in her post-baccalaureate program at another institution. Here she answers five questions about her previous career, the road that led her to Michigan and the connections she has made here since.

Why did you decide to go into medicine?

After college I started working in pipeline logistics for a large energy company. About six months in, I realized it wasn't the right fit for me. I liked the challenge and the pace of my job, but I knew I would never be happy unless I felt my work was having a positive impact on the world around me. I started doing some soul searching to try and figure out my next move when a good friend of mine asked me for a favor. She was in the process of starting her own non-profit and needed help running her booth at a local childhood cancer awareness walk. I was instantly captivated by the love, strength and magic that permeated the pediatric cancer community. That event was the spark that eventually led to my decision to leave my job and pursue a career in medicine.  

Why was a post-bac program the right fit for you?

I was an Industrial Engineering major, which only required one semester of chemistry, so applying to medical school meant I would have to take all the chemistry classes I had strategically avoided in college. Given that it had been three years since college graduation and science was never my strongest subject, I decided that a post-bac program for career changers would be the best option for me. I chose to attend Bryn Mawr because of their individualized advising, small class size and linkage agreements with a number of excellent medical schools, including Michigan Med.

What other factors did you have to consider when deciding to change your career path?

My wife played a huge role in my decision to change careers. It's one thing to completely uproot your own life, but I had to think about what this decision would mean for her as well. Completing a post-bac, medical school and residency meant that we could be moving another three times before finally settling down (which didn't phase us as much as it did our families). Thankfully she hasn't had to change jobs at each step of the way because her job allows her to work from home, but each move still comes with its own set of adjustments. The biggest consideration when choosing to apply to Michigan was whether or not she thought she would be able to find her own community in Ann Arbor. I'm happy to report that she has!

Now that you’re here, how has Michigan Med been a good match for you?

Michigan encourages students to bring their whole selves with them, complete with dreams, fears, talents and aspirations. They take all of this and mold you into the person and physician you want to be. Michigan has been perfect for me because they aren't just cranking out great doctors, they let us take ownership of our experience here and in doing so, create passionate leaders.

I continue to be impressed with the opportunities for students to take an active role in their education and their experience here. I can’t say for sure yet, but I imagine with our new curriculum, these opportunities will only increase.

How have you connected with other students?

I'm very involved in our M-Home learning community! When I first decided to get involved, I wasn't sure what to expect but it's been one of my most impactful experiences as a medical student. The M-Home is still only a few years old, so it’s still growing and changing to meet the students' needs. My involvement as an M1 allowed me to make a tangible impact on the medical school community, and I'm excited to watch the M-Home continue to evolve over the next three years.

I'm also an active member of Galens Medical Society, OutMD, and the Black Medical Association. There are so many great organizations to choose from, but I chose these three because they connected me with a community of friends and mentors with shared experiences both within and outside of my class, the value of which cannot be overstated.