The pathway to medicine isn’t always a straight line. Not everyone knows at an early age that they want to be a doctor, and some find their way to medical school after pursuing a different major or career, starting a family, or working to meet financial obligations or save money for education.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the average age of students enrolling in medical school is 24; but programs will feature students both younger and older than this average.

It’s a misconception that students who enter medical school later in life are at an automatic disadvantage and must catch up with their younger counterparts. In fact, older students have had time to gain maturity and build experiences that will serve them well in their medical careers. They may bring valuable management, business, technology, or communication skills to their work. And they often begin medical school with a clear vision of their career path.

When Dr. Gloria Hwang enrolled in American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine in 2008, she already had a number of academic and professional accomplishments under her belt. After receiving her undergraduate degree from the University of California San Diego, Dr. Hwang worked as a drug rep for Parke-Davis, later acquired by Pfizer. She said her time in this position helped her realize that her true calling was becoming a doctor.

“I would meet with doctors to talk about the drugs I was selling, but in reality, I wanted to be on the other side of the table,” said Dr. Hwang. “I just wanted to be able to help people, to provide them with care so they could get better.”

She went back to school to earn her Master of Public Administration at New York University before applying to AUA. Dr. Hwang is now in her second year of residency at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York, where she treats a diverse population of patients, many of whom wouldn’t otherwise receive healthcare because they don’t have insurance. She is achieving her goal of helping people every day. Ultimately, Dr. Hwang’s age wasn’t a hindrance to her pursuing a career in medicine, and she is happy that she made the leap.

“I don’t tell people my age, but let’s just say I entered med school a little later than most,” she said.

Read more AUA alumni success stories.