Rethinking Residency sat down with Brian Bangs, current medical student at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine to discuss his unique path into medicine and previous career as a consultant with Deloitte. A common thread among residents, medical students and new attendings is, ‘What are alternative career paths outside of medicine and how do they stack up to clinical practice?’ We’ve discussed Leaving Medicine, but what about those that have already tried an alternative path and are now being called to medicine? Brian provides insights into the world of consulting, the similarities and differences between the business world and medicine, as well as what drew him back into medicine.
How did you get started with Deloitte and consulting?
When considering a major for undergrad, I was initially drawn to ‘business’, as pretty much all of my friends were taking the same path. I had always been interested in STEM, but found myself on a path into the Purdue business school largely because that seemed like the right move to make at the time. I was never completely passionate about business or management, but during undergrad I felt justified staying on this path due to my interest in digital marketing. During the summer between junior and senior year, I landed an internship at Ford Motor Company doing digital marketing and very much enjoyed my experience. At the time, Ford was in the middle of a hiring freeze and only able to offer a select few full time positions from the internship program, and unfortunately I did not get a full time offer from them for post-graduation.
In the fall of senior year, I met with representatives from Deloitte during a career fair and my interest was piqued. I had several friends who had interned at Deloitte in their Human Capital work stream, as well as a close friend who had recently started working full time in this department, and they all spoke favorably about the company and the position. I was not necessarily passionate about HR or human capital, but with a lack of clear direction, I followed the advice of my advisors and friends who all suggested that consulting would be a good fit for me. A Deloitte consulting job was a highly sought after position within the Purdue business school, and I signed an offer that fall to begin working full time for Deloitte, based in Chicago, upon graduation.
Can you describe your work at Deloitte?
Consulting is not exactly what I expected it to be. It was great for what it was, but not what I wanted it to be for me. Yes the work can be interesting, the travel can be exciting at first, but mostly you are thrown into overflow work rooms for 12 hours a day and spend most of your time in Excel or PowerPoint.
When I first started, I was in limbo for a bit. I completed all of my onboarding, but it quickly becomes your responsibility to find a project to work on. Unless you are brought on at a higher level, you are not immediately assigned a team or a project. There was some help from the internal staffing department, but I mostly had to reach out, cold call and try to network with managers and teams across the country to find a project that would take me on. After about a month, I was assigned to a project based in Dallas for a major airline. They were in the midst of an acquisition and brought Deloitte on to help implement a Human Capital management system. As an analyst, my main duties were Project Management, gathering materials, requirements and managing status reports for a technical, software driven implementation. The majority of my time was spent updating PowerPoint presentations to maintain the status of the implementation project.
Did you find this work fulfilling?
Every project and team at Deloitte and other consulting firms are different, so I can only speak to my specific experience, but I found that so many non-urgent situations were constantly treated as incredibly urgent. I often found myself working until 2 or 3am updating PowerPoint slides for a workshop that would ultimately only make a few minor tweaks in current operations, or just enrich the bottom line of a massive corporation. Both of my parents are in healthcare, and I had exposure to actual, urgent, life or death situations at a young age, and often found that this was simply not comparable.
Were there other ways that you tried to find meaning or fulfillment in this job?
Outside of the projects that I ended up working on during my time at Deloitte, I became involved with various ‘well-being’ teams and committees. These were aimed at giving Deloitte employees the opportunity to prioritize their well-being and help them find a sense of purpose. Deloitte does have a Chief Wellness Officer dedicated to exactly this, and I was fortunate enough to work with her on several occasions.
What are some specific examples of well-being initiatives that you worked on?
I worked on a team that helped implement skills-based volunteering for employees. We organized initiatives and developed outreach programs for employees to utilize their skills outside of the traditional workspace in order to help find meaning behind their work.
When I first started working at Deloitte, I consistently heard stories about people finding themselves alone at a bar at the end of a long night, dealing with their stressful project by turning to alcohol. It was not uncommon to hear about people integrating unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the stress of the job. I find that people who don’t prioritize their own mental health may not necessarily have a full understanding of how to deal with stress, anxiety or mental illness. So I also worked to implement educational and learning sessions for employees to identify warning signs and recognize how their mental health is being affected. Something as simple as handing out healthy snacks while encouraging people to talk about their mental health and take anonymous surveys about how Deloitte manages this side of work seemed to help quite a bit. I was consistently approached by people who just wanted to talk about mental health and may have simply needed resources to be provided to them. We put on a massive ‘well-being’ fair, bringing in various mental and physical health related and adjacent vendors to provide employees with the means to prioritize their own mental, physical, and emotional health.
So what made you ultimately want to switch careers from consulting into medicine?
From a young age, I was instilled with values centered around helping others. I volunteered quite a bit with my mom growing up. While I was certainly doing some work with Deloitte to improve candidate experience for clients during the hiring and onboarding process, it was difficult to separate it from the fact our main job was to improve the bottom line for these massive corporate entities. There were times where I struggled to justify the fact that I didn’t even agree with the values of some of the companies I was working with.
I ultimately came to the realization that when I was 18 years old, I basically just decided to do what everyone else around me was doing and started down a path into business and management. When I got involved with many of the well-being initiatives I supported at Deloitte, I started to explore what I was really passionate about. I thought about getting a PhD in psychology. I thought about becoming a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. I even considered social work or therapy. I soon realized that in order to justify going to medical school, I needed to make sure my interests were broader than just psychiatry in order to deal with the full curriculum of a medical education.
I started volunteering at Lurie Children’s hospital in Chicago in their oncology department and very much enjoyed my experience, but it was ultimately cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For Impact Day, a day at Deloitte dedicated to service in the community, I helped organize an event in partnership with the ALS Association in Chicago and learned a great deal about the subject. I shadowed surgeons in the operating room and found the experience to be quite incredible.
The moment that sticks out to me for when things really changed was while I was sitting at a desk working on a project for a client in California. I thought, ‘I’m helping a company make more money, and I don’t agree with their values.’ It was hard to justify and I realized my future career would be more of the same, and it didn’t excite me to think about different consulting opportunities. I was never motivated strictly by the money and wanted to find something more meaningful. Some people are motivated to be life-long consultants, while others simply use the path as a launching pad for another career. I always knew that if I decided to go back to school, it would be for a rather large career change and I decided it was time for that change.
What were your next steps?
I researched a number of opportunities and applied to nearly a dozen Post-Baccalaureate programs that would allow me to switch into medicine. I was accepted into and chose to attend Washington University in St. Louis. One of my major factors when considering a Post-Baccalaureate program was the availability of linkage programs that would allow me to transition directly from the program into medical school, without having to take any gap years. WashU had a few opportunities, one of which particularly stuck out with Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. This program allowed me to complete the necessary coursework to give me the opportunity to make the jump into medical school, and I am now attending Case as a first year medical student. I plan to pursue pediatric medicine, but am still very interested in the mental health aspect of medicine and the need to provide not only patients with resources and teaching, but providers as well.