In many ways, Jay Fiechter is still waiting for the harvest. Each spring in his former life as a farmer, he would plant seeds into the carefully prepared soil. The reward for his labor would come months later. He now feels a similar restless anticipation as he sits for hours studying medical sciences. This time, the harvest is years away. It will be reaped when he graduates from medical school in 2025, beginning his second career as an MD.
“It was hard leaving the farm,” said Fiechter, who graduated from Purdue University with an agricultural economics degree in 2012 and returned to his northern Indiana family farm to work alongside his father and brother.
He entered medical school in 2021 as a married father of twin girls and an infant son, now ages 4 and 21 months. Fiechter says the twins are partly to blame for reigniting his thoughts of going into medicine. He wasn’t one of those fainting new fathers; he was the type who wanted to be right in the operating room action during his wife’s C-section delivery.
Although he hasn’t settled on a medical specialty, Fiechter is leaning toward orthopedic surgery. He sees his former training in business and agriculture as an asset.
“I’m good at strategy and execution, and I still get to do that as a doctor,” he said. Plus, he will be able to relate to patients with injuries from physical jobs. “Farmers wear themselves out super fast, so if I practice in orthopedics, I’ll probably work on a ton of them.”
In his medical school cohort, Fiechter has taken on the dual role as “class dad and class clown.” He gives pep talks for his classmates before each major exam.
“My heart is young,” he said. “I try to bring energy as well as the perspective of someone who has lived a little longer.”
His supportive wife, Lynnae, a nurse practitioner in orthopedics, has stepped into the role of primary provider while Fiechter is in medical school. He looks forward to returning the favor after he “harvests” his MD. Both parents aim to be fully present with their children at home, which Fiechter calls “a psychological experiment to see if you can survive without sleep.”
While his farmer friends thought he was a bit “insane” to make a career change, they also said they admired him for following his dream.
“I’m here against a lot of odds, and it’s going really well,” he said. “I belong here.”
While entering medical school later in life has its challenges, most career shifters say the advantages are far greater. Medical students in their 30s or 40s bring broader life experiences and tend to be focused, organized and resilient.
The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
Laura is senior writer with the Office of Strategic Communications and loves to tell the stories of outstanding students, faculty and staff at IU School of Medicine. A native Hoosier, she has over 25 years of experience in communications, having worked with newspapers and other media organizations in Indiana and Florida, along with small businesses, community groups and non-profit organizations. Before joining IU School of Medicine in January 2020, she was editor-in-chief of a lifestyle magazine serving the community of Estero, Florida.