From Engineer to Endocrinologist
Mike LeMay, MD '00 discusses how he switched careers to pursue medicine at AUC
When first explaining how the endocrine system works, Mike LeMay, MD '00 suggests thinking of it like a climate control system in a building. “The system is always monitoring the temperature, and it continually adjusts the heating or the cooling mechanisms to keep the air comfortable," Dr. LeMay says. "Similarly, your endocrine system is constantly taking signals from the body as cues to increase or decrease certain hormones and keep your body in balance.”
Sometimes, though, the system needs a little help regulating itself and you have to call in a professional. That’s where Dr. LeMay comes in.
Of course, it’s a lot more complex than Dr. LeMay, an endocrinologist by training, makes it sound. But then, endocrinology and other math-heavy specialties have always come easier to him than most. He graduated from the University of Hartford with bachelor’s degrees in both electrical and mechanical engineering, and then went on to earn a master’s in mechanical engineering at the University of Connecticut. Suffice it to say, he knows his way around numbers.
“I think I was always a closet medical student,” Dr. LeMay says. “My high school guidance counselor encouraged me to try engineering because I was good at math and science. Sure, it would’ve been smoother if I had taken the traditional pre-med route, but I don’t regret majoring in engineering. When we were learning about endocrinology and nephrology in medical school, those were the hardest things for most of my peers, but they were all math-based, so they were the easiest for me.”
A Change of Pace
After earning his master’s, Dr. LeMay taught at the University of Hartford for seven years. During that time, his aunt became ill and he went to go visit her in the hospital. Walking the halls, Dr. LeMay had a realization: In spite of the circumstances that brought him there, he felt at ease in the hospital environment.
“I enjoyed teaching, but I discovered that I was really motivated to pursue medicine,” says Dr. LeMay.
The idea lit a fire in him, and he began researching medical schools. A friend who had attended AUC recommended that Dr. LeMay consider it. “I was 29 at the time, and I wanted to get going right away,” says Dr. LeMay. “AUC provided me the opportunity to start sooner, instead of applying to U.S. schools with the possibility of having to wait and reapply the next year.”
After graduating from AUC, Dr. LeMay completed his residency at University of Connecticut Health Center in internal medicine. Then, he earned an endocrinology fellowship at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA. Today, he’s an endocrinologist, treating primarily patients with either diabetes or thyroid issues, as well as osteoporosis and other conditions. In addition, he teaches at UConn as well as Quinnipiac Medical School and Health Center in North Haven, Connecticut.
Keeping Your Options Open
His advice for medical students? Keep an open mind, especially when it comes to your choice of specialty. Chance encounters and particularly illuminating clinical experiences can make even the most diehard would-be surgeon a passionate family doctor, and vice versa. In fact, Dr. LeMay himself had been fully set on pursuing hematology-oncology, until a scheduling conflict forced him to switch that elective with endocrinology.
That was it—not only did he have a knack for it thanks to his engineering background, he also found a great mentor who helped him develop his newfound passion. From then on, endocrinology was his focus.
It’s safe to say Dr. LeMay is grateful that he allowed himself to remain open to new experiences. After all, that’s what has led him from one career field to another, each more personally rewarding than the last—from engineer to professor to doctor.
“I thought I knew what I wanted, and it changed in the blink of an eye,” says Dr. LeMay. “Don’t limit yourself.”