Tackling a New Career — and Residency — at 58

February 26, 2018 09:44 am David Mitchell

Succeeding in one career is challenging. Milt McColl, M.D., a 58-year-old family medicine resident, is doing it for the third time.

[Headshot of Milt McColl, M.D.]

“I’m probably the happiest guy that’s ever done a residency,” said McColl, who will graduate from the Stanford Health Care-O‘Connor Hospital Family Medicine Residency in 2019. “It’s learning and fun. I enjoy patients, and we have great faculty and residents.”

McColl’s unique story started at Stanford University, where he was a standout football player. Overlooked in the 1981 NFL draft, he planned to go to medical school at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). That changed when former Stanford coach Bill Walsh invited the linebacker to training camp with his new team -- the San Francisco 49ers.

McColl made the team, but UCLA wouldn’t let him pursue both football and medicine. Stanford did. McColl focused on football in the fall and medicine in the winter. He played eight seasons in the NFL and made it through med school in 6 1/2 years.

McColl’s first full quarter of medical school was slated to start in January 1982, but the 49ers won two playoff games, prompting McColl to become the first player to ever lament, “Unfortunately, we went to the Super Bowl.”

It was the first of two such “unfortunate” events for McColl, whose 49ers won Super Bowls XVI and XIX.

McColl planned to be a surgeon and completed an internship in 1989 as his playing career was winding down. While waiting for residency slots to open, he took a job with a medical device company.(sm.stanford.edu) That short-term job turned into a two-decade career. He was CEO of a medical device startup company(med.stanford.edu) when his career path changed again. McColl had maintained his medical license and was volunteering at a free clinic.

“I said, kind of jokingly, that I should go back and do a residency,” he said, “and someone said, ‘You definitely should. You would love it.’ I started really thinking about it. I went through the Match, and here I am.”

McColl will be nearly 60 when he graduates. But that isn’t stopping him from pondering a sports medicine fellowship.

“I could do this for the next 20 years, depending on my health,” he said. “I might do locum tenens and see some places I’ve never seen. My kids are spread all over the country. I’ve got a lot of things I want to do.”