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How to Change Financial Education in Med School

Lots of Dollars, Not Much Sense

Never will I forget my first day of my first accounting class in college. The professor asked, “do you know who sleazy accountants take advantage of the most?” Our class remained silent, with a few curious looks exchanged among classmates. “Doctors!” he said with more gusto. He further explained some of the well known facts of how the profession is overworked, does not have time to manage the financial aspects of the practice, and how the inherent altruistic nature leads doctors to the naïvely trust the professionals who work with money on a regular basis. He certainly got my attention then. At this point I already knew that I wanted to go into medicine, so I was as ready to learn as much as I could about accounting before leaving college.

As medical school came around, like many of my colleagues, I was inundated with the rigors of medical curriculum and no longer had time to understand finance. As I progressed throughout my medical education, the lessons from my economics degree began to fade. In residency, my time constraints have not gotten much better. As I reflect on these experiences, I believe that our medical education is failing to educate future doctors with regard to finances. With the paradox of significant student burden and high expected income, doctors face unique financial life challenges. Unfortunately these issues go largely unaddressed throughout medical school, and sow the seeds of poor financial habits that can have lasting effects. Adding such burdens to the daily stresses of medicine contribute to burnout in many medical professionals.

While some medical schools are beginning address this issue, there is still much work to do. Particularly, student loans are discussed on a superficial level as students are graduating from medical school but a detailed understanding of the loan repayment process and planning is still desired. In addition new jobs come with various employer benefits whether it be health, life, home, or disability insurance, or retirement savings contributions. A detailed discussion of these products and their benefits would provide young medical professionals with some degree of security amongst their hectic work schedules. A mandatory basic financial savviness course provided on an online platform to medical students, during the four year, could be a potential solution to these educational shortcomings. It would be the opportunity to provide flexible education to a basic life skill that is universally needed.