Monday, November 6, 2023
Last week - after a 15-year hiatus, I found myself back in the familiar setting of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (I graduated in 2008). It was a surreal experience, strolling through the same corridors, reliving memories of late-night study sessions and remembering the camaraderie of being a medical student while tackling what seemed to be an endless series of exams. I caught a brief glimpse of the long and narrow 'airplane' study hall with its constant hum of central AC/heating that I had spent so many hours in (sleeping at odd times as my friends would attest).
I was invited there to deliver a personal finance 101 talk on behalf of Andwise to the Financial Literacy Interest Group. It’s amazing that RWJMS already has such an initiative in place because financial education is often overlooked in med school. Since the primary focus of a medical student is to learn science and skills to take care of patients, often they neglect their own lives (and financial wellness). By the time medical trainees are done with residency, more than a decade has passed and they’ve forgone potential income and the power of compound interest that many of their peers in non-medical fields benefited from.
It was evident from my visit that these students understood the significance of financial education and were proactively taking steps to secure their future. We discussed the importance of student loan repayment strategies, budgeting, and conscious spending plans to avoid mindless spending. I also highlighted some of the financial challenges they would face as practicing physicians; the challenging employment environment as more health systems buy up physician practices, loss of autonomy, constantly fighting insurance companies to get your patients the care they need, high student debt, lower reimbursements and the rising cost of living.
I find that students sometimes don’t get the complete picture from practicing physicians. When you’re on a clinical rotation you’re surrounded by inspiring teachers who rarely discuss the more challenging financial aspects of their lives.
My trip was a great reminder of the amount of dedication required of medical students and yet how quickly time passes. As they say – the days are long, but the years are short.