A few weeks ago, I called for nominations for the WCI 2020 Financial Educator of the Year award. In the same post, I gave away a few updated sets of slides to use in educating medical students, residents, and doctors about finances. Long ago I gave up trying to provide all of the financial literacy education that doctors need. I simply cannot reach them all myself. So I am very grateful when I see doctors taking up the mantle to educate their peers in medical schools, dental schools, and residencies all across the country. To help encourage this behavior, we have implemented a Financial Educator of the Year Award. In this post, we will announce the winner of this year's award.

We received a lot of great nominations about many great educators. I'd like to sing their praises first, and then announce this year's winner at the end. Eleven doctors were nominated this year by 18 different people.

2020 Financial Educator of the Year Nominations

Dr. Jesse Richards

Our most frequently nominated educator this year was hospitalist Jesse Richards, MD. Although we missed him at WCICON20, we have known of his contributions to the field for some time. He was nominated by Matt Wilson, MD, Margaret Brophy, MD, Sonya Parashar, MD, and Andrew Winegarner.

We have had several discussions on the importance of living like a resident for the first few years, and he has taken this to heart…he has given numerous lectures to trainees and faculty at our university hospital (including talks to the internal medicine and PM&R residency programs, and grand rounds to the OB/GYN department…he has taken the initiative to learn about various ways we can maximize our retirement savings in tax advantaged accounts offered by the hospital and state that we practice in, and has disseminated the information to our colleagues. If we have questions about physician finances, Jesse is our go-to guy.
He stumbled upon The White Coat Investor as a first-year medical student and has made it his mission to bring the WCI fundamental principles to other medical professionals. Immediately upon entrance into residency, he began giving financial wellness talks to fourth-year medical students and has continued to do so as an attending. His talks are concise, informative, and provide students with an informal platform to ask their own personal
financial questions. Last year he developed an integrated lecture series on financial wellness for internal medicine residents which has since become part of the residency curriculum. He has also given multiple interdisciplinary financial wellness talks; presenting at grand rounds, lectures for other residency programs, and for our whole Graduate Medical Education department with 600+ residents. His interest in educating others about financial wellness has led him to publish three articles discussing physician student loan debt, in addition to guest posting on your blog. Dr. Richards is known throughout our hospital for being a phenomenal teacher and physician…By providing WCI approved, individualized financial advice for local health care professionals he has become the point person for physician financial wellness at my university. I am confident he has empowered hundreds of people to take charge of their finances and student loans like he did for me.
What is most unique about Dr. Richards is that he is only attending at my institution that stresses the importance of financial literacy as a resident. Because of his altruistic and generous nature, he never hesitates to teach others for no gain of his own and only for the betterment of others. I have emailed him numerous times with financial questions and he always responds in a way that educates me without casting his own personal preference.
During this particularly abnormal environment of the COVID19; he seemed to be very levelheaded in terms of financial advice with regard to staying the course, keep contributing to our Roth IRAs as possible and keep the long term picture in mind vs the more short term emotionally driven temptations to sell or stock pick. I was tempted to “outsmart” the market ad sell in order to rebuy in at a lower price, but due to his advice I stayed the course, and I am so glad I did or I would have sold at the absolute bottom in March and missed the entire rebound.

Dr. Scott Truhlar

Radiologist Scott Truhlar, MD was nominated by MS3 Austin Kazarian as well as financial services director Linda Bissell and assistant financial services director Chris Roling. These are compliments from students in his Financial Management for Rising Interns course. This was no surprise to me, as I see him all over Twitter doing his thing.

Despite [heavily clinical and administrative] demands, he maintains a fervor for financial literacy – an interest that was born from his own financial illiteracy as a trainee. This interest led him to obtain not only an MBA, but also a MS in Personal Financial Planning to thoroughly understand the finance industry from the inside. His mission to save young professionals from common financial pitfalls with tremendous consequence is admirable, and unfortunately somewhat unique, as Dr. Truhlar is one of few professors addressing the gaping hole of formal financial education for medical students.

I first met Dr. Truhlar when I set out to create a course for fourth year medical students after being inspired by the WCI article titled “A Business in Medicine Course for MS4s.” After unsuccessfully pounding the pavement seeking a course director around the University, Dr. Truhlar cold-emailed me stating his interest. I knew it was going to be a fruitful meeting when we both pulled out printouts of the same articles (including the above) over a burger; we delineated the topics for our fledgling course that very evening. Through his persistence and drive to help future physicians, our proposal for the first and only financial course in the current curriculum, Financial Management for Rising Interns, was approved by the University curriculum committee in just under six months from his first email to me. The inaugural run of the course unfortunately coincided with a University mandated suspension on in-person meetings due to the national pandemic. With notice of just over a week, Dr. Truhlar adapted the untested course, originally designed for in person small group breakouts, to be delivered virtually….Dr. Truhlar serves as a lecturer in a business of healthcare educational track for medical students, an invited lecturer on finance and practice management to residents and fellows in varied University departments, and is an active member of numerous financial forums and Twitter.

Dr. Truhlar is such a dedicated educator that he took his personal vacation in order to teach this course.

There were several obstacles in place and only a limited amount of time to come up with solutions.  Dr. Truhlar never once considered cancelling the class because he felt that the students needed to learn about this valuable information.   One by one, Dr. Truhlar found solutions to these obstacles.

Dr. Andi Selby

Dr. Andi Selby, DO, MS, FAAFP, received two nominations, one from her sister Codee Allen and one from Sara Oberhelman-Eaton, MD.

She is passionate and excited about her students, she cares about helping them realize and create a pathway out of student debt. She advises them on how to manage their finances in a way that helps create a future with the least amount of debt obligation and the most amount of financial freedom. She is realistic and precise, and most importantly knowledgeable.

Her personal interest in financial responsibility found the perfect home as she guides mentees toward their own financial goals while also nurturing their developing medical educations…Dr. Selby has advised students on financial topics for years, encouraging them to have some basic financial literacy, directing them to good advice, and encouraging them to apply for the White Coat Investor scholarship each year. These students have
continued to reach out to her for advice, which she readily provides. When she left her busy family medicine practice and joined the faculty full time as an assistant professor in July 2019, she used the opportunity to discuss the importance of financial knowledge as key to being able to make this transition to other faculty and students. She spends most of her office hours in meetings with students regarding financial topics and most of her lunches talking with faculty about the same. There was such a demand for her advice that the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) group on campus asked her to give a formal lecture. She is the research advisor to the Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine fellows, and she has taken it upon herself to make financial literacy part of their unofficial curriculum.

Dr. Nancy Weigle

We had a great group of women nominated this year besides Dr. Selby, including family physician Dr. Nancy Weigle, who was nominated by Vinay Choksi, MD:

Finally, as a fourth year our final medical school course was an intern boot camp called Capstone. One of the most memorable lectures was Dr. Weigel’s personal financial talk….Her discussion was grounded the in the basics, living like a resident, avoiding buying a house until more stable, paying off student loans, and the importance of retirement accounts. In a Capstone course that is designed to only contain “high-yield” topics, her discussion of financial education is one of the most influential for the hundreds of medical students that have taken it. Dr. Weigle’s talk was incredibly impactful not only because of the content, but also the presenter. Dr. Weigle was the perfect person to give the talk as it exemplifies the importance of personal finance in every physician’s life. For the first time in my medical career, I was not receiving financial information from a family member with “helpful hints” or a professional financial advisor who I had never met before and whose motives I had no reason to trust. Instead, I was learning about 401Ks and Roth IRAs from the very same physician who taught me to talk to, examine and connect with patients. When an academic family medicine physician shows you that it is possible to not only save money, but also grow wealthy, you listen. When she takes the valuable time she is granted during Capstone to talk about personal finance over any other topic she could have chosen, you listen. Her discussion emphasized the role personal finance will play in all of our lives.

Dr. Nolan Karp

financial educator of the year

A nominee new to me this year is plastic surgeon Dr. Nolan Karp, who was nominated by Jordan Frey, MD.

Dr. Karp has been wholly committed to boosting the financial literacy of all-comers at NYU. As his medical student, resident, and fellow for the past 8 years, I can personally vouch for his passion in passing on his extensive knowledge, Boglehead and Millionaire Next Door-esque philosophy, and personal financial experiences – both good and bad, all with the selfless purpose of helping us neophytes. He has a keen interest and eye for contract negotiations especially. He has reviewed hundreds, if not thousands, of contracts for graduating residents and fellows, offering informal advice that I am confident has aided all of those seeking his counsel. I can say this because, as a graduating fellow this year, I had Dr. Karp review each of my contract offers including at the job that I accepted. After 6-7 back and forth with my employer – all advised by Dr. Karp, I hired a contract lawyer to review the final version as well. He had minimal comments other than how incredible was that contract that I had received; he had rarely if ever seen such a favorable offer.

Dr. Karp has also been involved in the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery's Resident Symposium on The Business of Launching Your Practice since its inception, chairing the symposium for residents and fellows in 2019. This symposium is a free 3-day boot camp in financial literacy and well being that is organized pro bono. Topics range from “Top Ten Financial Planning Mistakes Plastic Surgeons Make and How to Avoid Them” by WCI contributor Lawrence Keller and “Plastic Surgeons and RVUs; Understanding Compensation” by Dr. Karp. Having attended this symposium twice, I can confidently say that Dr. Karp is faithfully spreading the spirit and mission of the White Coat Investor. Beyond these formal advising session that I have had with Dr. Karp, what I will even more remember all of our countless informal conversations in the operating room.

Dr. Elizabeth Bonachea

Neonatologist Dr. Elizabeth Bonachea was nominated by Dr. Katherine Bline.

She…has taken it upon herself to offer financial education to both residents and fellow trainees. She provided the only in-person education I had received up to that point about student loan debt management and finances. These sessions were immensely helpful and I know many of my fellow residents felt the same. Dr. Bonachea held very informal lectures where she would teach about a specific topic for the first 15-20 minutes of an hour and then would open it up to questions from everyone. It was an amazing opportunity to get both specific and more general questions answered and to learn from co-residents’ questions and experiences. She is an incredibly talented teacher and can explain complex topics in a clear, straight forward manner so that everyone can understand. She has expanded these didactics to the subspecialty fellowship programs as well and discusses topics such as buying vs renting, contract negotiation, different types of savings plans, financial advisors, PSLF eligible plans, and many others. She also provides recommendations on other financial education resources, including WCI, which is why I subscribed to your newsletter and podcast years ago and have been learning from WCI ever since…My husband and I are now in a better financial position in no small part due to her generous teaching…She has inspired me to continue to my own financial education and incorporate it into my
teaching of trainees when I start as a junior faculty member next year.

Dr. Greg Avey

Dr. Greg Avey was nominated by medical student Chris Rufus Sweeney who said:

When I first set out to start a financial literacy course that students could take for elective credit at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, I was met with resistance from administration. They loved the idea; they knew that their students were graduating with mountains of debt and little to no knowledge about how to build wealth. But they didn’t readily accept my course proposal because I needed to find someone to permanently administer the course (preferably someone with “MD” behind their name). I was a medical student, so that made sense. What’s more, we wanted the course to survive me, so we needed to find a more permanent leadership for the course. I recalled a meeting with a neuroradiologist a while back who mentioned that one of his colleagues, Dr. Greg Avey, was already teaching his neuroradiology fellows about personal finance.

When I reached out to Dr. Avey, he immediately and enthusiastically took the helm. He assumed half of the pre-recorded lectures for the course materials, and he agreed to teach several of the in-person sessions. He took full weeks off of his time as an academic neuroradiologist to teach fourth-year medical students about personal finance so that, at that critical juncture between accumulating debt and earning an income, they could better understand how to allocate their precious resident dollars. We had our first session of the course this year. It’s a week-long course, and we had 2 separate sections. We taught 46 fourth-years total, about a quarter of the graduating class. For our April session, we had to move our class entirely online, and Dr. Avey spearheaded the transition masterfully.

Dr. Jonathan Rogg

Emergency physician Jonathan Rogg, MD, MBA was nominated by chief residents Drs. Jason Lesnick and Eric Madden, who demonstrated just how competitive an applicant he is for this award with this impressive nomination. Nominations like these make me feel like a slacker.

 It was during a financial literacy lecture given by Dr. Jonathan Rogg in residency that opened our eyes to the importance of learning about our financial health as doctors. 

Dr. Rogg is dedicated to teaching financial principles to physicians at all levels of training. Within our residency program of 60 residents, Dr. Rogg has created a financial series at our conference that is presented quarterly during the year to cover multiple topics related to financial health in residency. He chooses topics based on our resident’s areas of interest.  His lectures for residents were so well received that many emergency medicine attendings asked for lectures for their financial education as well.  He obliged and created an attending level financial curriculum which he now teaches. Soon after, McGovern Medical school heard about his financial education lectures and approached him to lecture to their medical students. Dr. Rogg now teaches a longitudinal medical student financial curriculum with materials in the first, third, and fourth years of the medical school. He is personally responsible for the financial education of hundreds of physicians at our medical school and affiliated hospitals. Recently, McGovern Medical School named him a recipient of the Dean’s Teaching Excellence Award in large part due to his commitment to teach financial literacy throughout the university.

 Dr. Rogg also has an academic interest in assessing the financial knowledge of physicians. He, along with another faculty member, has an abstract entitled “Emergency Physician Financial Literacy and Education” that will be presented at the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine annual meeting this year. The abstract highlights both the high perceived value of financial education as well the gaps in basic financial literacy of emergency medicine physicians. He is also committed to increasing physician leadership within healthcare organizations. He co-directs and helps teach a month-long “business in medicine” certificate program designed to help medical students and residents become physician leaders. The course has graduated 200 students and been offered more than 10 times. It was so well received that there is a parallel version of this course offered once a year to attending level physicians.

Dr. Rogg is uniquely qualified to teach financial education and physician leadership. He earned an undergraduate degree in management/finance from the Sloan School of Management at MIT and went on to obtain his MBA from Harvard Business School after residency.  He has taken his expertise and shared this knowledge for the benefit of other physicians and physicians-in-training.  Additionally, he donates time from his personal schedule to meet with graduating 3rd year residents on financial planning and is always willing to meet or answer questions through phone and/or email. This man has inspired many physicians and future physicians to expand on their financial knowledge and to take their financial “health” into consideration.

Capt. Brendan Cleary, MD

Capt. Brendan Cleary, MD was nominated by Capt Elias Tohme, MD.

He has devoted a meaningful amount of time teaching the various financial topics that will keep me and the members of our unit financially sound. Personally, his tutorials on the financial implications of residency selection, geographic arbitrage, and maximizing tax-advantaged and military-specific savings plans have been incredibly helpful. Dr. Cleary’s dedication to medical student and resident financial education, particularly with regard to the Health Professions Scholarship, is evident- he references his chapter contribution to the book “How To Choose a Medical Specialty,” to those considering the military path though medicine. He is an avid devotee and proponent of the White Coat Investor; if I had a dollar for every time he mentioned it, financial education may not be [as] necessary…Dr. Cleary’s greatest financial education contribution, however, may be best illustrated through his affinity for young Airmen. In our minimal downtime and between operational briefs it is not unusual to find him teaching the medics, paramedics, and technicians the fundamentals of financial education, such as the ins- and outs- of the Thrift Savings Plan or the benefits of the Blended Retirement System. Few things seem to perturb him as much as the sight of a young enlisted service member driving a car worth three times their annual salary and almost assuredly bought on credit. Along with reinforcing the basics of financial management- budgeting, saving, spending judiciously- Dr. Cleary has been a stalwart and impassioned proponent of continuing financial education in our medical group. He has been a consistent advocate for financial literacy and is a wealth of knowledge for the programs that heavily influence our military lives, such as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, the Savings Deposit Program, and of course the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Whether training here, practicing abroad, getting deployed, or getting out, our unit is better prepared as a direct result of his efforts. As a military physician, Dr. Cleary is among the lowest paid doctors in the country. But the amount of money that he has helped our Airmen save is an immeasurable testament to his dedication to helping our medics “get a fair shake.”

Dr. Michael Kuduk

Pediatrician Michael Kuduk, MD was nominated by Rahul Joseph, MD.

Dr. Kuduk has developed and implemented his own original career and finance curriculum over the past 2 years targeted toward pediatrics residents in our program. His course has covered broad strokes such as writing our own mission and values statements to guide our career paths, as well as delving into the nitty gritty of comparing factors between new job offers, negotiating contracts, reviewing balance sheets of publicly traded companies, starting retirement accounts, and accounting for cash flow in budgeting decisions. He even provides lunch for the residents during his noon finance lectures! Outside of the wards and lecture hall, Dr. Kuduk has personally assisted several of my co-residents with job applications, contract review, and student loan repayment advice. Most importantly, he has been a valuable resource for anecdotes about different journeys through medicine, including his own decision to leave private practice late in his career and reflections on living a meaningful life as a doctor, teacher, husband, and community member.

This Year's Winner — Dr. Jason Mizell

wci financial educator of the year

Jason Mizell, MD, FACS

I want to personally recognize and thank each of the above nominees for their dedication and service. You have gone above and beyond to benefit your colleagues and trainees and those effects will be felt through generations. However, there is a massive elephant in the room and a failure to recognize this doctor as the WCI Financial Educator of the Year sooner or later would detract from the credibility of this award. While all of the above doctors have been doing amazing things for physician financial education, none of them have been doing it for so long and to such an extent as colorectal surgeon Jason Mizell, MD. He was nominated again this year by Chad Chubb, CFP as well as Sarah Catherine Gutierrez, CFP. Since this award can only be won once, we need to “clear the deck” and give it to Dr. Mizell so we don't have to compare every one else to him every year! Chad had this to say in his nomination:

I want to nominate Jason Mizell for the 2020 Financial Educator of the Year Award. I believe you already know about Jason’s program down at UAMS on teaching financial literacy to medical students. While hundredss have already gone through their Business of Medicine course, the number of those who have benefited from the financial literacy would be a multiple of that. Why? Well, I would like to think “cafeteria chat” is a lot safer with this group of educated MS4s when compared to some hospitals!

Jason is also one of the nicest individuals I have ever met. After writing a column on financial literacy for young medical professionals in 2016 for CNBC, Jason contacted me directly to discuss the topic and his program down at UAMS. Ever since that day, we kept in contact and in 2018, Jason invited me to speak at the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (ASCRS) conference in Nashville. It gave me another chance to hear the passion in Jason’s voice for financial literacy. However, my favorite part came toward the end of the day when we decided to grab dinner together. On a short walk from the conference center to our hotel, Jason was stopped at least ten times. And nine of those times were peers, students, and others thanking him for his work and help as the pioneer for financial literacy down at UAMS.

We could use more Jason Mizells in this world, he is a true financial literacy advocate with the sole purpose of helping others.

Sarah Catherine Gutierrez, CFP, a repeat speaker at WCICON, said this:

Upon first arriving at UAMS, Dr. Mizell quickly recognized the need for financial education in the surgery department and rapidly developed a 20 lecture course, the Business of Medicine (BoM), to address this deficit. The feedback was immediate and overwhelmingly positive. Due to the course’s success and after seeing the need for financial education in undergraduate medical education, he expanded the course to an elective for M4 medical students in 2014. The BoM has evolved into a comprehensive course that is now the largest elective on campus with this year’s course having 170 students enrolled.

As one student said, “I had almost no knowledge base coming into this class, and now I'm reading daily posts from WCI, researching insurance options, and looking into new mortgages. I would have been highly uncomfortable with each of these things before this class.” Additional comments have been “This was my favorite course of the entirety of medical school…I learned the beginnings of financial responsibility; I learned I will be able to pay off my debt, but I have to be aggressive now” and “I think this course made me realize how much I didn't know about personal finance but that with a little research, it is possible to plan for a more financially secure future.”

He has previously published the cumulative results from BoM classes in the Journal of Medical Practice Management. Because of the growing demand for financial education, he has continued to expand the course.  In 2018, Dr. Mizell oversaw the development of the Honors in Finance (HiF) track and Finance Interest Group (FIG). The HiF allows incoming students to enter a longitudinal curriculum spanning 4 years of medical school.  Students have assigned reading assignments for each year, develop a financial learning project, participate in the BoM as M1s and M4s, meet with financial and student loan counselors, and join the FIG. There are currently 119 students enrolled in this comprehensive track. This interest has led to preliminary discussions to develop a combined MD/MBA course in conjunction with the University of Arkansas College of Business.

In an effort to spread financial knowledge outside the College of Medicine, the FIG is open to students from other colleges on campus and provides education on topics not covered in the BoM.  As one student wrote, “Thanks to the FIG meetings, I now have a desire to learn finance and have started listening to WCI podcasts whenever I am driving, or more recently, stuck in an airport for hours on end; before then I had never considered how important being knowledgeable in finance would be in my life… I know with a family and being as busy as you are with work, time is incredibly valuable, so for you to care enough about us as students to go through that effort means a lot, and I truly believe it is people like you who make this University what it is.”

Not only has Dr. Mizell developed the BoM, the HiF, and the FIG, but he has also demonstrated the BoM is truly making a difference.  Participants have reported lower finance related stress, increased confidence on finance management, and statistically significant knowledge improvements in every presented topic. But where success is truly measured is behavioral changes, and this is occurring as well – 95% of participants reported a change such as creating a budget, starting a retirement plan, changing spending habits, and creating a will/trust.

However, his financial education footprint extends beyond the walls of UAMS.  Within his published research and podcasts, Dr. Mizell has described how he developed the course so other institutions can develop a similar curriculum as well.  Portions of his course have been implemented at other institutions around the country. He also designed a first ever “Financial Planning for the Colorectal Surgeon” symposium at the ASCRS meeting 2018 and recently completed the publication of a “Financial Planning for Colorectal Surgeon” article. Within his published research and podcasts, Dr. Mizell has described how he developed the course so other institutions can develop a similar curriculum as well.  The design of his course has been implemented at several other institutions around the country. This dissemination of his work is a testament to his passion to teach other educators on these topics.

Dr. Mizell is truly a teacher, visionary, pioneer, and leader in the field of financial education.

Frankly, both of those nominators — and repeatedly the far-more-humble-than-me Dr. Mizell himself — are downplaying his pioneering work. As you can see above, there are now a fair number of medical schools and residencies with a financial curriculum of some type. Most of these relied heavily either on Dr. Mizell's published work or were developed after personal conversations or email exchanges with Dr. Mizell. His course was originally just directed at general surgery residents, but was expanded to the MS4 class. Now this completely optional course is attended by nearly all of them. When he put this course in place, there were only about 5 physician financial blogs around and you've never heard of four of them. He continues to publish numerous papers about financial literacy education for medical students and residents.

I am honored to be able to interact with educators such as Dr. Mizell and here at The White Coat Investor we want to honor him with the 2020 WCI Educator of the Year Award. It might not be much (the award is a certificate, a check for $1,000, and a CV entry), but recipients (and even nominees) are in fine company.

Please congratulate Dr. Mizell and the other nominees in the comments section below!