By Dr. James M. Dahle, WCI Founder
Yesterday we announced the first five winners of the 2021 WCI Scholarship, the ones from the Inspiring Stories category. Today, we will announce the final five winners, the ones from the Financial category. Before we do so, though, we would like to once more thank all of the applicants for their patience as the announcement is a week late, along with the judges, and Megan—our latest hire who now runs our outreach programs including the WCI Scholarship (free money and recognition for students), the WCI Financial Educator Award (free money and recognition for doctors), and the WCI Champions Program (free WCI Guide for Students book for every MS1 in the country). We also want to thank our Platinum and Gold sponsors for contributing to the scholarship.
Platinum Level Contributors ($7,500 or more)
The White Coat Investor, LLC
Larry Keller (Physician Financial Services) – Disability and Life Insurance
Bob Bhayani (Dr Disability Quotes) – Disability and Life Insurances
Splash Financial – Student Loan Refinancing
Laurel Road – Student Loan Refinancing
Credible – Student Loan Refinancing
Gold Level Contributors ($1,000 or more)
Andy Borgia and DK Unger (DI4MDs) – Disability and Life Insurance
Wende Headley (Abacus Wealth Partners) – Financial Advising
Chad Chubb (WealthKeel LLC) – Financial Advising
Jon Appino (Contract Diagnostics) – Contract Review/Negotiation
Pradeep Audho (PKA Insurance) – Disability and Life Insurance
Michael Relvas (MR Insurance) – Disability and Life Insurance
Pattern – Disability and Life Insurance
Scott Nelson Archer (MD Financial Services) – Disability and Life Insurance
Matt Elliott (Pulse Financial Planning) – Financial Advising
Johanna Turner (Fox and Company Wealth Management) – Financial Advising
Josh Mettle (Neo Home Loans) – Physician Mortgage Loans
Kathryn Hanna (Make Your Money Matter) – Personal Finance Workbooks
Thomas Hackett (NW Legacy Law) – Estate Planning
Stephanie Pearson (PearsonRavitz) – Disability and Life Insurance
Rick Warren and Joe Capone (Insuring Income) – Disability and Life Insurance
Provider Solutions & Development – Job Recruitment
Now, onto the winners! Once more, I have included an excerpt of the winners' essays here but also a link to the full post for those who want the rest of the story. Each winner will receive $7,671 in cold, hard cash. Interestingly, in the first two years of the WCI Scholarship program (2015 and 2016), men won three out of five and four out of five of the scholarships, respectively. The tables have sure been turned. Last year, women won seven out of 10, and this year, women won nine out of 10. We have no quotas; the 59 judges don't have any way to contact each other nor are they given the names, genders, or pictures of the applicants, so it is what it is. But it is an interesting trend, given that medical school enrollment is about 50/50.
The Grand Prize Winning Essays
Joanne Newens — UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine
Joanne wrote a great essay on frugality and how it can be taught to the next generation.
It was my father, however, who instilled in me my terrifying fear of debt and the only smidge of financial sense I have. My dad, who lost his everything in the Fall of Saigon and his house twice after, has taught my sister and me the “sixth sense” for investments and the necessity of large rainy day funds. That’s the thing about losing everything three times—we keep our money safe in order to keep our family safe. My sister’s first business was when she was 10 years old, where she made paper ninja stars and recruited her friends to advertise and sell. I, a late bloomer, did not start my tutoring business until I was 15, but we both managed to pay for our eighth-grade trip by selling pounds of See’s candy and for our undergraduate tuition by writing two dozen scholarship essays while living at home instead of the dorms. From ages 8 to 16, our family bonding time was licking envelopes to send to couples who newly moved into the neighborhood to advertise my father’s business. Even now during my gap year [Editor's note: Joanne is now an MS1 and thus eligible for the scholarship but wrote and submitted her essay months ago], my dad is testing me on the definitions of “Roth IRA” and “index funds” to help me build the rainy day fund that I built a decade ago. But unlike my dad’s other immigrant friends, whose “0 to 100” story can be clearly seen in their Teslas and caviar dinners, our funds are not to show off, but to keep our family safe.
Read the rest of the essay here. Congratulations to Joanne!
Anna Lackey — Rowan University – School of Osteopathic Medicine
Anna wrote an essay about her early entrepreneurial endeavors and the anxiety that living on loans in medical school causes her.
I first started to understand the value of the dollar at the ripe age of 12 when I craved a shiny Macbook computer. My parents, who embody hard work and grit, took this as a learning opportunity for me, for they were not about to cough up the $1,200 for a laptop that was nowhere near a necessity for me at that age . . .
How on earth would I earn what seemed like a lifetime of savings to me at that time? That’s when I had a lightbulb moment! I printed out flyers advertising my newfound babysitting business, hand-delivered them to every house in my neighborhood, and waited, just waited, for the phone to ring with a new business deal . . . I mean . . . someone who needed a babysitter. My burgeoning $10-per-hour babysitting business had me counting out my dollar bills and coins (I would stack pennies in 10-cent towers!) at least twice a week, until I finally held my chin high and walked into the Apple store empty-handed, but left with something that I, myself, had worked for and made sacrifices to obtain. Yes, vetoing Friday night sleepovers to watch my 5-year-old neighbor and realizing that Good Humor Chocolate Eclair bars from the ice cream truck were not worth $2.25 anymore, were sacrifices to me at the time. Little did I know that these concepts of hard work, sacrifice, and saving money would reach a much bigger scale in the coming years . . .
As a current medical student, I face new financial challenges. Three days into starting medical school, lightning struck the apartment I just moved into, igniting a fire that decimated the building and burned all of my belongings. Although devastating at first, I soon realized the bright side of the situation; my roommate and I were alive. In order to attend medical school, I need to take out nearly $300,000 worth of loans, in addition to my undergraduate loans. However, with the medical student workload, I do not have the option to save money through babysitting neighborhood children or telemarketing. The bright side is, I am working hard toward a career that I love to ultimately be able to assist others to be healthy enough so they, too, can continue to do what they love. As anxiety-inducing as taking out hefty loans each year is, I often remind myself of my why.
Read the rest of the essay here. Congratulations to Anna!
Jonny Hatch — University of North Texas Health Science Center – Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (UNTHSC – TCOM)
Jonny wrote what was personally my favorite essay of the contest, and it seems the judges agreed. I've always enjoyed the ones that talk about medical school experiences, and he has been having a lot of those!
Over the past four months, I’ve slowly gone blind. What started as headaches from staring at Step 1 practice questions, ended with [a] pituitary macroadenoma.
Some blindness can be cured. Some is permanent. Yet, blindness is almost never optional. Unless, it comes to medical students and their financial literacy.
My undergraduate degree is in business. As such, my undergrad classmates lived and breathed both business and personal finance. Contrast that with a conversation I had with one of my medical school colleagues. “You’re a part of the Medical Business Association? Do you only care about money?” she asked. We were good friends, so we could joke about things like this, but her tone was still a little incredulous.
“Come on!” I said. “Everyone needs to know about the business side of medicine. You can’t give your patients the care they deserve unless you understand how the decisions you make impact them financially. Of course their health is the center of all your decisions, but will the treatment you offer leave them in financial ruin?”
That conversation didn’t go very far. But, months later, this same classmate and I attended a lunch lecture where a physician explained her rural cash pay practice. The physician was dynamic and intriguing . . . Later that afternoon, I saw my friend in anatomy lab. “I want a practice like Dr. Hobbs!” she said. “She was talking about stuff I’ve never heard of before . . . What is ‘overhead’?” I smiled to myself and gave another quick plug for the Medical Business Association. . .
While driving, central vision is most important, but you need your peripherals to avoid getting blindsided by a merging car. In some ways, I wonder if institutions want us to “only focus on the patient.” In this way, they lead us like horses with blinders on. We are kept focused on the road ahead but ignorant to the landscapes on both sides that only the rider enjoys. We are tools rather than autonomous individuals.
In some ways, yes, studying and learning medicine are the most important things you can do during medical school. But, if you ignore finance, you are driving without your peripheral vision. Once you graduate, you will be blindsided by the amount of debt you’ve incurred. You will be clueless whether or not you should defer your loans, how to do it, and how to create a stable financial plan for your future . . .
I believe that medical students will be better physicians if they are willing to learn all things finance. As students and doctors learn about their personal finances, the finances of their employer, the finances of their businesses, they will be more stable physicians. They will enjoy treating patients more. They will be better equipped to address the financial impact of medical decisions on patient care. Financial literacy is essential for physicians to truly deliver holistic care.
So, if you’ve put on blinders to focus on your coursework or clinical responsibilities, lower them a little.
Read the rest of the essay here. Congratulations to Jonny!
Sarah Vélez — Northeast Ohio Medical University
Sarah wrote an essay talking about the financial lessons learned from her grandmother, Ayita, and some of her financial challenges in school.
Since my grandfather's passing 21 years ago, she has been economically dependent on her children. This brings her daily anxiety, as she fears being a burden.
Like Ayita, I worry about money. I grew up middle class and had consistent access to food, shelter, and safety. But my young body still tensed as I overheard my parent's hushed conversations about managing expenses. My maternal grandmother is from Peru, and both she and my father sent money to their respective families in South America. I soon realized, my parent's income was not just for us; it supported loved ones abroad who struggled more. To defray costs, I began working at age 14 to cover personal expenses like clothing. I also was careful when asking my parents for new items and conservative with spending my earnings.
Financially, I am still not where I wish I could be. The whirlwind medical school offer and acceptance process landed me 2,045 miles away from my long-term partner, my brother, and my parents. Given the $40,000 out-of-state yearly surcharge atop attendance costs, it is a hard reality knowing trips home will be infrequent. Additionally, I take great pride in living debt-free and within my means. Thus, much cognitive dissonance arose when I officially accepted my financial aid package which consisted of almost exclusively loans. As I turn 31 in my first year of medical school, I can slip into comparing myself to those who landed on this path earlier than me.
Luckily, I know where to draw inspiration from, to remember what is of true value.
Appreciation is central to how I view my financial picture. Though a scarcity mindset colored my adolescent and 20-somethings lens, I choose to redefine what I thought was possible for myself—both professionally and fiscally. This attitude shift is a direct outgrowth of my conscious efforts to live Ayita’s advice. I now cherish the material and intangible fortune already in my life. For example, I worked full-time for two years before medical school. While my accumulated savings only covered this year's out-of-state surcharge, I felt pride in investing my earnings into my education. And through the generosity of family and friends, I lived rent-free while completing my self-directed post-baccalaureate courses. This allowed me to scale back to part-time work, which afforded me increased study time. In addition, I prize my internal drive to dig and discover financial opportunities, and the associated courage to ask others to invest in my journey. Through studying White Coat Investor resources and seeking out budgeting advice from physician mentors, I feel more financially literate to craft my path. I seek a nontraditional physician career and therefore must be fiscally strategic to create this professional flexibility.
Read the rest of the essay here. Congratulations to Sarah!
Sierra Murphy — Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine – Arizona campus
Sierra wrote a fantastic essay on what can be done in medical school to reduce debt. This was also a favorite among the judges. I'm confident her prize money will go further than anyone else's!
Something I’ve never admitted to anyone before: medical school seemed like a pipe dream. With the projected six-figure debt burden, I simply did not see a way to afford it. We couldn’t even afford home internet. Still, I kept faith, hoping that my family’s situation would change by the time I got there, or rather, that developing my own strong financial habits would amount to something. Today, I am a second-year medical student with projected debt that I can feasibly pay off during residency. I’d like to share the most impactful financial habits and decisions that made it possible for me to attend medical school. I hope that my story will encourage others to avoid catastrophic debt, develop sustainable financial habits, and pursue their passion for medicine despite their socioeconomic background . . .
Live like a student. First of all, because we are students. Secondly, because we will be students much longer than the average person. We often underestimate how much our personal spending will matter in comparison to the cost of medical school, but the truth is, it adds up quickly and every dollar spent increases the amount of debt compounding interest. I adopted the perspective that if I learned to live like a student now, I could reach financial independence faster and gain more control of my life later. One of the most tangible examples of living like a student is demonstrated by how I shop for groceries and plan meals. It started my sophomore year when I didn’t have a car and only bought what I could carry home. Naturally, it made me very intentional about what I purchased. I checked the ads and wrote a list of exactly what I was going to buy that week before I made the trip. I also meal-prepped to save time and ate the same meals all week to save money. Now, I have a car, but I use the same habits and spend an average of $30 a week. That car I mentioned is a 2001 Ford Taurus which I got for $500 from an ex-Marine. It initially smelled of cigarettes and boasted scratches from a side-swipe incident, but it only had 70,000 miles and got decent gas mileage. To this day, it is my most prized possession. I plan to drive it through residency, if it’ll have me. I remind myself that the small sacrifices I make as a student will pay dividends in the form of good financial habits. Plus, it’s easier to live this way now than when I have a family to consider . . .
Happiness. My last piece of advice is to understand the difference between what you can and cannot change. Once the price of tuition, rent, etc. is set, there is no sense in losing sleep over it. There are realistically going to be expenses in life. When you get into medical school, your primary focus should be on making the most of the opportunity and experience. Enjoy the ride.
Read the rest of the essay here. Congratulations to Sierra!
Congratulations to all of the winners and thank you again to all who participated this year!