In February, I called for nominations for the Financial Educator of the Year award. In the same post, I gave away a few sets of slides to use in educating medical students, residents, and doctors about finances. I have been very pleased to see what appears to be an increase in financial talks being given to doctors, including many that used some or all of my slides. Here are a few examples from my Twitter feed:

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As you can see, people have been busy, and this critical message of financial literacy is spreading among doctors!

In today's post, I not only want to announce the winner of the contest, but we were so impressed with ALL of the nominees, that I'm going to highlight every single one of the docs who were nominated for the award. First, the winner:

The 2019 White Coat Investor Financial Educator of the Year Award

Financial Educator of the year

Gaurav Agarwal, MD

This year's winner is Gaurava Agarwal, MD, assistant professor in the Departments of Medical Education, Psychiatry, and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine. He was nominated by Matthew Pirotte, MD, FACEP, an emergency physician at Northwestern and a previous guest poster on the blog. Dr. Pirotte wrote this about Dr. Agarwal:

He serves as the Director of Undergraduate Medical Education in Psychiatry and is an expert in physician well-being and burnout.  He also directs the innovative and award winning program, Scholars for Wellness (SOW), designed to help address the organizational drivers of burnout in physicians. Dr. Agarwal is a nationally recognized educator who has won the prestigious Association for Academic Psychiatry’s Junior Faculty Award, The Association of Directors of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry’s Devneil Vaidya Junior Faculty Teaching Award, and is the first psychiatrist to win the George H. Joost Award for outstanding clinical teacher from Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine.  He has received his Organizational and Leadership Coaching Certificate from Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy to expand his therapy toolbox with coaching skills that he plans to use to help physicians at all levels recover from the burnout epidemic.

Through his work with impaired and burned out physicians as a psychiatrist he learned that financial well-being is a critical component of achieving well-being as a physician and combatting burnout.  He has created financial curriculum and presentations for trainees and faculty alike to help them with prevention and treatment of burnout.

His model to address burnout is called the Microwave Popcorn theory of Physician Well-being.  It started during his psychiatry residency as he was feeling burned out and was appalled that people seemed shocked to learn that 30-40% of trainees were experiencing burnout.  He likened the faux shock expressed by people as they learned that residents who are not getting any sleep and working 100 hours being burned out to being surprised if you put a bag of popcorn kernels into the microwave and seeing fluffy white popcorn come out.  For this analogy, the way to address burnout would be three fold:  always be able to get out of the microwave, turn the heat down in the microwave, and/or learn what makes those pesky unpopped kernels at the bottom the bag stay that way.

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As he teaches this paradigm, he emphasizes that having your financial house in order (especially in terms of debt), allows physicians to feel like they can always leave the microwave instead of being tethered by golden handcuffs.  He also highlights how financial well-being opens up doors to turning down the heat in the microwave by allowing physicians to see fewer patients, take fewer night and weekend calls, and spend more time with patients if they choose to do so.

His medical student financial curriculum has been delivered to every 1st or 2nd year medical student that has graduated from Northwestern in the past 3 years (a total of approximately 500 students).  In addition, this will be his fourth year where he will have delivered a financial education lecture to every senior graduating medical student as a part of the Capstone course at Northwestern (a total of approximately 500 students) to help them explore the psychology and mindset pitfalls of physicians around money so that they can start residency with good early financial habits and attitudes.  Finally, he has created curriculum and presentations that he has delivered at the Graduate Medical Education level to residents and fellows at Northwestern including the entire Pediatrics residency and senior Psychiatry residents to help address the unique needs of residents and fellows as they approach becoming attendings.  He has presented the curricula he has created at national meetings thereby encouraging other medical schools and residencies to follow the lead in connecting financial well-being and physician burnout.

For teaching personal finance to hundreds of medical students, residents across multiple specialties, and attending physicians over a period of years, we are pleased to award the 2019 White Coat Investor Financial Educator of the Year Award to Dr. Agarwal (along with a $1,000 check!)

Other Nominees

There were 13 other nominees, each of which has gone above and beyond in boosting financial literacy among their peers and trainees. I'd like to highlight each of them.

Started a Business of Medicine Course

Another impressive nominee known to many white coat investors is general surgeon Jason Mizell, MD nominated this year by blog sponsor Chad Chubb, CFP who said this:

I believe you already know about Jason’s program down at UAMS on teaching financial literacy to medical students. While 100s 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!

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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 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 Mizell’s in this world, he is a true financial literacy advocate with the sole purpose of helping others.

Did the CFP Coursework Just to Learn More

The most frequently nominated doc this year was radiologist Scott Truhlar, MD, nominated by Alan Reed MD, MBA, Alex Novak, MS3, Richard Uhlenhopp, MS2, and Sarah Eikenberry, MS3.

Dr. Reed wrote this:

Scott is a practicing radiologist in private practice who also earned his MBA and criteria to become a CFP who is passionate about teaching financial literacy to medical learners at all levels. I first learned about Scott through a mutual professional colleague and his interest in teaching the Radiology residents about these topics.

I engaged Scott to teach a didactic session to a group of medical students as part of a distinction track in the University of Iowa's Carver College of Medicine. A distinction track is an additional academic course to the MD degree; this course of study is in Healthcare Delivery Science, Management & Policy. This requires 12, 4 hour didactic sessions over 3 years, a project with presentation, and a leadership course.

Scott put together a 4 hour presentation for 40 medical students (and a few general surgery residents that was specifically designed for them, impeccably researched specifically as it related to debt burdens and earning potentials for Iowa students, and was both erudite and practical. He covered topics including monthly cash flows, budgeting, tax codes, and insurable vs non-insurable risk. His presentation included activities that involved working through actual budgets with different implications. He discussed the different types of financial “representatives” that are likely to approach these students and residents when they earn their first paychecks, how to sort through the critical issues, and the important questions to ask them. He covered simple investment strategies, savings strategies, and things to clearly avoid.

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He did all of this in 4 hours and did it as clearly and honestly as possible. He peppered the talk with stories, both positive and negative, to illustrate his points. He engaged the students in “full-contact” question and answer sessions. I have seen this material presented a number of times, in a number of ways, by a number of professionals. Never have I seen it given as honestly and directly as Scott did, nor as clearly. The students provided feedback and all of it was extremely positive. I am looking forward to having Scott reprise these sessions for our residents in the future.

Student doctor Novak wrote this:

Scott provided us with up-to-date analysis of how to approach financial stability, investments, prioritizing and eliminating our debt. Scott distilled and clarified this enigma not formally taught in the medical school curriculum…What I found most impactful during his lectures, was his honesty. He was not there to sell us something, rather he shared his experiences (some successful, others not) with the hope we could be more successful.

Student doctor Uhlenhopp said this:

Dr. Truhlar’s hunger to learn and subsequent training as Financial Advisor provides him a unique window into both sides of the advising relationship…I appreciated his lead off thoughts on not trusting anyone including himself and imploring us to do our own research. His honesty in sharing his successes and failures was rare from someone in a position of greater knowledge on a topic. Perhaps the most unique component of his talk was a brief history of the financial professional through the years, as it gave us an inside view on what investment companies and their advisors are trying to sell and how the industry is changing. Everything he gave us was accessible but packed with insight. As I walked home, I reflected on how lucky I was to have access to this information as very few in my position have ever had. I am humbled that Dr. Truhlar would spend a weekend morning with us to impart some knowledge. His passion for this topic came through in every subject and I cannot think of what a more deserving candidate would look like.

Student doctor Eikenberry said this:

He has a list of “15 things to do once an attending” that is golden!! This list was worth the whole lecture!...I believe Dr. Truhlar embodies the goal of White Coat investor to “help those who wear the white coat get a fair shake on Wall Street.”

Noon Lectures, Annual Resident Retreats, and One on One Help

Pediatric resident Dr. Julie MacNeil nominated pediatric cardiologist and previous WCI guest poster Dr. Joshua Daily and said this:

Dr. Daily is the only attending during my residency that provided us with financial education through noon lectures as well as lecturing at our annual resident retreats. He also offers to meet with anyone one-on-one to answer questions. During his lectures with the residents, he directs us to read WCI resources ….I was impressed that he was willing to share this difficult moment of his life [a divorce discussed in the guest post] to enrich the financial education of others. I also know that he has met one-on-one to help co-workers, going through divorce, to help them navigate their finances. I also witnessed him sitting down with APNs going through their retirement funds and explaining the nuts and bolts. I can say that I likely have witnessed a fraction of the financial help and time he has given to others.

Opens His Home To Docs Several Times a Year

Urologist Nicholas Tadros, MD was nominated by Jeffrey Baas, MD who said this about him:

Along with being an excellent clinician, he has become an excellent resource for financial education.  Since his first day on the job he has been preaching financial independence to the residents.  He holds events at his house for the residents and faculty several times a year in which we discuss financial topics…he has removed the stigma surrounding discussing finances and medicine in the same sentence at our institution.  ​

Because of his efforts, many of the urology residents, including myself, have become interested in personal finance.  For the first time in my life I have been actively involved in making myself financially independent.  Many of the residents have bought the White Coat Investor book and have been applying its lessons because of Dr. Tadros' enthusiasm.

Running a Doctor Personal Finance Group

Optometrist Adriana Medina, OD was nominated by Brandon Runyon, OD who said this about her:

Before optometry, she was studying to be a financial advisor, but she got cold feet and ultimately ended up going down the medical path and chose optometry….Since coming on board with us, she has personally helped me turn around my own finances and become more financially literate, but also has helped kickstart a 15+ physician personal finance group that is meeting monthly in our tiny remote community. The group is slowly growing, and eventually we all might not be fitting into one living room for these meetings.

She is a frequent leader and contributor in that personal finance group to help our physician colleagues and additionally has made it a priority to make sure our optometry residents are more financially literate as well by providing books and guidance when they begin their program. She has also been bringing them to our personal finance group. She believes it to be of high importance (and I agree), so she is now implementing financial education into the residency program in a more official capacity.

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Gives Financial Seminars in his Home

Chirag P. Shah, MD, MPH was nominated by Michael N. Cohen, MD saying this:

He expanded his scope as an educator to help guide his fellows (and his peers) towards financial stability and independence. He organizes two to three seminars per year at his home, in which, through a series of interactive lectures, he instills the basics of money management and investing, and stresses the importance of spending well below your means.

These lectures serve as a springboard into a close relationship, as he continues to make himself available to answer any financial question as his fellows transition into Attendings.

Chirag is so passionate about helping guide medical graduates towards financial stability, that he has expanded his lecture circuit to include all the ophthalmology residents at Tufts University School of Medicine, has been featured on an ophthalmology podcast discussing financial planning, and has finished a first draft of a book which will act as a blueprint to financial independence for young Attendings.

Chirag has been able to obtain a level of peace and happiness from achieving true financial independence, and he finds unparalleled joy in helping others obtain that goal.

An Example of Hard Work and Smart Decisions

Dr. Khoa Tu was nominated by Dr. Addie Bugas, who said:

Dr. Tu got me interested in creating a strong financial foundation when I was a second year resident. He stressed hard work, saving and preparing for the long-term goal of early financial independence….He has prepared himself to be able to handle the California tax burden and still achieve financial independence at a relatively young age. Dr. Tu has moved on to be an attending at a different residency, which is a huge loss for me and my fellow residents, but I am sure he is sharing all of his knowledge (financial and medical) with his new trainees.

Personal Guidance One on One

Dr. Jeffrey Baliff was nominated by Jesus Rico, MD and Tatiana Villatoro, MD.

Dr. Rico said:

Dr. Baliff has distinguished himself for his effort to improve the financial capability of residents and the students..since the beginning of the first year in my residency he has guided me and provide me with resources such as web sites, books and sharing non-conventional information…[He consistently encourages us] to create smart decisions to increase our growth, protect our investment and be tax efficient. The main rule being to take smart risk/gain benefits and choosing disability and retirement plan that fit with the physician lifestyle.

Dr. Villatoro said:

It wasn't long before [finances] coincidently came up during one of my sign-out sessions with Dr. Baliff. Aside from discussing the differences in IRAs and other investments, he educated me on the importance of securing disability insurance as a young physician, and one that guarantees “true own occupation disability coverage,” a concept that I did not know anything about.  Dr. Baliff discussed his own personal experience on the subject, including struggles that he faced once he had to claim disability for a time.  He referred me to the website to gain more information at my leisure… If it weren't for Dr. Baliff, I would not have known where to turn for answers on financial planning as a resident, and he has graciously extended his knowledge to other fellow residents in my program whom also appreciate his advice.

Developed an Educational Series for New Attendings

Dr. Matthew Wang was nominated by Matthew Kozlowski, MD who said:

Dr. Wang single handedly developed an educational series for our Junior Partners that includes, but also goes well beyond, personal finances. Dr. Wang's “Mini Practice Management Series” encompasses all parts of independent anesthesia practice ranging from local/state level politics, reading AR and Financials from our privately owned billing company, Pay Reports, to Revenue Cycle management….

On a daily basis Dr. Wang serves to educate PAA's private anesthesiologists and provide transparency towards billing metrics, personal finances, investing, and improving the overall financial literacy of our partners and junior partners.

One additional example is that Dr. Wang personally purchased and handed out copies of “The White Coat Investor: A Doctor's Guide to Personal Finance And Investing”. He then held a book club to discuss the book in detail. Last, Dr. Wang is open to hearing other physician's thoughts and strategies on alternative investment pathways without bias.

Incorporated Financial Curriculum Into the Residency

Saira Kalia, MD was nominated by Brittany Pace, MD who said:

Since she has taken the lead on didactic scheduling, she has consistently made efforts to improve the financial education the residents receive. This includes delivering her own financial lecture as well as including various faculty members to help teach topics such taxes, contracts, job opportunities, saving strategies, etc. She also facilitates informal teaching for residents who may have specific questions with faculty members who have expertise in the area. She is an innovative and bright leader who is paving the future for financial literacy for our psychiatrists in training.

Dinner and Finances in his Home and Grand Rounds

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Dr. William Potter was nominated by Dr. Sara Morris and Brittany Costello, MD. Dr. Morris said:

For the last 3 years, Will has been hosting a “financial lecture” (and dinner) at his house for attendings and residents to attend. He has put together a PowerPoint that touches on topics like student loans, job contracts, investments, insurance, etc. These are topics that he has been explaining to the residents (usually while on call with him) on an individual basis for the past 5-6 years (since he has been an attending).

This is totally on his on time; he's not getting paid extra to do this. He is so intelligent and so genuine in his concern to see everyone, especially the residents, succeed. He never turns down a question on finances, even if he's already explained it a million times, and is always patient, honest, and generous with his knowledge.

Because of him, I not only know what a Roth IRA is, I have a Roth IRA!… he truly wants us to be informed and make the most of what we have earned, and he doesn't expect any recognition…It's not an exaggeration to say that because I know Will, my financial life (and therefore my whole life) will be better.

Dr. Costello said:

Throughout the last 4 years of my residency, Dr. Potter has repeatedly shown fervor and enthusiasm for financial education. He has taken time to host annual gatherings at his house to teach residents about practical and real life topics, including disability insurance, loan consolidation, investments, etc. Apart from these gatherings, he is always available to answer questions and engage in discussion. You will frequently find him in the resident lounge, going over Roth IRA's, walking residents through his portfolio, or discussing some recent article on white coat investor. He has also worked tirelessly to officially incorporate these lessons into resident education, something we all agree is lacking. Currently, we have devoted an annual grand rounds lecture to finance, but there is much room for improvement. My hope is that the recognition from this award would help Dr. Potter gain the momentum he needs to make these changes. I, personally, am so grateful for his guidance. Because of his enthusiasm and persistence, I can honestly say I feel financially prepared for the future.

Financial Book Club and Lectures

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Joshua Jabez, MD was nominated by Dr. Ashlee Hardesty Van Ginkel:

He developed an interest in personal finance during psychiatry residency, when he realized he didn't know much about debt, investing or building wealth. He found the White Coat Investor and then expanded his financial education to other financial books and online forums. Dr. Jabez now “talks” finance with anyone interested. He has taught a lecture to the psychiatry residents on finance, debt, investment and potential pitfalls to avoid. Dr. Jabez is also a member (truly the leader and overall guru) of a monthly financial literacy book club for early career physicians. I have been a member of the book club for the past 3 years, essentially since I graduated fellowship. Dr. Jabez is a humble, thoughtful, and adept at breaking financial concepts down into understandable concepts. He easily shares some of his “unwise” early financial decisions, helping apply these concepts to our actual lives, while also making him approachable and creating an atmosphere to ask questions, make mistakes and be held accountable to make changes.

Self-Taught but Passionate

The most impressive nomination came from Dr. Dennis Ea, who nominated Dr. Amanda Weinmann with a submission that included three figures of Dr. Weinmann's slides!!

She is a self-taught financial expert. She has demonstrated a passion for teaching our residents about finance over the years. She has given several lectures on how to manage our finances, pay back loans and invest in retirement….

Her insight and advice have helped dozens of residents in making savvy and timely financial decisions. Dr. Weinmann has no formal training in finance, but she has become a financial expert by self-studying and her own experience (and reading The White Coat Investor, obviously). Because of this, I think she’s well-suited to teach medical residents about finance and not overcomplicate financial topics. She also is very honest and forthcoming about her personal experience which helps us to understand how to navigate all of our financial options. She shares how she paid off her student loan debt with real numbers and applicable tips. She is always available to us to talk about finances, loans, insurance, and investments….

Thanks to Dr. Weinmann’s lessons, I’ve developed a better understanding of several key financial tips for medical residents, including paying off credit card debt, maintaining a strong credit score, having a realistic but aggressive loan repayment plan, maxing out my ROTH IRA and obtaining disability insurance… Her clear, concise commentary highlights important teaching points and makes learning about finance (somewhat) interesting.

WCI Financial Educator of the Year Award

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As you can see, each of these educators has taken a unique approach to teaching this material. It can be as simple as one on one counseling to developing a curriculum for the medical school. It can be a book club, lectures at work or at home, or starting a personal finance group. Some people have formal training and degrees while others are completely self-taught. I think the lesson is clear- this is important and YOU can do it too. Please do your part in teaching finances to doctors and you may find yourself on this list next year!

What do you think? What have you done to help other doctors become more financially literate? What plans do you have for the next year? Comment below!