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[Editor’s Note: Here at WCI we are pleased to announce our grand prize winner of the 2017 WCI Scholarship, Andrew James Goates, an MS4 at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. Grand prize this year is good for 60% of the cash raised for the scholarship, or about $21,400. This essay was the favorite of  two of the three second round judges that read it and six of the ten final round judges. That's about as close to unanimous as this contest gets. I love seeing the idealism of the MS1s, but creativity seemed to count a lot with our judges this year!]

I’ve given all that I have to offer and can’t go on. I’ve worked so hard for too long with little appreciation and no compensation. Completely exhausted and hopelessly depleted, I simply won’t survive residency training. Round and round like an underwater hamster wheel of insanity I cycle through: soak, wash, rinse, and spin. With three small children and residency on the horizon, I just can’t continue washing this family’s clothes. Please grant this scholarship so I can retire and get a chance at living the good life.

The story starts a few years out of the factory when my motherboard croaked which landed me in an appliance salvage warehouse. They fixed the problem and put me up for sale, which is when I got my second chance at life in the form of a frugal young couple. With the birth of their first child, Andrew and Jessica decided to give up laundromat trips and purchase me: their first appliance. At first, Andrew spent a great deal of time studying, and the job was quite pleasant aside from the baby vomit and salty running clothes. Activity started to pick up with the birth of their second little girl, however. That’s about the time they started talking about medical school and moving to the Midwest. It sounded exciting for them, but I didn’t expect to get dragged along. After all, I’m one of those first generation of “high efficiency” frontloading washer/dryer combos and not exactly the most sleek machine on the market.


They were trying to save a few dollars, so Drew called in some favors to get me loaded on the truck; then we moved three times in the sweltering Iowa heat before getting settled. The newfound humidity brought some funky new stink on those running clothes, but I tried to take it in stride. Soon a baby boy joined the family, but I had become pretty accustomed to washing filthy baby clothes. The real adjustment came with the array of impressive stains Andrew brought home from the research lab. I did my best, but c’mon ethidium bromide? Do you know it is actually used to stain DNA? I never really stood a chance against it. Then gross anatomy started (emphasis on the gross), and holy smokes: that formalin smell lingered in my hoses for months. Next hospital scrubs began to appear with a baseline sweaty aroma infused with a mystery musk that changed with each rotation. Blood was a common offender whether from sewing up a laceration, assisting in the operating room, or stopping up a pesky nosebleed. I tried not to pay attention during urology and OB/GYN, but I had to notice the amniotic fluid spots as he recounted the thrill of coaching a patient through a rapid, unmedicated birth and the rush of emotion from catching the baby and witnessing her first breath. I’ve spiffed up his white coat countless times, but I’ll never forget the tear-soaked shoulder after he helped a voiceless patient call his mother and explain that there was a concerning mass in his larynx partially obstructing his airway and robbing him of speech. I’ll admit, those are some irreplaceable memories, and I’ve appreciated the journey at times, but along the way I’ve frequently tried to get relief from the relentless task of keeping their clothes clean.


Many times I’ve tried to weasel out of work, and every time the little menace finds a way to get me running again. I never get pampered by a proper appliance technician either, no, “that’s not in the budget,” he says. Drew spends a few minutes on the Internet and decides he’s some kind of repairing renegade. If I ever get my hands on the inventors of YouTube, that video will surely go viral. Back when they first bought me, the door handle snapped and the power outlet was the wrong type. Turns out they were simple fixes for that resourceful chap although plugging in my new outlet for the first time made both of us uneasy. Later I simply shut off after blowing an obscure fuse in the drying unit. Wouldn’t you know, with some research and a lucky guess he found and replaced it in less than two days. I once tried to squeak out a vacation by turning some of their clothes brown. No such luck, he got me realigned by replacing bearings, belts, and drum seals. When I refused to drain due to a broken water pump it was the same song, different verse. Despite my best efforts to repeatedly fail, do you think a new washer/dryer is in the plans for these penny pinchers? Let me tell you about some of their money management habits and you can decide.


It’s not like the money isn’t there, it’s just a matter of priorities. Drew has had five jobs during medical school alone. He’s tutored, worked in the bookstore, received a research stipend, worked as a medical editor, and is now doing a paid externship. To top it off, he “donates” plasma for cash all because he cannot stand the thought of paying for anything outside of tuition on borrowed money. Don’t even get me started on Jessica, she works 30+ hours per week between her two part-time jobs and eludes paying for childcare. On top of that she keeps the household functioning, including fully loading me multiple times per day. These two are so financially intense that when their toddlers wanted to play tiny tot soccer, they enrolled them in childhood development research and signed them up as simulated pediatrics patients so they could earn their own money. If that’s not enough to convince you, the guy ran the 3.7 miles each way to the hospital every single day of third year to maximize his time, stay in shape and, you guessed it, save money. He occasionally buys discount shoes with plasma money but rarely replaces his shorts or shirts, and he wears a ridiculous 1990’s ski racing suit from a thrift store to keep frostbite away when the temps drop below freezing. This couple takes to heart the immortal words of Dave Ramsey of “living like no one else now so later they can live like no one else.” So, do you think he’s going to drop a bunch of borrowed cash to replace me? Not a chance.


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Look, it has been a great run, but I’m a Frankenstein appliance. Please don’t let me become the Brett Favre of clothes washing, and come out of pseudo retirement repeatedly. I’d much rather be like Peyton Manning, gracefully stepping down and out of the spotlight while I’ve still got something left to offer. If some unforeseen income were to come our way maybe, just maybe, I could convince him to sell me off before going to residency. You may be my last hope. You alone have the power to grant me the chance to live the good life by granting Andrew this scholarship.

What do you think? What is the cheapest thing you did to minimize your debt during med school? Was it worth it? How have good financial habits started early affected your life? Comment below!