Fifth place in the 2019 White Coat Investor Scholarship contest goes to Iman Khan, an MS4 at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. In this post, she writes about her physician father, who recently passed. Fifth place this year is good for $1,000, a WCI Online course of your choice, and a copy of The White Coat Investor’s Financial Boot Camp for your entire class.
Growing up with a father who was both a physician and a businessman, I always felt that I had a lot to live up to. By the time my dad was 36, he was a full-time doctor specializing in internal medicine and owner of his own clinic. I would watch him leave home at 6 a.m. and wait for him to come home deadbeat tired 14 hours later. A mere munchkin at the time, I adamantly insisted that medicine was the last field I would ever consider when he would say his dream was that I took over his clinic.
Fast forward a few years later, I sat at the kitchen table to tell my parents that I wanted to pursue medicine. The look of shock on their faces was undeniable. But I had grown to love the sciences and how the human body had so many interconnections from a micro to macro level. As I explained my reasoning to my parents, I could see the shock turn to genuine excitement for me for having found my passion.
Over the past three years of medical school, I have learned not only the intricacies of endless disease processes, but also the meaning of sacrifice and the value of humility. When I think back to my father’s 14-hour days, I think of how his biggest motivation was providing a better life for his children at the expense of his own enjoyment. Yet somehow, he always made us feel that we were the most important thing to him. He spent every minute he wasn’t at work with me and my two siblings, ; talking to us about our dreams for our futures, being our life coach, and teaching us how to be good people. I finally realized how difficult it must have been for him to maintain that balance when I found myself torn between the intensity of school and every other aspect of life time and time again while in medical school. Sacrifice was definitely an overwhelming reality.
But the biggest challenge came knocking in the cruelest of ways. I was in the middle of my third year and felt that the pieces of my life were finally fitting together. I had done well on my board exams and was gaining confidence in my role as a ‘junior doctor’ after finishing the first half of my clerkships. I came home happily for a weekend and received horrifying news. My father, who was previously in full remission for thyroid cancer, was told the cancer had spread to his brain.
The foundation that I had built my understanding of the world felt as if it were crumbling underneath me. I suddenly felt as if I were a young child again, filled with dependence on the mere existence of my parents. And while my mother and two younger siblings were filled with hope that his health would miraculously turn around, my father and I both understood what his diagnosis meant. The type of thyroid cancer he had was typically not aggressive. The fact that it had spread was a very bad sign.
The last months of my M3 year were by far the most trialing I had ever faced. I moved back home and commuted an hour and a half to my internal medicine rotation six days a week. Each day when I would return home, I would diligently check my dad’s vitals, administer his medications, and try to forget he was sick. But as the weeks went on, his mortality became more and more apparent. I could not believe that my father, once so full of life, was now struggling to simply make it through each day.
My father passed on June 7th, 2019. Through his example, he taught me that true fulfillment comes from the service to others. In my 26 years with him, he passed on his love for medicine, but he was not on this earth long enough to teach me all he had to offer of his sharp business acumen. For years, I had seen my father as a hard working doctor. It was only as I got older did I realize how his role as a business owner was equally, if not more, pivotal to his success. In his last weeks, he would try to impart as much financial knowledge to me as he could – what to look for in a job offer, how to plan for my retirement, which stocks to invest in once I was earning a salary.
Most of what he said went over my head, but I would write meticulous notes nonetheless. I promised myself that as a fourth year medical student, I would dedicate my free time towards learning financial skills that I had previously shied away from. My dad would say, ‘Muni (little one), don’t mind all my money talk. I know the daughter I have raised and I am not worried. I don’t need to teach you anything more about how to be a good person, or how to be a good doctor, or how to treat people with genuine care and respect. I say all these things because if you learn how to make good financial decisions, I will have taught you everything I know.’
As a daughter, I believe my father was one in a million. As a future physician, I believe he also had one in a million pathology. As a citizen of the world, I hope to be like him – successful not just for myself, but for those around me.