Today is the day you've all been waiting for! Well, at least 892 of you have been waiting for. It is time to announce the winners of the 2020 WCI Scholarship! This is a way for us to do two things we care a great deal about:

  1. It helps promote financial literacy throughout our nation's medical, dental, and other professional schools, indirectly improving the lives of hundreds of thousands.
  2. It gives Katie and me a chance to give back to the community that has given us so much by directly impacting the financial lives of a few students.

Before we start with the awards, I wanted to thank the platinum and gold sponsors of the WCI Scholarship. Thank you for supporting those who support our mission.

WCI Medical School Scholarship Sponsors 2020

Thank you to the scholarship sponsors!

Platinum Level Contributors ($7,000 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
Michael Relvas (MR Insurance) – Disability and Life Insurance

Gold Level Contributors ($1000 or more)

Pradeep Audho (PKA Insurance) – Disability and Life Insurance
Scott Nelson Archer (MD Financial Services) – Disability and Life Insurance
Jon Appino (Contract Diagnostics) – Contract Review/Negotiation
Chuck Krugh (Doctor Disability) – Disability and Life Insurance
Johanna Turner (Fox and Company Wealth Management) – Financial Advising
Rick Warren (Insuring Income) – Disability and Life Insurance
Chad Chubb (WealthKeel LLC) – Financial Advising
Pattern – Disability and Life Insurance
Adam Grossman (Mayport Wealth Management) – Financial Advising
Jay Weinberg, CLU, ChFC – Disability and Life Insurance

Alexis Gallati (Cerebral Tax Advisors) – Tax Strategist
Thomas Hackett (NW Legacy Law) – Estate Planning
Wende Headley (Abacus) – Financial Advising

Thank you also to the regular readers who contributed cash to the scholarship award. Not only does every dollar you contributed go to the scholarship winners, but Katie and I matched every dollar you gave to double the effect of your contribution. In addition, I wanted to give a special thank you to the 64 judges who judged the 892 essays that were submitted this year. Your time and effort allows us to minimize any bias in the selection process. The judges were blinded to the names, schools, professions, genders, races, religions, sexual orientations, etc of the applicants except as revealed in the essays themselves.

In past years, we have run scholarship essays all week long. Based on your feedback, we're just going to run them all today and get back to the financial stuff tomorrow!

In this post, you will find excerpts from each essay with links to other pages on the site that have the entire essay. We have ten winners — five grand prize winners and five second prize winners. Each of the ten winners will receive their choice of a WCI Online Course to boost their own financial literacy. In addition, the grand prize winners will get $12,000 in cash and the second prize winners will get $2,000 in cash, to directly improve their financial situation and in most cases, reduce their student loan burden.

Aside from helping to fund and publicize it, Katie and I have little to do with the scholarship process itself. In fact, I read these ten essays for the first time less than 12 hours before this post was published. However, I always make sure to do so. The submissions provide me with gratitude, admiration, and inspiration. That was the case once more this year. The ten winners include eight essays and two poems. As is often the case, the winning submissions displayed quality writing and/or an inspiring personal (often multigenerational) story. There seemed to be a theme this year among the winners–many of them are first or second generation immigrants, first generation doctors, and first or second year medical students. I hope you enjoy reading their writing as much as I did.

Congratulations to all the winners. While the cash award will be of most immediate help, the information in the accompanying online WCI course is likely to provide more long term value to you!

Grand Prize Winners

Becoming Batman to My Alfred

aaron tarnasky

Aaron Tarnasky

Aaron Tarnasky of Duke University School of Medicine lost his father at a young age to advanced glioblastoma. Aaron's mother became his “Alfred” — a superheroine that never gave up and supported him while under tremendous personal adversity.  After securing the QuestBridge National College Match program scholarship Aaron attended college with a major in Applied Mathematics.  He explains,

I moved one step closer to becoming the Batman to her Alfred.  In much the same way Batman practiced martial arts to combat the villains in his life, I hoped to treat cancer patients and their families and ultimately defeat this insidious villain that had taken so much from me.

Years later as a medical student, his mother was diagnosed with pancreatic adenocarcinoma.  Aaron eventually took time off from his studies to be at home with her before her eventual passing.  Here's how he is facing the future:

…in my last year of medical school and with residency on the horizon, my own heroic aspirations have never been clearer, though the villains I have chosen to combat have changed.  Recalling [my mother's] most frightening moments in the ICU, I now aim to battle both critical illness in the ICU as an aspiring anesthesiologist and critical care physician as well as my own previous financial insecurity.

In advocating for and treating my patients through some of the most terrifying and challenging times of their lives, I hope to become both their Batman and Alfred.  Armed with a long white coat as my cape and my mother’s memory as my primary tool, I can best serve the true meaning of super-heroism and ensure that my future family and others do not face similar challenges.

Read the entire essay here!


Five Notes at a Time

Trisha Kaundinya

Trisha Kaundinya

Trisha Kaundinya of Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University was born with a damaged 7th cranial nerve.  She explains, “one side of my face droops, one eye blinks on a schedule all its own, and one side of my body is out of tune with the other.  People often stare at me, or ask if I had a stroke”.  With determination, hard work, and unconditional support from her mother, Trisha progressed and learned to play and teach the violin, became an EMT, co-instructed an EMS training course and volunteer student squad, and worked in Northwestern’s Transplant Outcomes Research Collaborative.  Here's an excerpt:

As I entered high school I focused on the violin as a means of escaping myself, as a way of privileging listening over looking.  For 12 years I led and played with the New Jersey Youth Symphony and taught violin.

My favorite student named Frank had a complex learning disability, so his enthusiasm for violin was punctuated by sudden bouts of silence and difficulties in processing the music.  While other peer tutors found teaching him to be too chaotic, I found myself seeing his potential and strength.

Teaching Frank was definitely a struggle at first but eventually I discovered a pattern—he could focus on about five notes and play them beautifully before losing concentration.  So I broke up the music by measure, perfecting each section with him before moving on.  Within a few weeks, Frank got the hang of it.  The first time that he made it through Lindsey Stirling’s haunting Lord of the Rings he shrieked with excitement, having turned a jumble of notes into a melody he recognized from his favorite movie.

Read the entire essay here!


Endless Support

Abdurrahman Abdurrob

Abdurrahman Abdurrob

Abdurrahman Abdurrob is from a heritage of Bangladeshi rice farmers going back generations and is now a first-generation medical student at Tufts University School of Medicine.  His essay talks about poverty and healthcare inequalities in his home country.  Abdurrahman also expresses his gratitude to his parents for their countless sacrifices allowing him and his siblings a better life.  Here's an excerpt:

I worked two part-time jobs throughout college just to attend my dream school.  Nonetheless, I knew these were small sacrifices compared to those that my parents had made.  After all, it was only through their endless support that my education was possible.  For most of my childhood, we rented a single bedroom in someone else’s house.  My father woke up at 5 am every morning and walked miles to the only job he could get in a factory just to make ends meet.  Meanwhile, my mother would take care of my sister and me at home while also learning English.  When I was old enough to go to school, my mother joined my father working in the factory.  My parents worked seven days a week, just to put us through school.

Read the entire essay here!


A Cup Can’t Overflow Until it Fills


Lana Kuziez

Lana Kuziez of Saint Louis University School of Medicine spent every summer in Syria with family until the Syrian War abruptly ended the tradition.  Lana was deeply shaken by the loss of life and destruction caused by the war.  Back at home in St. Louis, she found resolve through volunteer efforts hosting fundraisers, clothing drives, bake sales, and helping refugees.  She explains, “It was through this volunteering that I found a way to combat the despair and fear the war had induced within me”.  Her grandfather always valued education and taught her, “You should study hard. A cup can’t overflow until it is full”.  Later, she learned that her grandparent's home was destroyed by a bomb.  Here's an excerpt:

A bomb had fallen on my grandma’s house, crumbling the hallways that I had run through, destroying beds that I had gleefully jumped on.  With it, the enormity of the Syrian war crashed down on me once again, and my own current limitations loomed.  In the face of all the traumas, all the destruction the war had and continues to wreak, it wasn’t and couldn’t be enough to simply run bake sales, to collect clothes and goods for refugees.

The bomb provided me with a newfound conviction: while furthering my education and pursuing medicine had long been a dream of mine, I’d never viewed it as a necessity for those I served.  My grandfather’s words echoed back to me, “A cup can’t overflow until it fills.”  Only by maximizing my capacity for benefit could I effect the greatest change.

Read the entire essay here!


18 Year Old White Coat

Sara Young

Sara Young

Sara Young of Boston University School of Medicine is the oldest of 10 children in an immigrant household.  Driven by her family's financial insecurity, she determined to accelerate her education so she could bring relief to her struggling family.  She says, “I diligently pushed myself with only one goal: to learn ahead, to go to college earlier, to find my dream career and start it sooner”.  That's exactly what Sara did when she entered medical school at the age of 18.  Here's what graduating from med school will mean to her:

21 will mean something different to me when I reach that milestone.  Rather than celebrating in a bar, I will be helping my parents fill out their green card application.  I will finally be old enough to list myself as their sponsor, to repay their support and create the difference I have always wanted in their lives.  I will finally be in a position where I can help secure the future that my parents dreamed of for my siblings, the future that they moved countries, suffered racist taunts, and sacrificed their energy and youth for.  I still remember an eight-year-old girl, terrified of her parents leaving her.  I know she would be proud to see me now, a strong woman who is no longer afraid, but prepared to become a leader in fiercely protecting my family and future patients.

Read the entire essay here!


2nd Place Prize Winners

Physician Ballerina

Lara Tong

Lara Tong

At 17 years old, Lara Tong of New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine earned a highly competitive position as a professional ballerina with the New York City Ballet.  Seven busy years later she retired from the ballet and is now embarking on her second career studying to be a physician.  Here's an excerpt:

I retired [from NYCB] in 2016.  I chose to leave a career I loved despite many good years left ahead of me, to focus all my energies towards pursuing a second career as a physician.  After years of training and performing at the highest levels artistically, I now wanted to bring the same focus towards an effort to help patients in their most vulnerable moments.

Read the entire essay here!


Digging in Deep

Carey Favaloro

Carey Favaloro of Alpert Medical School of Brown University grew up shoveling deep snow off the roof of her Colorado home and kept “digging in deep” as a waitress, teacher, farm worker, EMT and ski patrol.  She says, “I’ve got my shovel in hand — will you help me dig my way through this debt?”.  Here's an excerpt:

Those snowy winter mornings on my Colorado rooftop not only taught me the satisfaction of picking up a shovel; they also taught me that when others see you working hard, they’re likely to lend a hand.  From my boss on the farm, who was willing to work out a food exchange with me, to my ski patrol coworkers, who showed me the value of teamwork, to my post-bac classmates, who offered encouragement through the hardest exam weeks, I saw that if I dug in to do the work, others would be there to support me.

Read the entire essay here!


“Piece” of Mind

Daniel Aloise

Daniel Aloise

Daniel Aloise from Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine wrote about the burden and stress of accumulating $65,000 in student loans even before he started medical school.  My advice to relieve the burden and stress he's under?  #LiveLikeAResident!  It really does work!  Just ask these docs.  Here's an excerpt from his poem:

Sixty-five thousand pieces of mind;
Should you discover the amount of loans I was forced to accept, this is the number you will find.
For each dollar lent, a small piece of our peace of mind is invariably spent.
Over time these pieces eventually accumulate,
Leaving a part of our brain perpetually troubled, as the financial burden continues to grow in weight.

Read the entire essay here!


Fiscal Foodie

Eugenia Saiegh

Genie Saiegh

Next up is Genie Saiegh from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.  As a young immigrant from Argentina, Genie learned to cook empanadas for her family and worked as a volunteer cook at the local soup kitchen for NJ homeless while in college.  When her mother was diagnosed with cancer, Genie grew passionate about incorporating nutrition into meal prep to aid in her mother's recovery.  That passion for nutritional healing led her to co-found the first Culinary Medicine Interest Group at Penn Medicine to improve nutrition education among physicians.  She also started where she blogs about “evidence-based nutrition research applied in the kitchen.”  In her essay, Genie says,

As I continue my medical training I desire to continue the fight against chronic disease one delicious bite at a time.  After all, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Read the entire essay here!


To Those Who Came Before

Mackinzie Stanley

Mackinzie Stanley

Our final 2nd place winner is Mackinzie Stanley of California University of Science and Medicine.  Mackinzie wrote a poem titled, “To Those Who Came Before”, honoring her family, friends, and educators that lifted her through struggles and paved the way for her success.  Here's an excerpt:

From future patients who I will serve with pride
Refugees and immigrants just trying to survive
Mothers and fathers and children and families
All those struggling to plant two feet on the ground
Those who dream and sweat and come from meager backgrounds
Who are working for those who are still yet to come
I will pass on the torch
I will bring light to lives
I will help all those around me to thrive

Read the entire essay here!