It's WCI Scholarship Week again! This is the time here at The White Coat Investor where we give away a bunch of money and prizes to a bunch of deserving professional students. Many people (not me) have been hard at work for the last month, sending out essays, judging them, and adding up the results. Thank you so much to our 79 judges. This year we had 651 applicants. The total haul for prizes includes $74,100 in cash and over $90,000 total in cash and prizes, including $42,660 for first place.
Before we get into it, I wanted to take one more opportunity to thank the platinum and gold sponsors of the WCI Scholarship. Without them, we would be giving away a lot less money! Thank you for supporting those who support us.
Platinum Level WCI Scholarship Contributors ($6000 or more)
Larry Keller (Physician Financial Services) – Disability and Life Insurance
Bob Bhayani (Dr Disability Quotes) -Disability and Life Insurances
Splash Financial – Student Loan Refinancing
W. Ben Utley (Physician Family Financial Advisors) – Financial Advising
Alexis Gallati (Cerebral Tax Advisors – formally Gallati Professional Services) – Strategic Tax Planning
Gold Level WCI Scholarship Contributors ($700 or more)
Jamie Fleischner (Set for Life Insurance) – Disability and Life Insurance
Pradeep Audho (PKA Insurance) – Disability and Life Insurance
Jonathan Brozek (US Bank) – Doctor Mortgages
Chris Duncan (JumboCDInvestments) – Investments
Jon Appino (Contract Diagnostics) – Contract Review/Negotiation
Johanna Turner (Fox and Company Wealth Management) – Financial Advising
Laura Clifford (Fox and Company CPAs) – Strategic Tax Planning
Robert Kaplan (Kaplan Financial) – Disability and Life Insurance
Scott Nelson Archer (MD Financial Services) – Disability and Life Insurance
Stephanie Pearson (PearsonRavitz) – Disability and Life Insurance
Adam Grossman (Mayport Wealth Management) – Financial Advising
Michael Relvas (MR Insurance) – Disability and Life Insurance
Chad Chubb (WealthKeel LLC) – Financial Advising
Laurel Road – Student Loan Refinancing
Thomas Hackett (NW Legacy Law) – Estate Planning and Legal Services
Pattern – Disability and Life Insurance
Josh Mettle (Fairway Mortgage) – Doctor Mortgages
Clint Gossage CMG Financial Consulting) – Financial Advising
Wende Headley (Abacus Wealth) – Financial Advising
WCI Scholarship Honorable Mentions
Each of the next five days we are going to run the essays from the top 5 applicants (the ones receiving cash), with # 5 on Monday, # 4 on Tuesday and so forth. The finalists all know they are finalists at this point, but they do not know if they won or not. So first place will know they won by early Thursday morning (when they realize they were not second), but the rest of you won't know who they are until Friday morning. Today I wanted to recognize places #6-10, our honorable mentions. While these folks did not win any cash, they do win their choice of one of our two online courses, Fire Your Financial Advisor (which helps you become more financially literate and write up your own financial plan, or the online version of the 2018 Physician Wellness and Financial Literacy which includes talks from Bill Bernstein, Jonathan Clements, and Mike Piper among others.
Let's get into them. And remember, while these essays might not have won cash, they were judged to be better than the vast majority of their peers. These are the 1%.
# 10 A Job That Isn't About The Money
Our first honorable mention this year goes to Dani Smith at the Wake Forest School of Medicine who wrote an essay about finding work that one could love more than the money that comes from it. Here's an excerpt:
There is a moment from my childhood that has taken up a comfortable residence in my long-term memory—one that darts into my conscious experience every so often to say hello and remind me that it is still there. I was probably 8 years old…out in the yard hitting golf balls with my grandfather. Ever so casually, he told me that you have to love your job more than the money it makes you….On the days I spent scrubbing the floor at the bike studio, each tick of the clock marked one tick closer to the end of my shift, and coins tumbling into my virtual piggy bank. I certainly did not love that job more than the money it made me. But what about babysitting? That was a job I loved and looked forward to. But I couldn’t deny that when I walked to my car at the end of a babysitting job, I was, more often than not, silently tabulating how much I had earned to date.
So I was confused. I felt a true love for that job, but couldn’t deny that my motivation was the monetary reward, rather than the role the job allowed me to fill. I came to think that maybe my grandfather’s words were an idealistic representation of reality—that maybe you didn’t have to like your job more than the money it made you, but you just had to like it enough that it wasn’t all about the money. I could live with that….
I thought of how that boy’s experience in the OR had been shaped by the compassionate care he had been offered, and felt a great honor to have been able to witness that excellent example of the art of medicine. I can say with absolute certainty that I loved and appreciated this job. It’s meaning stemmed from the sheer privilege of being able to serve the role I was given; monetary compensation, though not pertinent in this volunteer position, would have been an irrelevant reward in comparison to what I gained in knowledge and experience.
# 9 Suffering Deepens Empathy
In medical education, we use the word “empathy” so often that it can begin to feel hollow….I was raped early in my first year of college, by an older student I did not know….The intense guilt I felt for what happened to me was only compounded by my shame in never reporting it.
Later that year I began working as an EMT, and harbored an intense fear I couldn’t explain to anyone: I dreaded the moment I had to respond to a call for sexual assault….My nightmares about my rape became accompanied by new ones: of feeling weak and incompetent as a provider. Sexual assault is highly prevalent, so of course that call came, and came, and came again….
In a way I could have never predicted, I remained sturdy and level-headed. I felt a capacity to empathize with her on a level I had never experienced with other patients….It also gives a semblance of comfort knowing that my experience—no matter how distressing it can be to this day—is helping make me into a stronger and more caring provider.
This is not to say you cannot empathize with your patients without having felt similar pain in your own life. I do not believe suffering is an essential ingredient for compassion. It simply gives a perspective that is otherwise hard to comprehend….
Empathy does not mean taking on your patient’s pain as your own….
Empathy requires that you understand and are sensitive to the feelings of others, without taking them on as your own. The line between empathizing and internalizing is difficult to traverse, but highly important—it allows us to support patients while being mindful of our own mental health.
Our profession gives us the privilege and responsibility to be intimately present amidst the suffering of others. While this intimacy is what draws many to medicine, it comes with emotional burden….The best we can do for our patients and for ourselves, is to learn from that pain and repurpose it, without letting it weigh us down.
# 8 A Morning Routine
Our third honorable mention this year goes to a student attending my own University of Utah School of Medicine, Cameron Mason, who writes about his morning routines.
Hang another bag of IV fluids. Administer Zofran for nausea. Assess PICC line for signs of infection. Secure all lines and tubing. Kiss patient on the forehead. Run out the door to be to school on time.
During the second half of my first year of medical school, my wife and I were ecstatic to learn that she was pregnant with our first child. But as the days and weeks passed, the typical morning sickness not only continued, but it exponentially worsened. Even the smallest bite of a saltine or sip of ginger ale, and not to mention the smell from my anatomy lab scrubs, triggered uncontrollable bouts of nausea that would last for hours. As days turned into weeks and my wife began to lose weight instead of gaining the weight necessary to sustain a pregnancy, she was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum….
This wasn’t exactly the pregnancy we had envisioned, and to add insult to injury, our meticulous financial planning was all but dashed to pieces. Both my wife and I had been fortunate to finish our undergraduate and professional training without accruing any debt. We were fully aware of the impending debt that accompanies medical school, and therefore, frugality had become our motto….
The diagnosis of HG and its accompanying life-consuming nausea made it apparent that work was no longer a viable option for my wife. The medical bills piled up, our savings account dwindled, and the HG engrossed our lives. Frugality, unfortunately, is not an option when medical supplies are needed, and one’s health is at stake. I’ll admit that the thought crossed my mind on several occasions, but my wife probably wouldn’t have been too keen on the idea of reusing IV tubing or cutting her Zofran dose in half to save a bit of money. While we remained thrifty and kept to our motto, circumstances mandated that we redefine some of our financial goals and expectations….
Now, three years into medical school, with financial goals readjusted, we have a new perspective on the meaning of frugality….However, because of the road less traveled, I now have a morning routine I wouldn’t trade for the world.
Hang up the diaper bag. Administer applesauce and yogurt. Assess walls for signs of crayon hieroglyphs. Secure all stuffed animals. Kiss my wife and daughter on the forehead. Run out the door to be to school on time.
# 7 Ensuring Hope
Our fourth honorable mention this year was written by Chika Nwosu, a student at the Florida International University Herbert Wertherim College of Medicine about an experience from clinic.
Then my eyes stumbled upon new words on my screen: Lung cancer, metastatic to the bone. I caught my breath. Before I had a chance to react, Catherine thrust a piece of paper into my hands. “I got a brain MRI last week, here are the results.” Still shocked by Catherine’s history, I opened the paper.
“Metastatic lesions to brai-“ I read out loud, but my voice trailed off as I realized what I was saying. “This can’t be happening,” my mind raced. Sure, we had had so many workshops over the past three years, all meant to prepare us to deliver bad news. But no one had told me that I would have to do this in real life. As I was fumbling to read the report, Catherine started to cry.
“What do you do when you find out you have BRAIN CANCER,” she sputtered out through the tears. I felt the wetness of my own tears and realized that I had also started to cry. I felt my feet take me to my patient’s side; my arms enveloped her….
She shared that she had just finished her second round of chemotherapy, and she had lost 10 pounds in the past month.
“They told me to start drinking Ensure,” she said. I nodded and asked how it was working for her. Our eyes locked and she seemed to shrink. “I went to the store, but it was too expensive. I couldn’t afford it,” her voice wavered. I thought about the sandwich I had consumed for lunch, and how I had taken it for granted….
I think we might just have some samples of Ensure, and I can print coupons!” As my words hit her ears, the corners of her mouth began to turn upwards. “Really? That would be … I don’t even know…” I ran out the door, telling her I would be back….I ran to the sample room and saw the Ensure bottles, glistening in a row. I swept the whole collection into my bags. I grabbed the entire stack of coupons on the counter.
When I returned, I showed Catherine all of the different flavors of Ensure – strawberry, caramel, chocolate – and her eyes welled up with tears… this time, they were tears of joy. She whispered that she had just run out of food stamps and this was a blessing. The rest of the visit was a blur – my attending was able to register Catherine for delivered Medicaid meals, and we found more resources for her.
As she walked out, her teeth shone through her grin, as we embraced, “I have cancer, but I’m not done yet.” I could hear a new strength in her voice. I watched her grab the bags and walk out. I finally understood what it meant to treat the patient, not just the illness.
# 6 Help My Humans
Our fifth runner up this year is Jace Buxton, also from the University of Utah School of Medicine. (No, I'm not one of the judges. The competition was over before I read a single one of the essays.) Jace somehow convinced Spencer the Puppy to write a clever essay for him to submit that was titled “Why the goofball humans who try to take care of me need this scholarship.”
Life was so easy back in the day. My humans were trained and well-behaved. I taught them how to let me outside when I needed to tinkle, I trained them to give me treats, and I had their undivided attention every day. Life was good. What changed, you ask? Well it all started four years ago, when I overheard my humans talking at the dinner table about something called college….
Finally, after ages and ages they came home! I jumped and pawed at their legs, but something was different. They sat at the table and ignored my very existence. How dare they leave me all day and not even acknowledge my cuteness? Whatever. I lied down under the table, waiting for magic food to fall from the sky. My humans started talking and I couldn’t help but overhear.
“We can barely afford to take care of ourselves; how are we going to pay for college?” the funny-looking, short-haired human questioned. The pretty, long-haired human replied, “We’ll have to make some sacrifices and pick up extra hours at work, but we need to invest in ourselves.” They kept talking for hours. I heard something about retirement, education, a Roth IRA, and a bunch of other boring human stuff. I couldn’t believe they thought this was more important than me!…
A few days later, I woke up expecting to eat my chicken and bacon bites. To my chagrin, sitting in front of me was a bowl of brown pebbly things. They think this is food? Bleh. “It’s really good for you Spence! You can eat it!” the pretty human implored. The tall human suddenly entered. “Wife, I sold our cars!” he boasted. He brought in some odd, two-wheeled contraptions he called bicycles, and told the pretty human they would be riding bikes to school and work. They can barely keep up with me on walks, and now they think they can ride those things all over town? Ha. Silly humans. He mentioned something else about reducing expenses, maybe a sentence about air conditioning or heating… I’m not really sure; I stopped listening. I was too busy chasing shadows on the wall. The tall human went over to a box and twisted a knob of some sort. Things got real after that. For some perspective, I am a German Spitz. I have long fur….A few months later, the weather somehow reversed, and everything was freezing….
One night, the funny-looking human was working late as usual. The pretty human had just returned from work. I greeted her at the door, but immediately sensed that something was wrong. She labored her way to the bedroom and collapsed on the bed. Hunched over in pain, she didn’t move for the rest of the night. As a puppy with zero medical knowledge, I did what I do best – I cuddled up next to my human and looked freaking cute. She smiled and caressed my back. When the tall human finally came home, he rushed her to the human veterinarian. They came back several hours later, looking slightly discouraged.
Her stomach pain never fully went away after that….I’m not sure if the human vets ever found the cause of the problem. They said something about her stomach digesting food poorly and some other fancy medical terms.
Now listen, I do not want you to feel sorry for my humans. Remember, this is about me! I’m the one who needs help! However, I know they could really use some help right now too. Apparently, the tall one is going to be starting medical school this year and I’ve been told that costs a lot of money. They also have some health issues of their own to take care of, and a family member who has been fighting a losing battle with cancer. I know my humans are goofballs, and living with them has been difficult, but they are good people. Any extra money they earn from this scholarship would directly benefit others. But mostly, I just want to eat my chicken and bacon bites again.
Congratulations to all of these winners. Every year reading some of these essays renews my faith in humanity and in medicine and gives me a fresh burst of idealism. I hope they do the same for you. Come back tomorrow to meet our first winner who is “in the money.”