Saturday, December 20, 2008


This article just came out in the New England Journal of Medicine and it states the obvious - that medical students are graduating from medical school with a mountain of debt.  Upon looking at that mountain of debt, some people who went to medical school to work in primary care or in underserved areas may be swayed to choose more lucrative careers. 

In short, I am one of those quarter of people who graduate from medical school with more than $200,000 in debt.  Yes, you read that right, $200,000.  I think it's a touchy subject because a lot of people don't like talking about money, especially debt money.  However, I think that it's important to consider.  That's enough money to buy a house.  That's enough money to start a small business.  With the interest and eventual pay back, I will have paid back nearly half a million dollars.  Half a million dollars.  Sometimes it's unbelievable to myself.  Sometimes I stop looking at the monthly interest statements that come to my mailbox, in hopes that maybe all of that debt will go away. 

With the mountains and mountains of debt that I have, I am definitely not one of those doctors that laments the "pitiful" income that doctors make.  I think we forget that, even as a resident, I get paid more than the average American.  Granted, I have gone through much more school and training than the average American, but that doesn't make me more privy to a decent income than the next person.  More often than not, I find myself grateful that I can make a more than comfortable income doing something that I love doing. 

I was also fortunate enough to have fallen in love with a medical specialty that pays more than the average primary care income.  With my debt, I am looking at monthly payments of $5,000, or annual payments of $60,000.  If I went into internal medicine or family medicine, that would be more than half of my take home income.  That's downright crazy.  There have to be better ways of going about doing this.  I understand that debt is something that is inevitable, but when is too much too much? 

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