$500K in Student Debt


This Forbes article is for the newbies thinking about becoming a doctor or for the idiots who can’t figure out why no medical student wants to go into primary care anymore.  It highlights the lack of attention being paid to the brutal burden of school loans.  Here was the summary:

For much of 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 we’ve argued, fussed and fought over who should get access to our often heralded healthcare system. But hasn’t the time come to look more holistically at the system we’ve built and build something better? Not just for patients – which is really all of us at some point  but for those on the very front lines of trying to save our lives. They don’t always succeed and I am openly critical of the system they are forced to grapple with daily. But the challenge is this. If we’re not careful on this exact issue  we’ll turn around one day and they just won’t be there. Whatever else we can or can’t afford, we really can’t afford that.

This reminds me of the metaphor I use in my speaking gigs.  When flying, the airline attendant always reminds you that in case of an emergency put the oxygen mask on yourself and then the loved ones you are responsible for.  Why?  Because if you die then you can’t save them.

If physicians go then who will save the patients?

Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  8 comments for “$500K in Student Debt

  1. Fred LaVenuta
    February 12, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    The repercussions of the huge student debt bombs are, well, huge. They determine where medical school graduates will live, what specialty they will enter and the type of practice they will join. These debts are the result of the government and the banks creating a large pool of cash which is briefly held by the student and then passes into the coffers of the educational facility. They use it for faculty salary increases (mostly) and hiring more and more administrators. The dependency cycle: increase available loans, raise tuition, increase available loans, raise tuition, etc. When I went to college and medical school in the 50s and early 60s I never looked to see if loans were available because tuition was easily affordable at the private schools I attended, even by my working class family. It’s time to reduce the available student loan money and break the cycle before medicine becomes a game the children of rich men.

  2. Ricky
    February 12, 2014 at 11:23 am

    This is the exact reason i became a LELT. I was accepted into medical school and LELT school the same year So i sat down with paper and pencil and calculator, we. After figuring the cost of 4 year med school $300k (at that time) then years of no pay residency fellowship etc. vs 2 years LELT school $65k + no down time for residency fellowship etc. the numbers pointed to being a LELT. Per my calculations at average salary for my area of the world it was 10-15 YEARS until the cost was EVEN. Being an older student why would I invest so much time away from my family for such a minor difference! In addition I have done very well and have made 1 1/2 to 2 times the average salary that typical LELT’s make, and no hastle/ stress of running a practice (not worth $100k a year in opinion). So i could invest $500k + everything else or $100k – everything else. Who is the smart one? So i fully agree if there had been an incentive (AKA $$$$$$$) to become a M.D. or D.O. I would have gone to med school. But to quote a movie. “The juice wasnt worth the squeeze!”

    • Pat
      February 12, 2014 at 11:20 pm

      Well said.

  3. tom walsh
    February 12, 2014 at 11:05 am

    The cost of ALL education, not just Med School, has gone up in direct proportion to the amount of Federal Money (a/k/a student loans) available for its purchase. There used to be a cap on student loans of $1500/yr or $750/ semester. As the cost of education went up by that amount the Feds in their lack of financial acumen kept raising the limits to where there are no caps at all. Schools, including Medical Schools, have Mathematicians on their staffs who understand all about math. These people may not know a thing about medicine but they know numbers. The fact is that a $500,000 debt translates to about $1400/month for the next 30 years if a pupil can get an interest free loan. That is not taught until after graduation.
    I won’t go into what is involved with having their own practice.

  4. Jay Cooperman
    February 11, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Brilliant analogy Doug.

  5. Stephanie
    February 10, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    Med school is a dinosaur with a bloated curriculum that could be reduced to 3 years, especially by cutting back on the basic sciences, but entrenched faculty and medical school politics have always been resistant to change. Those who are getting rich, like the surgeons who are profiting from the medical-industrial complex (implanting medical devices, doing the unnecessary stents etc.), and the department chiefs pulling in boatloads of grant money from the pharmaceutical companies, seem to have a lot of power and are dragging everyone else behind them. The medical profession has only itself to blame. 100 years ago, after the Flexner report, so many medical schools were closed, in order to reduce the number of physicians in order that they might all make more money. Ever since then, the unwritten policy is to reduce the supply in order to increase the demand for, and the incomes of physicians. The high cost of medical school was an unintended consequence.

  6. Pat
    February 10, 2014 at 7:21 am

    Well, LELT’s and J-1’s, obviously.

    • Vardoc
      February 12, 2014 at 9:27 am

      Gee, this response sounds like a disgruntled doctor wannabee. And here all along I thought the grueling hours of study and learning, sleepless nights on call, high volume patient loads, and deprivation of family time were the sacrifices necessary to answer a higher call, Stephanie. Turns out, I’m just a money-grubbing MD…dang.

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