Who Wants to Go to Medical School?


This WSJ article was only an “advice” piece on how to get out of debt.  What they really showed, however, was how tough it is financially to be a doctor.  Yes, I went there.  It is tough financially to finally make the good living they deserve.  Look at this dude.

  • Michael Hackman is 33 and finally makes a nice paycheck.  He earns about $200,000 a year as an internist. He also lives outside of Sacramento and California is not a cheap place to live.
  • His loan payments consume about a third of his after-tax income.
  • “I really like being a doctor, but from a financial standpoint it may not have been the best decision,” he says.
  • Dr. Hackman had about $160,000 in debt when he graduated from the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine in 2009. The loans ballooned to $240,000 after three years of residency (he switched from pediatrics to internal medicine) and a year as a researcher in an oncology lab.
  • During those years, he was earning about $50,000 annually while living in New York. He didn’t borrow any additional money, but his loans were in forbearance, meaning no payment was due but interest accrued and was added to the principal balance. Most of his loans carry about a 7% interest rate, he says.
  • Dr. Hackman pays at least $2,000 a month toward his student loans now and hopes to repay the remaining $220,000 he owes within the next decade. He also pays about $2,000 in rent, $1,500 in health insurance and $800 in car payments monthly.
  • He has no other debt. His wife, however, has about $80,000 in student loans, which are in forbearance because she is serving in the Air Force.

To summarize, doctors lose their youth to their education and training.  While others are making a living, we are accumulating debt.  The medical schools, like other colleges, keep raising their tuition rates because the damn government keeps giving out loans. This means that this trend will only get worse.  Some of the brightest and the best used to get into medical school and after they did they were sucked into a vortex of loans, stress and burnout.

This wasn’t even a story about that except that it was.  People will bitch and moan that $200K is a great salary.  The truth is that that is actually a very high salary for an internist but it is only because he is in California.  We want to continue to get the smart kids to apply to medical school but why would they when they can go into the tech industry and potentially make a lot more?  Do people not want the brightest people treating them?  I guess not.


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] 

  4 comments for “Who Wants to Go to Medical School?

  1. Richard Faiola, MD ABFM
    November 11, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    No, they do not want only the brightest, most well trained.

    I just talked with a newly minted Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner, MA, a graduate of a very prestigious institution in the Southeast. Her college BA was in a liberal arts field far away from science. As she explained, “We take one year of nursing, and then we go to offices to learn the rest in the 2nd year.” That is it. She now can be licensed in most states independently to do what I spent 7 years at 2 – 3 times the intensity to do. Amazing how much brighter she must be than I to accomplish that.

    And yes, I know some very excellent nurse practitioners. But most of them did 4 years of nursing school and practiced as a nurse for several years before adding 2 or more years to get their ARNP. No, still a lot less intense then a physician primary care track, but at least a reasonable hope of not killing anybody, too often and to serve as somewhat more than just a triage officer driving up costs with unnecessary subspecialty consultations.

    But the public will not know or care about the difference between the two ARNPs or them and I.

  2. Pat
    November 10, 2015 at 9:14 am

    I wanted a marketable skill, and to pursue a craft that was both interesting and in which I could exercise my own judgement, even artistry in determining the outcome. I thought it would be great to produce something I could both be proud of, and that would make people feel better. And like the rest of you, I did very well in organic chemistry.

    I should have been a micro-brewer.

  3. Steve O'
    November 10, 2015 at 8:29 am

    If you’re that savvy enough as a doctor to get out of debt before you’re fifty – why didn’t you go to business school? I ask myself.

  4. Sir Lance-a-lot
    November 10, 2015 at 7:36 am

    An $800 car payment every month?

    I just bought a new “daily driver” for $1,800. Total. And it’s a BMW.

    Dude’s not THAT smart.

    Aside from that, yeah. If I hadn’t consolidated at a great rate, I’d be SO screwed right now (instead of just being regular-screwed…).

Comments are closed.