Well, actually this article relates to all of us, regardless if we are doctors or not.
It so happened I had watched a TED talk last evening and felt that doctors, lawyers, teachers and anyone whose professions have a significant impact on their patients’/clients’/students’ lives are even more hard-pressed to live a financially simples and frugal lifestyle. The TED talk was given by a Chinese-born American doctor Leana Wen entitled What Your Doctor Won’t Disclose.

Dr Leane Wen

Here are the selected excerpts from her speech that prompted me to write this post…

“I formed a campaign, Who’s My Doctor? that calls for total transparency in medicine.

Dr Leane Wen

Participating doctors voluntarily disclose on a public website not just information about where we went to medical school and what specialty we’re in, but also our conflicts of interest.

We go beyond the Government in the Sunshine Act about drug company affiliations, and we talk about how we’re paid. Incentives matter. If you go to your doctor because of back pain, you might want to know that he’s getting paid 5,000 dollars to perform spine surgery versus 25 dollars to refer you to see a physical therapist, or if he’s getting paid the same thing no matter what he recommends.”

“Well, I thought some doctors would sign on and others wouldn’t, but I had no idea of the huge backlash that would ensue. Within one week of starting Who’s My Doctor? Medscape’s public forum and several online doctor communities had thousands of posts about this topic. Here are a few.”

“From a gastroenterologist in Portland: “I devoted 12 years of my life to being a slave. I have loans and mortgages. I depend on lunches from drug companies to serve patients.” Well, times may be hard for everyone, but try telling your patient making 35,000 dollars a year to serve a family of four that you need the free lunch.”

“From an orthopedic surgeon in Charlotte: “I find it an invasion of my privacy to disclose where my income comes from. My patients don’t disclose their incomes to me.” But your patients’ sources of income don’t affect your health.”

Graduate doctors taking a Hippocratic Oath

It was the second last paragraph that gave me goose bumps, had my hair standing on end and got me seriously thinking about how freaking important it is for doctors to be properly trained not only medically and ethically, but also financially!

I am sure we can all immediately see how a doctor’s financial education will affect his or her patient’s well being, can we? Imagine if we have family doctor who is medically competent and ethically sound.

But due to his bad financial habits, ignorance about the real difference between assets and liabilities, over-indulgence in a luxury lifestyle (ie. fancy restaurants, fast cars and expensive travels, he got himself into more debts than he or she could pay off.

It is not hard at all to imagine how his self-induced financial trouble will affect the way he practise his profession, right? As a result, Dr Leana Wen got remarks like the one she got from the Portland gastroenterologist. My reply to her is simple.

“Please go get yourself a proper financial education. Go visit www.KClau.com and buy the book Money tips for Doctors written by KC Lau, KC Chong & Mandy Hiew. At RM39.90, it is GREAT value for money. For the sake of your family and your patients (whom you have sworn a Hippocratic Oath to serve), do not get into more debts than you can service. Last but not least, patients are not your cash cows!”

This article was written by Ken Soong (co-author of Migrating to Australia Good Meh???, Buying a Residential Property in Australia: Eight Things You Should Know Before Doing It and Making It in Australia)

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