Tried to be a doctor, now in $430,000 of debt with nothing to show for it

Discussion in 'Health Care' started by kazenatsu, Sep 30, 2023.

  1. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    There is all sorts of "talk" about society needing a workforce which is more educated, with "skills". In my personal opinion, a lot of that is very debatable and questionable. But there is one occupation that society definitely needs more of, a category of skills that is indisputably beneficial to the society and the economy: physicians.
    But before we advocate that we should start sending lots more people on the education path to becoming doctors, there are some things that need to be considered.
    Being a physician is not a job that is for every person. Or even most persons. A lot of ordinary people are simply not cut out for the job. And it requires a major amount of investment, personal sacrifice, and risk.

    Many people don't realize how much sacrifice doctors have to make to be able to become a doctor. Not only just sacrifice, but there is also a degree of risk. They can get into all that debt, spend all those years in school and training, and the intense amount of work and effort it takes to get through it, and there are still no guarantees that they will ever make it through and start earning a big income.
    If a person graduates from high school at the age of 18, they will likely be 30 years old by the time they can begin to practice medicine. That is assuming they continue in school and training full time and do not take any breaks. That of course does not leave them time to work and earn any real money, during that long period. It's a major sacrifice of the best part of their lives.
    The below story illustrates what can happen when that investment and those hopes do not end up paying off. Stories like this are less common, but they sometimes can happen.

    I Owe $430,000 of Student Loans! - YouTube
    I Owe $430,000 of Student Loans! , The Ramsey Show Highlights, Nov 3, 2018

    Ramsey: James is in Lexington, Kentucky. Hi James. How are you?

    I'm pretty good today Dave... [sounding a little hesitant] How about yourself?

    Better than I deserve. How can I help?

    Well, I'm in something quite of a mess right now, and I'm not really sure where to start to get out. To start with I have currently about four hundred and thirty thousand dollars ($430,000) in student loans

    Good lord...

    Ah... Yes... I was in medical school... I had failed two sets of boards after three years, and then was recently dismissed and so about 80 of that eighty thousand is from undergrad and then other courses later on to take to get into medical school, and the remainder is from medical school.
    Right now I have a debt but no degree though. You know, that I was planning to use actually be able to pay that back.
    At this point I don't really know what my options are... [sounds very downcast, immobilized and depressed] How to dig out of this...

    You're right, that's a mess. I'm so sorry that's scary.

    It is. [starting to sound like he might have a breakdown]

    How did you get that far into it and then not be able to pass the boards?

    I did fairly well the first two years, but... it was just I think being able to... I guess it was one thing to take the exam every few weeks or every month, but being able to retain that, and then the recall it to the level of detail that I needed for the exams... I just couldn't put it all together at the end. [sounding very emotionally devastated and falling apart]

    Is there any way you can re-engage and still have a shot at finishing?

    Not without having to reapply, and then go through the process all those... [over] again.
    Then have to also take out more loans.

    So what are your... When did when did you, um... flunk the last one?

    That was this past spring, and so then let go this summer...

    Since then, what has been your plan?

    Well basically I've just been getting by... I was able to find a job first of all as a substitute teacher. And then I was hired as a high school biology teacher.But, uh, my loans are on deferments right now, and I have some forbearance to go.
    But at this point I'm not sure any of the other career options. I thought about, you know, physician assistant, other programs like that... But it requires going into more debt...
    Because I'm not in a position where I could work and then pay as I go... Plus pay off the current loans I've got now, too.

    Ramsey: Yeah... So what would it take to be a PA (physicians assistant) from where you are?

    I would have to take up another year of classes. I would have to take some other entrance classes and then two and half years for the program itself.
    Ramsey: Wow...

    Then it would be, that's probably at least another 70... 60 to 70 thousand dollars in tuition and living expenses.

    Ramsey: What about nursing?

    My undergraduate degree was in biology, and then ended pre-med...

    And so none of the med school work you've done applies to anything else?

    No, none of it... it's... I have the debt but none of the courses, none of it actually I can transfer to anything.

    [moment of silence]
    Wow
    ...
    Right now I'm 34 years old, and so I have all this debt, but no savings, nothing at all.
    ...
    Ramsey: I'm sorry you're facing this.
    [Ramsey has a sad frown, and doesn't really know what the exact solution is to get the man out of this]


    To give some idea of how much $430,000 is, the median income for someone with a 4-year college degree in the U.S. was $54,700 in 2018. (That is before taxes)

    In the U.S., student loans usually cannot be discharged through bankruptcy.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2023
  2. FreshAir

    FreshAir Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    medical school should be free to those that agree to work for the State for 10 years after graduation
     
  3. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    Medical school is not free. Someone pays for it.

    Making medical schools "free" would not end up being fair. Because any time government makes something "free", they end up rationing it and only a limited number of people get it. That would end up meaning that some people who go to medical school would end up having to take on huge amounts of debt, while other wouldn't. Indeed, the ones who did have to get into debt would even end up paying taxes to pay off the debt of the other students.

    The government cannot provide free medical education for everyone who wants it. That would not be a wise use of resources. The government could not even afford to do that.

    Rather than using limited available funding to send a small select group of people to medical school for free, it might be a better idea to use any increase in funding to increase the number of positions in medical schools, so a larger number of applicants can get in.

    Taxpayers sort of already subsidize part of the cost of medical school, and the tuition for public medical schools, while it may be expensive, still does not cover all of the cost.

    I do think however there should be some sort of forgiveness program in place so that those who do not end up finishing the program and qualify for practicing as a doctor do not have to pay back the full amount of money they borrowed, and in addition have an income-based repayment plan. Otherwise the small percentage of people who never finish the program will be burdened with a gigantic crushing debt that is too difficult to pay back with their small incomes. Virtually no one who goes through medical school and then halfway through a residency training program just decides they do not want to be a doctor. If they drop out, it's not an intentional decision, either that it is because of an extreme mental breakdown, which is still not really it was their choice.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2023

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