Life Reflections

a single step

I have been blessed with an inherent sense of personal responsibility, finely honed by my environment as a child.  I learned at an early age that my actions and decisions carry meaning and consequence.  This is a trait that has served me well over the years, at times providing opportunity to grow through recognition of my own failings, and at others freeing me from shouldering responsibility where it was not mine to carry.  Personal responsibility is an important value that I strive to pass on to my children and one I am proud to see developing in Teenage Boy. 

Financial responsibility is an area that has provided a great arena of growth for me.  Like many, I made foolish financial decisions in my youth and have paid off large credit card balances on no less than 3 separate occasions.  Painful lessons, but I have now been credit card free for more than 5 years and it was worth every penny.

My path to medical school was winding and long, and my medical education includes an extra 8 years between undergraduate and medical school – years spent in other graduate program(s) and/or working full time.  This foray off the beaten path coupled with attendance at the most expensive “state” medical school in the country culminated in nearly half a million dollars in student loan debt – mostly through repeated capitalization of old debt and accumulation of higher interest private loans.  Residency training has not afforded me opportunity to begin repaying any of this debt (other than paying on two private loans which ran out of forbearance time). Although I am finally not accruing new debt, the capitalization continues.  The personal burden of this financial responsibility can only be described as crippling.  It has been shaping my career plans, my ability to save for retirement, my hopes for the future, my conversations with Honey and ultimately my relationships with patients and medicine in general.

Student loan reform allows me to seriously consider practicing medicine as a primary care physician in a smaller town instead of having to work as a hospitalist just to make enough to make my monthly loan payments. That debt is my financial responsibility.  I am the person who signed on the dotted line and signed the loan checks every term.  Part of me feels that it is unfair that there is consideration being made for student loan reform, and that I am shirking my financial responsibility.  But another part of me wonders – Should my choice to go to medical school carry with it crippling financial burden? Was going to medical school a foolish financial decision? I’ve dedicated much of my life to earn the privilege and honor of dedicating the rest of my life to patients – and I appreciate any effort toward relieving some of this financial burden so I can focus on what’s important. 


It’s a single step (which does not address private student loans), and I’m looking forward to the rest of the journey.

Jonesie is a third year medicine resident living with Honey, Teenage Boy, Big Girl, and Baby Girl and hopes to one day soon know where she’ll be working July 1, 2012 so she can give Sallie Mae her new address.