By Dr. Jim Dahle, WCI Founder
Yesterday, we announced five of the 10 WCI Scholarship winners for 2023, each of which had a very inspirational life story of overcoming challenges. Today, we’ll be announcing five more winners, those who applied in the “financial” category.
Since one of the purposes of the WCI Scholarship is to promote financial literacy among medical students, we felt adding this category would help us stay true to our mission. In addition, those who win in this category are less likely to already be on scholarship at their professional schools so it likely helps reduce student loan burdens even more. Despite the prize money being the same and anyone being able to write a great financial post (whereas not everyone has an incredibly inspirational life story), this category remains the less competitive of the two categories. Still, while only one-quarter of the applicants applied in this category, there were still 254 of them and only five could win (we had a record 990 applications overall). The instructions given to the applicants were as follows:
“The Financial category essays will describe what you have done in the past or will do in the future to become financially literate or to help others do so. They may explain a financial principle or experience, or they may give advice to your peers. They may be humorous or serious. But they have to be about a financial topic.”
Other than those instructions, we let the judges decide who won.
Thanks again to our sponsors of the scholarship. Without them, it would be a much less generous scholarship.
Platinum Level Contributors ($8,000 or more)
Gold Level Contributors ($1,500 or more)
Jon Appino (Contract Diagnostics) – Contract Review/Negotiation
Chad Chubb (WealthKeel LLC) – Financial Advising
Johanna Turner (Fox and Company Wealth Management) – Financial Advising
Rick Warren (Insuring Income) – Disability and Life Insurance
Dennis Hursh (Physician Agreements Health Law) – Contract Review/Negotiation
DK Unger (DI4MDs) – Disability and Life Insurance
Silver Level Contributors
Bronze Level Contributors
Thank you for supporting those who support our mission.
2023 WCI Scholarship Winners – Financial Category
In no particular order, here are our five winners. We have included an excerpt from their essay and a link to the full post published elsewhere on the site.
Abigail Miller of the Indiana University School of Medicine
What happens when financial tragedy strikes while you’re living on loans? Abigail told us in her essay. This essay reminds me of the reason we started this scholarship program in the first place.
“The first year of medical school was smooth but financially tight. Every dollar was accounted for, and the budget was strict but feasible. We never ate out and never indulged in a non-essential purchase, but we were comfortable, happy, and proud of our grit. We didn’t have a penny of credit card debt—our frugality reigned supreme.
Unfortunately, our cookie-cutter financial structure and illusion of security crumbled swiftly and painfully during the fall of my second year of medical school. The first hardship we encountered was the unexpected loss of my beloved grandmother, my closest friend and ultimate supporter. My heart was shattered. Only four short weeks later, a series of devastating, gut-wrenching, incomprehensible tragedies struck our family. At the center of it, my mother-in-law, a single mother raising my husband’s teenage brother, very unexpectedly passed away . . .
Profound shock, loss, and grief put my mind into survival mode. Protect my husband, protect this child, anything that needs to be done—do it. Any expense that arises—pay it. With exactly zero dollars of disposable income, we began to swipe our emergency credit card. This is exactly the reason we had one, right? . . .
We are back to having every dollar accounted for, living frugally within our strict budget on my loans, as we now have a monthly credit card bill that my loan budget cannot accommodate. Taking pride in our resourcefulness, we’ve sold my purses and my husband’s beloved collection of music records—anything of value that isn’t a necessity has been sold at numerous yard sales and online . . .
If, as a physician, I can take a financial stressor off the plate of a bright doctor in training, I will. I have spent enough time dreaming of a reality where I could fully immerse myself into my studies—to focus completely on learning for the well-being of my future patients—without the ruminating fear of bills in my mind. Making this dream possible for medical students in crisis has become my motivation . . . “
Mine too. That’s why we have this annual scholarship and have permanently endowed others. Abigail, I don’t know how much you owe, but your $5,945 prize ought to cover the payments for quite a while anyway. You can read the rest of the essay here.
Hannah Kilbride of the Boston University School of Dental Medicine
While dental students, like all professional students, could always apply for the WCI scholarship, none, to my recollection, has ever won. Until now. Hannah wrote about how there is always something one can do to make financial ends meet, whether that is applying for scholarships or cutting their classmates’ hair.
“I was able to help my mom with the medical bills by becoming financially independent in college with the assistance of these scholarships. I did not allow my situation to define me or especially define my health. In my senior year of high school, I had the procedure, and it changed my life. This experience inspired my passion for dentistry. My unique journey led me to treat my own patients in dental school seven years after my surgery—a full circle moment!
Now, in my final year of dental school, I still find it as important as ever to advocate for your financial health. My family contribution is still zero, but my experiences have allowed me to deal with this reality by working hard to find a solution. In dental school, this meant applying to every paid mentor position and teaching assistant position. I’ve cut classmates’ hair (why they trust me I will never know), and I’ve been a dog-walker—my personal favorite. I have spread the word to my classmates about these financial opportunities, and several students have started watching and walking dogs on the side to help with their financial goals. Becoming financially literate does not have to be complex, but it does require effort. In order for this to happen, you have to put in the work and find those opportunities that are waiting to be discovered.”
You can read the rest of the essay here.
Jessica Sidrak of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School
This one had a twist I didn’t see coming. You’ll need to read the whole thing to see why I liked this one so much. It was hard to choose an excerpt that wouldn’t function as a spoiler.
“When the dollars were few, the pennies counted, and when we counted the pennies, the dollars soon followed.
As a first-year medical student, I have come to realize that in life, as in academics, your results are only as good as your habits. Being raised by a mom who tirelessly prepared hundreds of home-cooked meals to save on the cost of takeout makes it a little bit easier to get out of bed on a Sunday night and meal prep instead of buying food from the cafeteria.
And that’s not even the best part: much like interest, our financial decisions compound over time. This works in our favor, since implementing sound financial practices now sets us on the path to even better practices in the future. In my case, growing up surrounded by the laundry list of my mom’s “life hacks” made those habits second nature to me and gave me the foundation I needed to pick up my own tricks to stretch or save a dollar, like making sure to eat before grocery shopping to avoid impulsive purchases.
All of this is to say that there is no precise formula for financial success, especially in medical school . . .”
Make sure you read the whole essay on this one. I couldn’t even read it to Katie without getting emotional. You can find it here.
Jenny Wang of the University of Illinois College of Medicine
To Jenny and her family, food is love, and now she dishes it out to tens of thousands.
“When I was 10 years old, my parents decided to pursue residency in the United States to become physicians again. While my mom was able to get into a residency in Chicago, my dad had to move to Tennessee for four years. For two years, my dad’s parents came overseas to help take care of us kids (all of us packed into the same tiny townhome). I was grateful for my grandmother’s comfort foods like jian bing (pan-fried dough). Once our grandparents left, my sister and I were often on our own while our parents worked long hours. That’s when I learned how to cook. I started simple with scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast. Then, I began making dinners, with dishes like salmon and rice or Kraft mac & cheese. Finally, I evolved into my final form: Making baked goods. I began making cakes and cookies for birthdays and classroom events, expressing love for my friends in the way my family had taught me.
Fast-forward to today. I am in medical school, thanks to the sacrifices my parents made to give me the necessary education. And I am kind of obsessed with food! While in college and during the pandemic, I baked even more, joining the Hivemind and learning to make sourdough bread during lockdown. Leaning into food as a creative outlet, I started a baking Instagram page. Amassing a modest following by posting videos of creative baked goods (peanut butter miso cookies, anyone?), I have realized the power that comes with even a moderately successful social media platform. Nobody was more astonished than I was the first time I was contacted to be sent free kitchen supplies (a free kitchen torch, a care package from King Arthur Baking), or offers for free food at restaurants. Though small gestures compared to everything my parents gave to me, I love being able to treat my parents to restaurant meals free of charge thanks to this unexpected “side hustle” I discovered . . .
Find the nearest grocery stores with the best deals. Identify dishes you like to cook and eat that emphasize inexpensive staples like rice and legumes. Set yourself up for success by creating a shopping and cooking schedule, and train yourself to stick with it. With the internet, food literacy is well within everybody’s means. And if you already have a social media platform and the mental capacity to keep it up, you never know what you might get in return!”
You can read the rest of the essay here.
Charles Grafe of The University of South Carolina School of Medicine – Greenville
What did you do during your gap year? Charles was a garbageman, and he shares the lessons he learned. I do have to defend myself a little from this essay. While there is far more to life than finances, gap years are generally not financially optimal. Still, I’m glad Charles did this one, and I think it really added something very meaningful to his career.
“The winter months meant a couple of things for the trash run: wear more layers than usual; expect more trash from ending leases; and, thankfully, enjoy a slightly kinder treatment of the nasal passages as the cold weather kept the stench of the cans low. It was during one of these winter runs that I was first shocked by the wastefulness of many of our residents.
We were picking the trash up from a house that had just changed owners. I picked up a heavy bag and struggled to get it into the truck. My curiosity caused me to rip open the bag to see what was weighing it down, and I was surprised to find a cordless drill, its battery, and a charger. I tested it out expecting some function to be broken, but it was flawless. As we continued our run, my new drill now in the seat of the truck, I kept thinking to myself, “Why would anyone throw that away?’ This phrase became somewhat of a mantra as over the course of the year I pulled a weedeater, several textbooks, unworn clothes, and even a TV from the trash bags (admittedly, and somewhat ashamedly, part of my wife’s Christmas gift was similarly found). Seeing the value in these reclaimed items, I would clean them and list them on Facebook Marketplace, netting me an extra $200 a month through these sales. The first lesson I learned is straightforward: only throw it away if you don’t need it, if someone else can’t use it, or if you can’t sell it.”
You can read the rest of the essay here. It’s worth it.
Congratulations to all five of the winners in the Financial category this year. I laughed. I cried. I was reminded of why we keep doing all this (not just the scholarship, but the whole WCI thing.) Until next year, keep your head up and shoulders back and spread the word about the WCI scholarship.