A pivotal point for young physicians comes just after medical school as they begin residency. They are earning a paycheck for perhaps the first time, yet also may face significant educational debt and a host of decisions that have the potential to derail their financial situation for years to come. Michael Lovelace, MBA, a fourth-year student at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, has developed an award-winning digital tool to help these young physicians make sound financial decisions.
Lovelace, who studied finance and business prior to entering medical school, developed the tool as part of the Family Medicine Leads (FML) Emerging Leader Institute, sponsored by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) Foundation. Lovelace, one of 30 participants selected for the first cohort of the year-long program, participated in the group’s leadership workshop last summer, then worked with a physician mentor to create a project in Personal and Practice Leadership, one of three leadership tracks available to the scholars. The other tracks were Policy and Public Health Leadership and Philanthropic and Mission-Driven Leadership. Judges selected Lovelace’s project as the best in the Personal and Practice Leadership track.
Lovelace tapped into his business experience to create the detailed financial planning and budgeting tool. He explained that although physicians beginning residency may qualify to purchase expensive cars and higher-priced homes based on future income potential, it’s dangerous to make these purchase decisions without careful analysis of the whole financial picture – including medical education debt that may exceed $175,000.
“Often people will buy a car and sign an apartment lease as independent decisions and not consider how much of their monthly income they are committing to those two items. Those are binding agreements, so you can make two relatively straightforward decisions and put yourself in a bind throughout residency,” Lovelace said.
Lovelace’s budget program uses answers to 35 questions related to the user’s financial obligations to calculate their financial trajectory, including a detailed analysis for multiple student loan repayment options and a retirement savings projection. It then generates a report revealing areas of budget concern (too high or too low) and whether the user is projected to reach a retirement goal. It even provides suggestions of how to correct an underfunded retirement plan.
As part of the project submission, Lovelace created a video description of the budgeting tool and a poster describing the problem and how the analysis can help individuals avoid common pitfalls. He said his project mentor, Marc Matthews, MD, a family practitioner with the Mayo Clinic, encouraged him to increase the functionality of each module, adding value for the user, while keeping the project within the original scope.
Jason Marker, MD, MPA, past president of the AAFP Foundation who chairs the foundation workgroup that launched the FML Emerging Leader Institute, said Lovelace’s project exemplifies the leadership potential of the students and residents participating in the institute.
“One of our hopes with the FML Emerging Leader Institute was that we would take a group of scholars, many of whom had little formal family medicine leadership training, and accelerate their capacity and motivation toward being physicians with the understanding to practice medicine in the context of social determinants of health, elimination of health disparities and avoiding future physician burnout,” Marker said. “In that latter category, Michael’s project is a standout. As Michael is lecturing on this topic, I know he will help a lot of young physicians be successful.”
Stephen Wheeler, MD, associate dean for admissions at the UofL School of Medicine and a senior faculty member in the Department of Family and Geriatric Medicine, has mentored Lovelace in family medicine and leadership at UofL.
“I first met Michael during his path toward medicine as a non-traditional applicant. Then, I worked with him during the two-year introduction to clinical cases small group experience. I am ecstatic that he feels called in this direction. He will be an exceptional family doctor,” Wheeler said.
At last summer’s leadership workshop, Marker led a session on Personal and Practice Leadership with Lovelace and the other FML Emerging Leader Institute participants.
“We talked about financial realities of practice and how ill-prepared many medical students and residents are for life beyond residency. The way Michael addressed this topic is excellent. He has made the information accessible for the broadest possible audience,” Marker said, adding that he hopes the project will ultimately be adapted for use by medical schools and residency programs to help physicians avoid financial missteps.
As the creator of the top project in his track, Lovelace will give an oral presentation of the project at the American Academy of Family Physicians National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students on July 28 in Kansas City, Missouri, and attend Family Medicine Experience, the annual educational meeting of the AAFP to be held in Orlando, Florida, in September.