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Physician’s road map to financial security: Lessons from a career-ending injury

Medical Economics JournalMedical Economics November 2023
Volume 100
Issue 11

What would you do if an injury suddenly ended your career?

Disability insurance is a must for physicians: ©Emilie Zhang -

Disability insurance is a must for physicians: ©Emilie Zhang -

As an OB-GYN by training, my life took an unexpected turn when I experienced a traumatic injury during a difficult delivery, resulting in a torn labrum and a frozen shoulder. The subsequent surgery and recovery were more challenging than anticipated, leaving me with lingering range-of-motion deficits and nerve damage. My career as an OB-GYN was over.

To make matters worse, the fine print of our group’s long-term disability insurance benefit did not extend to cover work-related injuries, leaving me without the financial support I needed. Even with a private policy I had purchased as an attending physician, I discovered I had made some critical mistakes because of sheer ignorance that left me financially vulnerable. I was also initially denied my workers’ compensation claim. I had to take legal action to secure some compensation, although it fell far short of what I believed was fair.

Feeling the weight of inadequate education and the need for physician advocacy, I transitioned into the role of a disability insurance broker. Many of my colleagues sought my advice on reviewing their policies, and it became clear that I had stumbled upon a vital mission: to educate and empower physicians so they would not have to experience what I did during one of the most devastating periods of my life.

Disability insurance, although often overlooked in medical training, is a cornerstone of our financial security. As a physician, you are constantly caring for others and need all your faculties to do so. Disability insurance exists so you can care for yourself and your family. In the event that you can no longer practice the profession you were educated and trained to perform, disability insurance would help you meet your expenses and continue your standard of living with as little financial disruption as possible. It provides you and your loved ones with financial peace of mind during a time when finances should be the least of your worries.

However, it’s not just about protecting your income; it’s about safeguarding your dreams, aspirations and the future you’ve worked so hard to build. Disability insurance ensures that unexpected health challenges don’t derail your life. It’s about preserving the legacy you’ve created through years of dedication and hard work. By securing proper disability coverage, you’re not just investing in your financial well-being; you’re preserving your professional legacy and ensuring that your loved ones are supported, regardless of life’s uncertainties. It’s a powerful tool that allows you to continue focusing on what truly matters: enjoying the life you’ve built for yourself and your family. I hope my journey with a career-ending injury sheds light on a crucial aspect of every physician’s financial security: risk management. My personal experience, marked by an unexpected injury and its financial repercussions, serves as a stark reminder of the importance of proactively protecting our ability to earn income.

My mission now is to educate and empower fellow physicians so that they never face the same financial vulnerability and uncertainty I encountered after my injury. Risk management, through proper disability insurance planning, should be at the forefront of every physician’s financial strategy. It’s not just a safety net; it’s the foundation of financial stability in the face of life’s unexpected challenges that will help you protect your health, career and loved ones.

Stephanie Pearson, M.D., FACOG, brings the experience of a physician into the disability and life insurance market. Injured in the prime of her career, the Board-Certified OB/GYN took an unexpected journey to becoming an advocate and advisor for physician insurance.

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