Christopher Guest Post: The Physician Philosopher
The good doctor commonly goes by “Jimmy,” which conjures up several images, most prominently the one with Jimmy from Good Times saying Dyn-o-mite!
And we can’t call him Jim because we already have a Jim Dahle, so I’m going to stick with James.
We don’t have written criteria for new additions to the network, but there are a number of qualities we look for. We want someone who has shown dedication by blogging consistently for a good long while. The articles need to show a level of understanding and mastery of topics pertinent to our target audience, the high-income professional.
Perhaps most importantly, the focus of the blog should be different that those already in the network. The Physician Philosopher checks all the boxes above and has a distinct focus on wellness (encompassing burnout / resilience) that he is well positioned to speak to as a one-time philosophy major.
James also represents a younger generation of physicians; Peter Kim (Passive Income MD), Jim Dahle (The White Coat Investor), and I are all currently in our early forties. James is a fairly new attending in his early thirties and will be blogging about his path to financial independence (FI), whereas I didn’t start blogging until I was already FI.
He also is an academic physician, whereas the rest of us have been in private practice. Like Dr. Kim and I, he’s an anesthesiologist, and I realize we’re not adding diversity in terms of race or gender, either. Don’t blame James, and please trust that we have made that effort but have not been able to reach a mutual agreement just yet.
Please welcome James (or you can call him Jimmy if you really, really want to) the WCI Network, and I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know him better!
Christopher Guest Post: The Physician Philosopher
What in the world is a Christopher Guest Post?
If you’re not familiar with the scene, take 50 seconds to watch this video and enjoy the dialog between Nigel and Rob Reiner.
I decided I’d start a Q&A of my own. Not satisfied with just ten questions, “this one goes to eleven”. Just like Nigel’s amplifiers.
What is your specialty or subspecialty?
My name is Jimmy Turner, [PoF: Don’t you mean James Turner?] but until February 2019 many people knew me as The Physician Philosopher. I am a practicing academic anesthesiologist (Go DEACS!).
I spent an extra year in fellowship for regional anesthesia and acute pain medicine. This was after completing my medical school and residency all at the same place (Wake Forest). I guess we liked Winston so much, we never left after medical school.
These days, I get to throw in thoracic epidurals for the grandpas (and grandmas) who fall off ladders and break a bunch of ribs. So, if you happen to be in Winston-Salem on a weekend, do me a solid. Let someone else spot you while you use the ladder! (And don’t drive into trees, go ice skating, or let your kid accidentally back the car into your chest… all true stories).
Otherwise, I get to come in and talk to you about putting an epidural in your spine.
[PoF: I didn’t do the fellowship, but I place a thoracic epidural from time to time. Usually, I’m doing so preoperatively for a patient about to undergo a partial lung resection for lung cancer. So please, don’t smoke!
Also, don’t do any of those other things James mentioned. You may or may not break ribs, but if you’re just as likely to break an ankle, femur, elbow, etc… and that has me back at the hospital to care for you and you in a world of pain (at least until we get to you).]
Why did you choose anesthesiology?
I chose anesthesiology for a variety of reasons.
Some of the reasons are the same ones that all of us who went into anesthesia mention. I love procedures; thinking on my feet has always been fun for me; I enjoy the gratification of watching my decisions and actions have an immediate impact on a patient’s care, and it is intellectually demanding.
However, I didn’t decide on anesthesia until the beginning of my fourth year. In the end, there were two bigger reasons that I chose anesthesia over other fields.
First, I felt like it was a useful skill set for mission work, which is why I went into medicine in the first place.
Anesthesiology is unique. From the medical decisions we make in our heads (diagnosis and treatment) to carrying the actions out that will inevitably heal someone, we can do most everything along the way. We can intubate an emergent case, design a stable anesthetic, diagnose a septic patient, choose the right pressor, throw in the arterial and central line, while we mix the bag of meds to go through it.
When I was in training, I noticed that anesthesiologists could practice on an island of sorts with a very unique skill set. Not many other specialties can claim that. This seemed really useful for mission work, and matched my personality. So, I dove into the specialty head first.
Second, when I was in training — any time that there was a code, a difficult airway, or someone was trying to die on the table — I noticed that there was a common person people requested in these tough situations: the anesthesiologist. When the anesthesiologist walked into the room, everyone else calmed down.
They knew that anesthesia would take care of it. I thought that was awesome, because it is a distinct honor and privilege to get to take care of patients at their sickest moments. I wanted to be the person that people asked for when the fecal matter hit the fan (kept it clean, just for you PoF!).
(Note for those considering the field: though we get to have these moments, don’t get confused with getting credit for it, or being acknowledged as a hero. Anesthesia is notorious for getting very little credit and most of the blame. If you need to get credit to feel accomplished, anesthesia likely isn’t for you).
[PoF: I didn’t realize that mission work was a big part of your motivation. I agree that anesthesia is a great field where our services can be utilized worldwide.
I can highly recommend serving with One World Surgery. If you go when your kids are a bit older, there will be volunteer work for the whole family, as the site where the surgical hospital is located is first and foremost a children’s home where hundreds of children grow up on the NPH ranch.
We went on a mission to Honduras last year as a family and will be returning next month.
As far as what you say about everyone relying on (and/or blaming) the anesthesiologist, there is certainly some truth to that, and I’ll be relieved to pass that heavy burden on to the next generation!]
If you could turn back time, would you choose to practice medicine and choose the same specialty? Why?
As you’ll see below, I believe that the medical training system is broken.
Despite this, our hospitals and clinics are full of good people who can provide great hope for the I patients we take care of every day. I think the system can be fixed, if some of us are brave enough to stand up to it.
I love my job, I just want to do less of it than I currently do in order to balance all of the different aspirations and passions that I have. I’d like to find a balance between the medicine I love to practice and the intentional life my family and I are trying to design.
So, yes, I’d choose to practice medicine again and I’d also choose the same specialty.
[PoF: Surprisingly, I feel similarly. I don’t regret where I’ve been or what I’ve done. I’m simply ready to do something different while swinging the work/life balance in the direction of life.]
Describe your blog and tell us why your blog would appeal to a physician seeking FIRE in eleven sentences.
Imagine a world where there are hard-working, intelligent, and educated people who have endured long hours and tough training while seeing some truly horrific things that humans were never meant to see.
They sacrifice their 20s as they delay children and miss weddings, funerals, recitals, and ball games.
After finishing their training, they hope the big salary and autonomy that comes with being a professional will make up for all those terribly hard years that they just endured. Then, they find out as they start practicing that the “light at the end of the tunnel” is not nearly as bright as they thought it would be.
They find burnout faster than they ever imagined as they are pressed to see more patients in less time and combat the EMR’s, insurance companies, and lack of autonomy that physicians face – they suddenly realize that the hospital will not love them back.
Unfortunately, no one ever taught them about money, happiness, and where those two worlds meet. With no understanding of the economics of happiness, they spend every single dollar they make – while upside down in student loan debt – to attempt to escape the burnout and to create that long lost happiness they’ve been seeking.
They later realize the big house, fancy cars, and designer gadgets only provide fleeting happiness – and more debt – which serves to make their situation worse.
At The Physician Philosopher, I serve as a guide to teach other physicians how to use the tools of financial independence to allow them to prevent and treat the burnout that threatens their careers and their lives. On my blog, you can expect topics on the relationship between money and happiness; the philosophy and psychology of money; and physician wellness.
With The Physician Philosopher, I want to help people design their life very intentionally and then empower them to become the hero of their own story by taking back the freedom that they deserve.
[PoF: Man, James, you can write some really long sentences. I don’t think anyone’s managed to stretch this section out quite like that. Bravo!
I am extremely glad that I didn’t fall into that trap of spending every last dollar I made. I see unhappy people do pretty much that on a regular basis and I don’t see them becoming any happier.
I applaud what you’re doing there at TPP. It’s such an important message.]
What inspired you to start a blog of your own? Was there a particular event you remember that made you feel your blog had arrived? Any big plans for your blog in the future?
After reading a few financial books (Self-Plug: I highly recommend this one, which is recommended by POF and WCI) and frequenting a couple of physician finance blogs, I finally realized how financially illiterate I was at the time.
Like a new convert to a cult, I started talking to everyone I knew about personal finance. Then, I found out that – despite all the awesome work that other physician finance bloggers are doing – there is still an absolutely massive need.
I also felt that there was a hole in the physician finance niche – connecting the gap between personal finance and physician burnout.
Given my newfound passion, I decided to start a blog. One of the first things I did after clicking “publish” was to email you (PoF) and ask for advice. I used PoF’s guide to starting a blog (which is great, I might add) and I was off to the races.
As for a particular time when I felt I “arrived,” getting an invitation to do a Christopher Guest Post definitely qualifies.
Other arrival moments include when I run into people in person who know me and say, “I didn’t know that you were The Physician Philosopher! I love your blog!” Some even figured it out before the blog became non-anonymous.
Big plans for the blog include promoting the book that I published in February. Those who have read it have found it really helpful (it has a 5-star review and the reviews have been great). So, I’ll continue promoting that through podcasts, guest posts, etc.
I am also thinking about selling some courses on my site to help coach people on how to get started. I’ve purchased the equipment, and have started talking with my readers about what they need.
[PoF: This interview took place before the formal invitation to join the WCI Network. I’m going to say that the blog has definitely arrived as of now. Not that a CGP invite is worthless, but hey, this is kind of a big deal.
You could also point to the day you became a published author. You humbly referenced it above, but I’m going to put a nice big image of it here in the post. Great work on that, too, I might add!]
Give me eleven posts you think Physician on FIRE readers might want to read.
[PoF: The crossroads of wealth and wellness are well apparent in the posts you’ve shared with us. The 10% rule is a great rule to live by (and difficult for most), and the 457 post tells someone everything they need to know — and I field a lot of questions about them. Nicely done!]
At what age are you most likely to retire (or at what age did you retire) from full-time work? What are you doing to help realize your retirement target?
I expect to be financially independent in my mid-40s (42-47 depending on returns and changes in income). I anticipate cutting back to part-time work at my main gig as the blog takes off and becomes more profitable.
I’ll probably “retire” around age 50, though I’ll definitely be retiring “to” something instead of “from” my job. I love my job for the most part.
As my book outlines, I think there is a critical 20% of personal finance that people need to know to get 80% of the results. Because I understand how irrational humans are, I tend to stick to a low-cost diversified passive index fund approach.
At some point, I’ll probably dip my toes into real estate syndication, but that hasn’t happened yet since we just finished paying off our $200,000 in student loans in 19 months.
[PoF: Congrats on knocking those loans out quickly!
I think you’re spot on applying the Pareto principle to personal finance for physicians. I spend most of my time figuring out the additional 80% to figure out those additional optimizations, but doing a few things right can go a long ways towards a sound financial future.]
What does an ideal retirement look like for you? What will you do with your time when full-time work is in your rearview mirror?
I’ve written a guest post on your blog about how I focus much more on the financial independence aspect of FIRE and much less on early retirement. My target audience includes physicians in training and early career medical professionals who are likely a decade or more away from retiring.
That said, I am looking forward to going part-time at some point in the next five to seven years. Maybe sooner if the blog stays on a successful course. I’d love to work 3 days per week doing anesthesia and 3 days per week on my blog.
In retirement, I’ll still continue to work. I’ll do mission work, keep blogging (or spreading the message of financial freedom through some other avenue), and continue to be a fixture in the lives of my wife and three kids.
[PoF: I think I can help with the successful blogging part!
As I mentioned in the intro, I think that the fact your blog appeals more to the residents and attendings just getting started is great. It’s a niche that I don’t cater to as well as you do, being now 13 years removed from residency.]
I’ll give you eleven sentences to dish out advice to a young physician. Any and all advice is welcome. We talk about personal finance, so money is fair game, but if you have advice on being a better doctor, a better parent / spouse / friend / human, we’re all ears.
Your life is a constant reflection of your priorities.
So, my advice is this. Be intentional. Don’t walk through life only going through the motions. Sit down and figure out what you want out of this life. I recommend that you use the three Kinder questions linked above.
Then, be intentional about taking a step towards that life each and every day. Adopt a Hell Yes policy so that you can say “yes” to the things that matter – and “no” to anything else that doesn’t.
Otherwise my advice is to be humble; be kind; be forgiving and compassionate; and put others first. It’s the same advice I give my three kids.
After all, it is better to be in the presence of a humble sinner than to sit with a conceited saint.
[PoF: Great advice, TPP. I could certainly be better about saying “no” more often, instead of “sure, why not?” There’s often a decent reason why not. I really wish I would have said “no” to volunteering on the Hospital Board 9 years ago. That ended terribly.]
You’ve got eleven days to visit anyplace in the world with an $11,000 budget. Where do you go and what do you do?
Hmm, it would probably involve taking advantage of one of your awesome credit card deals so we could get some miles to save on flights/hotels.
Then, we would book a two week trip (I’m going to discount travel days as not counting towards my 11 day limit) to the countries across the pond for the week before the Open Championship.
During the first week, we would travel between the famous golf courses in the U.K. and enjoy a round each day. We would probably visit Murifield, Carnoustie, and St. Andrew’s to name a few.
Then, we would travel to wherever the Open is for the year and enjoy a full week of activities, including the practice rounds and the four rounds that count.
Hopefully, I’d get to see Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, or Ricky Fowler win. Those are my guys.
[PoF: I’ll bet you enjoyed the Masters this weekend. Tiger’s first major win in over a decade. Fowler was right up there, too.
I’m guessing you don’t find a ton of time to play golf yourself these days. I played a lot as a teenager, occasionally in college, rarely as a med student, and haven’t swung a club in years. I may pick up the hobby again if my kids show an interest. They’re at a good age to learn now, actually.]
Name eleven beverages you enjoy. You can be as general or specific as you like.
- Grape Fruit Sculpin from Ballast Point
- Two Hearted Ale from Bell’s
- Sexual Chocolate from Foothills here in the Dash (Get it? Winston DASH Salem…. I know corny, but even our minor league baseball team is in on it)
- Cart from Brewery Bahavana
- Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewing
- Any other beer category except wit’s and saison’s… can’t stand those
- Balvenie 12 year Scotch
- Milk (with cookies)
- Diet Mountain Dew…
- Tazo Awake Breakfast Tea in the morning
(Running out of ideas…)
Oh, and (11) water… sometimes (but rarely, if I am being honest).
[PoF: When I get that feeling, I want… Sexual Chocolate. Actually, I’ve never had it (the beer, not that feeling), but I look forward to checking it out the next time (which would be the first time) I visit the Dash.
I guess I never realized Winston-Salem is the name of one town. I assumed it was two nearby cities like Raleigh-Durham or Minneapolis-St. Paul.
We obviously enjoy our hops — I think I had a late-night Six Point Resin for you when we were chatting one night at FinCon last year. I don’t drink soda all that often, but when I do, I reach for the Diet Dew.
Now, eleven foods.
Man, I wish one of my foodie friends could help me out here. I’m a pretty simple guy (except sous vide cooking…. I’m a little obsessed).
- Sous-Vide Steak (medium-rare)
- Popcorn (while watching movies with my kids)
- Sour Patch Kids with my popcorn (candy is food, right? Oh, you’re grossed out by popcorn and sour patch kids??? Sorry, POF told me to be myself. Maybe that was a mistake?) [PoF: Not grossed out. My most popular homebrew is a Sour Patch Kid wheat, fermented with a couple pounds of the candy)]
- Chocolate (usually at midnight with milk)
- Sous-Vide Pork Chops (don’t have a sous vide? I’m not a foodie and I’d even recommend it – makes cooking way too easy)
- Baked cauliflower with salt, pepper, and garlic
- Sous-Vide St. Louis Ribs
- Other non-vegetable food (though I can eat my weight in cauliflower… I can’t stand most other vegetables. I am a terrible doctor.)
[PoF: Correction: You’re probably a terrific doctor. A terrific doctor with a terrible diet. I must admit my intake of green things went up at least tenfold when I met and then married a dietitian. No, the green Sour Patch Kids don’t count.
I picked up a sous vide immersion cooker on Black Friday and have used it on many cuts of beef, pork, chicken, and fish. Scallops and shrimp, too. You could say everything turned out… dyn-o-mite!
The food turns out pretty awesome as long as you finish the meat with a sear when it comes out. I throughly enjoy watching Guga on the Sous Vide Everything Youtube Channel — he sears with a flame thrower in this episode.]
How did you first learn about PhysicianonFIRE.com? What one piece of advice do you have for me?
I learned about Physician on Fire while looking at the White Coat Investor site a couple of years back.
After discovering your site and becoming a regular reader, you were then one of the first people I emailed to ask for advice, and you responded impressively fast despite being slammed with emails.
I wasn’t sure if I believed what people said about blogging before I started (that there is a wide held belief that a “rising tide raises all boats”). I’d encourage you to keep proving that right! You deserve every bit of recognition and accolades that you get.
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to take part! The Christopher Guest Post questions were fun to answer.
[PoF: Thank you for taking the time! I know you’re a busy man.
Also, I should point out that while it’s been in the works for some time, you did not know you’d be joining us in the White Coat Investor Network when this was written. Your answers prove that you belong, and I look forward to a long and fruitful relationship!
Readers, do you have a 12th question you’d like to ask The Physician Philosopher?]
Interested in hearing how other top personal finance bloggers have answered these questions? Check out a few of these Christopher Guest Posts:
- Can I Retire Yet
- The Physician Philosopher
- Wealth Well Done
- Mad Fientist
- Financial Panther
- Route to Retire
- Mr. Crazy Kicks
- Miss Bonnie MD
- She Picks Up Pennies
- Go Curry Cracker
- Abandoned Cubicle
- Apathy Ends
- Root of Good
- Retire by 40
- Chief Mom Officer
- Jim Wang of Wallet Hacks
- Our Next Life
- Crispy Doc
- Distilled Dollar
- Coach Carson
- Think Save Retire
- Financially Alert
- Life of a Med Student
- The Wall Street Physician
- Dads Dollars Debts
- Full Time Finance
- From Cents to Retirement
- Gen Y Finance Guy
- Get Money Got Money
- Mr. Tako Escapes
- My Money Wizard
- Senior Resident
- Big Law Investor
- Ten Factorial Rocks
- Family Money Plan
- My Money Wizard
- ESI Money
- The Green Swan
- Smart Money MD
- The Retirement Manifesto
- J.L. Collins
- Johnny K. Johnson
- Early Retirement Now!
- Son of a Doctor
- The Happy Philosopher
- Future Proof MD
- Dr. Wise Money
- The White Coat Investor
- Mr. 1500 of 1500 Days