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Welcome to another installment of the X-ray Beam series.
I want you to imagine the following scenario:
- You have spent decades studying and training for your profession.
- You have sacrificed time with family and friends.
- You have most likely accumulated a lot of debt as well.
- Suddenly your ability to practice your livelihood is instantly taken away through some cruel twist of fate.
That is the stuff of nightmares, isn’t it?
Unfortunately this is something that can and does occur.
In fact this very scenario directly impacted the featured guest of this post, Stephanie Pearson, M.D.
I was fortunate to have Stephanie agree to be placed on the X-ray table and share her story with you.
It is definitely a tale of inspiration and highlights her ability to pivot and still have a successful career.
Stephanie Pearson, M.D. is the founder of Pearson Ravitz, a company that specializes in Physician Disability Insurance and a sponsor of this site.]
Can you first tell us a little background about yourself? (Age, marital status, any children).
I am 40ish, married with 2 wonderful boys 11 and 13.
When did you first discover you had a passion for medicine?
Were there any influences (family, friends) that inspired you to become a physician?
I absolutely adored my pediatrician growing up, he was a wonderful, caring man.
I know I wanted to be a physician, initially Peds.
I then thought Ortho, but developed a love for OB/Gyn eventually and was actually able to join the practice of the man who made me enjoy the specialty so much.
You are a board certified OB/GYN physician.
What were some of the factors that drew you towards OB/GYN?
As I was saying, my late teens/early 20s gynecologist showed me what a great specialty it can be, a bit of primary care, surgery, and being a key factor in women’s health.
It pulled my heartstrings when I first read about your story about how your Ob/GYN medical career was tragically cut short.
Do you mind sharing that story with my readers?
I remember it well.
I was in the delivery room with a wonderful patient.
Unfortunately this was a complicated delivery with a double nuchal that required some painful maneuvers without the benefit of an epidural.
I was kicked, hard, by the patient.
I was able to deliver the child, and mom and baby are well.
I, however, was not.
I hold no animosity towards the patient, she would have never hurt me intentionally.
Working through the pain, developing a frozen shoulder and a failed surgery later left me with a severely decreased ROM [range of motion] to my left shoulder.
I was no longer able to practice as an OB/Gyn.
How long were you practicing as an Ob/GYN before the above event occurred?
I had developed quite a following.
I always wanted to be the OB/Gyn that women talked about over lunch, and I had reached that point.
There is a famous saying that when life hands you lemons you make lemonade.
You certainly have taken this to heart as evidenced by your actions following this tragic event.
What made you decide to pivot your career from medicine to the field of disability insurance?
It was due to getting denied from my group coverage because of terrible language in the policy, and then not being able to contact my original broker.
I delved deep into my person IDI [Individual Disability Insurance] policy and learned a lot.
A friend of a friend who was a DI broker already assisted me with my claim.
I wanted to make sure that nobody else had to go through what I did, so I got my license and learned everything I could about disability insurance.
What was the most difficult thing you encountered when making this career transition?
The most difficult part was not being able to practice anymore.
After the years of education, training, long nights, call and building a practice, it was gone.
There were some dark periods for sure.
Do you feel that having an MD behind your name gives you an advantage in the disability insurance realm?
I think so.
I went through school like my clients.
I did interviews, residency, getting “pimped” by attendings and senior residents.
I have been through the process, including the one I don’t want them to go through.
I have lived it, and it gives me a perspective that others may not.
Also, I focus on education first.
I want the clients to know the details and differences, so they make an educated decision.
I am not a salesperson, nor are any of the people who work with me.
We only want to assure you are properly covered and educated.
Can you share some of the mistakes physicians typically make regarding disability insurance?
Any horror stories that you may be aware of with physicians who found out they had inadequate disability coverage?
My story is one.
I was never advised the importance of increasing coverage as my income increased.
I was also sold into a transitional occupation policy.
That means that even if I go back to work as a baker, I no longer get my benefit.
Also, waiting until you are older to try to get covered.
The older, the more ailments, the greater likely hood of exclusions or even denial of coverage.
At what point in his or her career would you advise a physician to obtain disability insurance?
Residency if possible, maybe teaching facilities have discounts associated with them, that stick with the life of the policy.
Otherwise as soon as possible after residency.
The younger and healthier the better.
Many physicians have a group disability coverage plan already in place.
Is there any benefit to obtaining additional individual coverage in such a situation?
In my case, if I had read my group policy, I would have denied it and just had my private.
It did not cover work related injury.
The language for coverage in group policies is often not the best, this allows them to cover a larger group at a lesser rate.
Also, many group policies have a cap, that does not come close to normal physician salary.
Supplemental private policies are always an option.
Are there any factors regarding the amount of disability coverage you can have when you have multiple policies in effect?
Most carriers limit the amount you qualify for.
Again, a part of risk limiting.
Also, over insuring is a no go.
They will only cover a certain percentage of gross income, due to individual paid policies offering a tax-free benefit.
What are your thoughts about terminating disability insurance for those physicians who have reached financial independence?
We support that fully.
The day you can retire comfortably, is the day you can cancel your policy.
These policies are income replacement for a job you can no longer do.
If you don’t need that income any longer, you don’t need the policy.
Any parting advice for those physicians who may be considering the need to obtain or increase their disability insurance coverage?
Whether you call my group, or anyone else for this protection, please make sure you know what you are buying.
Assure that it is own occupation and that the various riders are explained to you.
If you have a policy, read it and make sure you are properly covered.
Some carriers say they are own occupation but truly aren’t.
Trust is a very important component when obtaining a policy.
Trust your broker.
If you are interested in checking out previous individuals that were brave enough to expose themselves to the beams of the X-ray, please check them out here.
If you are in search of financial help, please consider enlisting the service of any of the sponsors of this blog who I feel are part of the “good guys and gals of finance.”
Even a steadfast DIY’er can sometimes gain benefit from the occasional professional input.
NOTE: The website XRAYVSN contains affiliate links and thus receives compensation whenever a purchase through these links is made (at no further cost to you). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Although these proceeds help keep this site going they do not have any bearing on the reviews of any products I endorse which are from my own honest experiences. Thank you- XRAYVSN
Fortunate she was able to use her experiences to rebound from a career ending injury. Very inspiring story!
Appreciate the comment CD. I am not sure I would have been able to cope as well with it as Stephanie. Amazing pivot she has done.
Very interesting and thanks to Doc Pearson. I did a little analysis on this topic and found just claiming to be FI with the idea of retiring say in 5 or 10 years is different than actually being required to retire tomorrow. Very different projections. Her key phrase “the day you can retire comfortably” doesn’t always include an extra 10 years of longevity on the thumb nail assumptions of what FI means
That is indeed a very good point to consider. For my personal situation I dropped the private disability coverage but still have my group coverage (which is mandatory) so I was comfortable doing that at where I was financially.