*The Physician Spotlight is an interview series highlighting prominent members of the Doximity network. Each interview sheds light on the unique challenges physicians face in medicine today and how Doximity’s tools and technology are helping doctors solve these issues. This week, we interviewed Jordan Frey, MD, a plastic surgeon practicing in Buffalo, New York. He also writes for his blog, The Prudent Plastic Surgeon.
Q: How did you originally find out about Doximity?
A: I originally heard of Doximity through word of mouth in the medical community. I can remember I started residency about eight years ago and I heard others who had used Doximity as a centralized resource for physicians. I’ve used it ever since.
Q: What do you enjoy most about Doximity?
A: I really enjoy the connectedness of Doximity’s network. I like being able to interact with doctors from across the country, especially those in my specialty, and be part of that community. I also like how Doximity is constantly looking at new ways to improve pain points for physicians. As doctors, that’s what we try to do on a daily basis is to help patients. So, I think Doximity allows us to work together all towards that common goal.
Q: How do you connect with colleagues on Doximity?
A: My experience with the physician community on Doximity has been really great, both on a personal and professional level. On a professional level, I find it helpful to learn about recent papers or new research in my field that would normally require me to go out of my way to find. But on Doximity, I scroll through my newsfeed and can see all the new articles I should know about. I also get to read what my colleagues are thinking about certain health issues. So I'm learning a lot on Doximity and I incorporate what I learn into my clinical practice.
Lastly, on a personal level, it's also nice. I've met a lot of plastic surgeons through Doximity from all over the country with whom I've interacted and been able to have collaborative relationships. So it's really something that has helped me a lot.
Q: What are some other ways you use Doximity?
A: I use Doximity’s clinical tools a lot, especially Dialer now that it has a video capability. As a plastic surgeon, a lot of what we do is visually-based. Whether it’s a reconstructive or an aesthetic procedure, we leverage telemedicine to examine the patient before and after surgery to ensure they understand the next steps, the healing process, and address any concerns they may have. Especially now with the pandemic, we’re trying to limit the number of visits and exposure to as little as possible. So it's been a game-changer for patient care.
Q: What are your thoughts on telemedicine once the pandemic ends? Do you think it’s here to stay?
A: I believe telemedicine is definitely here to stay. I think we've realized, out of necessity throughout this whole COVID pandemic, that telemedicine can be used functionally within our working routine as physicians. I can definitely say in our clinic, it's something that we've incorporated both with new and existing patients. Being in Buffalo, there's a lot of outlying communities that we serve. And Dialer Video makes us doctors even more accessible to patients in a simple, easy-to-use way.
Q: How has COVID-19 impacted your practice?
A: Thankfully, we’ve been able to continue operations since we work on reconstructive cases. The majority of the patients we care for have either had a traumatic injury or cancer that has affected them and require reconstruction of defects associated with that. The hospitals I work at have done an excellent job of managing through the COVID-19 crisis while continuing to care for our non-COVID patients. Of course, there have been times where care has been delayed, which is unfortunate. But I'm happy to report that the hospitals I've been part of have been able to keep most appointments and not delay care to a point where it would affect a patient’s prognosis or ability to live their lives.
Q: What are some of the day-to-day challenges you face as a plastic surgeon?
A: In plastic surgery, there's always something new, innovative, and exciting happening. I just recently finished training, but in 10 years, I'm probably going to be doing things completely different from what I was actually trained to do. That’s why in plastic surgery, we’re taught principles, not procedures. We learn the principles that can be adapted for all kinds of new treatments and procedures. So for me, I work really hard to stay on top of what's new and innovative in the field. That includes staying on top of research and attending conferences.
That's something that even in this virtual age, I'm working hard to do. In fact, I use Doximity to stay up to date on the latest research in plastic surgery. I get the news digest that gets emailed to me which I read every week. I always find interesting articles. I’ll also just scroll through my newsfeed and get notified of what colleagues are reading in my network. So, it’s been very helpful for me.
Q: You recently started a blog called “The Prudent Plastic Surgeon.” Can you tell us a little bit about it?
A: Yes! The Prudent Plastic Surgeon is a blog that I started about six months ago. The reason I started it is because, for the most part, I had stuck my head in the sand when it came to my personal finances. I realized that I was getting disillusioned by that. I always had this perception that had been told to me by others that, “Oh, you're going to be a plastic surgeon. When you get to be an attending, everything's going to work out financially and you'll be fine.” I was at the end of my training and quickly realizing that it wasn't quite the case for me.
So my wife and I decided to start our financial education and learn about personal finance. I really wanted to take back control. In a matter of just a few months, we went from totally financially clueless to managing our finances. Many of my colleagues would come to me, both residents and attendings, and ask me questions about how I did it. I started to realize I’m not the only one who’s going through these financial struggles and a lot of doctors needed help. So, I started this blog to share my journey on this path to financial freedom. I'm very much still working to achieve my own financial wellbeing, but I wanted to share as much knowledge as I could to help as many physicians as I can.
Q: What are some actionable tips you can give your colleagues who may be struggling to pay back their medical school debt?
A: Many people don’t realize when doctors finish medical school, especially after residency, doctors have a lot of debt. I think the average is around $200,000. I had over $400,000. And that was a big reason why I started the blog. I wanted to show people if I can take steps to improve my financial wellbeing, they can too.
My top three actionable tips for managing your finances include: Start learning about finances because a lot of us just never even think about it and it's not a part of our formal medical education. I would recommend choosing one personal finance book, like “The White Coat Investor” or “The Millionaire Next Door.” Just order it from Amazon and start reading it. Then choose a blog to follow. Obviously, you can choose mine, the Prudent Plastic Surgeon, and just try to read a post every day. Just by doing this, you'll learn little things you can do to really improve your situation.
My second tip is for anyone – a medical student, trainee or an attending. Really focus on paying down your debt. Too often, we’re told that student debt is “good debt.” But the fact is that no debt is good debt. The sooner you can pay it off, the sooner you’ll reach financial freedom. Then you’ll be able to practice on your own terms and not be tied to money. Even if you’re in residency and all you can contribute right now is a hundred dollars a month– do it. Each dollar you pay towards your debt is a dollar that you're increasing your net worth.
My final top is to start thinking about increasing your wealth. I call it “on the margins” but you want to think about the ways that, as a physician, you can either increase your income or decrease your spending. A lot of times when you're a trainee, the only way you can do that is by decreasing your spending. A really simple way to do that is just by developing a budget. Don’t look at it as a restrictive thing. View it as a permissive thing. It's a treasure map to your financial success. So it's not something to hate, it's something to love. Go through your past months of expenses and put them into categories. Calculate how much you're spending, then the next month, try to decrease each area by even a little bit. Keep maintaining this new budget and before you know it, you’ll be saving at least 20% of your income every month.