A Financial Management Curriculum for Surgery Residents

By Jason Mizell, MD & Katherine Berry, EdD

Residency is a time when many young physicians begin to develop and move forward with their long-term career and personal goals. Medical school ends and the transition to the physician working world begins. For some specialties, the business of medicine is well represented throughout their residency education. However,   for surgeons-in-training, even after four years of medical school and then a five-year residency, most have little education in the business aspects of practice management or personal finance.

In a review of related surgical education literature, a national study reported program directors believe that the business of medicine is an important curricular topic. . We surveyed UAMS surgery residents to measure prior exposure to and interest in business and financial management curricula. According to the results, only 20 percent of residents cited having any type of exposure at all – disconcertingly low numbers indicating a curriculum niche for us to fill. Although residents reported little exposure, their interest in the topic was remarkably high. Additionally, I had a personal interest in pursuing research in financial management and resident education. Based on these factors, we developed a curriculum that would educate residents in personal and business finance, and then studied the interest and knowledge gained during the curricula implementation. While our primary goal was helping residents make better personal and business financial decisions, we also hoped this would lead to more involvement in healthcare reform and the economics of medicine.

The program offers two lectures per month, one with a business focus and one with a personal finance focus. Topics from the business side include correct billing and coding for outpatient and in-patient services, saving money for future business opportunities such as opening a private practice, how to negotiate employment contracts, who and how to hire, and implementation of EMR. We have brought in several guest speakers, including an attorney who provided information on malpractice and risk management.

One unique element of the curriculum is we also teach residents about personal financial management. Many residents are getting ready to adjust to a larger income and start families, so we wanted to give them a sense of how to solidify their assets, and how to provide for a family in a sustainable manner.  On the personal finance side, we cover topics such as retirement planning, estate planning, college savings for dependents, retirement demographics, and various investment strategies. We also discuss loan management and debt reduction, designed to help students prioritize paying off loans in an individualized way.

So far after two years of implementation, qualitative and quantitative feedback has confirmed resident response is very positive. Residents have reported not only significant benefit in aspects of personal finance such as family planning and organizing their finances (especially with regard to credit card debt), but also several aspects of business management. A frequently requested topic about which residents want to know more is coding and billing. We are seeing residents not just realizing they needed more information, but actively seeking more knowledge in both business and personal financial management. We continue to modify the curriculum and customize it to fit the needs of our residents.

While the current curriculum is presented only to general surgery residents, we are exploring ways to expand the curriculum to other specialty programs across UAMS. Two general surgery residency programs at other institutions have expressed interest in implementing a similar curriculum for their residents. We recently presented our first-year findings at the 2013 Group on Resident Affairs (GRA) Spring Meeting in May.

VIDEO EXTRA:
The Wing of Zock and AAMC Health Care Affairs team sat down with Dr. Mizell at the Group on Resident Affairs 2013 Spring Meeting in Savannah, GA to talk about the future of his residency finance curriculum. See what he had to say in the video below.

Jason Mizell  Jason S. Mizell, MD, FACS FASCRS is an Assistant Professor of Surgery in the Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He also serves as the Director of Medical Student Clerkship. He can be reached at jsmizell@uams.edu.

katherine-berry-1-21-e1372349569955 (1) Katherine Berry, ED has worked in higher education for more than 20 years. She is the current Assistant Professor, Office of Educational Development at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She can be reached at KSBerry@uams.edu.  

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5 Responses to A Financial Management Curriculum for Surgery Residents

  1. linda barney says:

    This is a great idea Jason. We have been offering pieces of the practice management and personal finance curriculum for awhile but have just started to roll it together in a uniform fashion.The American College of Surgeons is working on some of this and has 2 monographs, Surgeons as employee of hospitals, primer for understanding alternative physician payment approaches and has recently done 2 webinars and CPT and RUC process. There is an older introductory billing and coding CD for residents that is downloadable on the ACS web and many “how to” focused billing and coding articles searchable in past bulletins. Thanks for your valuable input.

  2. thrushcarolr says:

    Well done Dr Mizell and Dr Berry!

  3. Nanziri Angella says:

    Hello,am working with Rakai Health Science Program n its science based but i wuold like to make a presentation about personal finance but i had difficulty in making a brief power point presentation,i need your guidance.

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