One of our clearest memories in medical school was a professor who looked at an empty chair in class and remarked about how many people would love to have been sitting in that seat. It was a powerful reminder of how fortunate we were to be pursuing our dream of becoming physicians and, at the same time, a call to never take it for granted. For many of us, medicine is a calling and we treat our careers as such — yes, we work and get paid (oftentimes well) for our services, but what we do daily goes back to the core value of using our training to help others. And that’s precisely why it was so natural for us to make the transition to our new careers.

We met in medical school at Johns Hopkins, and then went on to rather similar career paths after graduation. Stephen went on to train in Diagnostic Radiology with a subspecialization in Women’s Imaging while Mark trained in Dermatology with a subspecialization in Mohs Surgery. Stephen would go on to run a diagnostic laboratory, found and sell a multispecialty practice, manage an allied health school, and consult for McKinsey and Company in their healthcare practice. Mark would found, grow, and sell a multi-location dermatology practice, and also head a real estate development firm. We both discovered how taxing running a private practice was in today’s healthcare environment. Physicians are familiar with the challenges: massive consolidation by PE and hospital systems that often commoditize health care, persistent staffing and supply shortages, and many competing interests that are distancing patients and physician (insurance companies and big pharma, to name a few). We also discovered that many vendors and other professionals would target us as “easy prey” simply because we were physicians. They thought that we were naive and would buy into whatever they were selling because doctors don’t get much if any business training, and so their pitches of expensive lasers that would “only need 5 patients a week to break even” would often ended up persuading some of our fellow doctors (and yes, even us sometimes). Although we both had considerable entrepreneurial experience and MBAs, we had to quickly learn how to navigate our increasingly complicated health care system and try to find innovative solutions to our business problems.

One of our earliest challenges as medical practice owners was assembling a competent team of financial advisors that served as fiduciaries and had our best interests at the forefront. What we found was that often each particular advisor seemed siloed and unable to opine on matters at the margins of their fields of expertise. Much like in medicine, there was a sub-specialization phenomenon wherein people were seemingly unable or unwilling to weigh in on adjacent subject matters. As a result, the coordination of interrelated financial issues that impact each other seemed sorely lacking. What we wanted was simple: an all in one solution with a firm that took a holistic approach. We essentially wanted the equivalent of a good and deeply knowledgeable general practitioner, who we knew was worth his or her weight in gold. Soon after enrolling at the University of Virginia in their CFP program, which included a wide range of courses that took over two years to complete, we realized that there was a model of comprehensive and fiduciary financial planning out there, and we knew we had found our next calling.

Ultimately, we decided to leave medicine because we discovered a true passion for helping people with a different kind of health — their financial health. Just as in medicine, we take patient histories, ask probing questions, and utilize empathetic problem solving. Just as in medicine, we make diagnoses, use tools to create treatment plans, and educate and coach about proper implementation of the prescription. Just as in medicine, we are able to effect a clear improvement in the state of the patient and see tangible, life-changing results.

We formed Acts Financial Advisors to provide comprehensive, evidence-based financial advisory services for physicians and business owners and entrepreneurs. Like primary care doctors, we focus on holistic financial planning in the seven major financial planning areas. Like specialist physicians, we go especially deep in areas of tax planning, investment management, real estate, and business exit planning. It’s been intellectually exciting and we still feel we’re helping people, only now with their financial lives. Although it was bittersweet to make the final decision to leave medicine, we’re happy we still are utilizing many of the same skills and techniques that we learned in our medical careers.

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