Jimmy Turner | MD of The Physician Philosopher and Life Coach Doctor
Success leaves clues
Finance Strategists sat down with Jimmy Turner, MD of the Physician Philosopher and Life Coach Doctor. He discussed how his past inspired him to take on these projects, as well as the insight he gained along the way.
Who is Jimmy Turner?
Q: Who are you and what’s your background?
The name on my birth certificate is James Turner, but everyone – including my friends and family and the nurses, medical students, and residents I work with – call me Jimmy. Honestly, only my patients call me Dr. Turner and that’s because it makes them feel better. I am a husband, father, physician anesthesiologist, and entrepreneur.
I am an academic physician anesthesiologist at Wake Forest Baptist in Winston-Salem, NC. In fact, we have been in Winston-Salem since 2008 when I started medical school, and have stayed here through my residency training in anesthesiology, fellowship training in regional anesthesia and acute pain management. Now, I’m on faculty.
Yet, it isn’t my medical background that led me to create The Physician Philosopher, a personal finance website for physicians, or Life Coach Doctor where I help with life, career, and money coaching for doctors.
It was my experience going through bankruptcy as a kid that started this journey, the large student loan debt burden from medical training, and my experience getting hood-winked by the insurance industry that led me to star The Physician Philosopher.
After these experiences, I gobbled up every physician/personal finance book, blog, and podcast I could find. I started to teach my residents in training the concepts, and found out that there was still a huge need.
Then, my family and I paid off $300,000 in debt and increased our networth by $500,000 in two years. On the way, I created The Physician Philosopher blog, the Money Meets Medicine podcast, and authored The Physician Philosopher’s Guide to Personal Finance.
Q: Who has been your biggest influence, and why did they have such a significant effect on you?
The physicians in the throngs of the burnout epidemic have been my biggest influence.
Most physicians go through 7 to 13 years worth of post-college training while undergoing grueling hours, little sleep, and seeing things that humans were never meant to experience while receiving little recognition or reward. Of course, all of this is done with the anticipation of being able to help people someday, and the hope that the light at the end of the tunnel will someday make all of this hard work worth the price we’ve paid.
As it turns out, that often isn’t the case as surveys have shown that around 40-50% of physicians are burned out (or, said more aptly, morally injured) by their profession.
So, what do doctors do?
They make financial decisions to attempt to find the joy and satisfaction they thought would come with a life in medicine. Unfortunately, buying the lifestyle that is befitting a physician – including the big house, nice cars, private school for the kids, and more – does not provide happiness.
In fact, it provides the opposite.
Doctors feel trapped in their lifestyle and in a situation where their burnout can only get worse. Sadly, it sometimes doesn’t stop there. On average, a doctor a day dies by suicide.
It is this influential – and unfortunately common – story that created a fire within me to help doctors find the financial freedom they deserve so that they can practice medicine because they want to, and not because they have to due to financial constraints.
Q: Knowing what you know now, what would you have told yourself when you were in your twenties?
In terms of medicine, I would tell myself to take better care of myself. Draw lines and boundaries. Look out for those around you. Ask how others are doing. Make eye contact. Ask them again, “No, really. How are you doing?” I would (and still do) encourage myself to recognize that it is possible to be a good husband, dad, and doctor.
As for The Physician Philosopher and everything it has spawned, I would have told myself that showing up, providing value, and being consistent is far and away the most important aspect of content creation and growing an audience.
If you do that, the rest will follow.
What is The Physician Philosopher?
Q: What is The Physician Philosopher?
It turns out that everyone learns in a different way.
The Physician Philosopher was born in November of 2018. At its core, it is a blog with consistent posts written three days per week since its birth. The content focuses on financial freedom/literacy and how this can allow doctors to defeat burnout and allow them to live the life they deserve.
Later on I learned that some prefer auditory mediums. Money Meets Medicine blossomed from The Physician Philosopher where I co-host a show with Ryan Inman, a flat fee-only financial planner married to a Pediatric Pulmonologist. We host shows each Wednesday, and spend an equal amount of time bantering and making fun of each other as we do helping medical professionals become financially literate.
And the most recent branch of my work is with individual Life, Career, and Money Coaching for physicians through the Life Coach Doctor. This is certainly my deepest, and most life-changing work.
Q: What makes your company different from its competitors?
The Physician Philosopher is one of very few (maybe the only?) blog that consistently connects the dots between physician burnout/wellness with financial literacy. The intrinsic connection is obvious, but it is not something commonly covered elsewhere in the blogging world.
Money Meets Medicine combines the financial expertise of a financial planner who has helped hundreds of doctors with a physician finance blogger who has the experience of being a working physician. Most people write to us to tell us that they enjoy the light-hearted banter that Ryan and I produce on MMM, which keeps the show interesting while also informative.
The Life Coach Doctor is truly unique. Finding a male physician life coach is challenging in and of itself. Finding one who has gone through burnout, depression, and come out the other side by wielding financial freedom and life coaching skills is even less common. This is hard work for the client, but so worth it.
Q: What led you to start The Physician Philosopher?
As alluded to above, The Physician Philosopher was started for two reasons.
First, the burnout epidemic described above has been ravaging our system of its doctors. Physicians are leaving medicine in droves, burning out, experiencing moral injury, and more.
Second, I have always felt that the way for doctors to achieve the work-life balance that they truly want is through financial freedom. Whether this comes from saving your way to your freedom or producing non-clinical income streams to relieve you of having to make money in medicine, the freedom provided by financial literacy is very real.
It turns out that when doctors find the work-life balance they need, they fall back in love with medicine.
Q: What has the experience of building the business taught you?
Being an entrepreneur has taught me so much that I did not learn in medical school. Most importantly, I no longer think inside the box. Just because doctors before me followed a certain path, does not mean that I have to do the same.
As it turns out, entrepreneurs are serial problem solvers. Issues constantly come up when starting a business. Learning how to deal with these problems has made me a better and more efficient problem solver. This has also translated into helping me become a better physician.
Perhaps the biggest lesson that building a successful business has taught me is that I am my own worst enemy. When we think and create our goals intentionally, there is very little that cannot be accomplished. First, we must get past those little lies we constantly tell ourselves like “I don’t have enough time” or “I’m too busy” or “I didn’t learn X in school and, therefore, I can’t figure it out.”
Set the goal you want to see, design a plan to get there, and stick with it.
Q: Where do you see things headed for you in the next 5 years?
With my clinical income alone, my family was already well on our way to be financially independent in our mid-40s. With the addition of the non-clinical income produced by The Physician Philosopher, Money Meets Medicine, and the Life Coach Doctor… I was able to go part-time in medicine only 3 years into my career.
Going forward, I will be working on moving closer and closer toward living my ideal day, week, and year as much as possible. This will include being the best husband, father, doctor, and entrepreneur I can be.
I have little plans of leaving medicine as I love taking care of patients and teaching my students and residents. My time outside of medicine will continue to focus on helping burned out doctors find the work-life balance and financial freedom that they deserve through coaching, online courses, and content.