Tired of Medicine? 20 Nonclinical Career Options

Leigh Page


March 14, 2018

In This Article

The Worlds of Finance and Technology

3. Work in Financial Planning

Physicians who are successful in financial planning can use some of the skills they honed as clinicians and attain previous earning levels, but building the business involves hard work over several years.

Joel Greenwald, MD, was a practicing internist in the Minneapolis area for 11 years before switching to financial planning. "I was in my mid-30s, and I said to myself, 'I can't feel like this for 30 more years,'" he recalls.

He says he was always interested in financial planning, which he says is a lot like practicing medicine: Clients come to him with problems, and then he asks questions, comes up with solutions, and develops a program for them.

However, the switch took years. First came the required classes and an exam to become a certified financial planner (CFP), which he completed while still in practice. Then he quit practicing to launch his new business, Greenwald Wealth Management. But during the first 3 years, he wasn't allowed to represent himself as a CFP and didn't have many customers.

When he could finally hang up his CFP shingle, Dr Greenwald realized that his best clientele would be other physicians. Very focused on their work, they often don't have time to tend to their finances.

"Free time away from your practice is a precious commodity," he says. And because of the MD after his name, Dr Greenwald could gain physicians' trust, which is necessary when handling someone else's money.

Dr Greenwald has worked hard to get new clients, writing articles on his new profession in major publications and speaking before physician groups. But even with all of the effort he's put into his second career, he thinks the work is a lot simpler than running a practice.

"I serve 80 households of clients, and I have two employees," he says. "All I need to do is make them happy." Now that he has a busy practice, "I make more money than I would as a general internist," he said.

Pros: This path is a good fit for physicians who have financial skills, and in time you can potentially match your clinical income.

Cons: You need to have a knack for managing finances, and it takes years to establish the business.

4. Work With Digital Technology

If you have expertise in computer technology, there are a variety of careers to choose from, including advising on electronic health record (EHR) programs, working in the IT department of a hospital, creating software applications, and even launching a technology start-up company.

Doctors often blame unmanageable EHR systems on chief information officers (CIOs) who have no medical background. To correct this problem, hospitals have been hiring physicians as chief medical information officers (CMIOs). These doctors serve as liaisons to the medical staff and apply a clinician's insights into developing computer technology.

In a 2016 survey of healthcare IT leaders, 71% indicated their organization employs a clinical IT leader, such as a CMIO.[4] "When you think about the physicians and CMIOs coming on, they bring in this culture [of] connectivity and analytics," Lorren Pettit, vice president of market research for the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, told EHR Intelligence magazine.[5]

A widely acknowledged model for this position is John D. Halamka, MD, who has been CIO at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston for many years. He also writes the Life as a Healthcare CIO blog and puts in time practicing emergency medicine.

Physicians can also offer useful input into improving EHR design. A company called Modernizing Medicine, based in Boca Raton, Florida, seeks to bridge the gap between doctors and software engineers by teaching physicians computer coding and having them design specialty-specific EHRs, according to a report.[6] The physicians even go on the road to market their product, while they continue to practice medicine.

Beyond EHRs, physicians can play a role in developing a variety of new software applications, ranging from at-home patient monitoring to providing doctors with quick access to best practices. For example, Thomas Osborne, MD, a radiologist in Vista, California, has been reading scans for vRad, a large telemedicine company. Recently, he was named the company's medical director of informatics.

To demonstrate his abilities and get the job, he did IT work and volunteered for a company project. "My successful involvement has in turn put me in a position to be involved in other areas of the rapidly expanding business," he told Medscape.

Some physicians dropped out of medicine to work on software even before they completed their residency. Scott Zimmerman, MD, CEO of Xola.com, a travel booking website based in San Francisco, said he became interested in software coding while in medical school and left a neurology residency program at Stanford to devote himself full-time to the company.

"People told me I was crazy," he tells Medscape. "I only had $10,000 in the bank and nearly $200,000 in student loans, with a six-figure salary just in reach." But the new company raised $2 million from several investors.

Pros: A variety of career paths are available to those who are computer-savvy.

Cons: Most physicians don't have a strong enough background for these jobs, and additional learning and experience would be required.


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