My name is Dave Denniston, your host. Welcome back to the latest episode of The Freedom Formula for Physicians Podcast.
Welcome back to our monthly fireside chat with a physician to get to know their journey, their joys, and their struggles with finances and outside of finances.
This show is not always about actionable content. It is however a chance for you to see behind the curtains, to walk in another person’s shoes and experience their lives.
Our next guest is a physician and is more involved in advocacy for physicians and about 1,000 other activities more so than any other person I’ve ever seen.
To give you a small sample- she is a pediatrician at the children’s hospital of Philadelphia, she is a board member of physicians working together, she is on the editorial board of the Doylestown Intelligencier, and she is the co-founder and executive VP of The Practicing Physicians of America.
I can’t wait to hear about her journey!
Please help me welcome Dr. Marion Mass.
In this part one of this podcast, you will discover…
- Why a ‘farm girl’ raised around Mennonites believes that manure shoveling helps you in life
- Where she believes common sense can come from & how it applies to parents
- How slaughtering pigs and a female doctor influenced her to enter into medicine
- Discover how she lived on $9,000 a year and saved $2,000 a year during medical school
- Learn about the emotional moment she changed directions in her medical career & abandoned her fellowship
- Discover her time hacks to save money and spend time with the family
In part two of this podcast, you will discover…
- How the Practicing Physicians of America was formed
- Learn about why a tragic experience with her mom caused her to question the system
- Hear how I challenge Marion on working to change the system
- Discover her perspective on the AMA & the conflicts of interest she found
- How the PPA is trying to change recertification
Resources Mentioned In This Podcast
Dave: Well, welcome back, my friends, to the Freedom Formula for Physicians Podcast. This is a podcast dedicated to helping doctors like you slash your debt, slash your taxes, and live a liberated lifestyle. And today, my friends, we have an interview with Dr. Marion Mass. This is a fun interview. I’m going to split this into two parts because honestly, I’m a little behind in creating some new stuff. And this interview went for a while, so I’m going to split it into two parts, one for this week and one for next. And I think what you’ll enjoy about Marion, we start off, of course, getting to know her a little bit. And everything really builds on itself. And there’s just a moment where she gets emotional in the podcast. And there are just some very touching moments in this first part that I know you are really going to enjoy. Just to give you a small sample, you’re going to discover why a farm girl—I’ll put that in quotes—raised around Mennonites believes that manure shoveling helps you in life. So you’re going to talk about that. You’re going to learn where she believes common sense comes from and how she has been applying it in her parenting. We’re also going to talk about how slaughtering pigs and a female doctor influenced her to enter medicine. And also, my friend, you’re going to discover how she lived on $9,000 a year and still saved $2,000 when she was in medical school. And then finally, we’re going to be getting, in this first part of the podcast, into this emotional moment that she changed directions in her medical career. As a matter of fact, she abandoned a fellowship. So you’re going to learn about that. And then finally, you’re going to discover her time hacks to save money. So I think this is going to be really fun. You’re going to enjoy it. With no further ado, please enjoy this interview with Marion Mass.
Dave: My name is Dave Denniston, your host. And welcome back to the latest episode of the Freedom Formula for Physicians Podcast. And, my friends, I want to welcome you back to a monthly fireside chat with a physician to get to know their journey, their joys, and their struggles with finances and outside of finances. And as you know, this show is not always about actionable content. Today is about having a chance for you to stay behind the curtains, to walk in another physician’s shoes, and to experience what they’ve gone through. Our next guest, she is a physician that… In addition to that, she is involved in an advocacy for physicians. And she has about a thousand other activities that’s keeping her busy, probably more so than any other doctor I’ve ever seen. To give you a small sample, she’s a pediatrician at a children’s hospital in Philadelphia. She’s a board member of Physicians Working Together. She’s on the editorial board of the Doylestown Intelligencer. And on top of that, she is the cofounder and executive VP of the Practicing Physicians of America. Ooh. A lot of stuff. I don’t know how she does it. So I can’t wait to hear about this journey. Please help me welcome Dr. Marion Mass. Welcome, Marion.
Dr. Mass: Oh. David, thank you so much for having me. It’s an honor to be on the program and a pleasure as well.
Dave: Well, it’s so fun for me, Marion, to have people like you on. And you and I are connected through LinkedIn, which I think is just a great channel to connect with people on. So I’d encourage everyone, feel free to reach out to either of us because we are folks that use LinkedIn. And Marion, today, I want to just have you share with us your wisdom and your journey, because this is a podcast about helping to empower doctors with knowledge, whether it’s talking about debt or taxes or living a liberated lifestyle or enjoying medicine better. That’s what this is all about. But before we get into that, I’d just love people to know about where you have been to. So let us know about your journey and your wisdom. So tell us a little bit about you, Marion. Where did you grow up? And a question I always like to ask is what did your childhood smell like?
Dr. Mass: Well, am I the first person to say cow manure as an answer?
Dave: Cow manure.
Dr. Mass: It’s true. It’s true. So I grew up in Bucks County. We’re in suburban Philadelphia. And you would think that Hilltown, Pennsylvania is actually not the well-heeled suburbs. I was literally surrounded by wonderful salt of the earth Mennonite farmers. And I grew up in six acres. My father was a Philadelphia city boy. He was the baby of eight. And he left the city and couldn’t wait to dig in the dirt. So he bought six acres, and I was raised on those acres with my four brothers. We grew almost every vegetable we ate. And my father allowed these Mennonite farmers to farm the land. And they fertilized cow manure, and we had to shovel it on the garden. And I think that the more literal manure that you shovel, the less figurative manure you shovel.
Dave: I love it. That’s great. How did… I think about that I grew up in a suburban area where pretty much everything was around. You didn’t have to work the farm, so to speak. How did that kind of play into your work ethic and who you are? Tell us more about what that was like and growing up, shoveling manure, and doing stuff that a lot of us that grew up in suburban areas don’t have to do.
Dr. Mass: Oh, wow. Of course. Neither of my parents went to college. And they raised the five of us. Among us, we have a cop, a business owner, someone who works for the same business, and my other brother, who’s one of my best friends, is an MD-PhD, a cardiologist who trained at Emory. So how did two parents who didn’t even go to college achieve this? And by the way, we’re all happily married. We all vote in every election. And we all have jobs and do volunteer work. So I think that we were raised in… The very strong work ethic comes from my father’s German side and my mother’s Slavic side as well. There’s a lot of common sense. And I think that when you’re working the land or you’re doing something real with your hands, whether it be, I don’t know, animal husbandry or woodworking or what have you, you learn common sense. And I guess, I don’t know whether I would say learn. It just becomes part of you. I think that in our modern world, because people are so hands-off, we’re losing sight of that. And I tell my kids all the time, and they actually garden with me now, I make them do daily tasks, daily chores, and things like gardening because I think that that common sense and that work ethic are two things that have carried me through my entire life and are probably more responsible than anything else for anything that anyone would measure as success in my life.
Dave: Interesting. So you’re growing up, you’re on a farm surrounded by Mennonites. Was values something taught in the home or around you kind of by being around neighbors like that? What kind of influence was that like on you growing [Indiscernible 0:07:49] Mennonites like that?
Dr. Mass: Oh, both. There’s other people that lived in our area. And I was actually raised Roman Catholic. And I still practice. And our children do as well with us. But I guess maybe I recognized that since we had people around us that came from different backgrounds that there are many paths and…many paths to goodness. How about I say that? So it was a huge influence, but my mother would always say that charity begins in the home. And I don’t think she meant just doing kindness for others. I think she meant having values, that begins in your home. We’re very fond of saying, “It takes a village,” and sometimes, it does take a village when there’s homes that are broken and unable to bring values into them, but I think that they let us feel a value system under our roof, under our childhood roof and then sent us out into the world at large and allowed us experience other things. So for instance, we went to a Bible school, a Mennonite Bible school, and did wilderness camp. My brothers were all boy scouts. They saw people in that venue. We were taken into the city to visit relatives. And we did volunteer work within our school, within our church, within our community. So we were not kept to just underneath our home. We were… As we got older, we were allowed to extend, and I think that that solidified the idea of charity and of values for all of us.
Dave: Fascinating. Huh. Well, as you’re growing up on the farm, did…and doing—growing up as you did, your brother wanted to be a doctor eventually, when did that journey happen for you? When did you grow to love medicine? Because you weren’t around doctors. You’re in that community. Was there someone you looked up to or…? How did that come about?
Dr. Mass: Oh, absolutely. So a little… A couple of things. I had a pediatrician who was a woman growing up. So she was the only woman in the practice, and I adored her. She retired right when I moved back to this area. I actually live in the area that I grew up in. I did medical school and residency all over the country and lived in other places as well, but when I came back here, I had done my first four months. And she was just retiring, but she was a big influence on my life. Dr. Sheller [Phonetic 0:10:26]. And I just… When you’re a young girl and you decide, “I want to go do something.” And do something, at the time, I guess I would say something important or something great, something wonderful. She did really influence me. And I think that brother that is a doctor, he and I just both shared a love of science and nature, animals, things like that. So my father… We didn’t grow up with money. And we didn’t actually live on a farm. My dad farmed the land and had neighborhood farmers farm it, but he would use, as his vacation, for the first…I think until I was in seventh grade, he would sometimes just take the week off and do a staycation. And one of the things that we would do is go help the neighboring farmer butcher his animals. And I remember watching the steers and the pigs be shot and then getting handed an eyeball to dissect. And, like, watching the animal be cleaned out was fascinating for me. I loved that. My poor mother, because she has one daughter, and I’m sure she [Indiscernible 0:11:29], “Really? This is what you want to go do?” But it was. And I was amazed by the way a body worked. And I think by the time I was in fourth grade, I knew I wanted to be a doctor.
Dave: Interesting. So you’re going through high school. You apply for undergrad. Did you apply for medicine? Or what was that moment like as you transitioned from high school to undergrad?
Dr. Mass: Yes. So I went to Penn State. And I do remember applying to Cornell as an undergrad, and I didn’t get in. I didn’t even get an interview. And I was okay with that. Penn State was close. And my father told me he was happy to support me at college. He could do a better job if I chose a school that wasn’t so pricey. So I went there. And I was really glad that I did. I’m an extrovert, so it was okay for me to be in a big community. And I had this love and passion as well, like, for classical mythology. So I did a minor in classics, and it enabled me to study abroad in Greece my last semester, which was a fascinating experience and almost like a break before medical school. So that’s what I did. I had a great time at Penn State. I still kept in touch with people. My best two girl friends are coming next weekend to go to the Philadelphia Flower Show with me. Can’t wait to be with them. So shoutout to Karen and Allison.
Dave: The shoutouts.
Dave: So it sounds like you were really on that path at the time. You were really young. You loved anatomy. You loved… You looked up to a family friend that influenced you. So you’re in medical school now. And it sounds like money wasn’t something that really had been taught to you, but you had kind of work ethic. So I’d love to know, what were your experiences with money at this particular point in your journey?
Dr. Mass: Oh. Oh, this is actually quite interesting. So I… During my summers in college, I started working at Merck, the pharmaceutical company. And I did research in cardiovascular pharmacology. And I actually went to medical school thinking… I started out as an MD-PhD candidate. I had a full ride to the National Institutes of Health program. They call it Medical Scientist Training Program. And at the time, when I started at Duke, I thought I was going to do a PhD. And I was granted full tuition plus a $9,000 stipend.
Dr. Mass: And these crazy parents of mine who… My mother… You laugh and you say, “Oh. I do all these things.” And it’s kind of more than most people do.” It comes right from my mother. So she raised those five kids, and then she went out and ran the PTA and started the drug prevention program and [Indiscernible 0:16:17] the librarian, ran the first store in town. And so my mother was very thrifty herself. So she taught me how to save a penny. So medical school, I lived on $9,000 a year, and I saved about $2,000 every year in Durham, North Carolina. And then when I got to my second year of medical school, I was partway through my clinical rotations. At Duke, we did one year of basic science and then went right into clinics. And then if I had stayed in my PhD program, I would have done probably five years as a PhD then gone back to rotations. But I got stuck second year. And for the first time, I was taking care of patients, like, hands-on, meeting patients, hearing their histories. And I had done all this research before. Research was exciting for me and interesting, but when I laid my hand on a patient and I spoke to them and I heard their story, I guess what I became was a healer at that point. And I discovered that that was really where I needed to be. So I gave up my fellowship. And I had to take on several loans, but it wasn’t awful then. I feel really badly for the young medical students who are hearing this. When I started Duke med school in 1990, our tuition was $13,000 a year.
Dave: [Crosstalk 0:17:40] kill for that now.
Dr. Mass: I know. At Duke Med. We were the third best med school in the country at the time. And that’s astounding. It’s so much more now. But they had already paid three years’ worth of school for me, so I didn’t have a big debt coming out of medical school. And I had saved money even in medical school, even on that stipend, I guess, because I grew up frugally. I still live that way. I guess I’m telling the whole, whoever is listening to this that I still shop at thrift stores because it’s really fun. So…
Dave: That’s a good habit to have. Interesting. So you make this chan—now, I want to know about that moment. You’re sitting with a patient. You’re having this connection. Was it a moment that was exhilarating? Was it a moment that was a little depressing just in having to know that you’re changing course? What was that moment like as you considered changing course?
Dr. Mass: Oh, yes. Yes. Exhilarating and frightening, but I think frightening only given my age. So it was exhilarating because you feel as though, “I know what I need to do for the rest of my life. I know what’s going to make me happy in my career for the rest of my life.” It was like a lightning bolt. And I can still… It was during my pediatric rotation. It was my second rotation. And I still remember some of the names of those patients and some of their clinical situations. They stuck with me. And I can think of one in particular, a little girl who did not make it and her family. And after the little girl had passed from leukemia, I was speaking to the parents. And the father… I call these moments of grace. I get a little choked up. I apologize. But the father, despite his grief, thanked me and just said how wonderful it was to work together with me. And I just felt that even when things go bad, this is where I want to be. I want to be helping and healing. And that was my moment of… I can’t keep—I can’t stay in this fellowship because I don’t want to be a researcher. I want to be a doctor, a doctor who heals people. And then I went and I called my parents. They were the first people I called. I was a little frightened then. But they were the same people they always were, just so supportive. And they said, “Of course. We’ll make it through med school. We’ll figure this out. This is what you need to do.” And then when I went to my MD-PhD advisor. I still remember him very clearly, [Indiscernible 0:20:43], another shoutout. He’ll probably never hear this, but he was enormously supportive. And then I knew I was fine. But I was a little frightened going into those situations because there you are. Listen. I’m like a little Hilltown, Pennsylvania country girl at Duke Med and then going into one of the most biochemist’s office and saying, “I’m going to reject everything that you’ve given me here and take another path.” And I didn’t know what was going to be said. And I was really bowled over and very grateful. So anyhow…
Dave: Wow. What moment.
Dr. Mass: Yeah.
Dave: What a powerful, powerful moment that certainly changed your career and what you’re doing. And you end up going through residency. It was a three year program of residency then?
Dr. Mass: Pediatric. Yeah. Pediatric. Yeah.
Dave: In pediatric. So when you…
Dr. Mass: And I trained in Chicago. Yeah.
Dave: Did you see for yourself, in terms of… It sounds like the way your mom had trained you, you mentioned going to thrift shops and that you were saving even when you had a tiny little sliver of money. Were you seeing a difference between yourself and your colleagues? How would you say that the way you thought about money was the same or different than other residents and people you were around?
Dr. Mass: Well, I do think I was probably more frugal than most, but I think that whatever money that you have, I mean, money, I just look upon it as a tool. Right? And then you learn to earn it, and then you decide how you’re going to spend it. And I really think that our money really should be ours to spend the way we choose as long as we’re not harming anyone else in the process. I think that I saved more than most, but I still spent on some things. My husband and I, we traveled in residency. We always traveled off season, so we actually didn’t spend very much. I mean, when you’re… We were living in Chicago. I think we each made $20,000 a year as residents. Pretty funny. I mean, he’s a surgeon. I think he had some weeks when he was working 130 hours a week. We figured out and calculated what it was per hour one time, and I think we just knocked that number right out of my minds because it just made us sick. But we still managed, even on that salary, to be able to travel and went for various places. So I scrimped in those areas of… I would usually cook for myself, because I love to cook. And I would… In terms of purchasing things, most of my things are always bought…I don’t—I almost never buy anything unless it’s on sale or it comes second-hand, which is now chic in recycling. But even back then, I was like that. And I think most people weren’t. And that’s okay. I mean, everyone decides how they’re going to spend their money. Right?
Dave: Well, here’s the thing I wonder. I’m sure there’s someone out there listening right now, and they’re like, “I buy some things on sale,” but maybe they’re not clipping coupons or doing something like that because they just don’t have the time. Right?
Dr. Mass: Right. Right.
Dave: Time is so precious for many physicians. How do you find the time to hunt down the deals? And you mentioned going through thrift shops. What are some hacks that you think might be good to pass on to other doctors that you use?
Dr. Mass: Oh. Okay. Yes. Okay. Well, I’m a rabid multitasker. So I guess I’ve taught my children to kind of enjoy the way that I shop. So my daughter and I shop together, and then that’s our way of spending time together. So a lot of people think, “Must have some fabulous vacation. Must da-da-da. Nails shop and get nails done with daughter. That’s how you spend time together.” I think, like, “Hey, Amanda. Let’s go to Impact Thrift Store.” And she loves it, to tell you the truth. And then I think even in terms of other household tasks, this morning, my son and I cleaned out the refrigerator together because it needed to be done, and he had a couple of extra minutes. And I said, “Hey. How about we do this together?” We fold laundry together as a family. Isn’t that, like, the dumbest, dorkiest thing you’ve ever heard? But in football season, my husband, he’s a big football aficionado, and so is the youngest. And, like, we’ll sort the laundry and fold the laundry altogether in front of Monday night football. And so, like, we multitask. We do things that… I guess it saved us money because we’re not hiring someone to do the laundry like a two physician family. And we’re not running out and purchasing clothes at Bloomingdale’s and Lord and Taylor, but we find our ways of saving money and kind of incorporating that with our family time that we do things together. I actually saved a lot of money growing those vegetables, too, I’ll add. And cooking. And my kids cook with me. So as a hack, in terms of doing those things and making time for them, make them fun. When coupons were more available, and I don’t think they are as much, the kids used to clip coupons with me from the Sunday paper. And, like, little kids love to cut out coupons and pictures.
Dave: Oh, yeah.
Dr. Mass: Yeah.
Dave: My littlest would tear it up. There wouldn’t be much left after she’s done with it. She [Indiscernible 0:25:53], my little miracle. Well, I’d love to know… So we talked about some good habits that you have, Marion. What do you think is the worst mistake that you’ve made financially?
Dr. Mass: Oh, wow. That’s a tough one. Now, you’ve stymied me. You know what? People would tell me it’s my worst mistake, but I don’t see it as a mistake. My husband handles the… When we make money and then we decide we’re going to invest or whatever, he does that part. It’s just not… I’m good at saving money, and as a pediatrician, I’m not as good in math professions. And medicine, as making money, we’re the bottom of the barrel. And that’s okay. I knew that going in. I guess I would say the worst financial mistake was maybe choosing to be a pediatrician, but I love it, so I’m not going to complain. That was my choice. I knew I would be on the lower side. And then others might say, “Well, one of your mistakes is you shouldn’t let your husband handle everything. You should have something separate.” But I think we have a 22 year old rock solid marriage. I think it’s all going to be okay.
Dave: It’s working out alright. Is it something where you feel like for yourself that maybe you feel like you could use some more knowledge in that area, but you just kind of put it on him.
Dr. Mass: I definitely do. Yes. Yes. And I truthfully tell—I have found a financial type person. And he and I have to get together. We’re going to get together and meet at some point. So another shoutout to Scott. I think I‘ll see him on Thursday night at a meeting, a social meeting. But just my life is so full right now that finding that time can be a little bit difficult, but I do need to do that. I really do because people have astutely pointed out, “What if something…” Not that… I pray it doesn’t, but what if something happens to your husband?
Dr. Mass: It’s good to be knowledgeable about those things.
Dave: Alright, my friends. Well, that brings us to the end of the podcast today. Make sure to look out for part two next week. And we’re going to get into—it might even be a little controversial. So make sure to stay tuned as Marion goes off for a moment. So this will be fun. It’ll be interesting. Maybe it will open your eyes and give you a little bit of a new perspective. And with that, my friends, remember, slash your debt, slash your taxes, live a liberated lifestyle. This is Dave Denniston. I’ll talk to you next time.
TRANSCRIPT OF PART 2
Dave: Hello, my friends. This is Dave Denniston. Welcome back to another episode of the Freedom Formula for Physicians Podcast. Well, in this episode today, this is part two of the interview with Dr. Marion Mass. And in this interview today, I promised you there’d be a little bit of controversy. You’re going to discover about this organization that she helped found called the Practicing Physicians of America. And you’re going to learn about the experience, a tragic experience that caused Marion to really question the system and what’s behind it. And this is leading to her perspective on the AMA and the conflicts of interest that she’s found. And what happens, what’s interesting is I challenged her on why not stay to change the system? So I thought that was a really interesting part of this conversation. And one of the things that she talks about in this conversation is recertification and how the PPA is trying to change recertification. So I think you’ll find it to be a really interesting conversation. I hope you get a lot of value out of it, maybe cause you to think a little bit, and it makes you aware of some things I personally wasn’t aware of. And with no further ado, here is part two.
Dave: Absolutely. Well, the last thing that you want to have done is being taken advantage of. Right? Which I know many colleagues have. One of the questions that I’d love to know, Marion, is obviously, you guys have been savers. You do a lot of things really well in terms of managing your budget. How are you tracking your progress towards financial freedom? What does that look like for you?
Dr. Mass: Don’t laugh at me. I won’t be able to answer this very well. Well, it looks like, it’d be asking my husband how it’s going, and he says, “I’ve got it under control.” So…
Dave: Don’t worry about it, honey.
Dr. Mass: Right. Well, no. And once in a while, we kind of go through things, but he’s very good about planning that. I mean, I think in a real partnership, in any kind of business venture or even personal venture, like a marriage, it’s, like, good to have one person… You complement each other.
Dr. Mass: C-O-M-P-L-E-M-E-N-T. And we do because that’s not my forte and it is his, so I let that be. But you’re right. I need to track that better. So we do follow and we actually… Here. Here’s one thing that I know that we did together. The day each child was born, we already had plans to save. And we knew what we needed to have in the bank the day each child was born. And we were pretty good about that. And that was with calculations of expanding college costs. And we all know that that’s certainly a problem. So [Crosstalk 0:03:36]—
Dave: Really? It’s gone up? I hadn’t noticed.
Dr. Mass: I think maybe even more than health care. Or maybe on the same trajectory, but…
Dave: It’s been crazy. Double the rate of inflation. So it’s nuts.
Dr. Mass: Yeah.
Dave: Well, let me just kind of switch the conversation a little bit because… I know that…I mentioned earlier in the introduction that you’re just so super passionate about health care. Obviously, we could hear in your voice earlier just the passion you have for patients as well too. And you… I mentioned that you cofounded the Practicing Physicians of America. So I’d love to know, how did that come about, Marion? And tell us about why you decided to found this and why you moved in that direction.
Dr. Mass: Okay. Well, it’s been a six year odyssey. It’s really hard to be in health care and have people that you love be in health care with you and not want to get involved in health. So I’ve only ever worked part-time as a pediatrician mainly because that we chose to stay—I chose to stay home with my kids and I worked nights and weekends when they were younger. So as soon as they all got to be in school age, I got more involved in, like, at least investigating and dissecting the whole health care system and what was going wrong, because it was obvious to me that something was going very wrong. It was obvious to all of America. But anyway…
Dave: You mean you don’t get an hour with your doctor? I…
Dr. Mass: No. No. No. Seriously.
Dave: [Crosstalk 0:05:00].
Dr. Mass: Oh my gosh. Yeah. Really. So the whole process was accelerated for me three years ago. So I’m sure that if you—when you backtrack through this, you’ll hear into my voice from my mother. We were—she and I were very close. And three years ago, my mother was abjectly humiliated by receiving poor care in an [Indiscernible 0:05:22] hospital despite my attempts to advocate for her. It happened three weeks after my father died. My father had lived with us in hospice for three and a half weeks. And when he passed, my mother, who had Alzheimer’s, she went crazy. And I think she went crazy because she couldn’t express herself. And she needed to be hospitalized for in-patient psych. And they loaded her up with medications. And when I found her in a hospital that was an hour and a half from my house, she was just slumped over, and her breakfast tray hadn’t been touched and it was almost noon. And I needed some help for her. And I went out to the nurse’s station and took them the coffee and the chocolates that I brought as thinly veiled bribes to attract their attention, because they run on caffeine in hospitals. And I tried to tell the staff, “This is who my mother is. She’s a volunteer. She’s a good person. She raised five children. And you oversedated her. That’s okay. I understand. She was combative when she got here. But we need to remove some of the sedation. And by the way, she hasn’t eaten breakfast. I’d be happy to spoon-feed her. I’ll help you with her the days that I can come here.” And those were the next three days. And every day, she was still sedated, and I was still needing to spoon-feed her. And I kept asking, “Is she getting fed when I’m not here?” Because she can’t advocate for herself. And then came three days that I couldn’t get there. I mean, I had missed a lot of work and I had missed a lot of kid time, having my father live with us in hospice, having to bury him and then having my mother go in the state that she went in. And they kept on reassuring me every time that I called that, “She was fine. She was fine. She was fine.” Then they told me she was ready for discharge. And I found her completely dehydrated and absolutely unresponsive. And they hadn’t even noticed.
Dave: No. No.
Dr. Mass: Wow! I literally could not believe that it happened right under my nose. And I felt a certain degree of shame because not only was I her daughter, but I was a daughter who’s a doctor and I couldn’t stop that? Wow! I was just bowled over. And we refused, as a family, to sue. Would have been pointless. You can’t equate money with life. That’s a pointless exercise hoisted on us by the trial lawyers that… They’re part of the wrecking ball in health care. But instead, we report it to regulatory agencies that were supposed to be watchdogs. And less than a year later, a friend called me, almost an eerily similar situation. Father had just died. Mother had Alzheimer’s. Mother was hospitalized. Mother wasn’t getting good care. Could I help? And when I asked her what hospital… It was less than a year since I reported everything to agencies that were supposed to fix all the problems with my mother’s hospitalization. It was the same hospital. Wow! Wow! So I got super-duper involved. And you know what I recognized pretty quickly, David? Was that there’s a lot of doctors’ groups that I think claim that, “We’re advocating for the patient and for the physicians.” But they’ve become part of the problem. In health care, if you look… There’s a really wonderful site. I hope everyone hears this part. It’s called Open Secrets. And within this site, Open Secrets, you can research all of the people who spend money to get politicians reelected, who they spend it on, which groups are spending money, et cetera, et cetera. It’s fascinating. And year after year for—I don’t even know how many years—at least a decade, there’s four groups that are always in the top 10 but usually in the top 6. And it’s big insurance, big pharma, big hospital, and the American Medical Association. And I think a lot of people think, “Oh, the AMA represents doctors,” but they’re actually really tied to all those other groups and receive money in some cases from those other groups. They own the coding system that we need as physicians to get paid by insurance companies for procedures. They own the coding system. They get $72 million a year for owning that coding system. Do you think they’re going to advocate against insurance companies? Of course not. They sell prescribing information of physicians to big pharma. Do you think they’re going to advocate when they receive $40 million or something like that per year? I have to look up the stats on that one for sure, but I believe it’s around $40 million per year. There’s a great New York Times article. If you research the AMA’s conflict with big pharma, New York Times, you’ll pull it right up. I didn’t write it.
Dave: Well, I’m… It looks like… I looked it up. Opensecrets.org, I believe, is the website you were referring to.
Dr. Mass: Just wonderful.
Dave: [Crosstalk 0:10:15].
Dr. Mass: Yes. Yes. Yes. I love that website.
Dave: Well, I have to imagine, just to play devil’s advocate, there’s physicians listening out there that, they’re part of the AMA. They are volunteering. They’re serving on various steering committees. And they’re passionate about it. And they might be saying, “You know what? I’m just trying to make a difference within it. We realize it’s not perfect, but we want to do our part.” So why did you decide to not work within the AMA, which—in trying to change as many physicians currently are doing?
Dr. Mass: Right. Exactly. Well… And I apologize because I do recognize, and I should have started with that. And I’m not going to say that the AMA has done everything wrong. I think that they’ve done some wonderful public health things through the years. That’s great. However, my beef with them is this, that you really shouldn’t be taking all that money from those conflict of interests that I referenced and then getting to advise Congress on how to fix health care. That’s wrong. But I do think that there’s very many good people that have worked within the AMA and are really advocates for physicians. I mean, it’s their choice to work with the AMA. It’s my choice not to. I sleep well at night. Maybe I don’t do everything right every moment of my life, but I try to make wise decisions and to connect myself with people who are doing the right thing. And so you said, “How did you get involved in all of this?” Back six years ago, I could see that things weren’t happening within medicine with groups like the AMA that I thought were being effective. I mean… So I think that there’s wonderful people that work for the AMA. I know some. And I know some people that think, “We can change this from the inside.” But I don’t know of any group that’s going to voluntarily give up $72 million a year or $40 million. Do you?
Dave: But no. Obviously, I think you have some good points there. So what is it that your organization does then? So what is it that you’re doing that is something that the AMA isn’t doing in the Practicing Physicians of America?
Dr. Mass: Right. Right. We’re new and we’re fledgling. And you know what? I would never choose to say, “Ugh, AMA. Let’s just wipe them off the face of the earth.” They’re a very old organization. I think they had some wonderful roots, but, as I said, in terms of advocating—and they’ve advocated very well for public health—I don’t think they advocate for physicians. And I think we have reached a point in this country, we have an epic physician burnout problem or… Call it what you will. Physicians that are enormously dissatisfied with their careers because there’s so much regulation within our field of medicine. I know it’s another field too. There is so much paperwork thrust upon a physician where he can’t get to his patient. And it’s coming at a time when we’ve already referenced the enormous cost it takes to do…to get through medical school. I don’t—who’s going to graduate with $300,000 in debt so that they can click boxes and become a paper pusher for two times as many hours as they see patients. Unfortunately, I think a lot of young doctors graduate and say, “This is not what I signed up for.” And by the way, a dirty little secret within our field, another shoutout here to Dr. Pamela Wible who I believe is out in Oregon, in your neck of the woods. So Pamela advocates for or against physicians’ suicide. We have the highest professional suicide rate of all professions. And I think part of it is that this regulation that’s thrust upon us. So what does PPA want to do? We’d like to advocate for physicians in a way that we think hasn’t been done. One of our big projects is Maintenance of Certification. The powers that be within Maintenance of Certification will say it’s really about educating your doctors. It’s not. It’s about tremendous amounts of money that are gained by the groups that advocate for certification. And we’ve got tax documents—
Dave: So you’re talking about the board exams and recertifying, that whole thing that many—
Dr. Mass: Yeah, the board exams are fine. They need to have that. It’s the recertification. And not… I don’t even mind the recertification exams, although it’s pretty insulting to get patted down every time you leave to go to the bathroom during one of those exams. And I’ve taken the recert now twice, the original exam once. The recertification exam isn’t that awful to take, although there’s a lot of esoteric questions on there that aren’t really helping your pediatrician help their patients. It’s the—there’s another portion to recertification that is just wasting our time. And that…
Dave: I hear you. Amen to that in our industry.
Dr. Mass: Right. And it’s not just wasting our time, but it’s wasting our patients’ time. So they call it part four, and they make us do these little mini research projects. And we have to punch all kinds of numbers into the computer. And we have to ask our patients to fill out surveys on behalf of us. We’re taking our patients’ time. We’re invading their lives. And what we’re doing is not… There’s been no proof that it’s beneficial. And furthermore, because we’re taking so much time to do it, it’s robbing our time with our patients. And honestly, I think if every mom in America knew what I had to do for a recertification, they would be furious at the board that was making me do that and taking my time away from taking care of their child. So that’s one of the things we’re passionate about advocating for. And we’re also passionate about making sure that physicians start to… We call ourselves a little bit of a watchdog group. And we’re watching very carefully. We know what’s going on in health care reform. And we’re watching very carefully to try to make sure that those [Indiscernible 0:18:29] interests that I mentioned, big insurance, big pharma, big hospital, et cetera, that those interests are not what’s most important. What’s most important is the interest of the patient and the physician.
Dave: Oh, doctor-patient relationship. Absolutely.
Dr. Mass: Exactly.
Dave: So tell us more practically… So those are the problems. Right? What is the organization doing about that? What does that look like?
Dr. Mass: Okay. Well, it looks like advocacy and education. And we are a very young group. We’re at the portion where we’re drawing in. So we’re newly formed. And all of us that are on aboard… So can I do another shoutout? I feel like I’ve done so many—
Dave: Sure. Why not?
Dr. Mass: So many people are helpful. So my cofounder and president, Dr. Wesley Fisher, my vice president of political matters and secretary, Dr. Craig Wax at New Jersey, and my—or not my—our treasurer at PPA, Dr. Judith Thompson of Texas, who’s a breast surgeon. We’re all physicians that are practicing. I’m the luckiest of the group. I’m part-time. Everyone else works full-time. And this is… Our effort is, as you mentioned, there’s people that advocate within the AMA. They do it as volunteer. When you’re putting something together, you’re doing, like… I’m putting in 60 hours a week easy for this right now. And it’s unpaid, and it will always be unpaid because I look upon it as just my volunteer work, my advocacy for my profession. I don’t want to be paid for that. And the other people that I work with are doing the same. So what are we physically doing right now? We are gathering. We are trying to draw people in. We are setting up our website that we hope becomes a great educational endeavor for people within our profession and also the public. So we’re partway done. Our page that’s going to include salient articles about health care reform, about Maintenance of Certification, about the MACRA bill, about how hospitals’ transparency is affecting the cost of medicine, so many topics are going to be on that website page. And we’re going to try to earmark certain topics and certain articles that are easy for patients to understand. I think within a lot of our reform groups, we have brilliant people who have been writing wonderful things for years, but unfortunately, some of them are written in a way that doctors understand but patients can’t. And I think it’s time for patients to begin to understand how health care is being adversely affected by these special interests.
Dave: I think it’s a great mission. And congratulations on trying to impact the world and make a difference with this. If people are interested, where can they find out more about it? And what do you think that looks like?
Dr. Mass: Oh. Well, I do encourage people to email me, believe it or not, but Practicing Physicians of Ameri—my email actually is firstname.lastname@example.org. And then we have a Facebook page. You can find us there. It’s Practicing Physicians of America. And let me go right on my computer and just read off our email address or our website address because I certainly don’t want to get that wrong and then mess that up with the public. And I should know it off the top of my head, but it’s been a busy couple of weeks. We are… I think it’s just practicingphysiciansofamerica.org.
Dr. Mass: So the Facebook page is Practicing Physicians of America. We have a Twitter handle at ppa_usa. And our website… Oh, this is embarrassing. It was all going so well until right now.
Dave: Well, what we’ll do, Marion, you can just email me the links later. We’ll make sure to include them in the show notes.
Dr. Mass: Oh, wonderful. Thank you.
Dave: So just get email, and we’ll make sure to include them for everyone to check out. Now, let’s go ahead. And as we wrap up our conversation here, out of respect of all of our time, I’d like to enter into a quick lightning round. Are you ready?
Dr. Mass: I’m ready. But can I give it to you? http://practicingphysician.org. Sorry. Had to get it in there.
Dave: Okay. You got it.
Dr. Mass: Go ahead. Lightning round.
Dave: Lightning round. Okay. Top three financial habits you have.
Dr. Mass: Cooking for myself and my family, growing my own vegetables, and thrift shopping.
Dave: And what is your guilty pleasure you spend dollars on?
Dr. Mass: Okay. Big admission. I have a cleaning woman who comes once a week. I hate to clean. I just hate it. I still have to clean. I still have to clean every other day of the week, but the reason I feel guilty is my mother did all of her own cleaning. And actually, she comes tomorrow. She hasn’t been here in three weeks. Shoutout, Susan. Dear God, I miss you. It’s horrible here. Please come soon. That is my guilty pleasure.
Dave: What book on your nightstand or on your desk are you reading right now?
Dr. Mass: I am reading one of Tyler Florence’s cookbooks. And then I have several other ethnic cookbooks there, a Greek one, a Persian one, and a Jewish one. And I am almost done with the book called America’s Bitter Pill by Steven Brill. That’s actually a fascinating exposé on the last eight years of how health care has been subverted by lots of groups. Yeah. And meticulously researched.
Dave: We’ll have to check that out.
Dr. Mass: Yeah. I think every American should read that book. Every doctor should for certain.
Dave: Well, Marion, as we wrap up this interview, I’d like you to think about this question for a moment. I want you to step back into the past where you’re not a practicing physician and you’re a resident. And maybe you’re talking to a younger Marion who just made the transition of not doing MD-PhD and is just pursuing the MD route. If you get to sit down with her, what advice would you give her now?
Dr. Mass: “Oh, Marion, please be patient. You want everything done yesterday. And sometimes, it takes a little bit longer.” That’s what I would tell Marion.
Dave: Very good. And there’s so much obviously we could talk about on all of these issues. I think what you’re doing is just fascinating. But what closing thoughts, Marion, do you have that you’d like to pass on to us?
Dr. Mass: I’d like to pass on, for physicians, please don’t be afraid to speak up. This is our profession. This is our house. These are our patients. We need to take care of them. And not only do we need to take care of them now, but we need to take care of them in the future. It’s very frightening to get involved. I’ve actually had people come after me. And I’m not joking. It’s a little scary, but at the same time, the truth is a powerful weapon. And I don’t think you should ever be in trouble for telling the truth. And I think that… I’m hoping… I could be wrong. It may all go in the wrong direction, and people with power and money may win a battle that I really hope they don’t, I’m doing this for my patients, but whether or not the side of justice and truth wins, I will be able to look at myself 20 years from now in the mirror and feel that I did the right thing. And to tell you the truth, it’s really a fun trip. And I’ve met some of the most amazing, wonderful people along the way. So I’d like to tell my fellow physicians, please get involved. If you’re busy, if your practice is busy, there’s still things that you can do. Share on social media. Join a group. Read an article once a week. And educate your patients whenever you have a chance to. And for patients out there, what I would like to say is just that really, truly, as Americans, we hold the power in this country to be able to change things. A lot of us complain, but are we really doing something? So I work with [Indiscernible 0:26:59] veterans organization in my town, Doylestown—shoutout to the Travis Manion Foundation. So last night, we talked about our raise. That raise is $100,000 for veterans and their families every year. And the motto is, “If not me, then who?” So for both physicians and patients, if not you, then who’s going to do this? I’ll keep doing it, but wow, we could use some help. We could use physicians jumping on board and getting involved. And we could use patients standing up for themselves against powerful special interests and not being afraid to approach their lawmakers and tell their lawmakers, “This is not working for us. And we need something that will and fix the problem because that’s what you went into office to do to represent us.”
Dave: Well, Marion, we’re running out of time here. If people have more questions in getting involved, how can they get in contact with you?
Dr. Mass: Oh. email@example.com. And my first name is M-A-R-I-O-N. And then everything else is close together as it does. And yeah, I’d love to hear from people. So people are my thing, so let’s do this together.
Dave: Awesome. Very good, Marion. Well, thank you so much for being with us here today. That wraps it up for now. In the next podcast, my friends, I would love to tell your story. And it would be my honor to host you on the next podcast because I know we can learn from your journey as we learned from Marion’s here today. And it can help other doctors. So make sure to contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org on my website, www.doctorfreedompodcast.com. For the Freedom Formula for Physicians Podcast, this is Dave Denniston. And remember, my friends, remember to slash your debt, slash your taxes, and live a liberated lifestyle. And finally, if you gained some value out of this podcast, I’d be eternally grateful if you could take five minutes and review it on iTunes or Google Play, because reviews make more and more physicians aware of this podcast. Thank you so much for joining us. Make sure you subscribe. Checking in soon. Have a good one.