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Money Meets Medicine Podcast

Dr. Peter Kim and Physician Entrepreneurship

Have you ever thought about using real estate to reach financial independence, but you didn’t want to be a landlord?

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Recently I sat down with one of my good friends and one of the OG partners of The Physician Philosopher. He’s an anesthesiologist, husband, father, entrepreneur, as well as a real estate and physician side gig guru – of course, I’m talking about Dr. Peter Kim

One of the interesting things about Peter’s story is his transition from full-time practice as an OB anesthesiologist to stepping away from medicine and going part-time, to now his being on sabbatical. He’s not sure if that’s a permanent sabbatical or not, so we got to explore his thought process on that and his story.  

So let’s dive into this discussion with Dr. Peter Kim and the intersection of all things entrepreneurship, side gigs, medicine, money, and real estate.

Introducing Dr. Peter Kim

Peter grew up in a medical family. His father was a physician, his mom’s father was a physician, and he had uncles that were doctors and physicians for most of his life. Her remembers assuming at a very young age that he would probably go into medicine himself one day.

“My dad would get those free anatomy posters and stick them on my wall as a kid,” he said. “Everything in terms of my education, – where I chose college – all of that was with the intent to become a physician.”

“The funny thing is that along the way, when I first started college, I actually decided not to go into a science major. My first major was actually econ. I abandoned that and became a public health major. It’s funny now, how that all came around.”

Physician entrepreneurship and how Peter arrived there

When people ask Peter how he got into entrepreneurship, he always wishes he had a better story for them.

“My intention was to stay in medicine. I had a great job right out of OB fellowship, my dream job in the city where we wanted to end up. I was set for life. But a couple years in, I wasn’t getting the terms I was promised as partner. In medicine, it happens a lot – being promised something and then not getting what you thought you would get. I didn’t have control over my time. I started feeling really stressed and having jaw pain from clenching [my teeth] at night. 

So I started asking other people in the hospital who seemed to live a pretty good life what they were doing, and many of them had created income streams outside of medicine.”

That’s when Peter dove into educating himself on all the possibilities for physician side gigs and started a business investing in real estate. 

I had to bring up the point that for someone who values autonomy over their time to go into entrepreneurship… In my experience, entrepreneurs (including yours truly) are the only ones who’d rather work 80 hours for themselves instead of 60 hours for someone else.

Peter agreed. “Sometimes you’re your own worst boss. It doesn’t turn off. I’ll be in my car or walking my dog or even at night before I go to sleep, and get an idea that I start noodling on and then jump on the computer to sort it out. But it’s totally different when you feel like you’re doing it because you want to do it.”

How Peter transitioned away from medicine, or ‘retired gradually’

“My goal was never to make all this money and then just quit medicine altogether. It was to cut back on the night shifts, number one. Number two was cut back on weekends and then slowly just find a sustainable place or have some flexibility and freedom. 

As that money started coming in, I started funding my clinical time, which freed me up to work on more of these businesses. In the last year, I actually haven’t actually gone into the hospital. I haven’t done anything clinical. 

This is maybe a phase in my life, I’m not sure. But businesses and other ventures have taken up my time, as well as spending time with my family, which is really the priority.”

Should most doctors have income streams outside of medicine? 

“There’s always one or two people that are like, I’m happy where I’m at, and I feel like things will get better for me. And that’s good. Maybe it will be in their specific field or situation. So go for it.

But if you believe that medicine’s not moving in the right direction – like maybe politically regulatory for the physician in terms of income reimbursements or scope of work – and you feel like there’s a lot of challenges ahead, I would say it’s absolutely necessary for you to think about other streams of income.”

I agree with Peter here, and I’d also point out for physicians that we, more than other people, have the ability to dabble. 

We can try things out on the side in those hours between cases or on our commutes. If you find yourself researching other things in your spare time at night or when you have breaks, that’s a breadcrumb life drops for you to tell you that you have interests outside of clinical medicine.

We as high income earners get to dabble in things and try them out. Especially if we’re attuned to our personal financial journey and getting the support we need. We can buy a property, explore the physician online space. We don’t have to take this blind leap of faith and just hope that we land on our two feet making the same amount of money non-clinically as we do clinically. 

That should give doctors a lot of security and hope and the inspiration to jump out there and see how it goes. Take that first step.

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