How This Doctor Is Crushing $110,000 in Medical School Debt

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paying off medical school debt

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Three out of five Americans expect to be paying off their student loans in their 40s, according to research from Citizens Financial Group.

Dr. Brad Venghaus, however, will be out of debt much, much sooner. Instead of letting his $110,000 debt hang over his head, Brad found a way to pay it all off in five years.

Plus, he saved thousands of dollars on interest in the process. Now, Brad shares the personal finance lessons he learned on his blog, InvestingDoc.

If you’d also like to say goodbye to student loans once and for all, read on for Brad’s journey to financial freedom.

Graduating from medical school with $110,000 in student loans

Unlike the average college graduate who leaves school with more than $37,000 in student loans, Brad earned his bachelor’s degree without getting into debt.

He chose the University of Texas at Austin, which offered him a full-tuition scholarship for all four years. Plus, he worked part-time jobs during college and won a number of smaller scholarships to cover textbooks and living expenses.

Graduating from medical school, however, was a different story. “I attended a medical school in Texas and subsequently matched into an internal medicine residency program in Houston,” says Brad. “I graduated with $110,000 in student loans at 6.80% interest.”

Although that’s a massive amount of debt, it’s actually lower than average for medical school graduates. According to a recent study, the average doctor in the Class of 2016 left school with $190,000 in student loans.

Brad was able to keep his overall costs down in two ways:

“I was awarded over $35,000 in scholarships to attend medical school,” he says. “I also chose the least expensive medical school to attend in the state of Texas at the time. While tuition could be upwards of $40,000 at some private medical schools, my tuition averaged around $15,000 per year.”

Brad’s debt could have been worse, but $110,000 was still a heavy burden. As he learned more about personal finance, Brad searched for ways to lighten it.

Refinancing student loans to save money

Brad didn’t wait long to take control of his student debt. “About a month after I graduated from medical school, I received a letter in the mail about being auto-enrolled in a 10-year repayment plan,” says Brad. “I looked at the interest rate of 6.80% and went on a search for any potentially better methods for repayment.”

Through his research, Brad learned about student loan refinancing. “I stumbled upon numerous banks that would refinance physician medical school debt,” he says. Through refinancing, he could snag a lower interest rate with a new lender.

Brad’s first step was to go rate shopping. “I applied to about four or five of the big-name banks that refinance medical student loans,” says Brad. “They all gave me a quote for their best offers and I compared each of them.”

The most attractive offer came from a credit union. It reduced his 6.80% interest rate to 3.30%. Instead of spending over $41,906 on interest over 10 years, Brad would only pay $19,296. In effect, the simple process of refinancing saved him $22,610.

“The process of refinancing was quite easy,” says Brad. “Refinancing my loan saved me $10,500 just in residency.” With that kind of success, it’s no wonder why Brad refinanced again a few years later.

Refinancing again to save even more money

During residency, Brad set up a system of interest-only payments for his student debt. But once he graduated, he decided to pay off his loans even faster. In search of a lower interest rate, Brad decided to refinance again.

“I refinanced with SoFi for a five-year variable term at 2.80%,” he says. “My monthly payment increased to $1,700 after this refinance.” Because he cut his repayment term in half, Brad’s monthly payments increased.

Plus, he decided to pay even more every month to crush through his debt in two years instead of five. Now, he’s looking at a payoff date just a few years after graduating.

“My student loans will be paid off five years after graduating from medical school,” says Brad. “It feels good to pay them off … ahead of schedule.”

There’s no limit to how many times you can refinance your student loans. If you find a better offer with a lower interest rate, you could repeat the process to save money. However, be careful to do the math and ensure it’s the right choice for you.

Student loan refinancing also has some downsides

As Brad found out, refinancing student loans can save you thousands of dollars. Plus, it lets you choose a repayment term that better fits your budget. You might even pay off your loans ahead of schedule.

But refinancing isn’t without its drawbacks. For one, most lenders require a strong credit score and high income. Without these credentials, you might not qualify for low interest rates — or get approved at all.

Secondly, refinancing a federal loan turns it into a private one. As a result, you’ll lose access to income-driven repayment plans and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

“For those new graduates with very high student loan debt, determine if public student loan forgiveness is an option or desire for you,” advises Brad. “Refinancing your loans will forgo any option of student loan forgiveness.”

If you’re banking on these federal programs, refinancing might not be for you. But if your priority is saving money on interest, refinancing could help.

Brad is working toward financial independence

Once Brad got past the hurdle of his student loans, he was able to ramp up his other money goals. “Each payment toward my student loans was one step closer to financial freedom,” he says.

Now, Brad invests a large portion of his income in tax-advantaged retirement savings accounts. He’s on a path to reach financial independence within six years. Plus, he shares the lessons he’s learned on his blog.

“The greatest tip I have for medical students and new doctors is to learn the basics [of] personal finance and investing,” says Brad. “Most training programs have little to no training about financial matters.”

Besides taking control of your debt, Brad recommends investing as soon as possible. “Learn what a tax-advantaged retirement account is — such as a 401(k) — and start investing early,” he says. “You have time on your side to build a large amount of wealth.”

Balance saving with your other goals

Now that Brad has eased the burden of his student loan debt, he can focus on building the life he wants for himself. Through his efforts, he’s learned to find a balance between personal and financial well-being.

“My career has taught me that if you have good health, that’s worth more weight than any amount of gold one can buy,” says Brad. “[My focus is] staying healthy, happy, and building a good financial foundation for whatever tomorrow may bring.”

By paying off student loan debt and saving for your future, you can be prepared for whatever financial challenges come your way.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

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1 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

  1. VARIABLE APR – APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes.

2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student Loan RefinanceFixed rates from 3.999% APR to 7.804% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.480% APR to 7.524% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.480% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.07% plus 0.91% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (

3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.07%. Variable interest rates range from 2.72%-8.17% (2.72%-8.17% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.50%-8.69% (3.50% – 8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled, must be in repayment of their existing student loan(s) and must make the minimum number of payments after leaving school. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Average savings based on 18,113 actual customers who refinanced their federal and private student loans through our Education Refinance Loan between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. The calculation is derived by averaging the monthly savings of Education Refinance Loan customers whose payments decreased after refinancing, which is calculated by taking the monthly student loan payments prior to refinancing minus the monthly student loan payments after refinancing. The borrower’s savings might vary based on the interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of the loans they are seeking to refinance. The borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if their monthly payments are lower.
2.57% – 5.87%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Earnest
2.80% – 6.38%1Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Laurel Road
2.48% – 7.52%2Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit SoFi
2.47% – 7.99%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Lendkey
2.57% – 6.65%3Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit CommonBond
2.72% – 8.17%4Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Citizens
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.