With Mounting Student Debt and Medical Costs, South Florida Doctor Battles Breast Cancer During Pandemic

The physician’s massive student loan debt is an example of the burden so many young professionals face today.

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At just 32-years-old, and with no family history of breast cancer, Dr. Sedor was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, which is a cancer of the ducts of the breast.

Doctor Jennifer Sedor is a physician at Memorial Pembroke. She has worked through the majority of the pandemic, tending to patients at their most critical moments. Little did she know, she would turn into a critical care patient herself.

Sedor and her husband, Cesar Varela have a 2-year-old boy. She is the primary breadwinner in her home, so in order to pay for almost 300,000 dollars in medical expenses not covered by her insurance, and a student debt that equals about a half a million dollars she has to return to work shortly after her mastectomy.

"The only thing that I can do is to go back to work while I get chemo. So, that’s going to be pretty scary because there’s COVID out there…and the flu…and everything else," Dr. Sedor said.

The physician’s massive student loan debt is an example of the burden so many young professionals face today. With respect to healthcare professionals specifically, the pandemic has even inspired the “Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act", which was introduced to congress in May and is pending the House’s approval. It’s one way lawmakers have come up with to repay the medical professionals who are risking their own health during this COVID-19 era.

"I’ve always said, ‘I don’t think healthcare workers should have to pay for their own education. Maybe their education should be covered because they are taking care of the public,'' says Varela.

Though doctors are more likely than any other profession to be in the top one percent of earners, they are also among those with the largest amount of student debt, according to the Brookings Institution.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, 73 percent of med school graduates have student debt, owing an average of 201,000 dollars.

“If our healthcare workers don’t survive not only this pandemic but, anything else that comes at us, than we don’t survive,” says Varela.

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