“I came to Santa Clara with high hopes and high expectations. This program stood out during the interview trail and when I matched here I was extremely happy. I had picked Santa Clara over many over programs because of the excellent things I saw and read. In almost every way the program has met or exceeded what expectations I had. However, my time here has not been easy. Due to the high cost of living my partner and I have barely been able to afford a one bedroom apartment and a single car payment. We were able to live, but I had to forbear my loans at great financial injury to myself later in life to at least have some cushion for a rainy day.
Unfortunately due to the recent pandemic, my partner has lost her job and we have been struggling. I am lucky that I have such supportive friends and family who have helped me in these hard times, and without them I would not have been able to make rent. We were able to get by on one car as I live close enough to the hospital to walk. But during mandatory rotations at other locations, I had to rely on the kindness of colleagues and Uber to get to the locations. But now without the bank forgiving missed payments, we may have lost our only one.
We are in a time of renegotiation for our contract and I am being told in these talks that due to this pandemic, we deserve a worse contract than before. One that does not even keep up with inflation, let alone increase on rental price. This is due to financial stress we are being told. You have also categorically rejected a request for a housing stipend. During a time of great risk to ourselves, and where many have already lost their jobs, we are being told we are not worth fair pay. Self sustained housing and transport is not a grand request, but we are being told it is, using a pandemic to excuse away these savings. Please, reconsider this stance. For if I knew it was going to be this difficult, I may not have come here. I know many colleagues feel the same as well.” Gregory Stephen Auda, MD PGY 1
“In order to get an apartment in this region our income has to be 2-3x’s more than rent. So on paper we might make enough to a month’s rent but per our salary we will not be able to continue to qualify for apartments. For instance my rent is 2,350 however to the salary or income requirement of 2x’s rent, I need to make at least $56,400. I do. But it is hard to find open spots with that income requirement, and those places have questionable safety. I am a single mom and safety is very important to me as well as access to good schools and childcare. Most places require an income of 2.5x rent, I have not in the past not even presently meet that requirement. With what the county is proposing, I will not meet income requirements, and with numbers and data in conjunction with the 5% rent caps landlords can impose, it is very scary to think I won’t make it.” Kim Bolvar PGY 3 Radiology
“I don’t want some first responders clapping for me, they are also in the front lines and deserve it. I want people to thank us by just giving us our rights and pay us appropriately. Show us you appreciate us by giving us a living wage and housing stipend. Other employees here receive overtime pay, longevity pay. We receive none of that while working 110 hours a week, and to worry about our living situation is not something I want to be doing. I want to be the best Doctor delivering the best patient care.”
Neharika Khurana MD PGY 1
“We all know that living in Santa Clara County is as close to as expensive as it gets. As a father of two children under the age of 5, I may be more aware of this than some others. Moving here initially, it was difficult to make the pieces fit financially, and as costs rise every year it only gets more and more difficult. Rents, childcare, and food costs in the area have increased by far more than 1.5% annually in the time I have been here, and cutting real wages for incoming residents year after year would only serve to limit the pool of potential new residents. While I am personally fortunate to have a second income that I can rely on, this is not the case for all, and should not be a requirement for a resident to choose to come serve our county hospital. My current income is essentially sufficient to cover childcare, while the remainder of our family expenses are covered by my wife. Obviously this scenario is not feasible for many. While I specifically chose to train here at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and serve the most vulnerable in our community, this privilege should not be reserved for the childless or those unable to rely on a second income.”
Robert “Reb” Burky Radiology, PGY 3
“I was the first in my family to attend college, and now the first to become a physician. The road to get here was not easy nor was it paved by my family. I was drawn to help the disadvantaged and underserved population because that is where I came from. I, like many other resident physicians at SCVMC, was specifically seeking to have my residency training be in a county hospital system to learn medicine from the communities who have the least resources. I feel very fortunate to be serving a community like Santa Clara County, however, I wasn’t prepared for the economic difficulties I would personally face as a resident physician by living here. I am a single resident who depends on my income alone. I found my apartment on Craigslist as it was the only 1 bedroom apartment within my budget <$2,000 (to be <55% of my take home intern salary) and I signed the lease before seeing the place in person. Buying a home, or my family buying a home for me to live in and rent out, was not an option. With that said, my apartment is in a working class neighborhood with questionable safety and cleanliness 20 minutes away from the hospital and has a 5% rent increase every year. I am in the process of looking for a safer apartment complex but those prices start at $2,400 to be within 15 mins of the hospital. And now, with my federal and private loans in repayment (with lower than standard monthly payments based on “discretionary” income limits), I will be paying nearly $500 in monthly loan payments by 4th year of residency at the same time that my rent and other living expenses continue to compile. The irony is that the loan servicers use 150% of the federal poverty limit to calculate loan payments, but this does not take into account if you live in an expensive county like Santa Clara where rent alone will be 50% or more of your take home income. It is unfathomable that other local residencies have housing stipends and that the hard working residents of SCVMC who have committed their training years to the public county hospital not be given the same benefits. Without a fair living wage and housing stipend, SCVMC and its patients will unfortunately lose out on dedicated residents who cannot afford to live in the community they are seeking to serve.” Ariana Malagon, MD OBGYN PGY2
“I live in an area nearby the hospital where I do not feel safe walking outside after dark. There are often break-ins to the cars in my apartment complex. Recently, there was a shooting death in the complex next door. This is all I can afford on my salary. Even with this considered, roughly half of my monthly income (after taxes) is spent on rent. My landlord has consistently raised the rent by 5% each year (which is the maximum allowed by San Jose’s rent control laws), resulting in a rent increase of approximately $1,500 per year. In addition, many residents, such as myself, have dependents and are the sole provider for their household. This causes additional financial strain on top of the bay area’s high housing costs. The currently proposed 1.5% salary raise and rejection of a housing stipend is not realistic for living in the bay area and shows a lack of consideration by the county for its employees.”
Aileen Chang, MD Diagnostic Radiology PGY-3
“My family and I moved to the Bay Area almost three years ago in June 2017 to start my residency at SCVMC. We were looking for a 2-bedroom, 1-bath apartment for my wife, son, and I. But as a single-income household (my wife is a graduate student at SJSU), it was challenging to find a home that we qualified for. As we progressed through our housing search, we literally had to change the first question we would ask property managers from, “Is your unit still available?” to “Will you consider us if my income is 2.3-2.4x the rent?” The standard income requirement was 2.5x the rent, with some requiring 3x. At a 2.5x requirement on my PGY-2 income of $64,617, we only qualified for up to $2154/month. It was hard to find a home for under $2300, but I made only 2.45x for a $2200 home and 2.34x for a $2300 home. My mom and my mother-in-law, who babysit my son while my wife and I are at school/work, both live in West San Jose within 5 minutes of SCVMC. Thus, West San Jose was our target area, which is a relatively inexpensive and below-average cost neighborhood in San Jose (*see source below). But no one was willing to go below 2.5x (because the market was “too competitive to make exceptions”) and it was near impossible to find something for $2150 or less. The one home we did find for exactly $2150 required a 3x income requirement. Ultimately, we had to settle for a $2000/month 2-bedroom, 1-bath apartment in Cambrian Park, which is the cheapest neighborhood in all of San Jose (*see source), and 10-15 minutes farther from SCVMC and our parents/babysitters. Does the county find it appropriate to underpay its doctors to the point that they literally only qualify for homes which go for less than the average apartment cost in the cheapest neighborhoods in San Jose?”
Ali Moalem Radiology PGY 4