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Specialty professors outearn primary care peers by 43%

Article

Primary care professors reported a median compensation of $203,777, compared with $291,101 for specialty professors, according to a survey from the Medical Group Management Association.

Is this any way to solve the perceived primary care shortage?

A new survey shows that primary care professors' compensation is 43% lower than their specialty care professor counterparts in the academic field.

Primary care professors reported a median compensation of $203,777, compared with $291,101 for specialty professors, according to a survey from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).

For department chairpersons, the compensation gap is even more stark. Specialty department chairpersons' median compensation ($510,542) is a whopping 71% higher than their primary care peers ($299,500), according to the survey.

Nonetheless, the specialist versus primary care pay disparity in academic settings isn't exactly shocking. That's because that same disparity is seen in private practice.

For example, median compensation for internists stood at $216,000 in 2011, compared with $487,000 for radiologists and $424,000 for anesthesiologists, according to the MGMA's most recent physician compensation report.

Because specialists require more training and schooling than primary care physicians, it's likely they'll always be compensated more highly, and they probably should be. But the important question is: Should the disparity be so great?

J. Paul Leigh, PhD, a researcher with University of California, Davis, School of Medicine, who performed a 2010 study of doctors' salaries, doesn't think so.

"Especially now that our costs for medical care are soaring, we need to get these disparities under control," he told Reuters.

"Not only are primary care physicians undervalued by society," Leigh said, "but the specialist is overvalued and overcompensated, while not really adding much bang for the buck as far as public health is concerned."

 

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Jennifer N. Lee, MD, FAAFP
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