Business & Money

Income Study Outlines Wage Gap Between Male, Female Physicians

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Aug 5, 2016 - 12:16:54 PM

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If you thought the wage gap between men and women, Whites and Blacks was just in middle to lower income jobs think again. In what was probably the largest study of salary differences between male and female medical school faculty members, the wage gap even exists for physicians where White male doctors make the most and Black female doctors make the least.

According to the study published in the recent Journal of American Medical Association, the median annual income of White male doctors between 2010 and 2013 was $253,042, compared with $188,230 for Black male doctors.

“More than raising attention to salary sex differences in medicine, our findings highlight the fact that these differences persist even when we account for detailed factors that influence income and reflect academic productivity,” says Anupam B. Jena, M.D., Ph.D. of the Mass General Hospital Department of Medicine and the Harvard Medical School Department of Health Care Policy, who led the study.

“The fact that we observed these income differences among physicians who are public employees raises issues that may have state regulatory implications.”

The study used employee information—including names, titles and salaries—from public medical schools in 12 states that was available online. Next researchers merged physician faculty salaries with information from the Doximity database of more than 700,000 U.S. physicians— including age, gender, faculty rank, university affiliation, specialty, year of residency completion, clinical practice (reflected by receiving Medicare payments) and several factors reflecting research activity.

Dr. Safiyyah Shabazz who read and analyzed the research told The Final Call it starts with being able to negotiate the best salary you can. Often women are reluctant or timid when it comes to negotiating top salaries. Men tend not to have any problems making their vale and worth known to a prospective employer.

“We don’t have the forthcoming conversations on who’s making what by doing what to know what we should even be getting. Across the board women are paid less. On top of that Blacks are paid even less and these are unfair practices.”

“Specialty choices make a huge difference. Primary care is at the low end of the spectrum with surgeons, emergency room doctors and anesthesiologists making more at the top. Many of us go into medicine to serve our people and we have more patients with Medicaid and Medicare costs which pay the least. It’s also harder to care for poor patients. It takes more time to care for people with social problems that require follow up,” said Dr. Shabazz.

According to the study, on average, women doctors made about $50,000 less than male doctors. After adjusting for specialty, years of experience and other factors—a $20,000 salary gap still remained for women compared to men.

“This study puts the nail in the coffin by assessing every possible reason for why males may have greater earnings than females,” Dr. Jena explained. However, the study did not specifically address the specialties doctors were involved in.

Dr. Jewel Crawford, a former private practice doctor, Morehouse Medical School professor and now a doctor with the Center for Disease Control agrees that the specialty choices of women keeps them in the lower pay range. “Women tend to go into the lower paying specialties like family care and pediatrics. They are the lowest paid but require the most work. The less contact you have with a patient the more you get paid. Look at the salaries of radiologists and anesthesiologists. They have the least amount of contact with patients. Primary care specialists require more work and get paid less.”

“Black women working in the Black community are dedicated to helping our people. However we are faced with increasing numbers of patients with Medicare and Medicaid. You don’t get paid that much with those patients,” she told The Final Call.

The disparities are so stark that Dr. Shabazz said she is a bit reluctant in wanting her son to go into primary care. “It’s just not economically feasible. When I finished residency in 2006, I was making a little less than $100,000. Today an orthopedic surgeon starts with a salary of $300,000. The Affordable Care Act has helped increase payments to doctors,” said the Philadelphia-based physician.

“The average primary care doctor starts today with $150,000-$160,000. Kaiser Permanente starts their primary care doctors with $240,000. I could make more money if I just went and got a job. I worry about that.”