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Pⁿ Blog
The Pⁿ Blog is a forum for opinions, questions, controversies, and instructive discussions across the field of pathology and its relevant subspecialties.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
The Deceptive Income of Physicians.
One of my colleagues sent me an excellent article by Dr. Ben Brown examining the real adjusted income of physicians, taking into account accumulated debt and interest, earning time lost during 20+ years of educational training, long work hours, lack of overtime pay, etc. 
Click HERE for article link.
Dr. Brown begins his article:
"Physicians spend about 40,000 hours training and over $300,000 on their education, yet the amount of money they earn per hour is only a few dollars more than a high school teacher. Physicians spend over a decade of potential earning, saving and investing time training and taking on more debt, debt that isn’t tax deductible. When they finish training and finally have an income, they are taxed heavily and must repay their debt with what remains. The cost of tuition, the length of training and the U.S. tax code places physicians into a deceptive financial situation."
The author leads the reader through a calculation of adjusted net hourly wages for an internist working almost 60 hours a week, starting after training at age 29 and retiring at age 65 with a gross income of about $205,000/year and paying off over $600,000 in debt and interest over 20 years.  It works out to $34.46/hr over their career. 
Similar calculations applied to a high school teacher assuming debt for a bachelors degree, 10 weeks off for summer and 2 weeks off for Christmas yields a figure of.....wait for it....... $30.47/hr!
While most would agree that teachers are greatly underpaid an even larger percentage of the general population would argue, I suspect, that physicians are grossly overpaid.   Against this background, the author also discusses the effect of ever present Medicare fee reductions. 
By the way, when similar calculations are applied to dentists, the adjusted gross pay is $61.91/hr! ( I KNEW I picked the wrong medical profession!).  For nurses it comes out to $24.43/hr.  Should nurses really be paid less than teachers?  Food for thought.
Finally the article ends with an interesting table listing the USMLE scores, %AOA, and number of publications of residents according to subspecialty.  Pathology is in the middle of the pack.  The brightest seem to be attracted to plastic surgery, dermatology, and otolaryngology.   Interesting!  Keep this article in mind the next time one of your neighbors makes a snide comment about your income! :-)
Dr. Christopher A. Dowling MD said:
I knew I should have gone to dental school also. Still, it is a free market economy, more or less. There's still time to go into teaching, also.
About the Author

Stacey E. Mills, MD
Stacey E. Mills, MD, a graduate of University of Virginia (UVA) and the UVA Medical Center, has authored nearly 230 articles, 20+ books, atlases and monographs—including the renowned Sternberg's Diagnostic Surgical Pathology. He has been a practicing Professor and Staff Pathologist at UVA for 30+ years and is Director of Surgical Pathology and Cytopathology. His clinical specialty is general surgical pathology with emphasis on neoplasms and neoplasm-like lesions. Dr. Mills is also Editor-in-Chief of The American Journal of Surgical Pathology.