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Physician Income And The Curious Case Of Dr. Benjamin Brown

Physician income analyzed.

I stumbled upon a very interesting blog post the other day.  It's entitled, The Deceptive Income of Physicians, and was written by Dr. Benjamin Brown, a plastic surgery resident who is also the author of the upcoming book, Informed Consent: The US Medical Education System Explained.  Here's how it begins:

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 post is an interesting read and has generated a lot of discussion.  As of today, there have been 203 comments.

What I find most "curious" about this post-- aside from the passionate comments-- is the fact that I have never seen physician incomes analyzed like this before.  It is an unfortunate fact that most medical students remain completely naive to the financial implications of their choice of profession, and their potential specialty choices.

I wrote a recent blog post about this very issue where I quoted Dr. Robert Doroghazi, author of the book, The Physician's Guide to Investing: A Practical Guide to Building Wealth , as saying: 

"I believe the position of the academic medical establishment to deny medical students financial instruction is naive, hypocritical, and indefensible.  They should acknowledge that money is important.  It is never as important as your patient.  It is never as important as your family, your health, your freedom, or your integrity.  But is is important."

I couldn't agree more.

The medical establishment in this country should be ashamed of themselves.  Instead of having very frank and necessary discussions with medical students about the financial implications of becoming a physician, our medical leaders turn a blind eye to this very real need, and medical students are cast out into a harsh economic world with little financial knowledge to protect themselves and their families from potential financial ruin.

It is really an embarrassment to the medical community that this information isn't coming from the academic medical establishment, but a surgery resident who did the work in his spare time.

Thanks to Dr. Brown for making this information available to all of us.  I look forward to reading his upcoming  book.

Reader Comments (6)

I am the wife of a physician, I have been working alongside him for the past sixteen years.
When he came out of med school (brown University in Rhode Island we were so hungry for the big fat check that he was supposed to be getting soon, well the truth is that my poor husband works seven days a week, some days we don't get any sleep, he has been giving excellent medical care to his patients, regardless of whether or not they have insurance, when he sees someone in the hospital without insurance, that patient becomes his responsability, (we never get paid when they don't have insurance, people think that because this is america, they should receive free medical care, but that same patient that he gave such great care, is the one that will be looking for something that could be seen as malpractice so he could end up with whatever we have worked for, for some many years.

It is so sicknening that such a noble profession has become so volatile, I am afraid that one of my children would one day want to become a physician, and that is such a shame that I would have to feel that way.

It is time that Physicians do get united and demand some respect. My husband and I a beautiful practice, and now we are affraid that we will not even be able to pay our mortgage, because the Hospitals are trying to bring hospitalists that would take care of our patients when they are admitted, wich of corse means that in the future they will too be doing outpatient care. I could go on and on, I am frustrated for my husband and for all of our friends physicians who are not spending time with their families because they can simple not afford to.

Yes, Ana, yours is the story that most of the public does not know. People are upset when their large medical bills come, thinking the bills are the fault of their physicians. What the public doesn't realize is that the majority of those payments go to corporations and to cover the costs of a medical malpractice system run amok. Thanks for sharing and hang in there.

This student is correct. If you calculate your salary based on a per hour rate, I think you will be quite surprised at what you're being paid per hour. Physicians are the income generators for everyone else, but our compensation has not changed in over 15 years. I'm happy to have found a site that explores the many alternatives to a hospital or group paycheck.

I told my daughter to go to law school. After 3 years at Yale, she graduates with $150,000 debt and a job that starts at $160,000, not counting free dinners at good restaurants and bonus. To take on the debt of a medical student, and to enter into a world where your income is going to get crushed, is nuts.

Thanks for the input, Karimah and Ernest. The reality of physician incomes is not something that the public is very aware of or interested in, but is having a huge impact on health care in the US today.

Thanks for posting Dr. Brown's blog site. The real wealth in medicine is the Calling to be a Physician, a professional who gives his or her best in the service of others. Hospital Administrators, and politicians are tearing this down. Labyrinthine regulations and needless paperwork take the joy out of medicine. I am now a Clerk-Typist more than half the time., and not very good at it. I think dedicated young people will still be called to the profession, but your excellent point about financial reimbursement should be heeded. These young doctors and students need to move forward with their eyes wide open.

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