The recent issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine made headlines with an article about the wage disparity between medical specialties. As expected, primary care physicians made less money than their surgical and specialty counterparts. Internists and pediatricians were found to make about $50 per hour while medicine subspecialists made about 36 percent more money and the surgeons made about 48 percent more. The highest paid physicians were in neurosurgery, dermatology, ophthalmology, and orthopedics. They make about $50 more per hour than general surgeons who in turn make about $24 per hour more than internists.
What's shocking to me isn't the large difference in salaries between physicians, which is not a surprise. It is how little primary care doctors make. Fifty dollars an hour after four years of college, four years of medical school, and three years of residency? The internist salaries also don't take into account all the time they spend calling in pharmacy prescriptions, taking questions over the phone, arguing with insurance companies, filling out paperwork, and hundreds of other mundane but necessary tasks of being an internist. My accountant charges me more than that on an hourly basis answering my emails. And he expects to get paid too--none of this refusal to pay your copays or insurance denials to ding his income.
One interesting result of the study comes towards the end. The authors specifically excluded the salaries of radiologists and anesthesiologists because the wage disparity between primary care and specialists would have been even greater. Anesthesiologists' salaries would have skewed the results so badly that they were deliberately left out of their study! Got that? We make so much money that they can include the salaries of neurosurgeons in their study but not ours. Is it any wonder that medical students are flocking to the ROAD specialties while abandoning Internal Medicine to their selfless or masochistic classmates?