Why would any medical student decide to go into primary care when procedurists are raking in all the dough? I already wrote about the incredible compensation of anesthesiologists in 2011. Now there is income data on two of the most lucrative fields in medicine, gastroenterology and orthopedic surgery.
According to MGMA, gastroenterologists on average last year made $496,874. GI docs in the Midwest did the best, averaging almost $540,000 a year in compensation. Orthopedic surgeons did even better, if that can be believed. Orthopods made a minimum of $500,000 yearly, with the exception of foot and ankle surgeons who came in just below that. Spine surgeons raked in the most money, averaging over $760,000 each annually.
We may deride orthopedic surgeons as a bunch of big lunkheads who don't know the difference between CAD and CHF, and are happy to hand off the treatments of such to the hospitalists, but they sure know where the money is. This also points to the long road for politicians who hope to attract more medical students into the primary care fields. Sure they may suggest raising physician reimbursements by 5% for primary care doctors while holding back on interventionalists. But as these huge numbers suggest, internests and other PCP's will still lag woefully behind their procedure oriented colleagues by a wide margin. Even if you cut the average compensation of GI and Ortho docs by half, they would still make more than most PCP's. Little wonder medical students with six figure school loans are still shunning primary care. They are making a rational decision based on market principles and what's best for their own livelihoods. Cause even the dumbest orthopedic surgeon still was smart enough to graduate from medical school.
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