July 22, 2016
2 min read

Female physicians make 'substantially' less than male counterparts

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Significant salary differences exist between male and female physicians at public medical schools, according to findings published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

This gap persisted after accounting for various factors, such as experience, specialty and age, Anupam B. Jena, MD, PhD, from the department of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, and colleagues reported.

The researchers used public salary information for 10,241 academic physicians at 24 public medical schools in 12 states. They linked this with data from Doximity, a database with physician information such as years of experience, age, clinical trial participation, sex, specialty and faculty rank.

Results showed that male physicians made nearly $20,000 more after multivariable adjustment ($227,783; 95% CI, 224,117-231,448 vs. $247,661; 95% CI, 245,065-250,258).

Jena and colleagues found that salary differences were variable among faculty ranks, institutions and specialties.

In addition, they found that adjusted salaries were lowest in neurology, family medicine and infectious disease (mean income < $200,000) and highest in general surgery ($302,666; 95% CI, 294,060-311,272), surgical subspecialties ($318,760; 95% CI, 311,030-326,491) and orthopedic surgery ($358,093; 95% CI, 344,354-371,831).

"Among academic physicians in 24 U.S. public medical schools, annual salaries of female physicians were substantially lower than those of male physicians after adjustment for a rich set of factors that influence salary," Jena and colleagues concluded. "Nearly 40% of the unadjusted difference in mean salaries between men and women remained unexplained after adjustment for these potential confounders. Our use of publicly available state employee salary data highlights the importance of physician salary transparency to efforts to reduce the male-female earnings gap."

Vineet M, Arora, MD, MAPP, from the University of Chicago, called for various solutions in paying physicians equally for equal work.

"Fixing the pay gap between male and female physicians in academic medicine requires more than just studies showing that it exists; concerted efforts are needed to understand and eliminate the gap," Arora wrote in an accompanying commentary. "Fixing the gap will also require the courage and leadership of women academic physicians — the ‘Dr Lilly Ledbetters’ out there — to advocate to eliminate it. It is time that the ‘woman card’ be worth the same amount as the ‘man card.’” – by Chelsea Frajerman Pardes

Disclosures: Arora is a member of the board of directors of the American Board of Internal Medicine and is a founding member of Women of Impact for Healthcare, a 501c3 organization. The other authors reported no relevant financial disclosures.