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As healthcare leaders, policy analysts and journalists point with alarm to a growing shortage of physicians in the U.S., the fact that there is a widening gender gap – in compensation – is particularly troublesome.

Newly trained women physicians are paid about $17,000 less than their male contemporaries.  What makes this particularly troubling is that the gap has actually increased, from $3,600 in 1999 to $16,819 in 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported in its careers section this week.   The Journal cites research presented in this month’s Health Affairs magazine.

“The pay disparity exists even after the researchers accounted for factors such as medical specialty, hours worked and practice type. Women had lower starting salaries than men in nearly all specialties, the researchers found,” the Journal quoted the study.

If you will permit me an opinion:  this is outrageous.  It is not as if the healthcare delivery segment isn’t facing enough challenges such as poor safety and quality, a toxic medical-legal environment, and declining reimbursements.   No, it seems as though we must go forth and create even more ridiculous complications which we must address.

As hospitals hire more physicians, this type of gender pay discrimination must be addressed or there likely will be downstream legal consequences.

From graduate medical education to the way we train administrators and nurses, there is much work to be done if we are to ever change the culture of our wonderful industry.   And hopefully in a cultural transformation we can rid ourselves of some of the off-the-wall ideas and values that hold us back.  

This pay disparity once again shows that the healthcare industry has trouble getting out of its way.

© 2011 John Gregory Self