Brainstorm Health: Boehner Joins Marijuana Company, Alzheimer’s Gene Deletion, Doctor Pay Gap

April 11, 2018, 8:51 PM UTC

Hello and happy hump day, readers! This is Sy.

The gender and racial pay gap extends into pretty much every industry, including high-skill, high-stress fields like medicine. In fact, white or male doctors make tens of thousands of dollars—and even up to $100,000—more, on, average than women or minority physicians, according to a new survey.

Medscape’s 8th annual Physician Compensation Report collected responses about salary from more than 20,000 American doctors across dozens of medical specialties. The group found that women and racial minorities—particularly African Americans—were consistently paid less than white men.

For instance, male physician specialists (i.e., non-primary care) made 36% more than female ones.

Medscape Physician Compensation Report
Medscape Physician Compensation Report

The situation was better for primary care physicians—but men still earned 18% more ($239,000 versus $203,000) on average.

And then there’s the racial pay disparities. All non-white minorities made less money across the spectrum of medicine. Black doctors faced the largest chasm, making $50,000 less than caucasians; one of the most striking differences was between male African American doctors and female African American doctors, with the latter making nearly $100,000 less than the former.

Medscape Physician Compensation Report
Medscape Physician Compensation Report

What’s more, average physician salary actually rose this year—and the wage gaps between men and women and white and black physicians rose alongside with it.

“You would think that as we narrow the gap of representation of women in medicine, that would narrow the wage gap, but it’s not happening,” said Dr. Ranit Mishori, professor of family medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine, in a statement. “The lack of salary transparency adds to the challenges of addressing gender-based pay disparities. Women don’t even know what targets to shoot for.”

The report cites several complex factors that contribute to this trend. For instance, women and minorities might be more likely to be primary care physicians than higher-paid specialists, and women may choose specialties that aren’t as lucrative (such as opting for being an obstetrician/gynecologist rather than a radiologist). Salaries also vary widely based on state and geographic region. But a lack of transparency and social biases are also another likely driver, according to the study authors.

Read on for the day’s news.


Even doctors don't have great access to patient data. Patients and consumers have consistently expressed a desire for more easily available health care data (related note: you should check out our big piece about big data in medicine in the most recent Fortune issue if you haven't already). But even doctors themselves don't have the easiest access to patient data, according to a new report from health IT firm Surescripts. The report has plenty of interesting and important tidbits, including what kind of data doctors and patients should have easier access to; but the topline finding is that half of surveyed physicians think access to patient information needs to be improved, even with the preponderance of electronic health records.


Are some drug prices actually too low? There's no shortage of talk (or, uh, the opposite of action) on exorbitantly pricey prescription drugs. But Bloomberg probes the other side of the equation: The generic drug companies that provide the vast majority of the world's medicines for far, farm smaller margins than branded therapies. The business' profit motive may be declining to scare some away from the sector altogether. (Bloomberg)


John Boehner joins marijuana company's board, citing opioid epidemic and veterans' health. File this one under "Somewhat Unexpected"—former Republican House Speaker John Boehner is joining the advisory board of Acreage Holdings, a marijuana cultivation and operations firm, alongside former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld. Boehner was adamantly opposed to easing marijuana laws while in office; this morning, he cited to two major public health reasons for his evolution in thinking: Veterans' PTSD treatment and the opioid epidemic. (Fortune)


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