Male doctors in Maryland are paid about 50 percent more on average than their female counterparts, according to a new survey commissioned by the state’s largest professional association for physicians.
The survey by Merritt Hawkins, a national search and consulting firm for doctors, found that male physicians in Maryland were paid $335,000 on average, while the state’s female physicians took home an average of $224,000. The pay gap held true regardless of doctors’ specialties, the survey showed.
“We were somewhat aware that the gender disparity issue existed, but the extent of it shocked us when it came out,” said Gene Ransom, CEO of MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society.
MedChi commissioned the study in response to other reports that found physician pay was lower in Maryland than in other states, Ransom said. His group hoped the results of the study would provide members with a bargaining tool they could use in pay negotiations.
In addition to the pay divide between men and women, the Merritt Hawkins study found that Maryland physicians earned pay that was lower than the national average. Physicians in 14 of the 15 specialties tracked in the study earned less than the average starting salary for their discipline.
Family medicine physicians in Maryland, for instance, made an average of $214,000 in 2016, while the average starting salary for family medicine practitioners nationwide was $231,000. And for orthopedic surgeons, the average national salary was $579,000, but orthopedic surgeons in Maryland made an average of $412,000 in 2016.
Urology was the only specialty in which Maryland doctors were paid more than the national average starting salary — $476,000 compared to $435,000.
“You cannot have a situation where Maryland is behind — so far behind — all the other states,” Ransom said. “The good docs will move to other places where they can get paid more.”
The survey, which examined doctors’ pay, benefits and patterns of practice such as hours worked, was based on responses from 508 Maryland physicians.
MedChi has about 8,000 members.
The survey marked the first time MedChi studied pay disparities among doctors, Ransom said.
Ransom was most surprised to find the gender gap in pay was so vast.
Starting salaries for male and female physicians in Maryland were similar, said Jeremy Robinson, a regional vice president of Merritt Hawkins, in a statement. It’s unclear what led to the stark difference later in their careers, he said.
“Maybe male physicians are more aggressive than female physicians… there’s no logical reason why it would be the case,” Ransom said.
Ransom said MedChi will look to better understand the pay divide and explore potential policy changes that could close the gap in Maryland.
“The magnitude of this problem was a little bit a of a surprise to us,” he said, “so I think now it’s incumbent on us to come up with a solution.”