If physician salaries were lowered, would people still want to become doctors?

Are the rewards of medicine itself enough to entice the best students to become doctors?

Edwin Leap reminds us that at one time, the rewards of medicine outweighed the financial benefits associated with the profession. Medical students and young doctors today may not be as altruistic, and indeed, seem to place greater priority on lifestyle. This is especially true in the current era of restricted work-hours and mandated nap times, compounded by the demand for specialties with manageable hours.

Without “a sense of temporal and eternal purpose,” Dr. Leap writes that doctors today “will have to be rewarded financially in order to stay in a long, arduous educational system, in order to work all hours, in order to expose themselves to risks physical, emotional and legal and in order to come back day after day to a job that is sometimes amazing but often quite tedious and frequently quite maddening.”

Dr. Leap urges caution about unilaterally demonizing profit in medicine and the salaries of physicians: “You’ll also need money to get physicians and mid-level providers to continue seeing all of the nonsense we see . . . [and] if we decide that profit is inherently bad, we’re going to have a tough time getting things like new medicines from companies, new procedures from surgeons and open office slots from any doctor on earth.”

Well said.

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