If doctors wanted to be wealthy, they would have become UPS truck drivers

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Do doctors make too much money?

I don’t think so. I read with great interest the blog by Dr. Michael Kirsch defending physicians’ salaries: “If you think doctors make too much money, think about this.” Unfortunately, the public’s perception of physicians’ incomes has been that physicians make too much money.

Whenever I hear this remark from patients or even non-physicians, I show them this the graph above about the comparable incomes of UPS truck drivers and physicians.

You can see from this very revealing graph that a UPS truck driver enters the workforce and begins to earn money at age 18. However, a physician usually is incurring debt for 8 to 10 years and only enters the workforce around age 30. Therefore, it takes a physician nearly 17 years to equal the accumulated wealth of a UPS truck driver.

Now consider if the UPS truck driver worked the same hours as a physician, 60 to 70 hours a week and received overtime pay, it would take nearly 24 years for the physician to equal the income of a UPS truck driver.

My comment to anyone who even alludes to the notion that men and women decide to become doctors is motivated by money is that if we wanted to become wealthy quickly, we would become UPS truck drivers.

Nearly every physician decides to become a doctor knows full well that they will probably have on average $250,000 of debt that will have to be repaid with interest; that they will have to get up in the middle of the night to go to work to care for the sick and ill patients; that they risk litigation and lawsuits during their career, and that will defer gratification and accumulation of wealth for many years.

Yet, thousands of bright, talented young men and women will enter the health care profession and that applications to medical schools are at an all-time high. We become doctors because we truly have a calling. We want to help people not only get well, but now we are interested in helping patients and the public stay well and avoiding getting sick and going to see the doctor. We become physicians because we enjoy the gratification from patients who thank us every day for all that we do to make them better or keep them well. I don’t believe there is another profession that offers that kind of daily feedback from their customers or clients.

For the most part, physicians love what they do, and money is not the primary driver for joining the exclusive club of health care providers.

Neil Baum is a urologist and author of Marketing Your Clinical Practices: Ethically, Effectively, Economically. He can be reached at his self-titled site, Neil Baum, MD, or on Facebook and Twitter.

Image credit: Neil Baum

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