Switch From Private Practice to Academia? Maybe a Smart Move

Mark Crane


June 26, 2013

In This Article

Wanted: Doctors Who Are Expert in Clinical Care

In Medscape's 2013 Physician Compensation Report, a significant number of physicians in virtually every specialty expressed dissatisfaction with their practice setting.

Most of these dissatisfied doctors are in private practice. If you count yourself among them, here's a thought: Perhaps the change in practice setting that would really do you the most good is not from a single-specialty to a multispecialty group, or from a large group to a small one, or from a hospital to private practice.

It might be that the best fit for you is in academia.

Physicians generally don't seek careers in academic medicine primarily for the money. Their main motivation is usually the intellectual stimulation and prestige of working with the "best and brightest," the desire to do cutting-edge research, and the opportunity to teach the next generation of doctors.

Although physicians in private practice or those employed by hospitals and integrated delivery systems typically earn more, that's changing, experts maintain, because inexorable economic forces are compelling it.

During the past 20 years, there has been "enormous pressure on academic physicians to generate more of their salary through patient care, thus reducing time for research and/or teaching." Thus concluded a 2010 literature review titled, "How, When, and Why Do Physicians Choose Careers in Academic Medicine?"[1]

That pressure is, if anything, even more intense today. To keep their doors open, academic centers have no choice but to sweeten their offers to recruit the best candidates.

"Academic centers need to generate greater professional revenues from clinical activities," says Tommy Bohannon, Divisional Vice President of Hospital-Based Recruiting for Merritt Hawkins, a physician-recruiting company based in Irving, Texas. "This is necessary in order to fund their academic mission and to operate their clinical practices more efficiently. Decreased state, federal, philanthropic, and research funding, along with lower reimbursements from commercial insurers, have had a big impact."

"This plus the doctor shortage has led to an increase in competition for top candidates," Bohannon adds. "This dynamic has always existed in the context of securing leaders in the teaching and research fields, but now it is being felt in the context of recruiting high-caliber, productive clinical talent. Our academic clients are now often competing with nonacademic entities for the services of the best candidates, and therefore many institutions are implementing changes in both recruiting processes and compensation ranges and models."


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