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Report: Wide pay gap persists between gender, ethnic groups among Md. doctors

There is a wide pay gap between male and female physicians in Maryland, and doctors in the state earn less on average than those nationwide, a recent survey has found.

The study conducted by Merritt Hawkins, a national physician search and consulting firm and a company of AMN Healthcare, on behalf of MedChi, The Maryland State Medical Society, tracks compensation, benefits and practice metrics of Maryland physicians and compares them to physicians nationally. It benchmarks compensation among Maryland physicians by gender, age, ethnicity and practice status, and also examines how Maryland physicians were affected by COVID-19.

According to the report, the average annual pretax income in 2020 for male physicians in Maryland was $320,000 compared to $213,000 for women a difference of 49.6%. That’s about the same disparity found in a similar survey conducted in 2018 using 2016 income data for Maryland doctors.

“The fact that significant gender-based income disparities persist among Maryland physicians is both disappointing and perplexing,” MedChi CEO Gene Ransom said. “We expected to see at least some closure of this gap, but it remains as wide as ever.”

Even in specialty groupings, the discrepancy persists. In the survey using 2020 income data, male primary care physicians made an average of $262,542 compared to $172,542 for women, a difference of 41.2%. For surgeons, diagnostic and other specialists, it was $350,625 to $250,115 or 33.5%. Male doctors in private practice made 30.9% more than their female counterparts. For those employed in medical practice, the difference was 39.3%.

The study found that male and female work essentially the same number of hours per week, 48 for males compared to 48.3 for women, so longer hours weren’t a factor.

Executives at AMN Healthcare/Merritt Hawkins said it was difficult to determine just what accounts for the pay differences.

“We see little difference in the employment contracts of male and female physicians,” said James Taylor, group president and CEO of AMN Healthcare’s Leadership Solutions division, which includes Merritt Hawkins. “Nevertheless, the data show that female Maryland physicians earn less than males, even when specialty, hours worked, practice status and age are factored into the equation.”

Locally, Ransom said, MedChi has established a gender pay equity committee to examine and address gender-based income disparities.

Income disparities were also found among different ethnic groups in Maryland. The average annual 2020 income for Asian/Asian American physicians was $325,000 compared to $268,000 for white and $225,000 for Black/African American doctors in the state.

The survey also found that physicians had seen a decline in income during the COVID-19 pandemic. The average pretax income in 2020 was $276,000 down 7.7% from 2016 when it was $299,000.

Compared to those nationally, Maryland doctors ranked toward the bottom of the income scale. Pediatricians in the state reported an average compensation of $165,000 compared to a national starting salary of $236,000. Orthopedic surgeons in Maryland reported income of $394,000 compared to $546,000 nationally.

“The fact that the total compensation of many Maryland physicians lags what typically is offered as a starting salary nationally underscores the relatively low incomes of physicians in our state,” MedChi President Loralie D. Ma, MD said.

The survey also asked how Maryland physicians were affected by COVID-19; half (50.3%) said they were not professionally affected by the pandemic. But many were impacted, as approximately 5% closed their practices because of the virus, 4.3% joined another practice, 3.7% were furloughed, 3% found work in another field and 1.2% were laid off or retired.

“COVID-19 caused a surge in physician workforce volatility in Maryland,” said Ma. “Practice closures, physician layoffs and physician exits from medicine are likely to compound staffing challenges at healthcare facilities throughout the state.”

The survey was based on responses from 506 Maryland physicians. A copy of the report can be found at