Academic Productivity and Its Relationship to Physician Salaries in the University of California Healthcare System

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Abstract

Objectives

To evaluate whether physicians with higher academic productivity, as measured by the number of publications in Scopus and the Scopus Hirsch index (h-index), earn higher salaries.

Methods

This was a cross-sectional study. Participants were ophthalmologists, otolaryngologists, neurosurgeons, and neurologists classified as “top earners” (>$100,000 annually) within the University of California (UC) healthcare system in 2008. Bibliometric searches on Scopus were conducted to retrieve the total number of publications and Hirsch indices (h-index), a measure of academic productivity. The association between the number of publications and h-index on physicians’ total compensation was determined with multivariate regression models after controlling for the four specialties (ophthalmology, otolaryngology, neurosurgery, and neurology), the five institutions (UC San Francisco, UC Los Angeles, UC San Diego, UC Irvine, and UC Davis), and academic rank (assistant professor, associate professor, and professor).

Results

The UC healthcare system departments reported 433 faculty physicians among the four specialties, with 71.6% (n = 310) earning more than $100,000 in 2008 and classifying as top earners. After controlling for the specialty, institution, and ranking, there was a significant association between the number of publications on salary (P < 0.000001). Scopus number of publications and h-index were correlated (P < 0.001). Scopus h-index was of borderline significance in predicting physician salary (P = 0.12). Physicians with higher Scopus publications had higher total salaries across all four specialties. Every 10 publications were associated with a 2.40% increase in total salary after controlling for specialty, institution, rank, and chair.

Conclusions

Ophthalmologists, otolaryngologists, neurosurgeons, and neurologists in the UC healthcare system who are more academically productive receive greater remuneration.

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