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June 20 11:24 PM

Look beyond the numbers in top earners’ list



In previous issues of The Inquisitor, we have provided readers with wage and salary information for employees from state and local agencies across Northwest Louisiana. In this issue, we profile the compensation of the top 250 earners at the LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport (LSU).

North Louisiana is incredibly fortunate to have an academic medical center in our backyard. Most cities of Shreveport/Bossier’s size do not have a teaching hospital, medical and allied health professional schools like LSUHSC-Shreveport. While medical centers are made up of prominent buildings and sophisticated equipment, at the core they require incredibly talented and committed physicians, nurses and other professionals. To recruit and retain these individuals — all of whom are in very high demand — they must earn competitive salaries and wages. These people make up the bulk of the people listed in this report.

When looking at these salaries, keep in mind that some of the best physicians in the area are either affiliated with LSU Health Sciences Center or are on their payroll. Some work inside Willis-Knighton Medical Center, but they are LSU doctors. Examples would be two doctors that have provided their services to my wife, Wendy. Dr. David Vandermolen put her tubes back together so that we could have Joeli. Then last year, Dr. Donny Autman removed part of Wendy's thyroid. Both were LSUHSC surgeons who work out of Willis- Knighton. I can assure you that when we chose these two doctors, we were not price shopping.

I've always said, there are three professionals you don't want to hire because they are the cheapest: your doctor, your lawyer and your auctioneer!

A great deal of information follows in the accompanying table. Some important points: • The total compensation for these individuals is derived from public and non-public sources. The public sources are the base amounts which generally support their educational and research responsibilities. Other figures are often linked to patient care services and funds derived from insurance companies — much like physicians in private practice would receive for the treatments, diagnoses and procedures they perform.

• Many LSU physicians have multiple jobs and titles relating to their various roles and responsibilities here. One day they are teaching, another they may be conducting research, and others are taking care of patients. The LSU physicians teach and within the School of Medicine and take care of patients in the adjacent LSU Medical Center hospital and community hospitals. They take care of people — those who are less fortunate as well as those with the financial means, like insurance, to pay for their care needs.

What don't the tables say? A whole lot.

• The individuals listed here possess significant credentials that are too great to list here. We have listed the many graduate degrees they have. This does not include the various licenses, certifications and years of post-graduate training that are necessary to become expert in their specialties.

• All physicians need at least seven years after college before they can practice medicine. Some physicians — such as neurosurgeons — can train for upwards of 13 to 15 years after college to become proficient to care for you and your loved ones. Besides the years of training, many incur tens of thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands in financial debt in becoming medical professionals.

• The competition for physicians across the nation is fierce. To recruit specialists to communities like Shreveport/Bossier, institutions like LSU have offer competitive salaries. These professionals have the freedom of choice in where they live and practice.

• In a number of cases, LSU faculty earn below their peers at other institutions. LSU officials consult national resources for compensation when new offers are made. Salaries for Shreveport's physicians are well below their peers in other markets. For instance, in consulting the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Salary Guide, for some specialties, physicians could be expected to earn up to 20 percent more in other cities in the southeastern US and even more elsewhere in the U.S. Furthermore, academic physicians typically earn less than their peers in community private practices.

• As reported previously in the Inquisitor and other media, LSU has had many cutbacks over the past few years in Medicaid funding for the hospital and state support for the medical school. This has required that cost-of-living adjustments were held back for all personnel, that maintenance was deferred, and many other compromises made. In a number of cases, physicians and scientists have left the institution after receiving significantly greater financial offers from competing community hospitals and medical schools.

We hope that this information and explanation will be helpful to our readers. We also hope that our readers feel fortunate knowing that Shreveport/Bossier has incredible medical talent and expertise right here in our community. Adults and children can usually get whatever medical or surgical expertise they need right here in Shreveport/Bossier. And if the doctor isn't at LSU, the odds are that he or she was trained here for part of their professional education.

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