To the editor:
I appreciated the article about the shortage of general practitioners among medical school graduates. It is no surprise that salary is the major factor influencing the M.D.s' career path. Clearly this problem needs to be addressed for the physical health of our country.
However, there are shortages elsewhere as well. This year, Kansas schools opened with over 225 teaching jobs unfilled. There were no qualified applicants to hire. Salary is the major factor influencing people who decide against entering the teaching profession. General practitioners' starting salary averages $186,000. As a veteran teacher with a master's degree, 186,000 resembles my odometer more than my W-2. I do earn $186,000, it just takes me a little over four years to do it. A beginning teacher earns $186,000 for about seven years' work.
Granted, medical graduates have greater student loan debt than education graduates. But as a percentage of starting salary, those debt levels are fairly equal. The difference is that education graduates spend virtually every penny earned on simple living expenses, while the medical graduate has far more disposable income. Thus, while the general practitioner might settle for the Camaro over the Corvette, the education graduate settles for food over fuel and walks to school.
I don't begrudge doctors their high salaries. They worked hard to get where they are and work harder to stay there. They are essential to our society. Yet, without teachers there would be no doctors. Teachers make all other professions possible. How does our society reward that?