Hail to the Chief: a demographic look at physician leaders

What goes into making a physician CEO?

Aug 24, 2011 · Doximity Insider

Editor’s note: Alex Blau, MD, is Doximity’s Medical Director.

A few months ago, LinkedIn published a great blog post called “Top CEO
Names.” Who knew that Peters and Sallys are most likely to be found atop a
masthead? Or that sales forces are rife with Chips and Todds? The findings were
so intriguing, we decided to do an analysis with our own data to see what a few
similar breakdowns look like among our member physicians.

We first pulled together all of our registered members who have entered titles
for themselves (these are free-text, so examples might be “solo practitioner,”
“resident,” “CMO,” etc.). That amounted to about half of our users. Among
those, 8.2% of them have leadership titles (chief, chair, director, CMO, CEO,
etc.). Making the very conservative assumption that the other half of our
user-base—those who have not entered title information—have no leadership
roles to publicize, we can say that at least 4% of our users are medical
leaders. This strikes us as a high number. Yet it stands to reason that
physicians in leadership positions may be more likely to adopt tools, like
Doximity, that offer career management benefits.

We then went on to compare the average age of the leaders we identified to that
of other physicians. It turned out to be 51.4, a little more than two years
older than the mean age of our users. We would have expected leaders to be
older, on average, than non-leaders. Perhaps, given the rapid pace of change in
healthcare—with legislative overhaul, technologic advances, and restructuring
into larger practices and hospital systems—institutions are increasingly
turning to new blood, fresh ideas, and younger energy to navigate these
turbulent waters.

In terms of gender, women represented 22% of physician leaders. While this
number is low, it should be noted that it speaks to the lingering
underrepresentation of women among physicians as a whole; the latest American
Medical Association data
show that as of 2006 only 28% of US doctors are
women. This imbalance is quickly reversing, however, with women making up
of last year’s graduating MD classes, according to the Association of
American Medical Colleges.

Another question we had was how academic publications played into the mix.
Physician leaders publish more frequently than their peers—nearly three times
as often, with 3.7 PubMed citations versus 1.4. This is unsurprising, as the
road to medical distinction (and lofty titles) often winds through the
mountains of academia.

Lastly, we took a look at the most common surnames among physicians and
physician leaders. We all know that the face of medicine is changing; almost
of practicing physicians are now of non-white, foreign, or unknown
ethnicity, according to the AMA. We were pleased to see these shifts
represented in the range of names on the list of US physicians, though the
ranks of physician leaders seem to have been slower to diversify.

Back to Blog