After controversy earlier this year regarding gender issues at the medical school, Dean of the School of Medicine Robert Alpern outlined the process behind this year’s changes to faculty salaries, including alterations intended to alleviate gender discrepancies in compensation.
At a town hall meeting Wednesday, Alpern explained that for the past several years, adjustments to faculty salaries at the medical school have taken into account education, seniority, median salaries for other private schools and productivity, among other factors. He went on to explain, however, that the medical school dean’s office undertook a more detailed review of faculty compensation last summer, which has resulted in higher salaries for certain faculty and a narrowing of the gender pay gap at the medical school. Alpern said that salary adjustments were made for 4.4 percent of male faculty members and 10.5 percent of female faculty members, and that the average increase in compensation amounted to roughly $15,000. He added that these increases, which were communicated to these faculty in September, were retroactive to July 1.
“To have the right climate at the medical school, people need to feel that they’re fairly compensated,” Alpern said. “Number one, they need to be fairly compensated and number two, they need to be confident that that’s the case.”
He said the old salary model showed a gender difference in compensation of about 3 percent when incentive payments in the clinical departments — additional payments that are not guaranteed to faculty and incentivize clinical work — were not included and a difference of 5 percent when incentive payments were included.
While the purpose of the faculty salary review was to ensure the equity of compensation across the medical school, Alpern said it was easier to compare faculty salaries in the school’s basic science departments than in the clinical departments due to the smaller size of the basic science departments and the relative uniformity of job expectations for basic science faculty. He added that faculty compensation within the clinical departments, which employ over 2,000 faculty, is more complex because of discrepancies in departmental approaches to rewarding faculty productivity. For example, some departments reward for collection income, while some reward for RVUs — a measure used in the Medicare reimbursement formula.
Alpern said rather than modifying the existing model, as it has done in previous years, the dean’s office chose to individually examine the salaries of each clinical department’s faculty members.
“In the clinical departments, gender differences raise concerns,” he said. “We concluded that no schoolwide model would ever capture the diverse approaches to compensation used by clinical departments. The model cannot replace individual review of compensations in the clinical departments.”
The examination process came in three steps: a structural gender-based increase in salary, a merit-based increase in salary and an individual examination of each faculty member by a committee he or she serves on.
At the forum, he explained that the result was a 2.1 percent average increase in faculty salaries at the School.
“The net result when including increases for promotion was that compensation increased by 2.19 percent for men and 4.69 percent for women,” Alpern said. “What this doesn’t address is if someone needed a significant change in their compensation. That’s why we really needed a step three.”
He said that these meetings to analyze the salaries of individual faculty members involved all of the school’s 19 departments, and that each of the meetings included an investigation of how each individual department calculated the compensation of its academic staff. Alpern added that the review of each faculty member’s salary involved input from the head of their department who could comment on their progress.
Alpern also announced that the school will form an office of academic analytics whose director will serve as a compensation analyst.
A faculty member at the meeting raised the issue of transparency surrounding retention packages offered at the medical school. She asked whether the review process had influenced the school’s approach to retention packages, noting that this was a “non-transparent” process that faculty members do not fully understand.
In response, Alpern said the retention package issue was separate from compensation equity because faculty members offered retention packages often preferred anonymity.
“A lot of people who get retention packages don’t want them advertised and so it’s hard to be 100 percent transparent,” he said. “We certainly can’t associate with names because people don’t want their names out there. If there are ways to be more transparent we’re happy to do that … but it’s not something that you can just put up on the website.”
Another faculty member asked Alpern whether the changes made were sufficient to fix the 3-percent gender discrepancy in faculty pay.
Alpern responded that “the model would be run again” in an effort to continue to improve the equity of faculty salaries. He added that although committees examining these issues paid attention to the career trajectories of faculty, they did not examine how trajectories had changed over time because they did not have the data necessary for doing so.
Collectively, the physicians at the School of Medicine have more than a million patient encounters a year and treat patients at eight affiliated hospitals, including Yale-New Haven Hospital, Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital and the Smilow Cancer Hospital, according to the Yale School of Medicine website.