The best bet for handling contract issues is to seek experienced healthcare legal advice. The American Health Lawyers Association (www.healthlawyers.org) is one place to start.
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Explore This IssueFebruary 2010
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A Well-Informed Decision
Although going into industry tends to be a road less traveled for new rheumatologists, Gregory Dennis, MD, senior director of medical affairs at Human Genome Sciences, Inc. in Rockville, Md., believes such a career can be fulfilling for those interested in research. Applicants can consider careers in general research, clinical trials, medical affairs, and patient safety.
Dr. Dennis underscored Ms. Roediger’s advice on contract negotiations during his presentation at the session. He urged everyone to break down the terms of his or her employment offers, and to clearly identify any areas for desired improvement. He cautioned against making strong demands. Delivering ultimatums regarding employment terms can backfire with prospective employers, he said, because at this stage in their careers, “most individuals are viewed as dispensable.”
While base salaries, sign-on bonuses, and initial stock options are usually negotiable, the annual bonus targets and annual stock option–restricted awards are less so. Since it’s important for physicians to make well-informed decisions, Dr. Dennis displayed several slides enumerating base and mid-level salaries for the general research, clinical research, and medical affairs arenas. A fellow who joins a pharmaceutical company at the individual contributor level in preclinical research can expect a base salary in the $120,000–145,000 range, plus a typical bonus that is 20–22% of the base salary (thus boosting the total annual pay to $140,000–170,000). Base salaries for individual contributors in clinical research are higher, starting in the $205,000–225,000 range.
Eyes on the Prize
Herbert S.B. Baraf, MD, is managing partner of a 12-person, single-specialty rheumatology practice, Arthritis and Rheumatism Associates, in the Washington, D.C., area. He believes private practice offers one of the most satisfying career paths for rheumatologists. His advice: avoid multi-specialty practices, which can be problematic for rheumatologists. “There are complex divisions of revenues and expenses when you mix cognitive and procedural physicians in the same place,” he explained during the session. Better to be in a single-specialty practice where all the physicians are dealing with the same issues.
At their core, contracts are about relationships, said Dr. Baraf, and for that reason the first condition of joining a practice is good chemistry between you and the partners. Make an effort to meet all of the partners, he advises, and do due diligence by checking references, researching their reputation in the community and being “a fly on the wall” among patients in the waiting room.