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May 29, 1997

Medical school makes salaries consistent for new tenured clinical faculty

Medical school professors have never been accused of being underpaid, at least compared with other faculty.

But until this year, it was unclear how much salary money a fulltime, clinical professor with tenure in Pitt's School of Medicine could expect to earn simply by being: a. Tenured, and b. A fulltime, clinical professor in Pitt's medical school.

That's because many medical professors earn much — or most — of their income from clinical practice fees and other non-salary sources. Individual faculty members often negotiated their salary levels with department chairpersons and deans. Some medical school departments offered tenure-guaranteed minimum salaries; others did not.

But last spring, Pitt medical faculty voted unanimously to make the rules consistent across the school (not retroactively, however; the new rules cover faculty granted tenure from spring 1997 on).

Under the new rules, a medical faculty member who is promoted to the rank of fulltime professor is guaranteed a $90,000 annual salary unless otherwise stated at the time the faculty member was hired. Associate professors get $66,000, under the same condition.

Those numbers were based on the current median salaries of faculty at those two levels in the medical school's basic sciences departments.

"Of course, faculty may continue to receive income from clinical fees, research grants and contracts, but those [income sources] will not be guaranteed by tenure," said George Michalopoulos, interim dean of the medical school.

He added, "One of the fundamental tenets of tenure is the totality of the income that a tenured faculty member is guaranteed unless otherwise stated at the beginning of the tenure contract. But that had never been articulated to clinical faculty.

"In an environment where clinical income is being reduced, we [medical school faculty and administrators] realized, collectively, that the University…may have had a financial problem in the future unless we defined exactly what tenure covers."

— Bruce Steele

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