At the recent Association of University Radiologists (AUR) meeting, the American Board of Radiology (ABR) adopted the theme of transparency in its lectures. However, as I sat and listened to the seminar on the ABR updates, the words did not jibe well with the theme.
How The ABR Supported Its New Found Transparency
Brent Wagner, MD, the President-Elect of the organization, attempted to show as a nonprofit entity, the books are wide open. And that, the money that they raise from testing fees and MOC mostly goes to the upkeep of the organization. In fact, they showed the public income tax form they filed with the IRS. In it, he stated that anyone could pretty much look up the finances of the organization and its members. So, I pulled up a copy of the nonprofit 990 IRS form for the 2016 tax year at the following link: http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/410/410773787/410773787_201703_990O.pdf
Yes, much of the money does go to the running maintenance of certification, testing, and other appropriate uses. But, that is not all. If you look at the form, you will see listed the compensation for the executive board listed on page 7. According to the document, compensation for the president was 720,000 dollars for 50 hours of weekly work. In addition, the ABR paid the associate executive directors on the list who worked 20 hours over 260,00o dollars including all compensation. Of course, this compensation does not include any other outside remuneration that these individuals may receive from outside practices and institutions. So, if you take all the income into consideration, it is significantly more than the typical radiologist’s. But yes, it was available for all to see.
My Issues With ABR Executive Compensation
So, what is that did not sit well with me about the executive compensation? For one, you have an army of volunteers that the ABR does not pay for all their time and effort. Meanwhile, you have a small group at the top who collect significant rewards. Yes, this is a nonprofit organization and the folks that run it should get paid for its work. However, at the top, these folks earn a lot more than a typical radiologist. When I pay my annual dues, I don’t believe there is much value in paying a president of this organization over 700,000 dollars not including additional outside compensation that she may receive.
I mean, what exactly is the point of the organization? Simply, the ABR should dedicate itself to the high standards of the end product of residency, the radiologist. Additionally, the organization should make sure that it’s diplomates meet the minimum requirements to practice radiology safely while maintaining a relationship with the public and government. Should the leader at the top earn almost twice the average radiologist for this mission (not including other side income)? It’s certainly hard for me to justify.
And just because the organization exists as a nonprofit entity and must distribute all profits by the end of the year does not mean that the nonprofit model is fair. A nonprofit is only as good as its ability to distribute its funds appropriately for the betterment of a cause. Rewarding the executives with salaries above and beyond the typical radiologist does not qualify as a cause I want to support.
Moreover, finally, in order to justify the salaries it paid to its executives, the speaker compared itself to other nonprofit organizations. However, just because other nonprofit entities overpay its executives does not mean that the ABR should do so as well.
My Final Thoughts About ABR Transparency
Alright, I will give the ABR some points for coming clean with the whereabouts of its funding. And, I will give them some credit for talking about the remuneration of its members. As well, they gave us the means to access the information. On the other hand, the ABR is not forthcoming with providing the reasons for the exorbitant compensation of its leaders. We should advocate for more transparency and demand more from the ABR. Creating more equitable compensation to its employees and leaders should take a higher priority.