America's Richest Doctors

The majority of today's practicing physicians are not as rich as the general public seems to think. However, there are some who - thanks to their business acumen - are among the richest people in the country.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

— Benjamin Franklin

“Oh, those rich doctors” is a common public refrain. But, if you talk to the vast majority of today’s practicing physicians, they’ll tell you it just ain’t so.

According to Medical Group Management Association’s most recent Physician Compensation and Production Survey Report, primary care physicians have a median income of about $221,000 and specialists are at about $396,000 in annual pay.

As for my physician-dad, while he was very successful MD, I don’t think he was rich. If he was, I would be … and I’m not.

Indeed, dad had a few characteristics in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s — a respected occupation, good steady income and top-notch credit — that he could have parlayed into sizable wealth. He just didn’t have the business-investment moxie to so.

But there are some very rich doctors. Forbes recently combed through its “400 Richest People in America” to produce a “Richest People in Medicine” list. Here are the physicians who made the cut.

Patrick Soon-Shiong, MD ($7.3 billion net worth)

Here’s a doctor who founded and built not one, but 2, very successful pharmaceutical companies (American Pharma Partners and Abraxis Bioscience). And it’s not enough that he’s the richest doc in in Los Angeles, CA, he’s also the richest physician in the USA.

Born in South Africa in 1952, Soon-Shiong is the son of Chinese refugees. A 1975 graduate of University of Witwatersrand Medical School, he is also a part owner of the Los Angeles Lakers. In 2011, he started another company (NantWorks) that combines medicine, technology, and DNA to improve healthcare outcomes.

And just to add a little more flavor, his wife, Michele B. Chan, is an actress who appeared in the MacGyver TV series.

Thomas Frist, Jr., MD ($6.3 billion net worth)

The Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), which he co-founded in 1968 with his father, Thomas F. Frist, Sr., MD, is the world’s largest for-profit hospital company, including more than 165 hospitals and 110 surgery centers in the US and UK.

First, Jr., has served as president, chief executive officer, and chairman of HCA. He is a graduate of the Washington University (St. Louis) Medical School. Born in Nashville, TN, in 1939, he is now that state’s richest resident.

Talent runs in the family — his brother is William Frist, MD, a world-renowned heart and lung transplant surgeon and former Majority Leader of the US Senate. The whole Frist family is deeply involved in local, national, and international philanthropy. The family is currently leading an effort to promote and improve healthcare in China.

Phillip Frost, MD ($4 billion net worth)

A true pioneering medical industrialist, Frost is chairman of Teva Pharmaceuticals, the world’s leading producer of generic drugs. After earning his medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1961, Frost became a dermatology professor.

In 1972, he and a lawyer friend, Michael Jaharis, bought Key Pharmaceuticals, which they sold to Schering-Plough in 1986. Frost then became CEO of Ivax Corporation, which he sold to Teva in 2006 for $7.6 billion. The 75-year-old Miami Beach resident serves on the Smithsonian Institution Board of Regents and the University of Miami Board of Trustees.

Frost is also into banking and is the biggest shareholder in the Coconut Grove Bank, Southern Florida’s oldest bank.

Gary Michelson, MD ($1.5 billion net worth)

Michelson is a medical inventor of epic proportions. Born in Philadelphia in 1949, the Hahnemann Medical College graduate is the owner of more than 250 US patents on orthopedic instruments, methods, and devices.

A spinal surgeon — motivated by his grandmother’s spinal deformity and frustrated with subpar surgical instruments — Michelson had been “tinkering” with medical device ideas for years. He did much of his early research and inventing in his garage in Los Angeles.

Today, Michelson, a pet lover since boyhood, is focused on animal welfare. He started the Found Animals Foundation to help pet shelter overcrowding and has donated millions to research for animals care.