Prevalence and compensation of academic leaders, professors, and trustees on publicly traded US healthcare company boards of directors: cross sectional study

BMJ. 2015 Sep 29:351:h4826. doi: 10.1136/bmj.h4826.


Objective: To identify the prevalence, characteristics, and compensation of members of the boards of directors of healthcare industry companies who hold academic appointments as leaders, professors, or trustees.

Design: Cross sectional study.

Setting: US healthcare companies publicly traded on the NASDAQ or New York Stock Exchange in 2013.

Participants: 3434 directors of pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical equipment and supply, and healthcare provider companies.

Main outcome measures: Prevalence, annual compensation, and beneficial stock ownership of directors with affiliations as leaders, professors, or trustees of academic medical and research institutions.

Results: 446 healthcare companies met the study search criteria, of which 442 (99%) had publicly accessible disclosures on boards of directors. 180 companies (41%) had one or more academically affiliated directors. Directors were affiliated with 85 geographically diverse non-profit academic institutions, including 19 of the top 20 National Institute of Health funded medical schools and all of the 17 US News honor roll hospitals. Overall, these 279 academically affiliated directors included 73 leaders, 121 professors, and 85 trustees. Leaders included 17 chief executive officers and 11 vice presidents or executive officers of health systems and hospitals; 15 university presidents, provosts, and chancellors; and eight medical school deans or presidents. The total annual compensation to academically affiliated directors for their services to companies was $54,995,786 (£35,836,000; €49,185,900) (median individual compensation $193,000) and directors beneficially owned 59,831,477 shares of company stock (median 50,699 shares).

Conclusions: A substantial number and diversity of academic leaders, professors, and trustees hold directorships at US healthcare companies, with compensation often approaching or surpassing common academic clinical salaries. Dual obligations to for profit company shareholders and non-profit clinical and educational institutions pose considerable personal, financial, and institutional conflicts of interest beyond that of simple consulting relationships. These conflicts have not been fully addressed by professional societies or academic institutions and deserve additional review, regulation, and, in some cases, prohibition when conflicts cannot be reconciled.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Chief Executive Officers, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Compensation and Redress
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Faculty, Medical
  • Financial Management / organization & administration*
  • Financing, Personal / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Interinstitutional Relations
  • Prevalence
  • Schools, Medical
  • Trustees / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology