Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

September 20, 2013

Metro area No. 1 for surgeons

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

ASHLAND — The Ashland-Huntington area was recently ranked the No. 1 city in the United States for surgeons, according to a consumer finance website.

A survey by ValuePenguin.com ranked the metro area of Ashland-Huntington “the best city for surgeons to practice” based on average salaries and the low cost of living.

According to co-founder Tim Jeng, a former financial analyst, the region placed first among more than 80 cities surveyed.

“We conducted this study as an offshoot of an education feature, in which we got questions about the best cities to work for certain degrees and professions,” Jeng said. “Our hope is that the study will help surgeons, both current and future, learn about new cities to establish a practice, which they may not have considered.”

The study found the region had a higher average salary for surgeons, $251,980, than the national average salary of $225,989. By contrast, the area of Oakland/Freemont/Hayward, Calif., the study found, had the lowest rates in the study with a surgeon averaging a salary of $159,600.

In addition, the Huntington-Ashland area received a cost of living index of 85, meaning that it is 15 percent cheaper to live in than the average city. The study specifically listed the region as having “a multitude of afterwork attractions for relocated professionals,” listing the Paramount Arts Center, Ashland’s Central Park, Huntington’s Ritter Park and Beech Fork Lake among them.

King’s Daughters Medical Center spokesman Tom Dearing called the report’s findings “great.” 

“Our recruiters tell us the hardest thing to do is to get a physician who has not been here, here. Once they get here they see the opportunities and they like it,” said Dearing.

With 90 surgeon jobs, the Ashland-Huntington area also had twice the number of surgeons as a percentage of all occupations, the study found. Dearing said he believes the higher percentage of surgeons is because of the area’s geography and medical needs.

Both Ashland and Huntington are large population centers surrounded by mostly rural areas, meaning patients must travel for care. The area also has high rates of heart disease, diabetes and obesity rates, which are well documented and could attribute to the need for more surgeons, said Dearing.

“The practice opportunities here are quite good,” he said. “One advantage we have over larger cities is you can practice at one facility. Most doctors that come here, people travel to see them.”

 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in surgery are projected to grow 24 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is 10 percentage points higher than projected national job growth.

Ashland-Huntington was followed in the study by Alexandria, La.; Columbus, Ohio; Wichita, Kan., and Bowling Green.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or by email at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com