This figure may not seem much given the purported salaries of doctors, but in reality, I think there are many misconceptions that need to be debunked (disclaimer: I do not work in the field of medicine). First of all, not all doctors are created equal. Depending on what field they specialize (e.g. internal medicine, pediatrics), their paycheck may range from $80,000 to millions per year. I think it would be ignorant to assume all doctors are filthy rich; I'd bet the vast majority do not make more than $200,000 per year.
- Length of required commitment -- normally 12 years from beginning to end; 4 years of premed in college + 4 years of med school + 3-4 years of internship
- High levels of stress -- being given the responsibility over someone's livelihood is no laughing matter and will cause stress when things (inevitably) go awry
- Uneven supply and demand distribution -- the American Medical Association places quotes on the number of graduates admitted into and graduate from medical schools each year. The result is a huge demand for doctors but little supply.
- Misaligned incentives -- unfortunately, good doctors often do not stay in their specialty practice long enough to make a difference. They tend to pursue high-income venues like plastic surgery instead.
- HMOs -- these have infinitely both complicated and raised the costs of medicine in the United States. Healthcare insurance is no longer being used as your average insurance -- you don't call up your auto insurance company for an oil-check of your car, do you?
- Bottleneck in certification process -- see #3 above.