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Oct 29 2021

From the President: Giving shape to NCMB’s ambitious vision

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Image for From the President: Giving shape to NCMB’s ambitious vision As both my term as Board President and my six years of service with the North Carolina Medical Board come to a close, I remain honored and grateful to have had the privilege of serving both the people of North Carolina and the medical profession. I leave knowing that the important work this organization does will continue under the stewardship of current and future Board Members and the guiding counsel of staff.

Not long into my first term as a Board Member, I participated in a workshop devoted to revising NCMB’s mission statement and developing the agency’s first ever vision statement. Most of you likely know the medical board’s mission, even if you can’t recite the formal mission statement: licensing and regulation. I suspect far fewer are familiar with the medical board’s vision, which is, “NCMB will be a proactive and progressive leader that addresses emerging challenges in medicine.”

I mention the vision statement specifically because, as I reflect on my time with NCMB, I am struck by how frequently it shines through in the Board’s work. I’ll mention three projects where I believe this is most apparent.

Bringing the medical board to medical and PA students – In November 2019, under the leadership of then-Board President Barbara Walker, DO, NCMB launched a pilot program in partnership with Campbell University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine (CUSOM). This mock disciplinary committee experience immerses students in the types of ethical and professional issues – such as crossing appropriate clinician-patient boundaries and alcohol impairment – that regularly come before NCMB. The pilot project was a great success and NCMB has been invited to annually present the course at CUSOM and at Campbell University’s PA program.

During my term as President, I worked with staff to expand this innovative program to as many North Carolina medical schools and PA programs as possible. I am delighted that NCMB has now presented or is scheduled to present the course, the Regulatory Immersion Series (RImS), to PAs at Duke University, East Carolina University, UNC-Chapel Hill, High Point University and Gardner-Webb University. We are working on getting the state’s remaining medical schools to join the effort to educate the next generation about how medical regulation insects with clinical practice. Our ultimate goal is to present RImS at every medical training program in North Carolina. Pre- and post-tests administered to course participants have documented huge leaps in understanding about the medical board disciplinary process, as well as willingness to reach out to NCMB with questions and concerns. These data are exciting because it is our hope is that students who are exposed to the course will be able to avoid regulatory problems across their career, no matter where they practice.

Supporting victims of sexual assault – In 2017, NCMB’s Legal Department established what we believe is the nation’s only medical board Victim Services Program, which provides support and assistance to individuals who are victims of sexual assault by a medical professional. A staff paralegal completed training and certification as a Victim Services Coordinator and took on the new role in addition to her legal work for NCMB. Individuals can receive assistance – with identifying local therapy or other services, for example – regardless of whether NCMB has sufficient evidence to prosecute their case, or whether disciplinary action is taken against the licensee involved.

Keeping focus on clinician burnout and resilience – NCMB has received positive attention for being the only state medical board to fully implement national recommendations related to clinician wellness. Chief among them: Removing questions on license application and renewal forms that ask applicants or licensees to reveal whether they are in treatment for any medical conditions – including mental health and substance use disorders – that might affect safety to practice. While NCMB hopes and believes that removing these questions has cleared the way for more licensees to seek needed treatment, we continue to look for opportunities to improve the Board’s processes, so we are not needlessly adding to the problem of burnout. As President, I established the Wellness and Burnout Workgroup to ensure that this work continues and licensees are supported.

What links these three examples of Board initiatives is that they transcend NCMB’s traditional licensing and regulation work. The Board isn’t obligated to try to help medical professionals avoid regulatory problems or to support patients who are victims of sexual misconduct, and it isn’t responsible for fixing clinician burnout. NCMB chooses to try to make a positive impact in these areas because it wants to, and it can. This is what we mean when we say NCMB strives to be both “proactive and progressive”. I am proud to have been part of an organization that goes above and beyond.

Finally, I just want to acknowledge what extraordinary times we live and work in. These last two years proved the Old North State’s resilience in the face of COVID-19. The NCMB stood strong as well, remaining operational throughout the pandemic and taking numerous steps to support the state’s pandemic response. I am inspired by the ingenuity and resilience demonstrated by individuals across the health care system, especially NCMB’s licensees. I am humbled and grateful for your efforts, which have been a source of strength for me.

Thank you and be well.

Dr. Jonnalagadda’s term as Board President and service with NCMB ended Oct. 31, 2021. Read her previous President’s Messages at
www.ncmedboard.org/presidentsmessage.

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