Resources & Information


Reflections on my six-year sojourn on the North Carolina Medical Board

Image for Reflections on my six-year sojourn on the North Carolina Medical Board In July of 2003, I reported for duty to my first North Carolina Medical Board meeting. I was there to replace John Dees, MD, a family physician from eastern North Carolina who had served as president of the Board until his death earlier that year. Life has come full circle and now, I too leave the Board as president (though thankfully under more fortunate circumstances than Dr. Dees.)

I do not pretend that I was the best candidate for my seat on the Board. I know of others more qualified than me. I was, quite frankly, surprised that my name was put forward as a nominee by the North Carolina Medical Society, and that I was chosen by then-Governor Easley.

I had much to learn. In this, my final President's Message, I would like to share with you some of the things I have learned in my years at 1203 Front Street, and reflect on some of the Board's achievements.

The North Carolina Medical Board is truly one of the best--if not the best--in this nation. Your Board serves the citizens of this great state with kindness and care and its licensees with fairness and justice.

Sometimes when so much is going on, the spectacular seems mundane. Make no mistake--what the Board does here routinely is spectacular.

Let me take you through a few of the changes that have gone forward during my time on the Board.

The Board adopted the first position statement in the nation to sanction discipline of teachers of medicine who abuse their students. The Board has yet to prosecute anyone under this rule, but I have no doubt that the Board's stance on this issue has worked to deter some of the more extreme forms of student mistreatment.

We were nudged, somewhat reluctantly, to provide greater information to the citizens of this great state. This winter, with the public launch of expanded licensee information pages on the Board's website, North Carolina joins the ever-growing number of state medical regulatory bodies that provide a broad range of information about their licensees.

When the very heart of medicine--the preservation of life and alleviation of suffering--was assaulted by state policies that contemplate active physician participation in the death penalty, your Board opposed that position clearly and forcefully. I sat, beaming with pride, as the Board's attorneys took our case to the State's highest court. Our Legal Department was able to convince three of seven justices that doctors should be healers, not harbingers of death. We lost that battle, but I am proud to this day that we fought for the dignity and caring that is the heart of the profession of medicine.

Your Board has stood at the forefront of medical regulation, just as doctors in North Carolina have stood in the leadership of medicine and research throughout this country.

Twice during my time on the Board, the Federation of State Medical Boards (the umbrella organization that guides state medical regulators) has selected North Carolina Medical Board members to serve on its Board of Directors. Numerous Board members serve on the many committees of the FSMB, helping to influence policy and scholarship in medical regulation nationally.

Your Board has taken proactive steps to help licensees improve interactions with patients and prevent complaints by recognizing that effective communication is the key to the relationship between doctors and patients. Over the past 12 months, your Board identified homegrown, affordable, convenient courses where physicians who lost, or perhaps never had, good communication skills can learn effective communication. It is my hope and aspiration that these courses will reach beyond the troubled physicians we see here and be used by all physicians who strive to become skilled communicators.

Your Board has done all this, and more, with quiet yet bold leadership. And it has done it all with a modest-sized staff and operating budget that strains under ever-increasing obligations.

Numerous challenges remain before the Board.

The Board needs to streamline its licensing process while maintaining the integrity and high standards of the evaluations. The Board must strive to build a workforce within the Board which looks like the workforce outside the Board. It must find a way of performing clinical evaluations of licensees in their own clinical settings, which would be more relevant and useful than the costly and inefficient practice of sending a physician under review off to some distant place that does not resemble the conditions in which he or she practices.

I know that some of these changes will take members of the staff and Board outside of their comfort zones. Newness is not always a bad thing.

Finally, I personally owe a great deal to the Board's staff and to my colleagues on the Medical Board. The people of this great state, including the Board's licensees, owe them much more. They are the centurions of care and the guardians of good medical practice.

Medicine in North Carolina is better for the Board's efforts. It has been my privilege to be part of those efforts for the past six years.


In the last issue of the Forum, Dr. Saunders wrote about a Board initiative aimed at improving licensees' communication skills. He wrote of the Board's intention to publicize more information about the specific vendors providing communications training when it was available. The Board is pleased to recommend the programs listed below. Courses are typically scheduled on Saturdays and take a full day.

Course: Interpersonal and Communication Skills Seminar for Physicians
Offered by: SEAHEC, Charlotte AHEC and MAHEC
Locations: Wilmington, Charlotte, Asheville
Cost: $400-$450
CME Credits: 7 Category 1 Credits

Course: Strategies for Effective Medical Communication
Offered by: Wake AHEC
Locations: Chapel Hill
Cost: $500
CME Credits: 6.5 Category 1 Credits
Information/registration:, 919-350-8547