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Understanding State Medical Board Structures

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 “The Tale of Two Boards”

[By Eric A. Dover MD]

[By Michael Lawrence Langan MD]



The great majority of States have in reality two Medical Boards. All States have a “Board Proper” and all but a handful have an “Administrative Board”.

First Board

The “Board Proper” is, depending on the State, made up of seven to sixteen individuals. There will be a President (Chairperson) and President Elect. The Board Members are “volunteers”, typically placed by the State Governor. The individuals who constitute the Board may vary greatly and are somewhat determined by the medical disciplines overseen by the Medical Board. Oklahoma presently separates Medical Doctors (M.D.) and (D.O.) into two Boards http://www.okmedicalboard.org/

Other Medical Boards may oversee Physician Assistants (P.A.), Midwives, Respiratory Therapists, Podiatrists, Athletic Trainers, etc., who may or may not have direct Board representation. All States have M.D.s on the Board, and some Boards are all M.D.s. Others members of the Board may include D.O.s, P.A.s, Podiatrists, Midwives, Respiratory Therapists, a representative from the Secretary of State’s office, the Commissioner of State Boards or an Educational Director. Many, but not all Medical Boards, will have anywhere from one to three Public Members.

Some States require Public Member(s) come from a specific profession such as a lawyer or hospital administrator. Other States have no such qualifications; therefore the Public Member can be from any profession.

Second Board

The “Administrative Board” is the other Medical Board. They run the operation throughout the year. Their personnel, structure and operation vary widely from State to State.

Most States will have an Executive Director who supervises the Board.   Some states, such as New Mexico http://www.nmmb.state.nm.us/ or Indiana http://www.in.gov/pla/3638.htm, use a State Board Director for all boards, and don’t have a specific Executive Director.

Pennsylvania uses a State Administrator in lieu of an Executive Director. Individuals filling these positions are either legally or administratively trained.


Many States have a Medical Director. They are physicians whose tasks, for example, may include working with Investigators, lending medical expertise or working on Board Committees. Many other State Medical Boards, such as Delaware don’t have one. http://dpr.delaware.gov/boards/medicalpractice/members.shtml

Medical Boards are divided regarding in-house Legal Staff. Oregon has in-house legal staff, but also relies upon a single Assistant Attorney General from the State Department of Justice   http://www.oregon.gov/OMB/Pages/index.aspx.

In Pennsylvania, all State Boards use the Office of General Council for legally related issues. http://www.dos.pa.gov/ProfessionalLicensing/BoardsCommissions/Medicine/Pages/default.aspx#.VOO-ZfZ0zIU.





Each State handles their Medical Board investigations differently. Some have in-house investigators. They may be ex-police officers, which are common, but they don’t have to be.

California’s Investigators are called “Peace Officers” and they aren’t typically ex-police http://www.mbc.ca.gov/

In North Dakota, the Board Members act as the investigative staff and will hire outside investigators if necessary https://www.ndbomex.org/

In Delaware, investigations are handled for all Boards by the Division of Professional Regulation http://dpr.delaware.gov/boards/medicalpractice/members.shtml.

About the Authors

Dr. Eric Dover is a board certified family practice and primary care physician in Portland, Oregon. He is a graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles [UCLA] School of Medicine.

Dr. Michael L. Langan graduated from Oregon Health Sciences University School of Medicine, Portland Oregon as a Medical Doctor 21 years ago. He had his residency training of Geriatric Medicine-Internal Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medicine Center and Internal Medicine at St Vincent Hospital Medicine Center.

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