Bill Frist may not have completed the continuing education required to keep his medical license, even though he filed papers with the state of Tennessee saying he did. He “may not have”? Either he did or he didn’t. There’s not a lot of wiggle room there.
The state of Tennessee requires its licensed physicians to complete 40 hours of continuing medical education every two years. Frist, a heart-lung surgeon who is considering a 2008 presidential run, submitted a license renewal with the Tennessee Health Department stating he has fulfilled that requirement.
Responding Tuesday to repeated requests from The Associated Press, a Frist spokesman said the Republican senator may not have done his continuing education after all [emphasis mine], and had contacted the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners to see if corrective steps were necessary.
Frist is quite proud of his medical credentials, and according to his spokesperson, he “independently” keeps himself up to date on new developments and research. Too bad he didn’t keep himself up to date on the rule change regarding continuing education, which was adopted in 2002.
Frist recently took blood-pressure tests on Iowans during a visit to the state that holds the first presidential caucuses. He also keeps the letters “MD” next to his name on his Senate office door and has been known to keep a doctor’s bag and lab coat on hand on the campaign trail or in his Capitol Hill office.
Frist is retiring from the Senate at the end of his term this year, and he’s thinking about running for president in 2008. I’m hoping he’ll be forced back into the private sector, although given his highly publicized diagnostic failure in the Terri Schiavo case, he might have trouble attracting new patients. After this little screwup, he might not have a license either.
Tennessee law states that doctors who fail to do their continuing medical education “will be subject to disciplinary action.”
Dan Warlick, a Nashville lawyer who represents doctors in trouble with the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners, said a case such as Frist’s would likely be taken seriously.
“They have been routinely revoking licenses for physicians who have misrepresented to the board what they have done,” Warlick said.
“Medicine changes,” Warlick added. “If you’re telling them you’re keeping up, and you’re not, that would be a very significant problem for the board to have to deal with.”
Of course, given that he’s Bill Frist, Senate Majority Leader, he’ll probably find a way to weasel out of any disciplinary action. We all know the rules are only for the little people.