South Dakota medical board to get new executive

The board will no longer share facilities and staff with the state medical association.

By Damon Adams — Posted Feb. 14, 2005

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South Dakota's medical board and its state medical association are taking steps that will separate two groups that have long shared close ties.

For many years, the same person has served as administrator of the South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners and the South Dakota State Medical Assn. The two entities also share office space, staff and other resources.

Now the medical board is looking for a new administrator and plans to move its office. The board has been taking applications for the position.

"New members of the board felt there was a dire need for a change," said Robert L. Ferrell, MD, the medical board's president and an otolaryngologist in Rapid City, S.D.

Paul Jensen has served as administrator for both the medical society and the medical board, which licenses and disciplines the state's 1,500 physicians. He will remain in his role at the medical association.

The close tie has been criticized by some lawmakers and the media as being a conflict of interest. In an investigation in 2004, the Argus Leader of Sioux Falls said the board's investigations and records were shielded from the public and that the board was reluctant to take action against physicians. The newspaper found that North Dakota, a state with nearly as many licensed physicians, disciplined doctors three times as often.

Consumer advocacy group Public Citizen has criticized the board for being lax on disciplining doctors. Public Citizen has also had trouble getting information on disciplinary actions for its Internet database.

Dr. Ferrell said the job change was not prompted by criticism but by growth of the medical association staff. He said changes will likely occur in the first half of this year.

Medical association president Herb Saloum, MD, said the board and association did not have ties that were too close. He said the board did a fair job of disciplining physicians.

Dr. Saloum, a family physician in Tyndall, S.D., does not expect the change to have a major impact on South Dakota's physicians.

"It'll probably appease people who had the perception that the board was playing favorites with physicians. I don't think they're going to find that was true at all," he said.

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