I posted in this recent post that the California Medical Board was investigating me for false advertisement. They claimed that I intentionally advertised myself as a board certified physician even though I wasn’t considered board certified by California standards.
Informal Telephone Hearing
I had an informal telephone hearing with someone from the Department of Consumer affairs, specifically their Citation and Fine program, in order for me to make my case against their accusation.
I informed her that I am board certified under NPBAS and that I am allowed to advertise myself as board certified according to OR and WA where I also hold state licenses.
I highlighted that at no point did I advertise myself as board certified to anyone in California specifically, nor have I tried to use the word “board certified” to mislead anyone.
The conversation was probably 15-20 minutes in length. She asked me a few vague questions but it was obvious that there were no specific case examples she had in mind where I could have made such claims.
After our phone call I did a thorough online biopsy using my name and, like most of physicians, there are all sorts of websites which claim our name and advertise to be this or that. I didn’t find anywhere where I made the board certified claim.
Nevertheless, I received a letter from the California Medical Board that the fine will stand. I will owe $500. I can contest this by requesting another official medical board hearing or I can pay the fine and be done with it.
The letter included no rationale, no reasoning, and no further explanation.
Under the Business and Professional Code (BPC), Chapter 1, Article 1, False Advertising in General, I am guilty of this – according to the CMB.
I will now have this go into my public profile as well along with the many other suspensions, fines, and letters of reprimand.
I will also have to report this to CMS and my other state medical boards and likely will be investigated for this by the other states as well.
Another big problem is that the California Medical Board hasn’t told me where I advertise myself falsely and intentionally as board certified. So I have no way of correcting this issue.
This is after I requested that the medical board make this information available to me. Unfortunately, I suspect that they will only release such information after I get a lawyer, further feeding into the legal cycle.
Lack of Transparency
The lack of transparency is disturbing. The California Medical Board sees no reason to communicate with me like a mature and responsible professional. They find it adequate to make an accusation, hold a useless hearing, and then enforce the fine.
As for the option of having an official hearing. The problem with the official hearing is that I would have to get a lawyer, I would have to fly to California, I would have to then report yet another hearing to all the different entities.
The Irony of Board Certification
The reason I am dealing with this situation is because the ABMS has decided to trademark the term “Board Certified” in the state of California. Imagine the millions of dollars they must have spent and the lobbying needed to pass this law in state like California.
We know that monopoly isn’t a good thing in a capitalist economy. Free trade has to be enforced for the sake of true consumer protection.
Who knew that I would have to one day defend my 4 years spent in a Family Medicine residency in order to refer to myself as a board certified physician. This wasn’t a residency in Guam, I graduated from the UCLA Family Medicine residency program which is ACGME accredited.
The Power Dynamics
This is not a complaint. California has the right to pass any law it pleases. But by no means are we pawns in this game as physicians. We can choose which states we want to practice in. We can choose what kind of medicine we want to practice.
As physicians we generate billions of dollars of tax revenue for the state of California. They depend on us far more than we depend on them. It’s just that on a case-by-case basis, it can seem as though they control our careers.
I hope that my experience with the medical boards and attorneys and judges helps empower physicians. You’re not a pawn and you can take your skill and income anywhere you like. Choose wisely and grow your roots carefully grasshopper.