State board slow to detect doctor who failed, lied Story shows weaknesses in policing doctors

March 01, 1991|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Evening Sun Staff

A doctor who failed three licensing exams in Ohio and pleaded guilty to practicing medicine and prescribing drugs without a license in that state, was granted a Maryland medical license and kept it for three years before his background was discovered by Maryland officials.

State medical authorities now acknowledge that Dr. Seward Boyd Jr., an osteopathic physician, also was denied a medical license in Georgia in 1988 and had his New York license suspended in 1989 before Maryland authorities finally got wind of his background in September 1989.

But it was another year before Maryland acted to suspend his license. He was finally forced to surrender it earlier this month.

Boyd's story illustrates weaknesses in the way Maryland has policed its medical licensing system -- problems which state authorities say they've resolved since the system was reorganized in 1988.

J. Michael Compton, acting executive director of the Board of Physician Quality Assurance, said, "Our staff is trained and the systems are in place now to prevent things like this from happening. I think we can respond today very promptly."

In any case, Compton said, Boyd "was not a high priority case." He apparently never actually practiced medicine in Maryland, except for four days last year at the Patuxent Naval Hospital.

"There was no sex, no drugs, no deaths or serious injuries -- what we regard as our most serious cases, which have to take action on immediately," he said.

Osteopathy is a medical therapy involving the manipulation of abnormalities of the musculoskeletal system that are thought to cause disease and inhibit recovery. Osteopaths may prescribe drugs and perform surgery.

"There has never been any complaint about the quality of medical care [Boyd] has given. His problem was that he began to lie on license applications," Compton said. Neither Boyd nor his attorney could be reached for comment.

Boyd first obtained a Maryland license in December 1987, having passed the Federation Licensing Exam (FLEX) with a score of 75 or better.

In a letter surrendering his license, Boyd admitted that he failed to disclose to Maryland licensing authorities that he flunked the same test in Ohio three times, or that he had been convicted in Ohio of practicing medicine and prescribing drugs without a license.

Margaret T. Anzalone, deputy director of the Board for Physician Quality Assurance, said Boyd's convictions apparently had not been reported to the Federation of State Medical Boards. If they had, she said, "he could not have been licensed" in Maryland.

The Federation maintains a voluntary clearinghouse for information on doctors disciplined by medical boards in other states, and lists the actions in a monthly report mailed to each state medical board.

Kathleen A. Shelton, director of operations and quality assurance at the Federation, confirmed that there was nothing about Boyd in the federation's files when Maryland inquired in 1987.

First, she explained, flunking the Ohio licensing exam three times was not a reportable incident. Second, Boyd's convictions for practicing without a license and attempted trafficking in prescription drugs drew no action from the Ohio medical licensing board.

"They did not have any jurisdiction over him" because he had no Ohio medical license, she said. "He was convicted in a court of law," and the courts don't report to the federation.

It's a loophole, she admitted, but "I don't know how to get around that."

Boyd also managed to obtain licenses in New York and Nebraska in 1986 and 1987 despite his troubles in Ohio.

Two months after obtaining his Maryland license, Boyd acknowledged in his letter, he was again convicted in Ohio of practicing medicine without a license. He was sentenced to a year in jail, all but 15 days of which were suspended.

In June 1988, Boyd was denied a medical license in Georgia.

Andy Watry, executive director of Georgia's licensing board, said Boyd "did get a clean bill of health from the Federation of State Medical Boards at the time he applied."

But "we try to have as many safety nets as we can," Watry said. In this case it was check with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's intelligence system that revealed Boyd had four drug-related convictions in Ohio, and prompted Georgia to deny him a license.

Compton said Maryland is now making similar background checks with the DEA, "but we probably weren't at that time."

In September 1988, according to his letter to the board, Boyd applied -- successfully -- to renew his Maryland license, again failing to mention either his Ohio troubles or Georgia's refusal to grant him a license.

Anzalone said Maryland did not query the available clearinghouses for reports of actions against Boyd. It checks when physicians initially apply for a license, but not for license renewals.

"Renewal is considered an administrative act," she said. "You pay, you renew." With 12,000 physicians applying for renewal of their licenses every year, she said, the board can't screen each one.

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