A doctor's tireless attempt to qualify as a surgeon Shock Trauma failed to check spotty past, lack of credentials

October 22, 1995|By Douglas Birch and Frank D. Roylance | Douglas Birch and Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF

Dr. Arthur B. Boyd Jr., fired from the Maryland Shock Trauma Center two weeks ago, wanted to be a surgeon in the worst way.

The gregarious North Carolina native, who graduated from medical school in 1978, repeatedly flunked a basic medical licensing exam, the kind that all physicians are required to pass. So he tried unsuccessfully to persuade at least one state licensing board to let him combine scores on different portions of the exam, taken at different times, to produce a passing grade.

At St. Luke's Hospital in Cleveland, Dr. Boyd didn't satisfactorily complete his surgical residency, an official said, calling his skill ratings "mediocre, at best." But that didn't discourage Dr. Boyd from applying, unsuccessfully, for sought-after surgical jobs at places such as New England Deaconess, a Harvard-affiliated hospital in Boston.

A recent Who's Who in the Midwest listing said that Dr. Boyd was a "fellow" in the prestigious organ transplant program at the University of Pittsburgh in 1985. But a university spokeswoman said he "was kind of hanging out" at the program and was not admitted to any official fellowship.

He was so eager to wield a scalpel that he tried in 1984 to pay a Michigan state licensing official to slip him an advance copy of an exam. Dr. Boyd was arrested and pleaded no contest to bribery. He was sentenced to 30 days in the Ingham County, Mich., jail and fined $450.

After eight years of pestering licensing boards and academic medical centers, Dr. Boyd finally succeeded in July 1993 in landing a surgical job in a U.S. hospital -- at Shock Trauma in Baltimore.

The trauma center was undergoing a wrenching reorganization when Dr. Boyd arrived, and its officials failed to check his credentials. But he was required to fill out a form that calls for a Maryland physician's license number. No problem. He wrote down a bogus one, consisting of 15 numbers and letters, a hospital official alleged.

Maryland licenses have five numbers.

For two years, Dr. Boyd worked at Shock Trauma and, under an agreement with the Baltimore hospital, in the trauma center at Prince George's Hospital Center in Cheverly. Altogether, he helped treat about 950 patients in this state, many of them critically injured, before he was fired Oct. 3.

At Shock Trauma, he participated in 125 operations, hospital officials estimated, adding that he always worked under the supervision of a senior surgeon.

Arthur Bernette Boyd Jr. is, according to friends and acquaintances, a very agreeable fellow. The 48-year-old father of two likes dogs, has "well-behaved" children and is eager to pitch in when someone asks for his help. He seems to lack the arrogance that afflicts many surgeons, specialists notorious among their colleagues for having Everest-sized egos.

But Arthur Bernette Boyd Jr. also can be as relentless as a lava flow. He has taken, and flunked, the licensing exam 15 times. He traipsed to state after state trying to wangle a license, and at one point appeared before a dubious medical board in Ketchikan, Alaska.

To support himself in this seemingly quixotic quest, the Durham, N.C., native has doubled as an entrepreneur. According to Who's Who and to acquaintances, he helped run a soft-drink distributing firm in Cleveland and worked with a Cleveland-based surgical supply business. (He invented a wheelchair with a seat that could raise and lower the left and right buttocks separately, presumably to help shift the weight of immobile patients.)

Neither business is currently listed in the Cleveland phone book or Ohio state corporation records.

Today, he owns the rights to the formula for a line of soft drinks, called Motown beverages, that he's trying to peddle in the Washington area. Who's Who reports that he has been Motown's "chief surgeon" for the past seven years.

Neighbors say he lives on a tree-lined boulevard of $80,000 to $150,000 brick and frame houses in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Dr. Boyd would fly home to Cleveland on weekends to spend time with his wife, a dietitian at a Cleveland hospital, and children.

The physician has not responded to many messages left at various locations, including his home, requesting an interview.

But Peter Lawson Jones, a Cleveland lawyer who has represented Dr. Boyd in the past, called him "earnest and sincere, with a tremendous interest in serving the public with the skills that he has as a medical doctor."

"He happens to be very capable," said Mr. Jones, who has known the physician about six years. "Nobody criticizes his surgical skills. I'm sure that whatever patients he provided trauma services to, they were very well served. He's able, he's capable, he has the necessary acumen."

And, Mr. Jones claimed, Dr. Boyd hasn't done anything wrong. "At worst," he said, "we have a case of somebody who has had some difficulty with the licensure exam."

Maryland regulators don't see it that way.

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