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Rand Paul: I passed my ophthalmology certification, but took a stand against the way the board operates

Rand Paul has responded to a story in the Courier-Journal on the candidate's history with the American Board of Ophthalmology. The paper reported that Paul was no longer certified by the ABO -- the Paul campaign explains that this was a principled stand, and that he could be certified at any time.

"Is it fair that the ophthalmologist down the street can claim board certification, without renewing it, but that a younger ophthalmologist, who passed the same boards, is disallowed?" asks Paul, explaining why he let his certification lapse. "This is the kind of hypocritical power play that I despise and have always fought against. It reminds me of congress passing health care legislation but exempting themselves from their own laws."

Paul is continuing his practice as he campaigns -- he's responding now, in part, because the story and opposition research threatened to affect his work. Whole statement below the fold.

I took the American Board of Ophthalmology (the largest governing body in ophthalmology) boards in 1995, passed them on my first attempt (as well as three times during residency), and was therefore board-certified under this organization for a decade.

In 1997, I, along with 200 other young ophthalmologists formed the National Board of Ophthalmology to protest the American Board of Ophthalmology's decision to grandfather in the older ophthalmologists and not require them to recertify.

I thought this was hypocritical and unjust for the older ophthalmologists to exempt themselves from the recertification exam.

In forming NBO, the younger ophthalmologists agreed to require recertification for all ophthalmologists.

In my protest to the American Board, I asked, “If the ABO thinks that qualify of care would be improved by board testing every decade, shouldn’t this apply to all doctors, not just those of a certain age? In fact, many of us argue that the older ophthalmologists need recertification even more since they are more distant from their training.

Is it fair that the ophthalmologist down the street can claim board certification, without renewing it, but that a younger ophthalmologist, who passed the same boards, is disallowed?

This is the kind of hypocritical power play that I despise and have always fought against. It reminds me of congress passing health care legislation but exempting themselves from their own laws. I protested to the ABO, as did many other younger doctors. This is when I came up with the idea of creating a competitor to the ABO, and formed a new organization, the National Board of Ophthalmology. Keep in mind that neither of these groups have anything to do with medical licensure, which is handled by the state boards.

ABO claims it is illegal to call for recertification of all ophthalmologists. This is untrue. ABO is a private group and create any rules they wish. (even discriminatory policies based on age) Having all its members recertify is not illegal just impractical because the older ophthalmologists will vote against it.

ABO argues that the older ophthalmologists were given "lifetime certification." This is also untrue. The certificates of the older ophthalmologist do not refer or explicity grant "lifetime" certification.

ABO argues that they are the legitamate organization because they are recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). They fail to explain that ABO helped found ABMS and gets to vote on who is approved by ABMS. One can imagine why ABMS and ABO would not want to approve a competitor.

By David Weigel  |  June 14, 2010; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Election  
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