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BOARD OF MEDICAL EXAMINERS
[Authorized: NDCC Section 43-17 and 43-17.1]

The first laws relating to public health practice were passed by the Dakota Territory government in 1862 (T. L. 1862, Ch. 45) to act as a deterrent against fraudulent alteration of food, drink, or medicine. Regulation of physicians in Dakota Territory began with the passage of a law in 1869 (T. L. 1869, Ch. 93) requiring persons practicing medicine in the territory to be a graduate from a school of medicine. Requirements included either completing two full courses of instruction from an out of state institution, or previously practicing medicine in another state, or being a medical practitioner for at least ten years. Applicants had to be of good moral character.  Beginning in 1885 the Superintendent of Public Health had the responsibility for the registration of physicians who practiced medicine in Dakota Territory (T. L. 1885, Ch.63).

In 1890 the North Dakota State Board of Medical Examiners was established (S.L. 1890, Ch. 93) and consisted of nine members who were appointed by the Governor to serve for three years.  No member could serve more than two successive terms and no member could be on the staff of a college or university medical department. The members included one homeopathic physician, one lawyer, and seven doctors of medicine. The Board was authorized to revoke licenses in cases involving improper conduct. It elected a president, vice president, and secretary-treasurer and was required to meet four times a year. 

In 1904 applicants had to prove that they had completed four lecture courses lasting at least eight months and in 1905 the legislature changed the educational requirement to consist of three courses each lasting at least six months. A penalty for practicing medicine without a license was added in 1905. All examinations were conducted by the Board except for those in the therapeutics branch for which the Governor appointed an examiner. If a complaint was filed against a physician a written copy of the complaint and a hearing were required (S. L. 1905, Ch. 148).  

In 1909 (S. L. 1909, Ch. 172) the legislature created a State Board of Osteopathic Examiners consisting of three osteopaths appointed by the Governor to serve three year terms.  Responsibilities included giving examinations and licensing of osteopathic physicians. A president and secretary-treasurer were elected and meetings were held in January and July. The State Board of Osteopathic Examiners was abolished in 1969 and authority for regulation of the field of osteopathy was assumed by the State Board of Medical Examiners. 

In 1911 changes were made to the State Board of Medical Examiners. The Board consisted of two doctors of homeopathic medicine and seven practicing physicians who were licensed to practice medicine and surgery. All members had to live in the state. The secretary-treasurer served as the general administrative and prosecuting officer of the Board and did not need to be a Board member. The Board had the authority to revoke a physician’s license due to improper conduct as provided for in the law. Issues for removal included misconduct, incapacity, or negligence. The Board determined the qualifications for practicing medicine and surgery.  Applicants who wanted to practice medicine in North Dakota had to complete four years of college with at least eight months completed at a qualified school of medicine. Students receiving the necessary preliminary education could be admitted as a third year (junior) student at the University of North Dakota or another equally reputable medical school. Examination schedules for applicants were held in January and July and special meetings held as needed. A record of where each licensed doctor practiced was kept in county offices of the Register of Deeds. Applicants from other states who received an education at an out of state university and who met Board qualifications could become licensed through the process of reciprocity (S. L. 1911, Ch. 189). 

Legislation in 1931 (S. L. 1931, Ch. 213) required every registered and licensed practitioner to file a registration statement with the secretary-treasurer of the Board. Annual renewal was required.

In 1957 during the examination process all applicants were identified by a number instead of by personal name. In that way, Board members were not aware of who was taking an exam until after the results were published (S. L. 1957, Ch. 302).

In 1961 the legislature defined standard care for physicians and surgeons when administering emergency care. The law addressed non-resident physicians who, while in North Dakota, provided care in the case of an emergency (S. L. 1961, Ch 287).

In 1969 when the legislature abolished the Board of Osteopathy which had been established 1909, the responsibilities were assumed by the State Board of Medical Examiners. This increased the Board membership to ten (S. L. 1969, Ch. 395) with nine doctors of medicine and one doctor of osteopathy. Board members had to be practicing physicians, state residents, and be licensed in the state to practice medicine and surgery.

A 1987 law (S. L. 1987, Ch. 525) removed the requirement that a physician who served as a Board member had to be licensed as a surgeon. Requirements for the doctor of osteopathy who served on the Board were the same as for the doctors of medicine and included being a graduate of a medical school or osteopathic school and being engaged in an active practice.   The term of office for the Board members was three years and no member could serve more than two successive terms. All were required to take the oath given to all civil officers. The legislature broadened the 1921 law giving the Board authority to deny, revoke, impose limitations, impose sanctions, reprimand, censure, or seek civil penalties on a licensee as a part of any necessary disciplinary action (S. L.1921,Ch. 88; S. L.1987,Ch. 525). The Board was to use discretionary measures when granting licenses to non-resident applicants and if their qualifications met state requirements the applicant could be granted a license to practice in North Dakota (S. L. 1987, Ch. 525).     

In 1991 there was full reciprocity between the United States and Canada but graduates from medical schools in other countries had to provide evidence of holding a degree of doctor of medicine or be awarded an approved equivalency by the Board. They had to meet other Board requirements and complete any necessary post graduate training in the United States (S. L.1991, Ch.461; S. L. 2003, Ch. 258). 

The composition of the Board changed in 1993 (S. L. 1993, Ch. 426) to include eight doctors of medicine, one osteopathic physician, and a member of the general public. A doctor of medicine could be appointed to serve in place of an osteopathic physician. Qualifications included being a capable, licensed, and practicing physician who demonstrated integrity, who was a resident of the state, and a graduate of a school recognized for high educational requirements and standing. The applicant had to have practiced in North Dakota for at least five years. The Board member representing the general public had to be at least twenty one years of age, a resident of the state, and not affiliated with any group or profession that provided or regulated health care. Taking the oath of civil officers was required. Rules concerning conflict of interest for committee assignments were addressed (S. L. 1993, Ch. 426) and the term of office was extended from three to four years (S. L. 1993, Ch. 427). The Board regulated the medical profession through examination, licensing, continuing education requirements, and disciplinary action. It determined the education, residential training, and character requirements of candidates seeking a license to practice medicine in North Dakota. After administering the examinations the Board recorded and issued licenses to all who qualified as doctors. Also in 1993 the legislature determined that three years of post graduate work completed in the United Kingdom was equivalent to one year in the United States or Canada (S. L. 1993, Ch. 428). 

The Board expanded in 1999 to eleven members appointed by the Governor including eight doctors of medicine, one doctor of osteopathy, and two members who represented the general public (S. L. 1999, Ch. 381). 

In order to meet licensure requirements a physician who had been trained in another country could be granted a special temporary license by the Board while they were enrolled in post graduate programs (S. L. 2001, Ch. 378). Osteopathic physicians trained outside the United States or Canada were not qualified to obtain a medical license in North Dakota. 

In 2005 (S. L. 2005, Ch. 359) a twelfth gubernatorial appointee was added. Nine doctors of medicine, one doctor of osteopathy, and two public members served. The members served four year terms and no more than two successive terms. 

Commission on Medical Competency
In 1977 (S. L. 1977, Ch. 251) legislation established the Commission on Medical Competency which included two members of the State Board of Medical Examiners who were appointed by the chairman of the Board and served for two years. Other Commission members included two physicians who had practiced in North Dakota for at least eight years and who were selected by the North Dakota Medical Association. They served three year terms and no member could serve more than two consecutive terms. The North Dakota attorney general or his designated representative also served on the Commission. The Commission selected officers including a chairman, vice chairman, and secretary. The secretary was not required to be a Commission member. An executive secretary, medical expert, investigator, and other experts were employed by the Commission as needed. The attorney general provided council, but the Commission could also employ a special council. It was the responsibility of the Commission to determine if there were grounds for disciplinary action, or if an offense had been committed, or if the law had been broken (S. L.1991, Ch. 463). The Commission was abolished in 1999 (S. L. 1999, Ch. 381) and the responsibilities of the Commission were assigned to investigative panels who appointed members from within the Board of Medical Examiners. There were two investigative panels each consisting of five Board members, four physicians, and one public member. Cases were assigned by the Board president to a panel. Each panel elected a chairman and secretary. The purpose of the panels was to investigate complaints or other information that might lead to disciplinary proceedings against a physician. The attorney general provided special council for the panels. Legislation in 2001 gave the Board authority to discipline physician assistants and fluoroscopy technicians as well as physicians (S. L. 2001, Ch. 378). In 2005 the membership of each of the panels increased to six members including five physicians and one public member (S. L. 2005, Ch. 359). After 2005 the Board president was no longer required to serve on the investigative panels.   

CHRONOLOGY

1862       Territorial law provided for offenses against the public relating to fraudulent alteration of food, drink, or medicine (T. L. 1862, Ch. 45).

1869       Territorial law required physicians in the territory to have suitable education and/or experience to practice medicine and surgery (T. L. 1869, Ch. 14).

1885       Superintendent of public health had responsibility for the registration of physicians who were required to pass an examination and to graduate from a medical program (T. L. 1885, Ch. 63).

1890       The State Board of Medical Examiners was created and consisted of nine members who served for three year terms (S. L. 1890, Ch. 93).

1905       Practicing medicine without a license was addressed (S. L. 1905, Ch. 148).

1909       The Board of Osteopathic Examiners was created and had three Board members who were appointed by the Governor (S. L. 1909, Ch. 172).

1911       The Board elected a secretary-treasurer who carried out the general administrative and prosecuting duties. Membership consisted of seven doctors of medicine and two homeopathic physicians (S. L. 1911, Ch. 189).

1921       Additional licensure requirements for applicants were issued (S. L. 1921, Ch. 88).

1931       Registration forms were changed by the Board for those licensed to practice medicine and surgery. Registrations had to be renewed annually (S. L. 1931, Ch. 213).

1957       The Board assigned each registered applicant a number instead of using name recognition on the examination form (S. L. 1957, Ch. 302).

1961       The legislature defined standard care for physicians and surgeons when administering emergency care. The provision included non-resident physicians who provided care in the case of an emergency (S. L. 1961, Ch. 287).

1969       The Board of Osteopathic Examiners was abolished and osteopathic physicians came under the jurisdiction of the Board of Medical Examiners. The Board increased to ten members, nine doctors of medicine and one osteopathic physician (S. L. 1969, Ch. 395).

1975       Amendments were made to laws relating to practicing without a license, or being intoxicated, or impersonating a physician (S. L. 1975, Ch. 106).

1977       The Commission on Medical Competency was created (S. L. 1977, Ch. 251).

1983       Legislation was enacted relating to physicians practicing without a license and penalties for the offense were also addressed (S. L. 1983, Ch.480).

1985       A new section added to the Century Code gave the Board the authority to license anyone suspended and later reinstated (S. L. 1985, Ch. 482). Law addressed physicians delinquent in paying registration fees (S. L. 1985, Ch. 483)

1987       Physicians on the Board need not be licensed as surgeons. Disciplinary action against a licensed physician was addressed (S. L. 1987, Ch. 525).

1991       Qualifications were established for the licensing of graduates from countries other than US or Canada (S. L. 1991, Ch. 461). The Commission on Medical Competency was given the authority to manage all complaints (S. L. 1991, Ch. 463).                                                 

1993       Board of Medical Examiners increased to ten and included eight doctors of medicine, one doctor of osteopathy, and one public member. Powers of the Board were restated (S. L. 1993, Ch. 426). Term of members increased to four years (S. L. 1993, Ch. 427). Educational qualifications were established for those trained in the United Kingdom (S. L. 1993, Ch. 428).

1997       Medical peer review established a records law to address the confidentiality of records and proceedings of the medical review committee (S. L. 1997, Ch. 234). The Board was authorized to supervise physician assistants and fluoroscopy technicians (S. L. 1997, Ch. 372). Explanations relating to competency reports were expanded (S. L. 1997, Ch. 373).

1999       The Board increased to eleven members by adding a second public member. The Commission on Medical Competency was abolished with duties transferred to the investigative panels (S. L. 1999, Ch. 381).

2001       The peer review committee was mandated to send reports to the investigative panels (S. L. 2001, Ch. 378).

2003       In the case of disciplinary investigations a request for fingerprinting could be required of a licensee or applicant (S. L. 2003, Ch. 358). Special temporary license laws were amended for graduates of medical schools located outside the US or Canada (S. L. 2003, Ch. 359).

2005       The Board increased to twelve members including nine doctors of medicine, one osteopathic physician, and two public members. Each investigative panel increased to six members (S. L. 2005, Ch. 359).

RECORD SERIES
30907                    Minutes. (Microfilm #329)
30908                    Correspondence.
30198                    Physician register. (Microfilm #433)

SOURCES
Gray, David P.  Guide to the North Dakota State Archives, 1985.
North Dakota Century Code, Chapters 43-17 and 43.17.1.
North Dakota Secretary of State Blue Book.
North Dakota State Legislature Session Laws.

 

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