OPPA Advocacy results in changes by SMBO to application for licensure
As a result of intense advocacy efforts initiated by the OPPA several years ago, the State Medical Board of Ohio (SMBO) has finally voted to eliminate a question from its application for medical licensure that requires answers regarding a physician's mental health history without regard to whether a condition currently impairs or limits a physician's ability to practice medicine with reasonable skill and safety.
The OPPA first met with members of the State Medical Board of Ohio several years ago to discuss concerns about one of the questions on the application (Q 22) that unfairly stigmatizes mental health treatment. We further stressed that the question created a significant barrier to physicians (including residents and medical students) seeking appropriate and effective treatment at the onset of symptoms, for fear of retaliation by the medical board when having to answer these questions on the application for licensure later in their career.
The OPPA sent a final letter to the SMBO in Dec. 2015 reiterating our concerns. We also reminded the SMBO that Title II of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) prohibits states from discriminating against people with disabilities in the administration, requirements and eligibility criteria of licensing programs, such as the application for medical licensure. Under Title II, medical board applicants with mental illness should not be treated differently compared to other applicants simply because they have a mental health diagnosis or have been diagnosed with a mental illness in the past.
Just last week, the OPPA was notified by the SMBO that the board had voted at its meeting in June to eliminate question 22 and to make significant revisions to question 23 regarding medical conditions.
While the OPPA is most appreciative of the SMBO's decision to finally remove Q 22 from the application, upon review of the revised Q 23, we noted additional edits (identified in our letter of July 18) which we hope the board will consider to provide clarity to applicants.
The OPPA will continue to be a strong and effective advocate for persons with mental illness, including physicians who are diagnosed with “bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, paranoia, or any other psychotic disorder” (as asked previously in questions 22a and 22b of the Ohio Physician Licensure Application), and whose symptoms are well-controlled by treatment and they thus function without any impairment whatsoever. The public safety concern when licensing physicians to practice in Ohio is NOT whether they have, or have ever had, one of the diagnoses above, but whether that diagnosed mental illness “in any way impairs or limits” their ability to practice medicine with “reasonable skill or safety”.