The Do's and Don'ts of Appearing Before the Texas Medical Board (TMB)
You've worked for years to become a medical doctor in Texas. Ignoring a complaint that has been lodged against you, regardless of whether it has any merit, could jeopardize your career and livelihood.
What should you DO if a notice of investigation lands on your desk?
RETAIN EXPERIENCED COUNSEL
Defending a Texas Medical Board (TMB) complaint is an incredibly stressful and disconcerting process. It is therefore imperative that you hire a professional license defense attorney who is experienced with the TMB review process and willing to defend your professional license at each necessary proceeding. Remember, if the Board finds the complaint against you meritorious, you could face a significant fine. Hiring a lawyer could help you avoid or mitigate your payment of a fine.
A hearing before the Texas Medical Board is professional business, so dress as though you are tending to professional matters and want to be taken seriously. I recommend wearing business professional attire to these hearings. Men should wear a suit, a tie, and well-polished shoes. Women likewise should wear a neat business suit, hose, and well-polished shoes.
BE WILLING TO ADMIT ERROR
The TMB is generally more lenient if you acknowledge that you failed to demonstrate your best efforts during the instance in question. Should you insist that you demonstrated proper decision making and provided standard care, you should still concede that you will approach a similar situation differently in the future. Of course, your counsel should carefully advise you about testifying to matters that may be self-incriminating or self-indicting.
A solid paper trail that supports your story is one of the strongest shields you have to protect your license. To prepare for your hearing, review all related documentation with your attorney and understand its every detail.
ACCEPT THE PANEL'S DECISION
If the TMB Panel deems the complaint meritorious, it will recommend some level of punishment. You then will have the opportunity to accept the punishment or appeal the Panel's decision to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). If you appeal the decision, an administrative law judge will be assigned to your case and a more formal trial system will take over.
IGNORE NOTICES FROM THE BOARD
Surprisingly, many licensed professionals ignore written notices from the Board until their hearing date becomes imminent. Pretending that an allegation against you does not exist is not a prudent way to assert your innocence. If you receive a written notice of an investigation, be sure to respond within the appropriate deadline.
CIRCUMVENT THE CHAIN OF COMMAND
Think twice about circumventing any procedure established by the Texas Medical Board. Do not contact politicians, lobbyists, or other non-attorneys in an attempt to influence the outcome of your hearing. Advocate for yourself and defend your license, but do so within the legal system.
SOLELY RELY ON YOUR ATTORNEY TO SPEAK FOR YOU
The TMB is generally persuaded by doctors who discuss the events that gave rise to the complaint and argue in support of their actions. Accordingly, you must thoroughly understand the facts of the complaint. You will be permitted to convey your story and any detail you find relevant, and to refute any challenge made by the Board. Should you consistently defer to your legal counsel, however, the Board will question your confidence in your own actions.
CLAIM IGNORANCE OF YOUR JOB RESPONSIBILITES
One of the Board's many functions is to protect the general public from incompetent doctors. For this reasons, when you respond to a complaint about your past actions, it is far preferable to admit, rather than plead ignorance, to your mistakes. The Board does not want a medical professional who does not understand how to properly perform his or her duties.
While no medical professional wants to be brought before a review, it happens to many. If you find that a complaint has been lodged against you, take every step possible to ensure the best possible outcome. Your license, livelihood, and reputation as a doctor may be at stake.
By knowing what to expect before a board notice ever arrives in the mail, you are taking the first step to reaching a pleasant resolution to the complaint process.
Attorney Tony R. Bertolino is the Managing Partner of Bertolino LLP. The law firm has been able to help licensed professionals across the State of Texas through our offices in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio. If you or anyone you know is facing a Texas Medical Board complaint and needs an experienced lawyer, contact Bertolino LLP today!