FL Hospitals Say 'Yes' to Unlicensed Doc as CMO

Joe Cantlupe, September 19, 2013

Should a hospital's top-ranking doc maintain a license to practice medicine? One hospital system with facilities in Florida says it is often "inadvisable" for a practicing physician to be a CMO.

Editor’s note: The original column stated that Dr. Leighton Smith's lack of a medical license at Northwest Community Hospital prompted him to resign. HealthLeaders Media retracts that assertion, and the article has been amended.

Physicians must commit considerable effort to secure and maintain a license to practice medicine, but not every physician leader does so, nor is required to do so. For example, Leighton B. Smith, MD, does not have a license to practice medicine but serves as chief medical officer at 156-bed Florida Hospital DeLand and at the nearby 175-bed Florida Hospital Fish Memorial in Orange City. Florida Hospital is part of the Adventist Health System.

A Florida Hospital spokeswoman, Lindsay Rew, confirmed that Smith was named the hospitals' new CMO in March and said Florida Hospital officials had no problem with him taking the job, knew about his background, and added that it is "often inadvisable" for a CMO to be active on the medical staff.

Rew says Florida Hospital officials have confidence in Smith. She released a statement saying that Smith is an "accomplished physician executive with more than 25 years of leadership experience, both in hospitals and medical education environments." Smith's experience includes serving as CMO at Northwest Community Hospital in Chicago for eight years, also without a license to practice.

While the value of a medical license is clear—the American Medical Association has stated that "members of the medical profession should always remember that the business of medical licensing boards is to protect the public from unqualified and unfit physicians"—should that also apply to physicians in the C-suite?

Joe Cantlupe Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.Twitter
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