Must CMOs Always Be Licensed Physicians?

Joe Cantlupe, August 16, 2012

For eight years, the top doctor at the 496-bed Northwest Community Hospital in Chicago was, in fact, a doctor—but with an asterisk. Besides being a non-practicing doctor, he couldn't practice because his medical license had expired in 1999.

In June, Leighton Smith, MD, left his position as chief medical officer and vice president of medical affairs. The C-suite knew he wasn't a practicing physician, and the top brass didn't seem to care.

The local media, however, raised questions after the fact, about whether having a CMO who wasn't a practicing physician in some way compromised the hospital's patient care efforts.

Smith's lack of a license surfaced during a Northwest doctor's internal appeal of a review, and Smith resigned shortly thereafter. Hospital executives disclosed they knew about his lack of a license when he was hired. Like many other states, Illinois doesn't have licensing rules for chief medical officers.

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


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