The 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution authorizes states to establish laws and regulations protecting the health, safety and general welfare of their citizens. Medicine is a regulated profession because of the potential harm to the public if an incompetent or impaired physician is licensed to practice. Each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories has a medical practice act that defines the practice of medicine and delegates the authority to enforce the law to a state medical board. State medical boards license physicians, investigate complaints, discipline those who violate the law, conduct physician evaluations and facilitate rehabilitation of physicians where appropriate. The structure and authority of medical boards vary from state to state.
Obtaining a license to practice medicine in the U.S. is a rigorous process. State medical boards ensure those entering the profession have met predetermined qualifications that include medical school graduation, postgraduate training and passage of a national medical licensing examination. Only those who meet a state’s predetermined qualifications are granted permission to practice medicine in that state.
Moreover, medical boards monitor licensed physicians’ competence and professional conduct. They review and investigate complaints and/or reports received from patients, health professionals, government agencies, health care organizations and other state medical boards about physicians who may be incompetent or acting unprofessionally and take appropriate action against a physician’s license, if the person is found to have violated the law.