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Do State Medical Board Applications Violate the Americans With Disabilities Act?

Schroeder, Robin MD; Brazeau, Chantal M.L.R. MD; Zackin, Freda Esq; Rovi, Sue PhD; Dickey, John MD; Johnson, Mark S. MD, MPH; Keller, Steven E. PhD

Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181a43bb2
Accreditation and Licensure Issues
Abstract

Purpose: To determine whether medical licensing board application questions about the mental or physical health or substance use history of the applicant violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.

Method: Content analysis of 51 allopathic licensing applications (50 states and District of Columbia) was performed at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School in 2005. Questions referencing physical or mental health or substance use were identified by a team of physicians and reviewed and categorized based on the ADA and appropriate case law by legal counsel.

Results: Of the 51 applications reviewed, 49 (96%) contained questions pertaining to the physical or mental health or substance use history of the applicant. Thirty-four of the 49 (69%) state medical licensing applications contained at least one “likely impermissible” or “impermissible” item based on the ADA and appropriate case law.

Conclusions: Most state medical licensing applications contain questions that ask about the physical or mental health and substance use of physician applicants. Many licensing applications appear to be in violation of the ADA, even 19 years after enactment of the regulation. These questions do not elicit responses by which professional competence can be judged. The presence of these questions on licensing applications may cause physicians to avoid or delay treatment of personal illness.

Author Information

Dr. Schroeder is former assistant predoctoral director and family medicine clerkship director, and is presently medical director, Student Health and Wellness Center, and assistant professor, Department of Family Medicine, UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey.

Dr. Brazeau is associate professor, Family Medicine and Psychiatry, and predoctoral director, Department of Family Medicine, UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey.

Ms. Zackin is former associate dean for academic affairs and student services, UMDNJ-School of Health Related Professions, and is presently interim vice president for academic affairs, UMDNJ, Newark, New Jersey.

Dr. Rovi is assistant professor, Research Division, Department of Family Medicine, UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey.

Dr. Dickey was a medical student working on a summer research project and has now graduated from UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School. He is now a resident in internal medicine.

Dr. Johnson is professor and chair, Department of Family Medicine, UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey.

Dr. Keller is professor and director, Research Division, Department of Family Medicine, UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Schroeder, UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, 183 South Orange Avenue, Department of Family Medicine, BHSB E 1557, Newark, NJ 07103; telephone: (973) 972-8219; fax: (973) 972-0018; e-mail: (schroers@umdnj.edu).

Editor's Note: Commentaries on this article appear on pages 689 and 692.

© 2009 Association of American Medical Colleges