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Do Physicians Referred for Competency Evaluations Have Underlying Cognitive Problems?

Korinek, Lauri L. PhD; Thompson, Laetitia L. PhD; McRae, Cynthia PhD; Korinek, Elizabeth MPH

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181ad00a2
Physicians’ Competence

Purpose Research suggests that there are concerns about the neuropsychological functioning of physicians who undergo physician competency evaluation. Academic health center faculty often participate in the evaluation and remediation of these physicians. The purpose of this study was to compare the cognitive abilities between a group of physicians referred for competency evaluations and a control group.

Method Using the MicroCog, a computerized neuropsychological screen originally designed for physicians, the authors compared the cognitive performance of 267 physicians referred for competency evaluations with a control group of 68 recruited physicians. Physicians referred for competency evaluations took the MicroCog as a part of their evaluation at CPEP, the national Center for Personalized Education for Physicians, from January 1997 to January 2004. The control group comprised practicing physicians whose competency was not in question.

Results Compared with the control group, the competency evaluation group had a greater proportion of physicians with scores suggesting possible cognitive impairment and performed significantly lower on scores of processing speed, processing accuracy, and cognitive proficiency. The control group of physicians performed significantly better than the age- and education-corrected normative sample.

Conclusions Because there were significant neuropsychological differences between physicians referred for competency evaluations and physicians whose competency was not in question, it is important that neuropsychological screening be included as part of physicians' competency evaluations.

Dr. Korinek is psychologist, Neuropsychological Services, Colorado Mental Health Institute at Fort Logan, Denver, Colorado.

Dr. Thompson is associate professor, Neuropsychology Lab, University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, Denver, Colorado.

Dr. McRae is professor, Counseling Psychology, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado.

Ms. Korinek is executive director, CPEP, the Center for Personalized Education for Physicians, Denver, Colorado.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Korinek, CMHI-Fort Logan, Psychology, 3520 W. Oxford Avenue, Denver, Colorado 80236; telephone: (303)866-7871; fax: (303)866-7899; e-mail: (

© 2009 Association of American Medical Colleges