Verify a Physician's License to Practice Medicine


It's always a good idea to check the credentials of your doctor or health care provider before you come under their treatment. This information isn't hard to find online and doesn't cost you anything but a few minutes of your time. Nonetheless, few of us ever actually check out their credentials. Perhaps it's built into the trust we as patients tend to hand over to health professionals from the outset. Either way, not doing so is a bad way to begin a relationship.

Once a week I can find a story in a local media outlet about a person caught practicing medicine or in health care who lost his or her license. Other times the 'practitioner' was never licensed to begin with. In all cases, the patient's health and well-being are at risk.

Verification Sites

If you want to check the status of a medical doctor practicing in the United States or its territories, you likely have to steps to take. The first will be to verify that the doctor is indeed licensed to practice medicine.

You'll do that by checking with your state's Medical and Osteopathic Boards, a directory to which you can find here. Keep in mind that a physician does not need to be an "MD", i.e. hold a Doctor of Medicine degree to practice medicine; some physicians graduate medical school as Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DO's. For our purposes, there is no difference between MD's and DO's, each has the same rights, privileges and responsibilities.

The second step will be to verify the doctor's specialty board status, if they claim to have Board Certification. Depending on the specialty, you may need to visit:

- The certification site of the American Board of Medical Specialties, located at;
- Or the American Board of Physician Specialties;
- Or the American Osteopathic Association.

Full Physician Profiles

If you want to go the whole nine yards and find out:

- If your doctor has ever been disciplined by a state medical board
- Where he or she attended medical school
- Their educational degree
- Their board certification
- Whether they're licensed in other states
- If they have ever practiced under another name

That is easy to obtain but not free. In this case, you would visit and, for $9.95, you can have the doctor's full profile, a sample of which can be seen HERE (opens as a PDF file).

That report is generated by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) which, according to its website, is "a national non-profit organization representing the 70 medical and osteopathic boards of the United States and its territories" promoting "excellence in medical practice, licensure, and regulation as the national resource and voice on behalf of state medical and osteopathic boards in their protection of the public."

If we're going to trust doctors with our lives, we should first make sure they've been granted the privilege to earn that trust.

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