Frist Fined for Untruthful Medical License Renewal Forms

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is likely to be fined for falsely certifying that he had completed required continuing medical education on his license renewal forms despite having failed to do so.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will probably be fined and have to make up for failing to do continuing medical education that Tennessee requires of doctors with active licenses. Additional disciplinary action, such as suspending his medical license, is unlikely, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Health said Wednesday.

Spokeswoman Andrea Turner said Frist, a prominent heart-lung surgeon before coming to the Senate in 1995, is expected to be fined $40 for every hour of continuing education he did not complete. He also will have to make up the missed hours of continuing education within the next six months and do an extra 10 penalty hours within the year, she said. “Disciplinary action when you don’t meet the requirements is always a possibility. However, I don’t feel the possibility is substantial,” she said.

Frist spokesman Matt Lehigh did not comment Wednesday on what the board might do, saying only, “Dr. Frist remains committed to working diligently with the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners to comply.”

In a license renewal form filed with the board earlier this year, Frist certified he had met the state’s continuing education requirement — 40 hours over the previous two years. In response to several inquiries from The Associated Press, however, the Tennessee Republican acknowledged Tuesday that he had not done all the work. Turner said a Frist representative contacted the board on Tuesday to report the situation, and the board’s medical director received a letter from Frist lawyer C.J. Gideon Jr. on Wednesday.

The letter, provided to The Associated Press by the Tennessee Health Department, acknowledges “a probable shortfall” in Frist’s continuing education hours and states that Frist “has not been engaged in the active practice of medicine” for many years. It also states that the renewal application was signed by a Frist representative who was “apparently unaware” of the continuing education requirement.

Turner said there is no rule preventing physicians from letting others sign license renewal applications. “But, in this case, the medical doctor is held accountable,” she said. Tennessee officials put the continuing medical education requirement in place in 2002. Starting with renewal applications filed in January 2005, the state required doctors to have completed the 40 hours of continuing education in the two years preceding their filing. Turner said the information about the rule change was sent to doctors in a newsletter mailed to them several times between 2001 to 2005.

This is likely an honest mistake, given that the continuing education requirement is relatively new and the certification is brand new. Still, this is rather embarrasing for a man in Frist’s position. It’s also interesting that his official position is that he “has not been engaged in the active practice of medicine” given that part of the Frist folklore is that he uses time away from his Senate duties to provide free medical care for the poor here and abroad.

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James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jim Henley says:

    I’m thinking the course on video diagnosis of coma victims would be good for him to repeat when he does the makeup.

  2. Triumph says:

    This is likely an honest mistake,

    I am sure it was an honest mistake–since Frist makes “honest mistakes” all the time, like when he told his “blind trust” to dump his HCA stock just weeks before the company released its weak quarterly earnings report.

    I am also sure it was an “honest mistake” when, during medical school, he “adopted” cats from animal shelters only to kill them and cut them up.

    The guy is a paragon of honesty.