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This Week: Karen Whatley: Executive Director of the Arkansas State Medical Board.

Karen Whatley became the executive director of the Medical Board on Sept. 1, 2016, on the retirement of the longtime leader, Peggy Cryer.

Has the board made any substantial changes in the way it operates since you came aboard? Since I became the director, the board has decreased the average length of time it takes for an applicant to become licensed. When I became director, the average time for licensure was 72 days. Today, the average length of time for licensure is 32 days. The staff is more proactive in reaching out to applicants and licensees to obtain information necessary for licensure and for updating the physicians' credentialing profiles. In 2017, we updated the board's website to make it more user-friendly. We are also taking steps to streamline the process for customers ordering credentialing profiles.

How does your background as a federal prosecutor help you as executive director? Both jobs are first and foremost roles of public service. Understanding that decisions made by governmental agencies affect people's lives in both positive and negative ways is always at the forefront of my mind. My time as a federal prosecutor prepared me to be able to pay attention to detail and to compile information for presentation to board members.

What is the Medical Board doing to address opioid misuse and addiction? In February, the board will conduct a public hearing on the definition of excessive as set forth in Regulation 2(4). This definition will place limits on the amount of opioids a physician can prescribe to patients and will set requirements on practitioners wishing to prescribe more than those limits. In addition, the board has a Pain Committee which reviews allegations of overprescribing. The Pain Committee is extremely helpful in helping physicians understand the requirements for a pain management practice and what is needed to bring their practice in line with accepted standards.

What do you think is the most important thing for the general public to know about the Arkansas State Medical Board?

The Medical Board takes allegations of misconduct by physicians and the other medical professionals the board licenses very seriously. Each complaint received in the office is reviewed by members of the staff, but more importantly, each complaint is reviewed by the members of the Medical Board and discussed at the meetings.

How did you get involved in this line of work? I was a practicing attorney for 22 years. While at the United States attorney's office, I prosecuted health care fraud. In private practice, I handled cases involving health care defense. These diverse areas provided me with a better understanding of the problems and issues which confront the health care profession. I became very familiar with the Medical Board in 2009 and 2010 when I was one of the assistant U.S. attorneys who prosecuted the bombing of the then-board chairman, Dr. Trent Pierce. During that case, I gained a better appreciation for the work of the Medical Board and the importance it plays in protecting the citizens of Arkansas.

Bio: Karen Whatley

Background: Whatley has more than 22 years of legal experience, including medical malpractice and nursing home defense and other insurance defense representation while a partner at the Mitchell Williams Law Firm in Little Rock. She was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Arkansas for nearly 14 years, prosecuting child exploitation, white-collar and computer intrusion crimes.

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Comment:This Week: Karen Whatley: Executive Director of the Arkansas State Medical Board.
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Jan 8, 2018
Words:576
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