Frequently Asked Questions

We at the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine have compiled an extensive list of answers to frequently asked questions that are asked by both consumers and physicians.

photo of doctor talking to woman holding her baby

Frequently Asked Questions: Consumers

General Questions

Q. Where do I find out my legal rights as a patient?
A.
Link on to www.state.ma.us/legis/laws/mgl. Typing in Chapter 111, Section 70, will allow you to access the information.

Q. Who can assist me with problems related to managed care referrals, denials, and appeals?
A.
You may contact the Office of Patient Protection at 1-800-436-7757.

Q. My doctor told me that he/she does not want me as a patient any more. Can he/she suddenly terminate me?
A.
As long as you are not in the midst of an acute problem for which lack of immediate follow-up would be dangerous to your health, the doctor may terminate the relationship. Although not required by law, the protocol recommended in these situations is that the doctor provides the patient with a list of referral doctors and continues to see the patient for emergencies for thirty days following the termination.

Q. Can the doctor refuse to provide me with copies of my medical records because of an outstanding balance for medical treatment?
A.
No. The physician can charge for copying costs, however. Physicians are allowed to charge a base cost of $15 for each request. Furthermore, physicians are allowed to charge $.50 per page for copying the first 100 pages of a patient's record, and $.25 per page for every page in excess of 100 pages. Additionally, physicians are allowed to charge for postage.

Q. How long must a doctor keep medical records?
A.
Doctors must keep medical records for seven years after last patient contact.

Q. What if my doctor is deceased?
A.
If a doctor is deceased, and it has been less than seven years since the last patient contact, the patient needs to locate the Executor of the estate. This can be done through the local probate court.

Q. Are chaperones required during an examination?
A.
Actually, there is no regulation concerning this issue. The Board strongly suggests, however, that a chaperone be present during full examinations of patients for the comfort and protection of both the patient and the physician, particularly when a physician is performing a gynecological exam.

Q. How good is my doctor -is there a ranking system?
A.
No. The Board does not rank physicians. However, it does provide consumers with a variety of information through its Profiles Program, public information and outreach to assist them in making an informed choice.

Q. I'm having surgery in my doctor's office. Is this appropriate?
A.
The board has endorsed guidelines adopted by the Massachusetts Medical Society regarding office based surgery. The guidelines establish three levels of anesthesia required for a procedure, and what type of facility, medical personnel and emergency equipment and protocols must be present whenever each type of anesthesia is going to be used. The guidelines may be found here.

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Frequently Asked Questions: Consumers

Complaint FAQs

Q. I'm thinking of filing a complaint against my doctor. What should I do?
A. Just access our web site at www.massmedboard.org and press the Consumer Information link to download a complaint form. If you do not have Internet access, to obtain a complaint form, you may contact the Board of Registration in Medicine at:

1-800-377-0550
Board of Registration in Medicine,
560 Harrison Avenue, Suite G-4,
Boston, MA 02118

Q. What are the grounds for complaint?
A.
A complaint against a physician must allege that a licensee is practicing medicine in violation of law, regulations, or good and accepted medical practice -on any of the following grounds:

  1. Fraudulent procurement of his/her certificate of registration or its renewal.
  2. Commitment of an offense against any provision of the laws of the Commonwealth relating to the practice of medicine, or any rule or regulation adopted thereunder.
  3. Conduct which places into question the physician's competence to practice medicine, including but not limited to gross misconduct in the practice of medicine, or practicing medicine fraudulently, or beyond its authorized scope, or with gross incompetence, or with gross negligence on a particular occasion or negligence on repeated occasions.
  4. Practicing medicine while the ability to practice is impaired by alcohol, drugs, physical disability or mental instability.
  5. Being habitually drunk or being or having been addicted to, dependent on, or a habitual user of narcotics, barbiturates, amphetamines, hallucinogens, or other drugs having similar effects.
  6. Knowingly permitting, aiding or abetting an unlicensed person to perform activities requiring a license.
  7. Conviction of any crime.
  8. Continuing to practice while his/her registration is lapsed, suspended, or revoked.
  9. Being insane.
  10. Practicing medicine deceitfully, or engaging in conduct that has the capacity to deceive or defraud.
  11. Violation of any rule or regulation of the Board.

Q. I would rather not let my doctor know I am complaining to the Board. Do you accept anonymous complaints?
A.
Anonymous complaints are very difficult to investigate. Unless clear and specific information is provided, such as patient names or record numbers and dates and types of treatment, the Board is unable to open the complaint. However, the information will be maintained on an internal (nonpublic) database, for possible use in a future investigation.

Q. Is there a time limit for filing my complaint?
A. The Board, as a rule, does not investigate any complaint based on an event occurring more than six years prior to it being filed at the Board. Board regulation 243 CMR 1.03 (16), concerning stale matters, gives the Board discretion to extend this time limit, but it can only do so for extreme circumstances.

Q. How can I check on the progress of my complaint?
A.
Contact the Board and ask to be referred to the Consumer Protection Unit.

Q. Will my doctor find out that I filed a complaint?
A.
Yes. During the Board's investigation, your complaint will be sent to the physician and he/she will be asked to respond.

Q. My doctor told me that she does not want me as a patient any more. Can she suddenly terminate me?
A.
As long as you are not in the midst of an acute problem for which lack of immediate follow-up would be dangerous to your health, the doctor can terminate the relationship. Although not required by law, the protocol recommended in these situations is that the doctor provide the patient with a list of referral doctors and continue to see the patient for emergencies for thirty days following the termination.

Q. Are chaperones required during an examination?
A.
Actually, there is no regulation concerning this issue. The Board strongly suggests, however, that a female chaperone be present, for the comfort and protection of both the patient and the physician, particularly when a male physician is performing a gynecological exam.

Q. What happens if the doctor does not respond to the Board about my complaint?
A.
If the doctor does not respond to the Board's initial or follow-up inquiries regarding a complaint, another case may be opened by the Board on that issue alone. As the licensing agency for physicians, the Board takes such a failure very seriously, and can and has disciplined physicians simply for not responding.

Q. Can the doctor refuse to provide me copies of my medical records because of an outstanding balance for medical treatment?
A.
No. The physician can require that copying costs be paid (up to $0.25 per page and up to $20.00 for clerical time) before they are released, but payment for medical care is a separate issue. (See the Board's brochure on medical records for more information.)

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Frequently Asked Questions: Consumers

Profile Questions

Q. What is the Board of Registration in Medicine?
A.
The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine, established in 1894, is the state government agency that licenses and regulates physicians in Massachusetts. It consists of seven members (5 physicians and 2 public members) appointed by the Governor to three- year terms. A member may serve only two consecutive terms. Each member also serves on one or more Committees of the Board.

Q. What are those committees?
A.
The following is a list of Committees:

Complaint Committee:
Reviews allegations against physicians and recommends cases for disciplinary action to the full board.

Data Repository Committee:
Reviews reports filed on physicians from statutorily-mandated reporting sources. These include malpractice payments, hospital discipline reports, and reports filed by other health care providers.

Licensing Committee:
Reviews applications for licensure and requests for waivers from Board requirements. The members present candidates for licensure to the whole Board for full and limited licensure.

Patient Care Assessment Committee:
Works with hospitals and other institutions to improve quality assurance programs through the review of Major Incident Reports. These reports describe adverse outcomes, full medical reviews of the incidents, and the corrective action plans of the facilities. The Committee's mission is to prevent patient harm by strengthening medical quality assurance programs in all institutions. The PCA program has become a national model for health care excellence, as noted in the recent Institute of Medicine Report on the prevention of medical errors.

Committee on Acupuncture:
Oversees the licensing and discipline of licensed acupuncturists.

 

Q. Listed on your web site is a "Physician Profiles" bar/button. What is its primary purpose?
A.
The first of its kind in any state in this country, the Physician Profiles project was developed to help health care consumers make informed decisions when choosing a physician. The bar/button will gjve you access to all Massachusetts physicians' profiles.

Q. What type information will I find listed on Profiles?
A.
The listing includes a physician's business and professional demographics, education and training background, hospital affiliations, insurance plans accepted, paid malpractice claims, hospital discipline, criminal history and board discipline.

Q. Can I download the profile of any given physician?
A. Yes. It's printer-friendly.

Q. What if l don't have on-line capability?
A. You can gain the same valuable information by contacting our fully staffed Call Center at 1-800-377-0550, Monday through Friday, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm You may also visit any public library that has computer access and download our web site at www.massmedboard.org.

Q. What does ABMS Board Certified stand for on the profile?
A. ABMS stands for the American Board of Medical Specialties. ABMS is a national organization that tests physicians in order to prove their knowledge in their fields of specialty. The ABMS sets standards for additional training in fields, as well. Physicians who met these additional requirements and tests are Board-certified by ABMS. To visit the ABMS website, click here

Q. Does a physician need to be board-certified?
A. Board certifications are voluntary. However, some hospitals and insurance plans require their doctors to be board-certified. Usually, a doctor has to finish a residency in his/her specialty before he/she is eligible to take the examination.

Q. What can you tell me about malpractice claims?
A. The Board of Registration in Medicine can only give you the docket numbers of the cases and the phone numbers of the courts where they were filed. The Board does not have any additional information about pending cases.

Q. What can you tell me about medical malpractice payments?
A. Some studies have shown that there is no significant correlation between malpractice history and a doctor's competence. At the same time, the Board believes that consumers should have access to malpractice information. When considering malpractice data, please keep in mind that malpractice histories tend to vary by specialty. Some specialties are more likely than others to be the subject of litigation. The Board has placed payment amounts into three statistical categories: below average, average and above average. To make the best health care decisions, you should view this information in perspective. The report compares doctors ONL Y to the members of their specialty, not to ALL doctors.

Q. I just pulled up my physician's profile and note that he/she has been disciplined by the Board. How do I get additional information?
A. Just send a public information request to the Board via mail, e-mail or by fax to the Call Center. Please note your return address.

By Mail:
Board of Registration in Medicine
560 Harrison Avenue
Boston, MA 02118
Attention: Call Center

By Fax: 617-426-9373

By Email: Ma.Profiles@state.ma.us

Q. Is there a charge for this service?
A. The Board does not charge for profiles. However, if you are requesting additional documentation on a disciplinary action, you may be charged up to $.20 per page, and an hourly rate of $14.70 for clerical services.

Q. If the action is listed under Hospital Discipline, can the Board of Registration in Medicine supply me with this information?
A. No. You will need to contact that hospital directly for any public information.

Q. What is a Summary Suspension?
A. If the Board determines that a licensee poses an immediate and serious threat to the public health, safety or welfare, the Board may suspend or refuse to renew a license, pending a final hearing on the merits of the Statement of Allegations. The Board must provide a hearing on the necessity for summary action within seven days after the suspension. If the Board determines that a licensee poses a serious but not immediate threat to the public health, safety or welfare, the Board may order the licensee to file opposing affidavits or other evidence within three (3) business days. Based upon the evidence before it, the Board may then suspend or refuse to renew the license, pending a final hearing on the merits of the Statement of Allegations. These hearings are conducted by Administrative Law judges at the Division of Administrative Law Appeals (DALA).

Q. What is DALA?
A. The Division of Administrative Law Appeals (DALA) is an independent state agency that conducts adjudicatory hearings. At DALA, the Administrative Magistrates are independent from the agency whose action is being tried. Its objective is to provide for speeding hearings and the issuance of timely, legally competent decisions. For further information, log on to their web site at www.state.ma.us/dala

Q. What is a Revocation of License?
A. The cancellation or revocation of a certificate of registration, which is effective for at least five (5) years, unless the Board orders otherwise. This is the most serious sanction that the Board can impose.

Q. What is a Final Decision and Order?
A. A Final Decision and Order is the final action of the Board resolving a disciplinary matter. In disposing of disciplinary charges brought by the Board, it may revoke, suspend, or cancel the certificate of registration (license), or reprimand, censure, impose a fine not to exceed $10,000 for each classification of violation, require the performance of up to lOO hours of public service, require a course of education or training or otherwise discipline or limit the practice of the physician.

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Frequently Asked Questions: Physicians

Patient Care Assessment

Q. When are Safety and Quality Reviews due?
A.
Technically, a health care facility has 30 days following the end of the calendar quarter in which the Safety and Quality issue occurred to submit a report to the PCA Unit. The intention of this "quarterly reporting" is to give facilities approximately three months to investigate an issue before filing the Safety and Quality Review with the Board.

Q. Should I wait until the investigation of an incident is complete before filing a report?
A.
If the investigation will take (approximately) three months or less, yes, you may wait until the investigation is complete before submitting a report. If the investigation is likely to take more than three months, you should file an initial report with as much information as possible and then submit a follow-up report when the investigation is completed. If you do submit an initial report, you must be sure to submit a follow-up report when the investigation is closed.

Q. If no major Safety and Quality issues occur in a particular calendar quarter, do I have to submit some kind of report stating so?
A.
Although some hospitals do submit a written statement that no major issues have occurred in the most recent quarter, it is not necessary to do so.

Q. What if I am not sure whether an event meets the definition of a Safety and Quality issue?
A.
Call the PCA Unit for guidance and assistance.

Q. There is a new PCA Coordinator at our health care facility. Do we have to do anything?
A.
The PCA regulations require (at 243 CMR 3.06(2)) that the health care facility report the name of the PCA Coordinator to the PCA Unit within ten days of designation or replacement.

Q. When are my facility's PCA Semi-Annual and Annual reports due? Are there formats or forms for these reports?
A.
There is no form but there is a recommended format for PCA Semi-Annual reports. There is no form per se for the PCA Annual report, however, the information that must be contained in the report can be found at 243 CMR 3.12(4). Please call the PCA Unit or see the PCA section of the Board's website for: (1) the recommended format for the PCA Semi-Annual report; (2) the information that must be included in the PCA Annual report; and (3) a reporting schedule for PCA Semi-Annual and Annual reporting.

Q. I am confused about PCA Annual reporting - is it the same as the Annual Disciplinary Action Summary report? Please clarify.
A.
Please see the above question for information on PCA Annual reporting. The PCA Annual report is DIFFERENT from the Board's Annual Disciplinary Action Summary report. The latter report, which asks for information about the physicians who were disciplined by the health care facility in the previous year, go to a completely different unit in the Board: the Data Repository Unit.

Q. How long should I keep the credentialing files for our physicians?
A.
The PCA regulations (at 243 CMR 3.12(1)(d)) state that the health care facility must maintain personnel records regarding its health care providers for a minimum of ten years. This regulation deals only with the Board's requirements - there may be other state laws and regulations that require organizations to maintain personnel files for a longer period of time.

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Frequently Asked Questions: Physicians

License Questions

Q. What types of medical licenses are available in the State of Massachusetts and what are the requirements?
A.
The following is a list of Licenses:

  • Full license: You must hold an active full license to practice medicine independently in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. An active licensee must earn CME credits and maintain malpractice insurance. The full license fee is $600.00. For Full License documents, click here.
  • Limited license: Limited licenses are issued to physicians enrolled in post-graduate medical education programs in teaching hospitals in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. All such training must be done in ACGME accredited programs, or in a sub-specialty clinical training or fellowship program in a training facility, which has an approved program in the parent specialty. A physician who holds or who has ever held a full Massachusetts license is not eligible for a limited license. The limited license fee is $100.00. For Limited License questions, click here.
  • Temporary license: A temporary license may be issued only to the following individuals: 1) a visiting physician who is licensed to practice in another jurisdiction and who has a temporary faculty appointment certified by the dean of a medical school; 2) to a physician licensed in another state to act as a substitute physician in Massachusetts for three months; or 3) to a physician licensed in another state to participate in a course of continuing medical education. A temporary license is not issued while a full or limited license in process. The temporary license fee is $250.00. If you are eligible for a temporary license, you may request the application packet at (617) 654-9810.

Q. I am applying for a license in another state, how do I request a verification of my previous or current Massachusetts license?
A.
Select "assorted downloadable forms" and the "waiver for release form" and follow the instructions, or click here.

Q. I am currently licensed in other states, does Massachusetts have reciprocity?
A.
No, Massachusetts does not have reciprocity; you must apply for a full license. A full license application can be downloaded from the Board's website by clicking here. You must complete the application and provide all of the documents requested, including verification of licensure in each of the states where you have ever been licensed. Most states charge a processing fee for verification of a state license. Before mailing the state license verification form, contact the state licensing board for fee requirements.

Q. I do not have a Massachusetts license but I have a license in another state; can I write a prescription for a patient in Massachusetts?
A.
No, you must have a current license in Massachusetts to prescribe medication. Click here to go to our prescribing guidelines.

Q. Does Massachusetts have a special license for telemedicine?
A.
No, you must apply for a full license. For full license information, click here

Q. How can I get a copy of my full license or renewal application for credentialing?
A.
You must send a letter to the Board to the attention of the Licensing Division. Indicate whether you are requesting a copy of your full license application or renewal application and enclose a check for $5.00 made payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Please mail your request and the check to the Board of Registration in Medicine, 560 Harrison Avenue, Suite G-4, Boston, Massachusetts 02118.

Q. I am going to be a camp doctor in Massachusetts for a few weeks, what type of licensure is required?
A.
You must apply for a full license. For full license information, click here

Q. How do I obtain an application for a full medical license?
A.
You may download a full license application from the Board's website and follow the instructions. For full license information, click here

Q. How long does it take to process a full license application?
A.
The average length of time for processing a full license is six (6) to eight (8) weeks. Applications that have malpractice, competency or legal issues will require more time to process. Following approval of your application for licensure by the Board, your wallet-sized card will be mailed to you within eight (8) business days, and your certificate of licensure will be mailed within 4-6 weeks. You will be required to send a copy of your Massachusetts license to the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), click here and to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to obtain a state controlled substance certificates, click here, or you may contact the DEA at (617) 557-2200 or the Department of Public Health at (617) 983-6704.

Q. I am applying for a full license and accidentally opened the National Practitioner Databank Profile, will the Board accept it?
A.
No, the Board will not accept the National Practitioner Data Bank Profile if it has been opened. You should immediately download another National Practitioner Data Bank Profile. For National Practitioner Databank information, click here

Q. When do I have to renew my full license?
A.
Renewal of your full medical license will occur on your first birth date after the license issuance date, unless your birthday falls within ninety (90) days of obtaining initial license. If your first birth date after the issuance date falls within this time frame, you will not be required to renew your license until the following birth date. Renewals thereafter will be on a two-year birth date cycle.

Q. Can I apply for a temporary license while my full license is in process?
A.
We do not have a "temporary license" for that purpose. A temporary license may be issued under certain circumstances to a physician who has a faculty appointment at a medical school or for a locum tenens or for participation in a continuing medical education program.

Q. What is the difference between an active, inactive and retired status?
A.
The following is a list of License Statuses:

  • Active Status: An active license may prescribe medications, must complete the Board's CME requirements and have malpractice liability insurance coverage in the minimum amount of $100,000 - $300,000. Malpractice liability insurance coverage is not required for physicians who do not provide direct or indirect patient care.
  • Inactive License: A licensee who is inactive is exempt from the continuing medical education requirements and malpractice liability insurance. A physician may change from inactive to active status by completing the Active Status Request Form that is available at the Board's website. The physician must have completed the CME requirements and have malpractice liability insurance coverage if participating in patient care in the Commonwealth. If you would like to change your status from inactive to active, click here.
  • Retired Status: When you no longer wish to practice medicine in the State of Massachusetts you may apply for a retired status, however you may not reapply for active status in Massachusetts after you have acquired retired status. Officially, in the Board Regulations, "retired" is not a license status; it is a final disposition. When considering retirement, the licensee may contact the Massachusetts Medical Society's legal department to request their pamphlet titled "Issues for the Retiring Physician." A retirement form is available at the Board's website. If you would like to change your status to retired, click here.

Q. How many Continuing Medical Education (CME) credit hours are required to renew my license?
A.
The Board requires 100 hours of CME credits within each renewal period. The majority of the CME credits must relate to your primary area of practice. A minimum of 40 hours must be completed in Category 1 study and you may obtain no more than 60 hours of credit in Category 2. A minimum of ten (10) hours must be in the area of risk management. The Board also requires that you study the Board's regulations for two (2) hours of risk management credit. For the CME booklet, click here

Q. What is the difference between Category 1 and Category 2 study?
A.
Category 1 programs are sponsored or jointly sponsored by an institution or organization accredited to offer American Medical Association Category 1 credit for CME activities.

  • Category 2 consists study in the following areas:
  • Attendance at lectures and seminars on medical subjects not accredited for Category 1.
  • Preparation and publication of articles, books and exhibits relating to medicine.
  • Self-instruction, such as reading medical literature, use of audio-visual materials or computer-assisted instruction.
  • Medical consultation consisting of planned instruction from a consultant for not less than one hour (ordinary case consultation does not qualify for Category 1 or 2 credit).
  • Participation in patient care review, including peer review, case conferences such as morbidity and mortality grand rounds, chart audits, and service on medical staff committees for tissue review, infections, pharmacy, etc., and hospital committees that oversee risk management, quality assurance and patient care assessment.
  • Self-assessment. Physicians may earn credit for time spent taking self-assessment examinations not eligible for Category 1 credit.

Q. What is "risk management study"?
A.
Risk management study must include instruction in medical malpractice prevention, such as risk identification, patient safety and loss prevention, and may include instruction in any of the following areas:

  • Medical ethics
  • Quality assurance
  • Medical-legal issues
  • Patient relations
  • Utilization review that directly relates to quality assurance
  • Non-economic aspects of practice management

For risk management resources, click here.

Q. Are there any Category 1 CME courses in risk management online??
A.
Physicians should contact the Massachusetts Medical Society's Department of Medical Education Services at (800) 322-2303, or medical schools and hospital educational offices in Massachusetts. For Massachusetts-licensed physicians who practice out of state, certain Category 1 home-study courses in risk management may be available, or you may access the AMA web site for (4) free Category 1 CMEs "Gifts to Physicians from Industry" online "modules." There are also downloadable resource materials for workshops, presentations, etc.

Q. Can excess CME credits earned during one license renewal period be "saved" and used during a subsequent period?
A.
No, a total of 100 CME credits must be earned during each license renewal cycle. For the CME booklet, click here.

Q. Do I send documentation of CME credits with the license renewal form?
A.
You do not submit documentation of CME credits with your renewal form. Keep your own records, as the Board expects you to be able to document CME credits. You must maintain documentation for one full license renewal cycle after the credits were earned. For the CME booklet, click here.

Q. I have not completed the Board's CME requirements for renewal of my license. How can I apply for a CME waiver?
A.
A physician who cannot meet the CME requirements may apply for a waiver no later than 30 days prior to the renewal date. The waiver request must include a written explanation of the reason for failing to complete the CME requirements, a listing of the CME credit hours earned and a plan for completing the CME requirements. The Board may grant a waiver of the CME requirement for prolonged illness of the licensee and inaccessibility or unavailability of CME programs. Click here for a CME Waiver form

Q. Where can I obtain information about a limited or training license?
A.
You must contact the residency program coordinator at the Massachusetts hospital where your training will be undertaken to answer your questions concerning limited license requirements. These professionals specialize in all aspects of the limited license process and they maintain close contact with the Board staff. Limited license applicants should not call the Board. You can also click here of a list of Limited License questions.

Q. What are the requirements for a limited license?
A.
Limited licenses are issued to physicians enrolled in post-graduate medical education programs in health care facilities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. All training must be done in an ACGME-accredited program, or in a subspecialty clinical fellowship in a training facility that has an approved program in the parent specialty. A physician who holds, or who has ever held, a full Massachusetts license is not eligible for a limited license. Refer to the "Limited License Facts" at the Board's website for additional information.

Q. How often is a limited license renewed?
A.
Limited licenses are valid for one year and must be renewed at the end of each training year. A limited license certificate is issued following approval of the limited license and sent to the training institution.

Q. What is the Board's policy for completing USMLE Steps 1, 2 and 3?
A.
The Board's regulations require that an applicant for a full license must complete USMLE Steps 1, 2 and 3 within a seven-year period. The seven-year period begins when the applicant receives notification of passing the first step. The Board may approve an extension for a physician who has a Ph.D. in a field of biological sciences tested in the Step 1 content, including but not limited to anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, pharmacology; pediatrics, genetics, neuroscience and molecular biology. Fields explicitly not included are business, economics, ethics, history or other fields not directly related to biological science. For more information on the USMLE, click here.

Q. How many times can I take USMLE Steps 1, 2 and 3?
A.
There are no requirements on how many times you may sit for USMLE Steps 1 and 2. However, if an applicant is applying for a full license and fails USMLE Step 3 more than 6 times, the Licensing Committee will review his/her full license application. At that time, the Licensing Committee may require the applicant to provide additional indicia as evidence of clinical knowledge. You may go to the Federation of State Medical Boards website at www.fsmb.org for information and an application to apply for USMLE Steps 1, 2 or 3. For more information on the USMLE, click here.

DISCLAIMER
The preceding information is an interpretation of the Board's regulations and advice given by the Licensing Division. This information is provided for the benefit of license applicants and licensees and is subject to change. You may refer to the board's regulations, 243 CMR 2.00, for more information.

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Frequently Asked Questions: Physicians

Limited License Questions

Q. What is the scope of practice for a physician with a limited license?
A.
A limited license is a training license, and only allows a physician to practice medicine under the direct supervision of the institution's faculty at the health care facility issuing the limited license, or at its affiliates. A limited licensee may not "moonlight" either at or outside of the training facility.

Q. What are the requirements for a limited license in Massachusetts?
A.
Limited licenses are issued to physicians enrolled in post-graduate medical education programs in health care facilities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. All training must be done in an ACGME-accredited program, or in a subspecialty clinical fellowship in a training facility that has an approved program in the parent specialty. A physician who holds, or who has ever held, a full Massachusetts license is not eligible for a limited license.

Q. Where does an applicant apply for a limited license?
A.
To obtain an application for a limited license, contact the residency program coordinator or medical education coordinator at the Massachusetts hospital where the training will be undertaken. The limited license application must be completed and returned to the training hospital with the required documentation and application fee. The residency program registrar will forward the application to the Board of Registration in Medicine.

Q. How long does it take to get a limited license after the application is submitted to the Board?
A.
Processing time for an initial limited license application is approximately six to eight weeks after the Board receives licensing documents from all primary sources. Some applications may require a longer processing time if the Board needs additional information.

Q. What education requirements must a U.S. or Canadian medical school graduate have in order to obtain a limited license?
A.
The following are U.S. and Canadian requirements:

  • Completion of two years of a pre-medical course of study in a college or university; and
  • Not less than three and one-half years of study in a legally chartered medical school having the power to grant degrees in medicine.

Q. What education requirements must an international medical school graduate have in order to obtain a limited license?
A.
The following are international medical school graduate requirements:

  • Completion of minimum of two years of a premedical course of study in a college or university;
  • Completion and attendance of four academic years of instruction at a medical school which education is substantially equivalent to that of graduates of U.S. medical schools; and
  • Completion of medical school clinical training, which is substantially equivalent to the minimum standards required of U.S. medical school graduates, and done under the direct control of the medical school dean and under onsite supervision and evaluation by the faculty of the medical school in which the applicant was enrolled. Limited license applicants who cannot meet this requirement must submit a request for a waiver.

Q. What documents must an international medical school graduate submit to the Board in order to obtain a limited license?
A.
The following is a list of documents international graduates must submit:

  • A notarized copy of the medical school diploma and a notarized copy of the English translation, if applicable;
  • Medical school transcripts with evaluations received directly from the medical school(s);
  • A notarized copy of a valid as of the date of licensure ECFMG certificate; and
  • A completed request for a waiver of substantial equivalency requirements, if applicable.

Q. What are the requirements for an ECFMG certificate?
A.
Graduates of international medical schools are required to have a valid ECFMG certificate in order to be eligible for a limited license in Massachusetts. The ECFMG certificate must be valid as of the date of licensure. Contact ECFMG at (215) 386-5900 for information on the examination requirements.

International medical graduates must have passing scores on USMLE Steps 1 and 2, or NBME Parts I and II, or both components 1 and 2 of FLEX, or a combination of these examinations. FMGEMS is not a qualifying examination.

Q. What kind of visa is required to obtain a limited license?
A.
A visa is not a requirement for obtaining a limited license. If you need information regarding obtaining a visa, please contact: the person or agency responsible for helping you obtain your current visa; the medical staff registrar, medical education coordinator, or the human resources department at the Massachusetts hospital where your training will be undertaken; the Department of Immigration and Naturalization at its Boston telephone number of (800) 375-5283; or U. S. consulates or embassies abroad.

Q. What is a Fifth Pathway program?
A.
Fifth Pathway means a program of medical education, which meets the following requirements:

  • Completion of two years of pre-medical education in a U.S. college or university;
  • Completion of all the formal requirements for the degree corresponding to doctor of medicine, except internship and social service, in a medical school outside the U.S. which is recognized by the World Health Organization;
  • Completion of one year of graduate medical education in an ACGME-approved program.

Q. What are the eligibility requirements for a physician in a residency program in another state who is seeking residency training in Massachusetts?
A.
To be eligible for a limited license, a physician must be accepted in a post-graduate training program at a teaching hospital in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. A limited license in another state is not transferable.

Q. Who must complete a State License Verification form?
A.
Any applicant who has ever held a full license in another state must complete the License Verification form and forward it to the state licensing agency that issued the license. The License Verification must be sent to you in a sealed envelope and sent to the training program with your limited license application.

Q. What are the licensing requirements for clinical rotations at another hospital?
A.
If the applicant's teaching institution has an affiliation agreement with the healthcare facility , the clinical rotations are covered by the applicant's current limited license. If an affiliation agreement does not exist, a physician who holds a limited license may rotate between teaching hospitals with three or more ACGME-accredited programs without prior approval of the Board for up to eight weeks in any single year of residency. Contact the residency program coordinator at the training facility for details.

Q. When can a limited licensee apply for a full license?
A.
Education requirements for a full license are similar to those for a limited license. In addition, an applicant must pass Steps 1, 2 and 3 of USMLE, and complete one year of post-graduate training for U. S. and Canadian graduates, or two years of post-graduate training for international graduates in an ACGME-approved training program.

Q. When does a limited license expire?
A.
A limited license expires at the end of each academic year and/or upon the completion date on the license. A limited licensee who plans to continue in the same program must contact the residency program coordinator at the health care facility in order to obtain a renewal application. The completed renewal application must be completed and submitted to the Board of Registration in Medicine at least one month before the expiration date.

A limited license is not valid if the licensee leaves the training program for any reason, or if the training program terminates the licensee's participation in the program.

Q. How many times may a limited license be renewed?
A.
A limited license may be renewed up to four times. Requests for additional renewals must be submitted to the Board, in writing, detailing the reason for the renewal. The Board may grant a limited license for additional years only when extraordinary circumstances exist.

All limited licensees are responsible for ensuring that they have current valid limited licenses. Limited licensees may not practice without current valid limited licenses, even if they are continuing to practice in the same residency-training program.

Q. What is the difference between a renewal application and a change of program application?
A.
The renewal application is for a limited licensee who is continuing in the same program at the same hospital as the previous year.

The change of program application is to be used under the following circumstances:

  • A change of specialty, e.g., general surgery to neurosurgery;
  • A change of specialty to subspecialty, e.g., anethesia residency to cardiac anethesia;
  • A change of specialty, e.g. anesthesia residency to pediatric anesthesia fellowship;
  • A change of hospital e.g. Massachusetts General Hospital to Boston Medical Center.

If the change of program is not a pre-requisite for the program the limited licensee is entering, a letter must be sent directly to the Board from the program director stating the circumstances under which the physician is leaving the program, and his or her current standing.

Q. Whom do I notify if I change my name?
A.
The residency program coordinator or the medical education coordinator at the Massachusetts hospital where the training is undertaken must be notified if a licensee changes his or her name. A notarized copy of a marriage certificate or a certified copy of the court order with a written request for a formal name change must be forwarded to the Board of Registration in Medicine.

DISCLAIMER
The preceding information is an interpretation of the Board's regulations and advice given by the Licensing Division. This information is provided for the benefit of license applicants and licensees and is subject to change. You may refer to the board's regulations, 243 CMR 2.00, for more information.

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Frequently Asked Questions: Physicians

Social Security Questions

Q. Why do I need to provide my social security number?
A.
Massachusetts General Law, chapter 30A, section 13A, requires the Board of Registration of Medicine to have every applicant provide his or her social security number as a condition of issuing or renewing a license.

Q. What do I do if I am a foreign national who does not have a social security number?
A.
To be eligible to apply for a social security number, the Immigration and Nationalization Service (INS) must first grant you a visa. Once you have the visa, you must be physically present in the United States to request the social security number. In order to be granted a social security number, the Social Security Administration (SSA) must verify with the INS that your visa is valid. The SSA has therefore advised the Board of Registration in Medicine that it is advisable for an individual seeking a social security number to wait at least ten (10) business days after entering the United States before requesting a number. This will allow the individual's visa to be fully activated in the INS computer systems, which will provide for immediate verification via computer. If an individual does not wait the ten (10) days, the SSA will have to request a paper verification, which could take up to six (6) weeks.

Q. I am a foreign national. When should I apply for my license to practice medicine?
A.
You need to apply for your license five months before you will begin practicing medicine in Massachusetts. We request that you apply at the five month mark because after six months certain documents that you need to collect to submit with your application will be considered expired and because the process for obtaining your visa has been lengthened.

DISCLAIMER
The preceding information is an interpretation of the Board's regulations and advice given by the Licensing Division. This information is provided for the benefit of license applicants and licensees and is subject to change. You may refer to the board's regulations, 243 CMR 2.00, for more information.

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Frequently Asked Questions: Physicians

Visa Questions

Q. I am applying for an H1-B visa. I am told that I need my medical license in order to qualify for this visa, but I cannot get my medical license until I have a social security number. Since I cannot get a social security number until I have a visa, what should I do?
A.
In such a case, once all of the documentation required for licensure has been submitted, the Board will issue a letter to your program director or sponsor stating that your license application is complete and will be issued pending confirmation of a social security number. Your sponsor should submit this letter with your visa application to qualify you for a one year H1-B visa. Once you have obtained a social security number, you will be issued a license to practice medicine. At the end of the one-year visa, you will be required to furnish your Massachusetts medical license to INS in order to have your H1-B visa issued for the remaining years for which you are eligible.

Q. Will the medical board exams that I took in my country count toward the USMLE requirements for the H1-B visa?
A.
No. The State Department has determined that, unless you are coming to teach or conduct research, in order to qualify for an H1-B visa you must have passed USMLE parts 1,2 and 3. If you have not passed these tests and will be attending an accredited teaching program as a student, you will be eligible for a J visa. Federal Register, Vol. 57, No. 180, pg. 1174 (1992).

Note for Canadian Physicians: In 1990, the State Department specifically determined that the LMCC will not be considered equivalent to the USMLE for visa purposes.

For any questions regarding the above information, please contact the Immigration and Naturalization Service at 1-800-375-5283 and the Social Security agency at 1-800-772-1213.

DISCLAIMER
The preceding information is an interpretation of the Board's regulations and advice given by the Licensing Division. This information is provided for the benefit of license applicants and licensees and is subject to change. You may refer to the board's regulations, 243 CMR 2.00, for more information.

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