Dr. Rand Paul's crusade against board certification

The practicing ophthalmologist left his professional board in protest of a rule change; then came the nasty letters

By Alex Pareene
June 15, 2010 9:45PM (UTC)
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Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul speaks to supporters during a party unity rally in Frankfort, Ky., Saturday, May 22, 2010. U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, right, and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers look on in the background. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke) (Ed Reinke)

The fact that Rand Paul is not a board-certified ophthalmologist has been public information for a couple weeks. But it became bigger news when it was revealed that, for some reason, Paul was still claiming to be board-certified.

That was dumb. But Ben Smith has a story today exploring why Paul allowed his certification to lapse. It was because of his principles!


The American Board of Ophthalmology moved to require doctors to take tests and recertify every ten years. But old doctors were grandfathered out of that requirement. So Paul formed his own professional board in protest.

Now, the ABO and the American Board of Medical Specialties are non-government professional groups, so theoretically a libertarian should be fine with them instituting whatever policies and membership requirements they like.

And the ABO couldn't force doctors who received certification before the rule change to recertify every ten years, because that would not have been legal. Apparently Rand Paul wanted the brutal shocktroops of the federal government to march into your local doctor's office and force him, against his will, to submit to the capricious demands of a voluntary professional organization.


But Paul went on a crusade against the ABO for their "hypocritical and unjust" new rule forcing him to take a test every ten years. He wrote "militant" letters "threatening secession."

Dr. Wilkinson recalled "nasty letters to the board" and a "very very negative tone" from Paul. (ABO accepted a written request for Paul’s letters, but didn't respond immediately.)

"He attempted to organize a rump group of malcontents to oppose the whole thing and to stick their heads in the sand," said Wilkinson.

"He was trying to paint the board in a pretty dark light," recalled Dr. Denis O'Day, an ophthalmologist at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute in Nashville who was its executive director through the recertification battle and recalled being "under attack" from Paul.

Paul is obviously well within his rights to get mad about some dumb policy and write cranky letters about it and then form his own medical board with pizza parties every day and no girls allowed. It is just not clear why he was still claiming to be certified by the ABO years after he began his crusade against them.

(Paul's crusade against the ABO lasted longer than his pledge to not receive funds from senators who voted for TARP. Paul's campaign manager says the pledge only applied when Paul had a Republican primary to win. Now that that's taken care of, he needs money from America-selling-out establishment tools to actually win.)

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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