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Greater transparency sought from N.H. medical board after Globe investigation

Lawmakers are mulling a bill in response to a Spotlight series that found New Hampshire has one of the least transparent medical boards in the country

Cheryl Jensen, of Bethlehem, N.H., is one of a number of women whose mammograms were allegedly misread between 2015 and 2017 by Dr. Mark Guilfoyle, who was working at a health care facility affiliated with Dartmouth-Hitchcock. As a result her breast cancer diagnosis, like those of the other women, was delayed, causing a much more serious illness.Rose Lincoln for The Boston Globe

CONCORD, N.H. — State senators are considering a bill to improve transparency from the New Hampshire Board of Medicine after an investigation by the Globe’s Spotlight Team found that the board publishes relatively little information about its oversight of physicians.

While medical boards in many other states disclose a doctor’s medical malpractice settlements, hospital disciplinary actions, and criminal convictions, New Hampshire’s doesn’t, making it one of the least transparent in the country, the Globe found.

Lawmakers responded by convening a special committee to review the board’s practices. They concluded that the board had apparently complied with all the reporting requirements outlined in New Hampshire law, according to Representative Jess Edwards, a Republican from Auburn.

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That realization motivated lawmakers to draft a couple of legislative solutions, including House Bill 454, which would make a modest tweak to the board’s oversight, Edwards said during testimony Wednesday before a Senate committee.

“Rather than direct the Board of Medicine to begin collecting and reporting internal hospital disciplinary procedures — which is a possible conclusion of all of this — what I wanted to do was first charge them with a mission,” Edwards said.

The bill, which the House passed last month, would advance its mission by designating one member as the medical board’s “public transparency advocate.” That person would be tasked with improving transparency and producing an annual report to the oversight committee on health and human services. Additionally, the bill would require that two of the three public members on the board be people without any professional or financial ties to medicine.

Cheryl Jensen, a Bethlehem resident who was featured in Spotlight’s reporting, testified that she supports HB 454, even as she has qualms about whether it would result in a sufficient solution.

“I hope that this bill doesn’t get watered down because it already, I think, is not enough,” she said.

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Jensen, a retired journalist, said a doctor “ruined the rest of my life” by misreading her mammograms, delaying her breast cancer diagnosis by three years.

“By the time his superior discovered this (in 2018), I had one tumor surrounded by three tumors … and it had also spread to five lymph nodes,” she testified.

Jensen wasn’t alone. The same radiologist had failed to identify signs of breast cancer in two dozen women who underwent screening at three small hospitals in the North County, according to a top clinician at Dartmouth Health. Eleven of the women settled malpractice claims against the doctor in 2020, but his physician profile on the New Hampshire medical board’s website makes no mention of his alleged diagnostic errors.

The board issued a $750 fine and ordered the doctor to stop reading mammograms, but he was allowed to keep his license, and he now interprets other radiological images in Michigan, the Globe reported.

“He received a slap on the wrist, and I got a slap in the face,” Jensen said Wednesday. “That’s the way I feel about the medical board.”

Jensen called on lawmakers to give the state’s Office of Professional Licensure and Certification more authority over the medical board, and she said it’s still not clear how much more information will be made public as a result of this proposed change. She also said it’s a good idea to have non-medical people serve on the board.

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“It’s ludicrous to think any profession can police itself,” she said.

Along with her testimony, Jensen submitted copies of the Globe’s reporting and an article from the Detroit Free Press about the radiologist’s current work.

“This legislation is too late to impact me; however, I want to keep what happened to me from happening to others,” she said.

Representative Mark Pearson, a Republican from Hampstead who testified Wednesday alongside Edwards, said HB 454 should be enacted to move the transparency initiative along, while a broader restructuring of the OPLC is underway.

Shane Goulet, an attorney with the OPLC, said the medical board favors transparency and takes no position on HB 454, though he expressed concerns about the clarity and phrasing of certain details in the proposal.


Steven Porter can be reached at steven.porter@globe.com. Follow him @reporterporter.