Head of Texas Medical Board stepping down Aug. 28

By Mary Ann Roser

Saying he loved the job but it was time to go, Dr. Donald Patrick announced today that he will retire as chief of the Texas Medical Board in August.

Patrick told the board’s executive committee at a meeting today he would step down on Aug. 28, his 70th birthday, and do something he has done several times in his life: go back to school. Patrick, who picked up the violin again 12 years ago, said he plans to return to the University of Texas, where he received a law degree in 1996, and pursue a master’s degree in music history.

“It’s going to be another fascinating time in my life,” he said. “It’s going to stretch my brain, and it’s been what I’ve doing for years.”

Patrick, a neurosurgeon, took the helm of a board that had been criticized for being too lax on doctors. After the Legislature made it harder to sue doctors for malpractice in 2003, the board — which licenses and regulates doctors, physician assistants and acupuncturists — became many consumers’ last resort to hold doctors accountable for medical errors.

Patrick was known for emphasizing rules and beefing up disciplinary actions against doctors. Patrick said the board’s budget grew from about $5 million when he took office in 2001 to $9.4 million today, while the staff grew from 102 to 144 people.

Sanctions nearly tripled during his tenure, from 113 per year in 2001 to about 300 a year.

That tougher approach led to a sometimes contentious relationship between the board and the Texas Medical Association, the professional organization that represents the state’s doctors. Recently, some legislators also accused the board of being too tough on doctors after several physicians who had been disciplined complained to lawmakers about Patrick and the board.

Patrick said today that the board’s relationship with the association and lawmakers is good now.

“The doctors complaining the most vehemently about us are the doctors who have had problems,” Patrick said. “What would you expect?”

Patrick and the board will conduct a search for his replacement. If no one is hired by the time he leaves, Director of Enforcement Mari Robison will be interim executive director, Board President Roberta Kalafut said.

maroser@statesman.com; 445-3619

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