JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Eric Greitens has made his first appointment to the state’s medical licensing board as his administration works to get a database that can identify problem prescribers off the ground.

Dr. Katherine Mathews will start working on the licensing board immediately and then have an official confirmation hearing in the Missouri Senate when the legislature returns to session in January, The Kansas City Star reports . Mathews has said she’s prepared to discipline other doctors if it’s warranted.

“Sometimes,” the St. Louis gynecologist said, “doing good work means having the courage to do it even if it’s tough.”

Some of the board’s recent decisions have drawn concerns that it goes too easy on doctors. In August, for instance, the board restored the licenses — on a restricted basis — of two physicians with felony convictions related to misuse of prescription opioids.

With three vacancies on the nine-member board, Greitens has the opportunity to shake it up. Randall Williams, who has been interviewing potential candidates as Greitens’ director of Health and Senior Services, said he is stressing that getting tougher on opioids might sometimes mean making licensing decisions other doctors won’t like. He described the job as “hard” and sometimes “thankless.”

Tom Holloway, the executive vice president of the Missouri State Medical Association, said it’s past time to fill vacancies on the board that Gov. Jay Nixon didn’t fill. He also said it might be time to relieve some of the existing members who have stayed on to keep a voting majority intact even though their terms have expired. But Holloway said he doesn’t think the board needs to get any tougher than it has been on doctors who don’t meet its standards on prescribing opioids or other controlled substances.

“I think when the board finds evidence of that, they deal with it,” Holloway said.

By law, the Missouri State Medical Association and the Missouri Association of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons is able to submit names of potential candidates to the governor. The governor is allowed to choose them or other doctors forwarded to him by the director of the Missouri Division of Professional Registration. Mathews said she was not recommended by either medical association. Rather, Williams met her during a trip to the Missouri statehouse to discuss issues she’s passionate about. Before she left, Williams asked her to read up on the opioid issue.

Williams said other appointments will be coming soon.


Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com