The eight-year Chief Medical Officer of a hospital in Arlington Heights did not have a medical license during his entire tenure at the hospital.
Dr. Leighton Smith, who stepped down as CMO of Northwest Community Hospital after almost eight years at the beginning of June, hasn't had a renewed medical license since his expired in 1999.
The hospital's CEO said that's not unusual, explaining that a license was not required since Smith was not actually treating patients. The job included overseeing the medical staff.
"The Chief Medical Officer is an administrative position and he performed those duties for a number of years and did very well for us," said Bruce Crowther. "When they stop practicing they don't necessarily go through the trouble to keep their licenses up-to-date."
Both Smith and the hospital say that his lack of license is not the reason for leaving his post at the hospital.
But the past president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association said there could be a cause for concern if the CMO had a role in developing policies that impact patient care.
"If he were to determine the transfer of a patient from the surgical unit to the medical unit, as to when that should be done, what the labs should be, blood pressure and so on and on, and if he had not been involved in treating a patient for over a dozen years, then how can he be competent in determining that," said Jerry Latherow.
Crowther maintains the hospital isn't worried.
"If there was a suit that was generated, it would be generated toward the hospital, not at an individual physician and still would not be a function of whether someone had a license but more a function of whether the policy was a sound policy," he said, adding that finding a doctor who is still practicing medicine will not be a major concern as he starts looking for a new CMO.
The hospital is now dealing with the fallback of not having a licensed CMO, according to Crain's Chicago Business. People are questioning the quality of care that Northwest Community, which has been suffering financially for years, has been offering.
Before his time at Northwest Community, Smith worked for six years as a senior administrator at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, according to his website. He got his medical degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 1968.