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Research Letter
January 9/16, 2008

Physician Licensure During Disasters: A National Survey of State Medical Boards

JAMA. 2008;299(2):169-171. doi:10.1001/jama.2007.39

To the Editor: In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused a public health emergency by displacing more than 4400 physicians in the greater New Orleans area and leading to the closure of 13 of 16 hospitals in New Orleans.1 Out-of-state physician volunteers, many without professional licensure in the state in which they were providing critical medical services, responded to this unprecedented collapse of health care infrastructure. In effect, they were practicing medicine without a license, potentially placing them at risk for civil and/or criminal penalties.2 Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, responding to the public health emergency in her state, issued an executive order 12 days after Hurricane Katrina that suspended regular licensing procedures. In addition to providing license reciprocity, this executive order recognized physicians as agents of the state of Louisiana for tort liability purposes.3 We sought to determine the policies of each state regarding physician licensure during disasters.

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