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During the past 150 years, state medical boards in the United States have steadily evolved from entities that simply issued medical licenses based on minimal qualifications to multi-faceted and multi-staffed agencies responsible for a wider public mandate. Today, state medical boards protect patient safety and ensure quality in medicine through a rigorous application of licensing, disciplinary and competency standards. Issuing licenses to physicians and providing disciplinary oversight of them have become two of the most important roles that state medical boards play. All state medical boards engage in an ongoing, cooperative effort to share licensure and disciplinary information with one another by regularly contributing data to the FSMB Physician Data Center (PDC) — a comprehensive data repository that contains information about all of the licensed physicians in the United States and its territories, as well as board disciplinary actions dating back to the early 1960s.

The PDC collects, maintains and reports on an ongoing basis all disciplinary actions taken against physicians. It is updated continuously, and includes disciplinary actions taken by state medical boards as well as actions taken by other entities — ranging from U.S. government agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, to international licensing authorities. In total, the PDC contains more than 2 million physician records, including information about physicians who are currently licensed, no longer licensed or deceased. Data from the PDC was used as the basis for this report, which includes recent national data findings on U.S. physician licensure and discipline, as well as demographic trends and information about the nation’s licensed physicians.