Read Dr. Cunningham’s complete testimony below.
God morning. My name is Dr. Paul Cunningham. I am the President of the North Carolina Medical Society. I have been a General Surgeon for 38 years and training students to become physicians and surgeons for 8 years as the Dean of the Brody School of Medicine.
Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the committee for the opportunity to speak with you about this important patient safety issue. As the President of the NC Medical Society, I speak to you on behalf of all the physicians and surgeons of the state.
Though we would all like to think otherwise, there is no minor surgery. The trust bestowed by a patient to their surgeon is unlike any other. The State has a compelling obligation to ensure that those entrusted to perform surgery are well qualified. The right to perform surgery in North Carolina can be granted only by you. Citizens trust that you will insist that those who are granted the authority to perform surgery are only those to whom you would entrust the care of your own children and closest loved ones. As someone who has spent a lifetime training others in the practice of medicine and surgery, I can assure you that 32 hours of continuing education does not provide the foundation necessary to manage surgery or the potential complications that might arise during the course of or as a result of surgery. For medical school graduates we insist on years of training and actually performing surgery under the supervision of highly seasoned and experienced professionals in order to be comfortable holding those graduates out as qualified to perform surgery on our fellow citizens. It is only after years of training that a person can possibly have the skills and dexterity to perform surgery safely.
I have had the great pleasure of working closely with optometrists during my general practice in Windsor. And while I hold their proficiency for the delivery of care of the eye in high regard, I believe that they lack the requisite surgical training during their optometry school programs. Continuing education is only a place to refine skills, not to learn the fundamentals.
I hope and trust that you will agree with me after reviewing all the facts before you today. I would be happy to take any questions that you might have for me. Thank you for your time and consideration.