Fayetteville doctor's case dropped by State Medical Board

The Arkansas State Medical Board on Thursday dismissed its charges against the former director of a medical spa in Northwest Arkansas after she pledged to stay out of that practice area in the future.

"I apologize, and I have no interest in continuing to be the medical director of any medical spa," Elizabeth Sharp told the board. "I really would just like to be an emergency room physician and continue saving lives."

According to a Dec. 13 Medical Board order setting the hearing Thursday, Sharp admitted she failed to follow the Medical Board's Regulation 22 while serving as medical director of the Renewed Beauty Medical Spa in Lowell.

The regulation allows physicians to delegate minor surgical procedures to office personnel, as long as the physician personally diagnoses the patient's condition, prescribes the treatment and follows a protocol including being available to respond to any complications.

According the board order from December, Sharp "failed to personally see the patient, diagnose the condition, and prescribe the procedure to be performed; ensure that the non-physician personnel who will perform the minor procedure had been appropriately trained in that procedure; failed to be available by phone so that [she] may respond to the patient personally should there be a complication, and diagnose the complication and set forth a course of treatment; and failed to ensure that proper record keeping and documentation of treatment rendered the patient was prepared and maintained for the patient's safety."

Sharp, who works at Washington Regional Medical Center, said she wasn't aware of the regulation when a nurse asked her to help with the medical spa.

"Had I known that this regulation was there, I never would have volunteered my time" at the spa, Sharp said. "I just did not have the time to adequately meet that regulation."

Her attorney, Rick Angel of Little Rock, said "there is an absolute lack of awareness and knowledge" of the regulation, first adopted in 1998, amended in 2005, and titled "Laser Surgery Guidelines," among physicians involved in the practice of cosmetic procedures.

He said it's common for registered nurses to do procedures such as Botox and dermal filler injections under the supervision of an offsite physician.

"The vast overwhelming majority of physicians in the state of Arkansas who are allowing cosmetic aesthetic procedures, even being performed in their offices, are not in compliance with this statute and this particular regulation," Angel said.

He said the board and Arkansas State Board of Nursing are working on revisions to the regulation.

Angel also disputed some of the allegations in the Dec. 13 order, such as Sharp wasn't available to respond to patient complications.

He pleaded with the board not to take an action jeopardizing her job at the hospital. The medical spa is no longer in business, he said after the hearing.

Board members said they took into account Sharp's clean history with the board and an endorsement from the emergency room medical director, who wrote a letter on her behalf and attended the hearing in a show of support.

"You have an impeccable reputation," said board member Don Phillips, a Fort Smith obstetrician-gynecologist. "I checked [with] a lot of people that I know in your hospital. They like you a lot more than they like me."

Board member Rhys Branman, a cosmetic surgeon in Little Rock, told Sharp he weighed whether her violation of the regulation endangered the public more than "taking away your license, which I feel would be a travesty because you create such a great service for our state."

In a voice vote, with no members dissenting, the board agreed to drop the charges after Sharp agreed to pay the $953 cost of its investigation.

The spa was at least the second business to face scrutiny from the board over similar issues in the past several months.

Donald Hill, who had served as medical director of It's a Secret Med Spa clinics in Fayetteville and Rogers, faced similar charges from the board last year.

In August, he entered into a consent order promising not to be the medical director of a medical spa in the future or to supervise physician assistants or collaborate with nurse practitioners, according to minutes of the meeting.

At the same meeting, the board scolded another physician associated with the same spa for an ad offering free beer with laser hair removal, free B-12 shots and $9 Botox injections as a Father's Day promotion.

The doctor, Robert Tomlinson, told the board he was "mortified" by the ads, which preceded his involvement with the company.

"There's been a lot of work done to revise how things are done there," Tomlinson said at the meeting.

Information for this story was contributed by Kat Stromquist of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

NW News on 02/07/2020