Ken Yonemura, MD, is a neurosurgeon and Chair of the NASS Professional Conduct & Ethics subcommittee. After several years in the Neurosurgery Department at the University of Utah, Dr. Yonemura returned to private practice in 2011 and joined the Wasatch Neurological Surgery clinic in Bountiful, Utah. He recently took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to answer questions for a NASS blog Q&A.
1. What is your mission this coming year?
The primary role of the PCEC is to review complaints from NASS members regarding unethical and/or unprofessional behavior. If a complaint is felt to have merit, both parties are afforded an opportunity to present their case at a hearing. Based on the outcome of the hearing, recommendations are then presented to the board of directors for ratification or modification. A member can be censured or if the behavior is more flagrant and may have his or her membership suspended or revoked.
2. What are your committee’s highlights over the last couple years?
During my initial tenure as a committee member from 2004-2007, there was a fairly consistent level of activity but since the start of my term as chairman in 2010, it had been extremely quiet. The last six months, however, have reverted to earlier levels of activity and we now have two hearings scheduled for the fall meeting and we are in the process of evaluating another complaint that may be heard in the spring.
3. What are the committee’s long-term goals?
Since a majority of the committee’s work involves review of expert witness testimony, and given the general lack of legal training in residency training, the potential demand for legal seminars for physicians will be assessed for future meetings.
4. What challenges face your committee?
Given the nature of the complaint process, each case requires a significant time commitment for review of court transcripts and other legal documents. Remaining objective while reviewing legal transcripts that may involve medical care that may be different than your own practice can be challenging. We do make sure to maintain a good balance of each specialty on the committee.
5. How long have you been a NASS member?
I have been a member for 15 years.
6. When did you first volunteer? What Committee was it?
I have been an annual meeting abstract reviewer since 2003 and shortly thereafter, I volunteered for the PCEC in 2004. I have also participated in the 2006 Spine Across the Sea Program Committee and I was the co-chairman of the 2009 Spring Break meeting in Puerto Rico.
7. What would you tell other people about serving on NASS committees?
My involvement in various NASS committees has given me the opportunity to interact with many members that I might not have normally met. The ability to make a contribution and help shape future policy can be extremely rewarding. Personal growth based on interactions with colleagues outside of your own specialty is natural based on the multidisciplinary nature of the NASS membership.