New Medical Review Officer: Dr. Walter Minaert receives certification

Dr. Walter A. Minaert

BY: Rachel Burt
Dr. Walter Minaert moved to Watertown on July 1, 1977, and has been in continuous practice ever since. Now, the 75-year-old Dexter resident has received his certification as a Medical Review Officer (MRO).

    MROs help to fulfill the constitutional requirements of the Fourth Amendment for government-mandated drug testing, an area of practice involving physicians of diverse backgrounds. 

    Until 2007, Dr. Minaert was a general surgeon in Watertown, and started in urgent care four years before quitting general surgery, continuing with it after. Over the past five years he has been pursuing studies in personalized medicine and is now working out of his corporation, Personalized Medicine of Northern New York, located at 21017 NYS Route 12F, Outer Coffeen Street, Watertown. 

    Now working with personalized medicine, Dr. Minaert looks at the root causes for people being ill, a different way of looking at people and their illnesses, and said a lot of it is trying to get people to change their diets and lifestyles which can be tough. 

    The practice shares an office space with Encompass Workplace Testing LLC, which started him on his MRO journey. 

    “The girls at Encompass encouraged me to do it. they said ‘Hey we need an MRO, why don’t you take the course?’ So I did,” Dr. Minaert said. “They do the testing and I do the physical examinations.” 

    Medical Review Officers for federally regulated drug testing programs must complete 12 hours of training and pass a nationally recognized exam in order to become certified. 

    According to the Medical Review Officer Certification Council (MROCC), the MRO field is complex and rapidly evolving due to technical advances, regulatory changes and new patterns of abuse. Testing for substances of abuse is now the rule rather than the exception in settings as diverse as the workplace, the doctor’s office, and many schools throughout the country. 

    For Dr. Minaert, the exam to become a certified MRO was not difficult. He said the man in charge wanted to make certain that they had the basics, and as they went along through experience seeing cases, they would be able to fill in the blanks. 

    MROs are tasked with determining the validity of drug test results. For drug programs to work properly, MROs must have a working understanding of the legal and technical issues involved. 

    “The role of MROs, in my view, one is to assure the validity of the MRO process and the other is to evaluate positive test results to see if there’s a medically recognized reason for the patient to be testing positive- like if they sprained their ankle and happened to be on some painkilling drugs that week they were tested,” he said. “The MRO is the only person who can determine that.” 

    As for the feeling of being a certified MRO, Dr. Minaert hasn’t noticed any difference, but said it should be interesting due to the fact that he always likes new things. 

    Another important function of MROs is to provide for the privacy and confidentiality of the employee’s personal medical history during the course of reviewing drug test results. More and more programs are relying on MROs to review quality control aspects of testing and requesting MROs be involved in the assessment and monitoring of treatment progress. 

    The American Association of Medical Review Officers, Inc. (AAMRO) was created in 1991 as a non-profit medical society dedicated to establishing national standards and certification of medical practitioners and other professionals in the field of drug and alcohol testing. This certification process has involved the establishment of standard practices and procedures, and training programs and administration of certification examinations. 

    According to the association’s website, AAMRO certification is intended to be the standard of quality service and ethical conduct by qualified professionals involved in drug and alcohol testing. 

    The Drug-Free Workplace Act affects all federal agencies, so federal regulations require MRO qualification and re-qualification training followed by certification and re-certification by a nationally recognized MRO certification board every five years like the AAMRO. 

    The AAMRO is independent of existing medical membership groups and is designed to provide training and certification for physicians in different specialties. 

    According to the AAMRO, the type of standards and certification AAMRO has developed has been encouraged, and is supported by, federal agencies that are significantly involved in the procedural, policy, and administrative aspects of drug and alcohol testing, including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS/SAMHSA), the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). 

    Dr. Minaert is currently in good standing with the AAMRO, according to the association’s website.