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David K. Sarver practiced medicine for 29 years and now he sues people who practice medicine. One would imagine that former colleagues do not regard him fondly.
But Sarver, who practices law in Jonesboro after practicing medicine in Memphis, says he occasionally sees some of his former medical colleagues, and, “The ones that were pretty much my friends still are. They still speak, they don't seem to hold any animosity. I don't know about the others.” He adds, “Of course, I don't practice law in Tennessee.” If he did, he might find the doctors less forgiving.
Sarver, 61, said he left medicine after he found himself spending much of his time arguing with medical directors of insurance companies about whether patients should be admitted to the hospital, when they should be sent home, and what procedures should be used in treating them. “I decided that I was not going to spend hours arguing with people who knew less than I did.”
An infectious-disease specialist as a doctor, he's a medical-malpractice specialist as a lawyer — “That's all I do.” He enrolled in law school as a part-time student in 1998 while still practicing medicine, stopped practicing and became a full-time law student in 2001, got his law license in 2003. He's worked full time at the McDaniel & Wells law firm since April 2006. He said he still has his medical license and his Drug Enforcement Administration registration, and could resume practice if he chose.
His medical knowledge is helpful in his new field, but as the attorney for the plaintiff, he can't testify too, so he has to hire expert medical witnesses just as the other lawyers do. And all plaintiff's lawyers complain of the difficulty in finding doctors to testify against other doctors. (Lawyers are eager to turn on each other.) “I can probably get an expert witness easier than other lawyers, because I talk the language,” he said.
Speaking of language, what do people call David Sarver now? Some people call him “Dr.,” some call him “Mr.,” some alternate the terms, he says. “People who know me well call me David.” On the letterhead of the McDaniel firm, he's listed as “David Sarver, M.D., J.D.”
He's aware of a few other doctors turned lawyer. James Keever of Texarkana, Texas, a former orthopedic surgeon, practices considerably on the Arkansas side of the line, Sarver said.