The former dean of the University of Southern California lost his license after a hearing by the state’s Medical Board.
A year earlier, a news investigation into the doctor’s personal habits revealed some startling information. The 66-year-old doctor was spending his free time with a circle of acquaintances that were deeply into the party scene. A subsequent state investigation revealed that the Harvard-trained doctor was using both heroin and meth, engaging in drug use while seeing patients and providing drugs — including prescriptions — to others. He was also present when a young woman overdosed in his hotel room, and he misled others about her condition and drug use.
While he escaped a criminal sentence, the former dean wasn’t so lucky when it came time to plead his case with the Medical Board. He did make a heartfelt appeal to the Medical board and apologized for what his actions had done to the school, his colleagues, his family and the medical profession as a whole. He also took responsibility for enabling the young woman’s drug addiction. The doctor stated that his actions came about due to his then-untreated bipolar disorder. By the time of the hearing, he’d been in treatment for a year.
While the former dean was hoping to retain his ability to practice under supervision, the judge hearing his case before the board was unimpressed with his testimony. She said that she found him still lacking in insight and not yet willing to accept full responsibility for his actions. She believed he was minimizing the extent of the activity that he’d participated in and still not entirely candid about his past troubles.
This is important information for anyone who is faced with a difficult hearing in front of the Medical Board. The fact that the decision rested heavily on the physician’s acceptance of his responsibility for his own actions and his honesty about the past is a big clue about how to approach the situation. It would seem like any attempts to downplay prior bad actions is received poorly — while admissions of guilt and a show of genuine remorse could be beneficial.
Substance abuse is a common reason for medical board inquiries in any state, and California is no exception. Any physician with a drug problem is well-advised to seek help before the situation escalates and his or her professional license is in danger.