Exclusive: Ohio doctors kept practicing after sexual misconduct

Sanctions in some cases came years after abuse was reported.

A Dayton-area physician who was convicted of public indecency in 2002 is working as a doctor in the state prison system and earning a six-figure salary courtesy of Ohio taxpayers.

Kevin McKee is one of several area doctors who are still practicing medicine even though they were sanctioned by medical boards here and in other states for improper sexual conduct, a Dayton Daily News review of Ohio Medical Board records found.

This includes a Beavercreek doctor who had sex with two patients and impregnated another; a former Hamilton doctor whose license was suspended in Vermont for having sexual contact with two patients; and McKee, who told the Ohio board that he had routinely exposed himself to other people – including young children – since he was a teen.

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The Ohio Medical Board has a reputation for being among the nation’s strictest and most transparent licensing bodies. Yet the newspaper’s investigation found it can take years and multiple allegations for a physician accused of sexual misconduct to face consequences from the state board.

A Huber Heights doctor was accused by 13 women of inappropriate sexual advances dating to 2003, but he was allowed to keep practicing until 2010. His license was finally revoked in 2011 after he was convicted of attempting to hire a hit man to kill his ex-wife.

In another case, a Kettering doctor was able to practice medicine for months while he appealed his suspension for improperly touching patients; his license was permanently revoked after he was convicted of sexual battery of a patient.

The problems are national in scope. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found doctors in all 50 states who sexually abused patients yet faced limited consequences, sometimes protected by the very institutions and medical boards that are supposed to put patient safety over the profession’s esteem. The Dayton Daily News partnered with the Atlanta newspaper to examine the Ohio cases.

Between 1997 and 2015 the Ohio board received 75,584 complaints about doctors, including 1,360 that involved sexual misconduct allegations. About 17 percent of the sexual misconduct complaints resulted in disciplinary action, according to the board.

That brings to more than 200 the number of cases during that period that resulted in some sanction from the medical board. But disciplinary action doesn’t mean a doctor’s career is over, even when a doctor repeatedly abuses his authority.

McKee had his medical license suspended for 90 days and then was allowed to practice medicine under a monitoring physician. Since 2011, he has been free to practice without supervision.

“As a citizen and as a person of conscience, I don’t want anyone out there practicing medicine who commits any kind of sex crimes, but I don’t think that necessarily our laws are written that way,” said Dan Frondorf, chapter leader for the Dayton and Cincinnati chapter of SNAP, a group formed to support victims of priests, which has since expanded to help victims of other types of sex abuse.

“It’s something worth taking a look at as a society,” he said.

From flasher to state employee

When the Ohio Medical Board first asked McKee about his 2002 public indecency conviction in Kettering Municipal Court, he told board investigators it “resulted from the inadvertent exposure of (his) genitals during an attempt to scratch a severe itch,” according to board records.

McKee later admitted to the board that he had a pattern of exposing himself to unknowing individuals once every month or two since he was a teenager and continuing until his arrest. This frequently included exposing himself to children, sometimes as young as six or seven years of age, medical board records show.

The board became aware of his conviction in March 2004 when McKee filed to renew his license and indicated he had been arrested. The board suspended his license for 90 days in November 2005, then allowed McKee to practice medicine on probation as long as he worked under a monitoring physician, and continued with his treatment.

McKee, who lives in Dayton, and his attorney did not return calls for comment. He was taken off probation in 2011 and now works for the state of Ohio as a doctor in the state prison system at the Franklin Medical Center in Columbus.

He was paid $190,054 in 2015, according to the I-Team Payroll Project, a database of public employee salaries.

Vermont suspends license, not Ohio

Charles H. Pierce’s medical license was suspended in Vermont in 1990 for having sexual contact with two female patients, but that didn’t stop the Ohio board from granting him a license to practice medicine in Ohio more than a decade later.

Pierce, a Cincinnati-based clinical researcher and urgent care physician who practiced in Hamilton until a few years ago, was initially opposed by the board, which recommended denying his application based on his suspension in another state.

But after an administrative hearing, the board reversed its decision, granting the doctor a full and unrestricted medical license in 2003. The board found no further punitive action was necessary because Pierce’s misconduct was “remote and the doctor had completed interim remedial measures,” including a special purpose examination designed to evaluate a doctor’s competency after a long layoff from practice.

Pierce is just one of hundreds of doctors across the country who have been sanctioned for sexual misconduct in one state and allowed to practice in another, the Atlanta newspaper’s national investigation found.

“Disciplinary action by another state’s medical regulatory agency is a basis for the board to deny an application for an Ohio medical license, but it does not automatically disqualify the individual from obtaining a license,” Joan Wehrle, a medical board spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement to this newspaper. “The board’s decision depends on the facts of the specific case.”

Doctor: No ‘right to know’

Pierce, who admitted having oral sex with a young female patient at his Vermont office in 1985 and also fondling the breasts of another patient at her apartment later that year, said both encounters were one-time events.

Still, the two women sued him for malpractice four years later, generating heavy media coverage in the local market and drawing the attention of the Vermont Medical Board.

But even after he was suspended by that board, Pierce was allowed to resume practicing family medicine in Quebec, Canada, where he had run a small family practice before moving to Vermont.

The Quebec Medical Board, which was informed of Pierce’s suspension by his attorney, refrained from sanctioning Pierce, although the board did recommend he seek counseling.

Pierce told this newspaper that he sought treatment of his own volition. And after more than five years of seeing a therapists in Vermont and Canada, he realized “the power that a physician has” and that he could not be “anything but the aggressor” in a sexual relationship with a patient, according to his testimony before the Ohio board’s hearing examiner.

Still, the now 82-year-old doctor says he feels no obligation to inform his patients of his past history of misconduct and rehabilitation, which he described as “embarrassing” and based on allegations “that weren’t completely true.”

“I don’t think they have a necessary right to know,” said Pierce, who moved to Cincinnati from Nebraska in 1991 to take a job as chief operating officer of a now-defunct contract research organization. “Do they have a right to know my politics? If I had a concealed carry (weapons permit), would they have a right to know? If I had ever been to court for any other reason, would they have a right to know? I don’t believe so.”

Doc convicted of sex crime

In 2001, former Dayton anesthesiologist Dasharathram R. Nalabolu’s patients were well aware of the disciplinary actions taken against him by the Ohio medical board for alleged sexual misconduct.

The board had voted in May to revoke the doctor’s license for improperly touching as many as seven patients dating back to 1997, and Nalabolu was required to provide written notice to his patients about the board’s action against him under an agreement with the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

The court had granted a stay of the medical board’s order while the doctor appealed the decision, under certain conditions, which, in addition to the notice, included not accepting new patients and having a third party present when examining female patients.

Nalabolu continued to practice for about five more months before he was ultimately convicted on three counts of sexual battery from an arrest in 2000, leading to the permanent revocation of his license in October 2001.

Nalabolu could not be reached for comment.

But medical board records say Nalabolu in June 2000 gave a patient an injection for shoulder pain, then inserted his fingers into her vagina over her objections. He then rubbed “all over” the patient’s body and commented on her breasts; finally she ran out of the office and went to Centerville police.

Police had her return to his office wearing a wire.

“You are a doctor,” she told him, according to a transcript of the police recording. “You should be able to trust your doctor.”

“I know, I understand that,” he replied. “I apologize for that and it will never happen again and that’s all I can say.”

‘Legal liability’

Medical boards face their own legal liability when investigating allegations of misconduct, said Aaron Haslam, former executive director of the Ohio medical board and managing associate at the Cincinnati law firm, Frost Brown Todd.

“The board can make decisions, but those are just like any other legal action,” Haslam said. “If a doctor thinks they’ve been treated unfairly, he or she can appeal to the court of common pleas, then to the appellate court and even ask for a review by the (state) supreme court.

“If the board is found not to have acted in good faith and to not have the requisite amount of evidence and proof that the doctor violated the rule or regulation, the doctor does have recourse,” he said. “One of the things that can be awarded back to a physician if it’s later found that the board acted outside of its scope and outside of good faith is attorney’s fees, which, as you can imagine, can accumulate quickly in these cases because doctors are fighting for their livelihood.”

Still, Haslam said, Ohio has “by far the toughest state board” when it comes to punishing doctors for inappropriate sexual behavior.

“Ohio has been very proactive in just not accepting this type of behavior,” he said. “But it’s a very difficult task in policing these types of offenses where sexual misconduct is present for a lot of different reasons.”

Attorney Beth Collis, who worked as a medical board prosecutor in the 1990s but now specializes in representing doctors who come before the board, said the board acts quickly “if they have the evidence where they think the doctor is a danger to the public.”

She believes Ohio’s medical board is among the most punitive in the nation.

“(The medical board’s goal) is not to aid physicians,” she said. “It’s not to educate physicians. It’s to protect the public.”

Sexual conduct with 3 patients

Dayton-area doctor Timothy Heyd’s license has been suspended twice — for two months in 2005 and two years in 2008 — for improper sexual relations with patients.

The 2005 suspension resulted from an affair with a nurse at Miami Valley Hospital who later became a patient. Both were married and he broke off the affair in 1998, but a month later he found out she was pregnant.

“I told her that my life would be ruined,” he told the medical board.

He accompanied her to the Women’s Med Center in Dayton and sat in during the abortion procedure, then had her post-operative records sent to his office. Heyd said he sent her a letter terminating their patient-doctor relationship, and tried to cut off contact with her.

He was terminated from Miami Valley – he believes because she threatened to sue, he told the board. Board records state that the woman’s lawsuit was settled for $150,000, with Heyd, the hospital and his malpractice insurer each paying a third.

Meeting minutes show some members of the medical board, which waited years to take action despite being notified of the situation in 1999, sympathized with Heyd.

“(Board member Anita Steinbergh) stated that she feels very badly for any physician who makes this mistake,” according to board minutes from May 2005, “but she does believe that Dr. Heyd has paid tremendously for his mistake and it’s time to get on with it.”

What Heyd didn’t tell the board is that this wasn’t his only fling with a patient. In its 2008 case against Heyd, the medical board noted that he had an improper sexual relationship with another patient in 2000, and a third patient in 2005.

This time the board suspended Heyd’s license for two years. It was reinstated in 2010 under probation. He was released from probation in November 2015.

Heyd currently works for the state of Ohio at the Warren Correctional Facility, where he received an award last year for saving the life of an inmate who attempted suicide. He was paid about $184,203 in 2015, according to the I-Team Payroll Project.

Heyd could not be reached for comment. A message was left with Heyd’s attorney who represented him in front of the medical board.

State prison officials say they were aware of the medical board actions against Heyd and McKee before both were hired.

“This information was brought to our attention during the background check process,” said JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.

Doctor tried to kill ex-wife

By the time Huber Heights doctor Shafik Ahmad had his license revoked in 2011 — after he was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder for attempting to hire a hit man to kill his ex-wife — he had been accused of improper sexual advances by 13 former patients.

It was the conspiracy to commit murder charge, however, that resulted in Ahmad’s license getting revoked.

In October 2009, Ahmad was arrested for hiring an informant posing as a hit man to murder his ex-wife, with whom he was in a child custody battle. He was convicted in January 2011 and currently is housed in the Madison Correctional Institution, where he is scheduled for release in October.

Board records allege Ahmad improperly touched and made advances toward 13 women, several of whom he was treating for depression or other mental health issues. After his conviction and revocation, the board didn’t go further with its investigation of the sexual allegations.

The Dayton Daily News reported in 2009 that Huber Heights police had investigated complaints of sexual misconduct by Ahmad from seven women since 2003.

Several of the patients sued Ahmad in court, including three women who settled with the doctor out of court.

Cheriese White, another former patient of Ahmad, was awarded $30,000 by a Montgomery County Common Pleas Court magistrate after she said Ahmad kissed her on the mouth and made other advances.

“I came there in trust of a family physician, not to be violated,” White testified.

Ahmad denied the allegation and gave an explanation for why so many doctors are accused of wrongdoing.

“All my colleagues suffer from the exact same thing,” he said during a court hearing. “Each of us who care about people, who examine people and nurture people, are subject to being misunderstood.”

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