Prominent pathologist quits; cites San Joaquin Sheriff’s meddling
December 5, 2017
• Says sheriff has created ethically questionable environment
• A “pervasive and adversarial environment"
Prominent pathologist Bennet Omalu, the doctor who discovered CTE brain damage in football players, has quit his job as chief medical examiner and forensic pathologist with San Joaquin County, blaming meddling by Sheriff Steve Moore.
Mr. Moore also holds the title of county coroner, although he has had no medical training.
Mr. Omalu says Mr. Moore’s interference in death investigations has created a legally and ethically questionable workspace. He cites a “pervasive and adversarial environment,” placing the blame squarely on the sheriff.
He describes an incident involving Mr. Moore and now-resigned forensic pathologist Susan Parson, who quit last week, citing 20 incidents involving the sheriff.
“I have also witnessed Sheriff Steve Moore humiliate and bully Dr. Parson. Dr. Parson filed a harassment complaint against one of the sergeants in the department. Sheriff Steve Moore summoned a meeting that was supposed to address his effort to take control of the physician’s scheduling. However, Sheriff Steve Moore used the meeting to demonstrate his control over us as physician employees. During the meeting, he flung Dr. Parson’s complaint at her and condescendingly reminded her that she worked for him and he had the final say on every complaint that is submitted in his office. I was stunned. He retaliated and instructed us that he would remove us as physician employees of the San Joaquin General Hospital, to which both Dr. Parson and I are contractually mandated to have staff privileges, and convert us to Sheriff Forensic Pathologists so that we would lose our physician privileges at the hospital, Mr. Omalu says.
He also describes the sheriff cutting the hands off of corpses and his blocking of scheduled pay raises.
Mr. Omalu’s resignation gives a three-month time frame, which he says he will need to wrap up his current case load.
Mr. Omalu is the center of the movie “Concussion,” which tells how he first diagnosed CTE brain injuries in football players.
“The allegations are alarming, and we urge the proper authorities to conduct a full investigation. Physician independence is paramount to avoid improper influence on the practice of medicine. Physicians have the unique obligation to put the patient first, and thus, they must be empowered to work independently in serving the best needs of the patient,” says Grant Mellor, president of the San Joaquin County Medical Society, in a written statement.