Lead Story West Edition

Black doctors accuse state medical board of racial profiling

LOS ANGELES — Dr. Anthony Jackson, an anesthesiologist who has fought the Medical Board of California all the way to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and won, said the state licensing body is targeting black and brown doctors, simply because of the color of their skin.

“We’re low-hanging fruit and easy targets,” he said.

“We think there’s evidence that shows and implies that they have a quota system. In other words every month, just like a cop has to write so many tickets, [the medical board] has to come in with so many revocations and/or suspensions,” Jackson said.

“With a quota system, who are the doctors they go after first? They go after the low-hanging fruit, the black doctors, not the fair-haired boys in Beverly Hills who can lawyer up for countless hundreds of thousands of dollars. They’re the African American and brown doctors who have a poor and indigent population that’s medically driven who don’t have the medical strength to go up against the medical board and the Department of Justice.”

Jackson said a number of doctors including those from the Black American Political Association of California and Golden State Medical Association, or GSMA, will join him at a press conference Oct. 14 hosted by political analyst, radio talk show host and columnist Earl Ofari Hutchinson.

The doctors’ main concern is something Jackson calls “judicial absolutism,” meaning the Medical Board is too powerful. He said even if physicians of color could afford to fight the allegations made against them in court and win, the board, backed by Department of Justice attorneys in what he calls an “unholy alliance,” can simply make the decision not to adopt the judge’s ruling.

“There’s always some bad apples,” Jackson said, “but what we’re concerned about is that after most of those who have been accused go before an administrative law judge or a superior court judge and they’ve been exonerated or the exculpatory evidence has shown they didn’t do it, a judge has ruled they’re innocent. The medical board still non-adopts those decisions.  That’s what bothers us,” he said.

He said he wonders if the era of former Medical Board Executive Director David Thornton, dubbed “California’s Caligula” in reference to the cruel Roman emperor, has continued. The state settled a sex and race harassment case for $750,000 in 2008 against the Medical Board by two employees during what Jackson called Thornton’s “reign of terror.”

Jackson said patients’ lives are lost prematurely when minority doctors are targeted, and for that reason the Medical Board of California needs a civilian oversight commission like the one that oversees the Los Angeles Police Department. The Department of Justice, Jackson said, is “aiding and abetting” the board.

Medical Board Public Affairs Manager Cassandra Hockenson said the issue came before the board, which meets quarterly, in 2014, and that the board takes it seriously.

“We did our own study, then we did an independent study, and we’re going beyond,” she said.  “I think this is a board that takes things seriously and makes sure that they are dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s.”

The outside firm conducted a demographics study in July.  She says results from that study are expected at either the Oct. 27-28 board meeting in San Diego or the Jan. 26-27, 2017 in the Sacramento area.

The board was forced to conduct an independent study, Jackson said, because an internal investigation did not include the database that holds all the statistics on the licensing of physicians.

Jackson said he is confident the independent investigation by the California Research Bureau, which he says is trustworthy and “squeaky clean,” will prove that the board is in the wrong.

“We believe [the investigation] will indeed show that black and brown physicians have been racially profiled for disciplinary revocation and suspensions at least twice as often as their white counterparts. At least. It’s probably more,” he said.

If that’s the case, he plans to file a class action lawsuit against the state medical board. If the doctors win, he says the money will go toward creating an oversight body for the board, and providing back pay for the doctors who’s licenses were revoked or suspended unjustly.