Doctors who surrender medical license in one state still practice in others
More than 250 doctors who surrendered a medical license were able to practice in another state, an investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, USA TODAY and MedPage Today found.
By John Fauber and Matt Wynn
November 30, 2018


Secretive system hides problems

In some states, surrenders are particularly secretive — leaving patients in the dark about what happened.

Records show that psychiatrist Robert Sack permanently surrendered his Maryland license in 2012 rather than face discipline — but his public file does not spell out what he did. It only references a line in state law relating to “unprofessional conduct in the practice of medicine.”

Based on Maryland’s action, neighboring Virginia quickly suspended him from practicing there.

In a 2012 letter to the Maryland medical board, Sack noted his license surrender was related, in part, to his “planned retirement from the practice of medicine.”

Shortly thereafter, he opened a legal battle to be allowed to practice in Pennsylvania, where his license had just expired.

The Pennsylvania board eventually issued a reprimand, but it allowed Sack, who specializes in child and adolescent psychiatry, to practice.

In fact, by surrendering his Maryland license, the board said, he demonstrated “the good moral character and judgment the Board expects from its licensees.”

To try to determine what prompted the case, reporters filed a series of open records requests.

Maryland, where the matter began, refused to release any documents. Pennsylvania released several hundred pages of materials that showed the surrender stemmed from him having a romantic relationship with a former patient in Maryland.

The American Psychiatric Association views sexual contact with patients, including former ones, as unethical — a standard many states follow in licensing.

The Pennsylvania records show that Sack’s attorneys told officials he had no plans to actually practice there. But an Internet search found Sack listed as a practicing child and adolescent psychiatrist at T.W. Ponsessa & Associates, a Lancaster, Pa.-based counseling service.

CEO Cathy DeGuire told a reporter she was not aware of Sack’s disciplinary background when he was hired. Before hanging up, she said the listing online was an error -— stressing Sack only works with patients 16 and older.

Three days latter the website was changed to say he sees patients aged 16 to 64.

Sack did not respond to efforts to reach him through the attorney and his employer. His attorney declined to comment.