My Dear Colleagues:
On May 8, 2012 Lynn Langdon (Chief Operating Officer at the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) sent me a letter via FedEx accompanied by about 600 pages of unlabeled and unexplained documents to my office, stating that I had attended an Internal Medicine Review Course that had been in existence for 20 years and taught by Dr Arora titled “Unusual Board Review.”
In her letter, Ms. Langdon alleged that I participated in the course with the objective to conspire with Dr Arora to collect and disseminate the ABIM’s secure examination test questions. In that letter, I was accused of creating an e-mail address with the sole purpose of hiding my identity from ABIM and getting away with such a conspiracy. They gave me ten (10) days to answer this letter or the ABIM “will notify the Medical Board in every jurisdiction in which you are licensed.”
I immediately answered the above letter and stated that this must be some sort of mistake and that the accusations on the letter were baseless and without merit. Even though I provided evidence responding to all, the alleged accusations on that letter were false and misstated. ABIM continued its decision to revoke my Board Certification and went so far as to change my status online in the website to “REVOCATION RECOMMENDED.” Since any patient or public entity could access the ABIM website, I was negatively labeled without due process.
I asked ABIM about how to appeal their unilateral decision. They stated I had to submit to a 3-tier appeal process. Nowhere on the ABIM website was this process defined. I decided to retain counsel. And thus my saga with the ABIM internal appeal process began.
ABIM kept me in their “appeal process” from May 2012 to July 24, 2014 in which I had a face-to-face final hearing at ABIM headquarters in Philadelphia at my own expense. Not only was this “final panel” more than two years since Ms. Langdon’s original letter, but it was not until October 2014 that they finally sent me a written decision from the panel changing my “sanction” from full Board revocation to a “suspension” with multiple contingencies. In the written decision ABIM wrote: “This constitutes the final decision of ABIM in this matter.”
Little did I know that only 2-3 days, prior to sending this panel decision letter, the ABIM had also filed a copyright infringement complaint against me in Newark, New Jersey. I was never notified of that complaint from ABIM but found out through a communication from a law firm (LEXERO Law Firm) in Washington DC offering their services to defend me in that case.
Recall that the ABIM earns 98% of its revenues from physician testing fees. From October, 1989 through 30 June 1997, the ABIM quietly funneled over $46.2 million of these fees to their secretly-created “American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation.” In 1999, the ABIM finally introduced their renamed “ABIM Foundation” to the public claiming the Foundation was created to define the term their own version of “medical professionalism.” The ABIM continued to issue another $30.66 million in “grants” to the ABIM Foundation from 1 Jul 1998 through 30 June 2007 before purchasing a $2.3 million luxury condominium in Philadelphia, complete with a chauffer-driven Mercedes S-class town car, in December 2007 for themselves. Meanwhile, high salaries were afforded to the leadership of the ABIM, including over $8.9 million paid to the ABIM President and CEO, Christine K. Cassel, MD, from May, 2003 to June, 2013. This large amount did not include Dr. Cassel’s other benefits, including the payment of spousal travel fees and the ability to collect other undisclosed consulting fees from Premier, Inc. and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals during her tenure with the ABIM.
So far, my investigation has disclosed that in 2009 the ABIM sent a “spy” to the Arora review course I had attended in New York City. From that encounter, the ABIM claimed they had evidence of Dr. Arora defrauding the ABIM examination process and received a writ to seize Dr. Arora’s personal computer from his home using US Marshals in Dec 2009. They took all of his computers and teaching material and claimed copyright infringement. Here we have a very known and recognized doctor (Dr Arora) who had been giving a board review courses that carried ACGME CME’s and was highly recommended by many residency programs for over 20 years, suddenly a criminal according to the ABIM. Before trial, the ABIM and Dr Arora reached a private, undisclosed settlement. ABIM then went after young, foreign medical graduates and young physician mothers and started accusing and filing Federal court civil complaints against them. I, a native Puerto Rican just out of residency was and still am, one of their victims after they discovered an email on Dr. Arora’s computer. As I have come to know, many of our bright, young physicians, many of whom are mothers and fathers, have had their reputation and Board certification taking away without proof or explanation. ABIM has sanctioned in different ways more than 2,700, YES! you read correctly, TWO THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED plus physicians sanctioned with no presented evidence or explanations. Most of whom just are finishing their residency and don’t have the necessary monetary resources to defend themselves.
I have fought and stood against the UNJUST and UNFOUNDED accusations brought against me by ABIM. And once I started to confront them, ABIM clearly used their power, stating that it would be to my advantage to concede to them and if not I would be sued for copyright infringement and that they (ABIM legal team) is extremely good at winning their cases and getting all their legal fee paid back. As you can see ABIM has become an abusive and monstrous entity that no longer works to enrich physicians with knowledge or opportunity but rather become a profit making machine.
As you will see ABIM followed up on their threat and presented a copyright infringement claim against me and other physicians in different states. When I answered their claim presented in the State of New Jersey, ABIM in a deceiving and misrepresented statement to the PR District Court also filed the EXACT SAME claim in the US district court of Puerto Rico, something that is condemned and shows little ethical stature. They forced me to fight the EXACT SAME COMPLAINT in two different jurisdictions and thus they knew I would suffer economic hardship, hoping I would give up. I have not given up and will not give up, this is why I am asking for your help. I will not give in to unfounded, unjust accusations and to the notion that big corporations, big money could outweigh justice. I have not been the only one as you will learn, I have been one of many and with these guerilla tactics from ABIM they can do the same to any one of my fellow physicians. As they have clearly explained to me “they [ABIM] are not bound by any technical rules of evidence”. They [ABIM] have shown through my hellish ordeal with them, that they function as the accuser, judge and executioner all in one and that if we physicians do not abide by their ever changing, entangled and confusing regulations they have the resources to overpower any physician.
As my fellow physicians, I urge you to reflect on this fact and join us to help us claim back our medical practices. They (ABIM) do their own board member appointments; we have no voice or vote on their leadership. They continue to enforce day by day stricter and more complex ways of maintaining “their certification” that continues to cost us more and more money. While instead of using that significant fortune [excess of $50,000,000.00 in profits] for the research and benefit of expanding medical knowledge, they come against young physicians with overwhelming power to impose their way.
I have been fortunate enough to have a strong loving family that taught me to fight injustice and have gone through great economical, emotional and family stress through this ordeal to fight the injustice that ABIM has brought to practicing physicians by countersuing the ABIM.
But this suit is expensive. Any donation from fellow physicians in terms of information, support, unity or any monetary contribution is welcomed. On multiple occasions, ABIM has boasted how they have infinite monetary resources to intimidate me or that if I continue, I will go into bankruptcy and could not continue to fight. I find this extremely offensive coming from an organization founded by physicians to (theoretically) help physicians.
With your help I will prevail over ABIM and shine and light a beacon for my fellow physicians in order to give hope and strength to the honest practicing physicians worldwide that refuse to acquiesce to the ABIM’s monopolistic strong-arm tactics.
Jimmy Salas Rushford, MD