One of more than 2,700 physicians sanctioned by the American Board of Internal Medicine, Dr. Jaime (“Jimmy”) Salas Rushford has filed a countersuit against ABIM and individuals including Richard Baron, M.D., and Christine Cassel, M.D. Most of the targets, like Dr. Salas, were just finishing their residencies and had no resources to fight.
In 2012, Dr. Salas received a letter and 600 pages of unlabeled and unexplained documents, alleging that he had participated in a board-review course “with the objective to conspire with the course director to collect and disseminate the ABIM’s secure examination test questions.” He was given 10 days to answer this letter, or the ABIM “will notify the Medical Board in every jurisdiction in which you are licensed.”
Despite his answer and with no due process, ABIM posted a “revocation recommended” notice on its publicly available website. When asked how to appeal, ABIM told him of a 3-tier process, which was nowhere defined on its website. After 2 years, his status was changed from full revocation to “suspension” with multiple contingencies. Just before sending him a “final decision,” ABIM filed a copyright infringement suit against him in New Jersey (he practices in Puerto Rico). He learned of this only when a D.C. law firm offered him his services to defend.
Dr. Salas was apparently the last of many physicians attacked because an email from him was allegedly found on a computer that U.S. marshals had seized from Dr. Rajender K. Arora, who had offered a highly respected board review course for 20 years.
Dr. Salas’s story and many legal documents are available at http://www.doctorsjustice.com.
The ABIM even opposed motions for Dr. Salas’s attorneys to appear pro hac vice.
His countersuit alleges more than $15 million in damages plus at least $1.5 million in lost income. He asks for his board certification to be restored. His case illustrates ABIM’s ruthlessness in harming the livelihood of young physicians. It is skilled at litigation, and intends to recoup its enormous legal fees from those who do not capitulate. Dr. Salas writes: “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.”
“Dr. Jimmy’s” case has implications for all physicians.
ABIM revenue from certification and Maintenance of Certification® since 1998 totals more than half a billion dollars. The yearly amount has nearly quintupled from 1999 to 2015.