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America Great Again

America Great Again

The New Year has already proven challenging, making my weekly blogging difficult, if not impossible to accomplish. Now that several events have passed, I think I can return to a more normal routine.

As most of you know, I am a die-hard Michigan State fan. I attended medical school at the College of Human Medicine at MSU. I had the opportunity to experience community-based medical education as opposed to county or city hospital-based teaching. The community prided itself on being a step ahead of everyone else, only Stanford and Kettering were more progressive in their approach to high-quality, patient-focused care in the 1970’s.

MSU has a community of hundreds of thousands of alumni. The campus itself is sprawling, and the allopathic medical school has located to Grand Rapids, Michigan in the recent years. My wife and I recently took trips to East Lansing to meet with Deans of several Colleges within the University setting. We tried to create a Memphis experience for the students of MSU. We are not certain where our efforts stand at the time of this writing.

What I am certain about is the shameful cover-up of the disgusting behavior of the pedophile Larry Nassar, DO, who was on staff at Michigan State University, College of Osteopathic Medicine at the time he perpetrated his crimes. Larry Nassar graduated from the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine with a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree. He went on to complete his residency training in family practice at St. Lawrence Hospital. In 1997, Nassar completed a fellowship in sports medicine and began working as an assistant professor at MSU's Department of Family and Community Medicine in the College of Osteopathic Medicine. From 1996 to 2014, Dr. Nassar was the national medical coordinator for USA Gymnastics.

My wife and I had the opportunity to watch the comments made by victims in the Larry Nassar Trial. We did not watch all one hundred and seventy women but enough of them to know that Dr. Nassar is one of those rare predators that ruined hundreds of young girls’ lives and at the same time, figured out how to evade law enforcement for almost twenty years. What is more disturbing is that Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics administrative officials and board members knew about Larry Nassar’s abuse of these female athletes and did nothing to stop him. I do not know what went on in the minds of those administrators, board members, and coaches. I do not care. I know as a father of a daughter who played sports, it would not have been a good outcome for Dr. Nassar if he would have laid a hand on my daughter. But, he laid hands on hundreds of young girls, some of them repeatedly. Surely someone should have stepped up and just punched this guy in the nose or would have contacted the Osteopathic program at Michigan State University and demanded explanations if they themselves were violence adverse. Twenty years is a long time to abuse young girls and keep it quiet.

I think there should be an investigation of such a scale that if anyone is found knowing about the abuse, they should be brought up on charges of some kind, even if they decided to keep quiet for fear of their own well-being or felt threatened by administrators above them. The president of Penn State went to prison for his actions, as did the athletic director related to the Jerry Sandusky cover-up. I still believe to this day that both of those men took a hit for the State of Pennsylvania since the true disturbances of the Sandusky scandal were never revealed. Without question, they were the fall guys.

Let’s not simply rush to judge the President of MSU and put her in prison without a full investigation by an independent party. She has stepped down. The Athletic Director has also resigned. I am certain more resignations will come. But, before we decide to throw the entire MSU community in the tank, know that the campus and its Colleges are spread out all over the State of Michigan. How about the Dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine as well and the Chair of Family and Community Medicine? These are the first places in the MSU’s system that the complaints would have been filed. The Osteopathic School had to have known of Larry Nassar’s despicable behaviors. No one person can abuse hundreds of young girls and keep it a secret. They can make a bunch of excuses for the complaints but not keep it a secret. Maybe the fact that Nassar was an osteopath allowed him to get away with telling everyone he was doing new age manipulative therapy in these young girls’ pelvises with his fingers and penis.

The press should publish publicly the names of anyone signing petitions to exonerate Dr. Nassar’s character, even if they claim they did not know about his Dr. Jekyll side. It is the duty of anyone signing a petition to find the truth before they decide to put their name to a document that might be used to free a clever serial pedophile. Any MSU Board of Trustees member who supported Dr. Nassar should be removed from their position without compensation. Michigan State University must do the right thing instead of hiring some public relations firm to mitigate the damage and put out the fires. It is never too late to do the right thing. Ever.

But let us be very careful not to create a feeding frenzy at MSU. The ESPN article that emerged was very poor journalism at its best. There may be some past events in the school’s processing of sexual assault that could be reviewed, but to connect a sociopathic pedophile who assaulted hundreds of girls while faking physical examinations to an alleged culture of cover-up of all sexual assaults, in general, is absurd. I have heard many college athletic coaches speak about the problems of sexual assault in the universities in general. The crime is under-reported on a huge scale. Let’s not take an anomaly like Larry Nassar and decide to find other potential innocent lives to ruin such as players and coaches alike. I want to hear the facts, not the feelings of a disgruntled counselor who felt the system would not do it “her way” so she quit.

I sat on the local Board of Directors for Prudential’s Health Insurance Plan about twenty years ago or more. There was a primary care physician in their PPO who received twelve lawsuits within a nine-month time span. I looked at the claims. For whatever reason, the physician clearly was not able to treat patients safely and effectively. I recommended that Prudential dismiss her from their PPO since she was practicing a poor brand of medicine and the members of their plan were not allowed to choose their physician. The other eight physician board members were very hesitant to pull the trigger on her.

The following month we met again, two more lawsuits had been filed. Both cases were related to failure to diagnose cancer. I asked if we could dismiss her from the insurance plan. What happened next shocked me. An elderly physician stood up and introduced himself as the managing partner of the physician group of which this physician-in-question belonged. He assured us in the room that he would personally see to it that she would perform at a much higher level. He related more than two thousand patients were assigned to her, and if she was dismissed from the insurance plan, their entire practice would close. I looked at him and asked, “Would you go to her as your doctor?” He answered, “I already have a doctor. So, no.” I looked at the Chair of the Board. “I move to have this physician released from her duties associated with the members of this insurance company.” No one would second my motion. I resigned that day. I did not go out and speak to the press about a problem that was clearly affecting hundreds of lives.   

It was revealed to me sometime later that the physician-in-question was in the impaired physician program. She had several additional lawsuits. She became uninsurable from a medical malpractice perspective, and the group she belonged to folded. The Chairman of the Board asked me to return to the medical insurance company’s credential committee. I refused. They did not pride themselves on doing the right thing when it came down to ensuring that their members got the highest quality care possible. They were complicit in the bad care and did not want anyone to find out about their connections. Prudential would have had to shoulder some of the compensation rewards that these patients received for their pain and suffering at the hands of an incompetent physician. I suspect they knew it so they denied knowing about her disturbances, giving the public the illusion that they just did not know she had a significant problem. The problem fixed itself through the systems we all have created. It did not take a catalyst like a full expose’ in a newspaper to fix the problem.

I saw the same activities in the Memphis Fire Department when I oversaw the EMS paramedic program. The essential point was I could not discipline the paramedics because the City Administrators thought it would reveal information to the personal injury lawyers in town. They, in turn, would file suit against Memphis City Government. City officials did not want me to speak up for the citizens because I made a great plaintiff’s witness. I even tried to have paramedic licenses revoked at the state level. That was always thwarted by Union attorneys and State Officials. I realized the monster of public service has grown to a point that no one wants to do the right thing because the right thing upsets somebody somewhere along the way. It was just better for city administrators and elected officials to ignore it and watch the suffering of innocent people. It was okay as long as the decision makers would not suffer.

The Larry Nassar debacle is just beginning to unravel. I am certain layers upon layers will need to be stripped away and incinerated publicly. Get rid of those old boys who seem to care more about the impacts of bad people on the institution instead of worrying about the impacts of the bad people on those who are served by the institution. If Michigan State University asked me to sit on their Board of Directors, I would jump at the chance to help restore faith in a faithless system. But, they would not ask me; I would worry more about the students’ vulnerability than the institution’s. All students, not just the accusers, but the accused, too. One thing thirty years of practice has taught me is that there is always two sides of a story, and each side has multiple perspectives depending on where one sits in the arena.  

But, maybe there’s a chance. Regardless, I still root for MSU Spartans and wear the Green and White Proudly. I just had to re-adjust my thinking a bit. MSU’s administration is no different than any other Big Ten School or University. They’re worried about themselves first.

Sounds like we’re getting there…making America great again. Right?


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