Ohio medical board reopens 91 sexual assault cases involving doctors and medical professionals

The New York Times
Washington, United StatesWritten By: Neil Vigdor © 2021 The New York TimesUpdated: Mar 11, 2021, 09:46 PM IST

Representative image. Photograph:(Zee News Network)

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Ohio State’s longtime former director of student health services is a focus of the reopened investigation into failed reporting

Faulted for its failure to end systematic sexual abuse by a former Ohio State University team physician, the state medical board in Ohio has reopened 91 sexual assault cases against other doctors and medical professionals in the state, officials said Wednesday.

The State Medical Board of Ohio will also review an additional 42 previously closed sexual assault cases to determine if doctors who might have had knowledge of sexual misconduct failed to report it to the authorities, according to a state task force.

Ohio State’s longtime former director of student health services is a focus of the reopened investigation into failed reporting, the group said in a 173-page final report that was released Wednesday.

The task force was created by Gov. Mike DeWine in May 2019 in response to a wide-ranging sex-abuse scandal involving Richard Strauss, a former team doctor at the state’s flagship public university.

Strauss, who died by suicide in 2005, was implicated in the abuse of at least 177 students. His victims included football players, wrestlers and other athletes who had been treated for injuries or underwent physical examinations before their seasons began. He was a professor at the university from 1978-98.

“The Medical Board has made real and meaningful strides toward ensuring that never again would it fail to act when it holds credible, actionable information about one of its licensees, such as it had with Strauss,” the group’s report said.

In response to the abuse scandal, the medical board re-examined 1,254 sexual impropriety cases going back 25 years, the task force said. The board had considered 213 cases for further examination but ultimately decided to treat 91 of them as active cases, according to the task force’s findings, which were reported earlier by The Columbus Dispatch.

The remaining cases had either already been the subject of formal action or been deemed not viable, the report said, adding that eight cases had been recommended for referral to law enforcement agencies.

Officials said that changes were warranted in a state law that, for confidentiality purposes, shields information about the outcome of the medical board’s investigations into sexual assault allegations.

“To provide the public the confidence that a case like Richard Strauss’s will never again go without action, the State Medical Board of Ohio is committed to providing sunshine to board processes and complaint information,” the board said in a January letter to the task force.

The board said there were obstacles to sharing information about cases.

“Finding the balance for transparency, protection of the licensee’s livelihood, patient information and whistle blower protection entails a complicated legal analysis with much stakeholder input,” the board said in the letter. “The board’s efforts for transparency will continue over the next calendar year, and likely beyond.”

Officials also said they were renewing their scrutiny of Dr. Ted Grace, who was Ohio State’s student health services director from 1992 to 2007, to determine if he had failed to report the pattern of sexual abuse by Strauss.

Grace, now the director of student health services at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday night.

In a letter sanctioning Grace last year, Ohio’s medical board said that he had been aware of three separate complaints of sexual misconduct against Strauss by three male students and had failed to report them to the board.

The students complained that Strauss had inappropriately touched their genital areas for extended periods during examinations, and one accused Strauss of pressing his erect penis against the student’s leg.

Grace, whose medical license remains active in Ohio, told The Southern Illinoisan last year that “I did the best I could” and he said he had reported Strauss’ misconduct to a university administrator.

Last year, Ohio State said it would pay $41 million to resolve some of the lawsuits stemming from several hundred sexual assault claims against Strauss. The university president at the time said that Ohio State had failed the victims. On Wednesday, university officials declined to comment further.

A spokesperson for DeWine did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.