State report card

The report card for each state contains the scores it received when we evaluated it for how well it protects patients against sexually abusive doctors. The overall rating is the average of the score the state received in each category. In states with two medical boards, one for osteopathic physicians and the other for medical doctors, the overall rating is based on an average of each board’s scores.

Click on the boxes below to read how Vermont did on each category — and how we calculated the score for the categories.


State rating (out of 100)

  • Transparency: 68
    Is complete and accurate information on physician discipline provided to help patients protect themselves? More...
    The best states make it easy for the public to find comprehensive information on physicians, including whether they have been disciplined for sexual abuse or other violations. To assess transparency, the AJC used five measures. Top grades went to states where medical regulators posted disciplinary orders on websites going back at least 15 years; fully detailed the acts that led to sanctions; avoided private orders, reprimands or letters; provided easy web access to clearly labeled doctor information including disciplinary documents; and listed any hospital sanctions, criminal convictions and out-of-state disciplinary actions for each physician.
    • Are all orders posted?: 16 of 20
      By law, orders by the Board of Medical Practice and information on felonies involving physicians are removed from the website after 10 years. All disciplinary actions taken against Osteopaths since 2001 are posted on the website of the Office of Professional Regulation.
    • Is it easy to find all doctor information on the website?: 8 of 20
      Information on medical doctors and osteopathic physicians are on different websites. On the site for medical doctors, disciplinary action is indicated "board action on file" and links to an alphabetical list of orders. For osteopaths, you must re-enter the physician's name to search conduct decisions.
  • Board composition: 75
    Are consumer members included to balance physicians’ tendency to identify with their colleagues? More...
    A blueprint developed by The Federation of State Medical Boards recognized the importance of having independent public members on physician-dominated medical regulatory agencies. To assess the composition of disciplinary agencies, the AJC used three measures, with the most weight given to consumer representation. Top grades went to states where public members make up at least 40 percent of the board; where those members represent consumers and where neither they nor their family members have professional or financial ties to health care; and where women hold at least 40 percent of the board seats.
    • Is the public well represented?: 45 of 50
      The 17-member medical board has six public members, nine physicians, one podiatrist and one physician assistant. The five-member osteopathic board has two public members and three physicians.

More from Vermont

Highlighted case

Dr. Joseph Abate

Multiple young female patients said the orthopedic surgeon would touch on or near their genital area without gloves, and with some digitally penetrating their vaginas, when he had no verbal consent from them to do any such exam.

His attorney said everything Abate did followed proper medical procedures, and in 2009, his trial on seven counts of felony sex assault resulted in a hung jury.

But in 2010, as another trial was to begin, in a plea deal he admitted to a misdemeanor charge of prohibited acts/lewdness and was given a suspended sentence. According to a 2010 board order subsequently made public, Abate acknowledged that he had engaged in unprofessional conduct with patients. He agreed to a lifetime revocation of his medical license.

Abate had previously served as a team doctor for several college and high school sports teams in the area, according to a report by the Burlington Free Press.

The Journal-Constitution has been unable to reach Abate for comment.

Researching a doctor

  • Accurate records of sexual abuse accusations against doctors are not always easily accessible. In Vermont, the best chance of finding problems with MD physicians and surgeons is with information offered by the Vermont Board of Medical Practice. It has a website with two options: to look up a doctor by name, or to search alphabetically for physicians who've received board orders.Ostheopathic physicians are regulated by the Vermont Secretary of State, Office of Professional Regulation. This is the best place to look for those records. Please note that license search results typically include all public disciplinary actions, not just those involving sexual misconduct, and can sometimes include vague language. Also, some states deal with some disciplinary issues privately; private board orders are not included.

Complaint process

Online forms advise that if an investigation results in formal disciplinary action, the name and other information about the person filing the complaint may become public. However, the Board of Medical Practice accepts anonymous complaints. Each is referred to one of the board's investigation committees to determine whether a case will be opened. The Osteopathic Board, which operates under the umbrella of the Office of Professional Regulation, accepts complaints from any source, including anonymous ones.

Where to file a complaint


"He was my lover, my psychiatrist, my therapist, my every source of human contact. . . . I was alone in agony, totally isolated. . . . He realized how vulnerable. . . I was and he played that card . . . for all it was worth."

— former patient of Dr. Peter McKenna, according to court documents in a malpractice dispute. The patient, who told Adult Protective Services in 2005 that McKenna had a sexual, romantic and social relationship with her, was bipolar and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and anorexia. McKenna admitted that he had sex with the woman in 2003 and was arrested on a charge of sexual act with a vulnerable adult. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 60 days in jail, according to a news report. The case was dismissed in 2006 after McKenna died.

Key fact

By law, board orders and information on felonies involving doctors are removed from the website after 10 years. And board orders are vague, providing few details about the charges that led to disciplinary actions. The order for one doctor in 2009 makes passing reference to “sexual transgressions of one kind or another.”

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