Virginia

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 Virginia did on each category — and how we calculated the score for the categories.

64

State rating (out of 100)

  • Duty-to-report laws: 100
    Are colleagues and institutions that are aware of potential physician misconduct required to notify regulators? More...
    To break the code of silence that can shield abusive doctors, the best states have laws requiring all physicians and health care institutions to notify regulators of potential violations. To assess these laws, the AJC used five measures. Top grades went to states where a broad range of health care facilities, not only hospitals, are required to notify regulators of alleged physician misconduct; where there is a deadline of no more than 30 days for making those reports; where penalties for failing to report are clear and significant; where doctors are required to report fellow practitioners; and where courts or law enforcement agencies must notify regulators when a doctor is criminally convicted.
    • Which health care facilities must report doctors to medical regulators?: 20 of 20
      The CEO and the chief of staff at hospitals and other health care institutions, assisted living facilities and home health organizations are required to report any information of which they are aware in their official capacity indicating that a doctor needs treatments for various impairments or any reasonable probability that a doctor may have engaged in unethical, fraudulent or unprofessional conduct.
  • 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.

More from Virginia

Highlighted case

Dr. Dean Harris Woodard

Despite a charge Woodard had raped a patient, the board allowed him to return to practice.

The criminal case started in 2002, when the doctor offered to tutor a pregnant patient he had flirted with in his office. When she phoned him to accept the tutoring offer, he picked her up at her home and then had sex with her in his car, the board alleged. Two days later, he sent her a letter apologizing for his “assertive behavior” and enclosing $150 he said could be used to pay for tutoring, and he wrote off the remaining balance from her office visit. But the incident led to his arrest for sodomy and sexual penetration by force, threat or intimidation.

In 2003, Woodard took a plea deal that reduced the sexual penetration charge to sexual battery, suspended a six-month jail sentence and waived a charge of sodomy if he successfully completed his probation. He also had to surrender his license for those six months.

The board cited that conviction and his later disclosure that he had prior sexual contacts with two other patients in ordering in 2003 that his license be suspended for at least 15 months.

In 2005, after he completed ethics courses and underwent therapy, a board committee concluded he was sincerely remorseful and reinstated him on probation. By 2008, the board removed all restrictions on his license.

A few weeks later, he prescribed an inappropriately high dose of a narcotic to a patient already on pain medication without performing a complete physical exam, the board said. The patient died the following day from multiple prescription toxicity. The board said he also had prescribed addictive medicines to five other patients without adequate exams or monitoring. So in 2011, the board once again suspended his license. In 2014, it denied his petition for reinstatement.

“I think that [the cases] are related to my mental illness,” he told the Journal-Constitution. He said that though he no longer practices, “thanks to the treatments I’m much more careful” in day-to-day interactions.

Researching a doctor

  • Accurate records of sexual abuse accusations against doctors are not always easily accessible. In Virginia, the best chance of finding problems is to search the records offered by the Virginia Board of Medicine. 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

The board accepts anonymous complaints. The Department of Health Professions warns that those who wish to submit an anonymous report should not include any identifying information on the complaint form, envelope, email address or supplemental documents. Complaints may be submitted in writing, in person, or by phone, FAX or email.

Where to file a complaint

Quoted

“Since (the doctor) has shown appropriate insight and remorse for his conduct, no sanction is necessary to protect the public.”

— The Virginia Board of Medicine, on the case of a doctor who engaged in a sexual relationship with a patient for more than two years.

Key fact

The state board's website does not provide board orders for numerous doctors who have been disciplined; the public must request those. The website also states that boards are authorized to offer confidential consent agreements, which are not regarded as disciplinary actions. And while disciplinary proceedings are open to the public, if a doctor signs a consent order, the administrative proceeding or hearing is canceled.

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