The former head of the federal agency overseeing family planning programs misled the public about his qualifications and background, a RAW STORY investigation has found.
Appointed by President George W. Bush in late 2006 as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Eric J. Keroack resigned unexpectedly in March of this year after Massachusetts officials launched a formal investigation into allegations of Medicaid fraud during his tenure in private practice.
Medicaid is a state-federal health program for the poor.
Although as an appointee he quickly became mired in controversy over his opposition to birth control, abortion and comprehensive sex education, newly obtained documents show that from the start Dr. Keroack was far from qualified to head the federal women’s health program.
As Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs, Dr. Keroack was responsible for a $283 million budget and charged with running a federal agency overseeing women’s health issues such as screening for cervical and breast cancer, contraception planning, pregnancy counseling and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. However, a RAW STORY investigation has found that Keroack either misled the Bush administration about his background or was appointed regardless of his record and with little vetting.
HHS officials repeatedly cited Keroack’s long tenure in private practice as one of his key qualifications, along with his highly publicized role as medical director for a chain of Christian pregnancy centers.
According to the Washington Post, “Eric Keroack, a nationally known advocate of abstinence until marriage, served for more than a decade as medical director for A Woman’s Concern, a Massachusetts nonprofit group that discourages abortion and does not distribute information promoting birth control. But HHS spokeswoman Christina Pearson said yesterday that most of Keroack’s professional time had been devoted to his private practice of 20 years, not the group.”
Documents and interviews with Keroack’s associates, however, show that the post of medical director was merely a part-time or volunteer job. Keroack’s claims of an extensive private practice also appear dubious.
Administration vaunted bogus credentials
Records from the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine show that Dr. Keroack did not finish his residency in obstetrics and gynecology until 1993. This means he could not possibly have practiced obstetrics for 20 years.
In addition, according to the Post, Dr. Keroack’s board certification as an OBGYN, which would have been good for ten years, had lapsed in 2005, a full year before his appointment. As a result, Keroack’s tenure in private practice as a board-certified OB-GYN at the time of his appointment could have been no more than 10 years.
Documents obtained by RAW STORY suggest that Keroack may have been in practice even less time.
When Dr. Keroack took stewardship of Population Affairs in 2006, Massachusetts’ medical licensing board had already spent roughly a year reviewing a complaint that he had violated ethical norms by prescribing medications for people who weren’t his patients, had practiced outside of his area of specialty and had attempted to defraud the insurance system.
Massachusetts medical board spokesman Randal Aims said late last week that when a complaint is filed against a physician, the doctor is allowed to respond in writing. In Keroack’s Sept. 18, 2005 response, in which he defended himself against the allegation that he was not qualified to provide counseling, he indicated that he had not been in practice for “over 5-years.”
“As you might expect, the fact that it has been over 5-years [sic] since I took a leave from my direct practice of clinical medicine in the North Shore area has made the location of some of the individual single session C.M.E. lectures quite difficult,” he wrote. “I confess to being less than perfect when it comes to long-term personal record keeping.”
This indicates that as of 2005, Keroack had withdrawn from practicing clinical medicine at least five years earlier, suggesting that the duration of his tenure in private practice was roughly five years.
The same document also includes Dr. Keroack’s admission that he has no proof that he completed the Continuing Medical Education modules required to maintain his medical license.
HHS spokewoman Christine Pearson told the Post Keroack “inadvertently missed the recertification deadline” and “plans to seek recertification in the future.”
Records show that Keroack also let another professional certification lapse in 2005. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology’s director of membership services, Bernice Jones, confirmed in a letter that Keroack’s membership in the College had lapsed in July, 2005.
RAW STORY asked Pearson to respond concerning these discrepancies between Dr. Keroack’s background and the public profile presented by HHS and to provide his official biography and any press releases or statements regarding his hiring, his term in office or his resignation. Responding via email, Pearson indicated that she’d never seen a copy of Dr. Keroack’s resume.
“I have never had a copy of his resume nor am I aware of any press releases, pre-hiring announcements or press releases pertaining to his acts while he was in office,” Pearson wrote.
Asked to explain how she knew how long Dr. Keroack had been in practice, Pearson explained that he had personally told her of his qualifications.
Another HHS spokesperson, Rebecca Ayer, said that HHS had never had an official biography for Dr. Keroack, but provided assurances that he had gone through the “standard hiring process.”
Saying she could not comment further on personnel issues due to the Privacy Act, Ayer suggested this reporter file a Freedom of Information Request.
Medical directorship was part-time or volunteer job
The controversy over Dr. Keroack’s association with A Woman’s Concern and his particular views with regard to women’s health in the wake of his appointment may have overshadowed deeper issues regarding his actual background.
A Woman’s Concern’s tax records show no mention of him during the six-year period he was supposed to have been the medical director. As a non-profit, AWC is required to list all employees and contractors who are paid more than $50,000 per year.
Mark Conrad, the president of A Woman’s Concern, said that Dr. Keroack was only a part-time volunteer with the organization and simultaneously rented an office at one of their facilities.
Former Woman’s Concern president Rev. Ensor, who led the organization during most of Keroack’s tenure, gave a different account.
“Was he paid? Sure he was paid,” Ensor said. “Some seasons he volunteered, and sometimes we paid him.”
Dr. Keroack’s private practice address during this period shows him at 103 Broadway in Revere, MA – in the same building as one of the AWC pregnancy centers. Both Conrad and Ensor agree that the doctor rented space from AWC but has now terminated his lease with the clinic. The phone number for Keroack’s office at that facility is disconnected.
The business address Dr. Keroack lists on his physician profile is in Marblehead, Mass. The phone number is registered in the name of D. Merrick and was shown by additional background checks to be located at yet another address in Marblehead, 5 Orchard Circle.
Real estate records indicate that 5 Orchard Circle is a single-family home owned by Eric J. Keroack. It is not clear who owns or lives at or practices out of the second Marblehead address.
RAW STORY made repeated calls to the phone the number listed in the physician profile. During one such call, a woman answered the phone. She did not identify herself but did confirm that the number belonged to Dr. Keroack and that there was no office or other number by which he could be reached. Subsequent calls to the number yielded an answering machine message that strongly suggested the number was a residential line and not a doctor’s office.
Moreover, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office said they have no record of Keroack “registering to run an office-based practice in the state.”
Dr. Keroack did not return repeated phone calls and emails seeking comment.
Keroack’s abrupt resignation
Dr. Keroack announced in late March of this year that he was resigning to defend himself against allegations of Medicaid fraud levied against his clinical practice. It is not clear whether the Medicaid investigation he was referring to was sparked by the ethical complaints filed with the medical board against him during his dual role as a private practice gynecologist and volunteer at A Woman’s Concern.
It’s possible that there are other complaints against Keroack that have yet to be resolved. Massachusetts board spokesman Russell Aims told RAW STORY that as of January, 2007, two earlier complaints against Keroack’s license had been resolved. Aims, however, stressed that medical licensing authorities in Massachusetts are prohibited from acknowledging the existence of unresolved claims still pending against a physician’s license.
Though he has no formal research credentials, Dr. Keroack has lectured widely from a PowerPoint presentation that uses Loony Tunes characters to illustrate his theory that premarital sex damages the female brain, making non-abstinent women incapable of forming emotional bonds.
Keroack’s highly unorthodox medical views had originally cast doubt on his qualifications to serve as the nation’s birth control czar. His appointment did not require confirmation from Congress.
This story originally appeared on The Raw Story.