Jackson VA Fallout: ‘Should He Even Be Practicing Medicine?’

By AAPL Staff
April 26, 2018

 As Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, MD, withdraws from nomination to lead the VA, physician leaders consider allegations of misbehavior.

The White House on Thursday withdrew the nomination of physician Ronny Jackson to head Veterans Affairs after a recent hailstorm of allegations about his professional conduct

Ronny Jackson

In a statement Thursday, Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, MD, called the charges against him “completely false and fabricated” as he withdrew his name for consideration to be the VA secretary.

The accusations, which have not been substantiated, say Jackson was abusive to colleagues, loosely handled prescription pain medications, and occasionally got intoxicated while on duty. According to published reports, a document written by staff members on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee includes accusations from 23 current and former colleagues of Jackson, the White House physician and a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy.

Among the most serious: Jackson allegedly provided such “a large supply” of Percocet to a White House Military Office staff member that his own medical staff went “into a panic” when it could not account for the missing drugs. Also, a nurse on his staff said Jackson had written prescriptions for himself.

Jackson called the charges “completely false and fabricated” in a statement Thursday morning as he withdrew his name for consideration to be the VA secretary.

Before Thursday’s announcement, criticism of Jackson had accelerated. Some physician leaders around the country were less concerned about his qualifications for the VA position and more about the conduct in question.

In a stinging opinion piece for the New York Times, physician Richard A. Friedman, the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at New York’s Weill Cornell Medical College, wrote the following in a commentary titled “Ronny Jackson Should Never Have Headed the V.A. — Should He Even Be Practicing Medicine?” 

“I have reviewed many physicians whose treatments fall outside the bounds of accepted medical practice for New York State’s Office of Professional Medical Conduct,” Friedman wrote. “I can say that the ‘treatments’ Dr. Jackson is accused of would almost certainly qualify for such review — and probably result in sanctions, from a fine up to the loss of a medical license.”

We’re interested in hearing your opinions about the professional behavior of physician leaders. While behavior often can be nuanced, where do you draw ethical boundaries? If true, should behavior, such as that with which Jackson was accused, disqualify a physician from leadership positions?

Send your comments to news@physicianleaders.org and we might publish them in an upcoming post.

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