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Dr. William Dando
(Baltimore Sun)

The Maryland Board of Physicians had been alerted to red flags about Dr. William Dando by officials in two states but still allowed him to practice medicine, an inspector general's report has found.

Georgia officials told the board they planned to deny Dando a medical license a year after he was awarded one in Maryland, and Florida officials sent the board documents in 2003 detailing Dando's 1987 rape conviction. Neither notification prompted further investigation by the Maryland board, according to the inspector general's report released Wednesday.

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On his initial license application in 1996, Dando had only told the board that he assaulted someone while intoxicated in Florida, which resulted in a prison sentence.

The state health department's inspector general also highlighted two other cases in which doctors lied about their criminal pasts and were licensed by the state board. In one, Maryland officials didn't learn about a doctor's robbery and manslaughter convictions until Pennsylvania officials launched an investigation.

Maryland has no system for verifying criminal histories — it accepts statements from doctors and doesn't conduct routine background checks. The state also doesn't have a system for recognizing patterns in complaints or disciplinary actions against doctors, the inspector general's report found.

In response to the report, board officials said changes have been made to increase scrutiny of doctors accused of malfeasance. And they say another overhaul is coming — they have proposed a law to institute background checks and continuous monitoring of doctors for criminal activity.

"The Board acknowledges that errors were made during the licensure process involving Dr. Dando," board Chairman Dr. Devinder Singh and executive director Christine Farrelly wrote in a letter to state health Inspector General Thomas V. Russell. "Board staff should have thoroughly investigated the self-disclosure on the licensure application and independently verified it for accuracy."

The Board of Physicians, part of the state health department, is responsible for licensing doctors and several other health professions. It decides what convictions constitute crimes of moral turpitude that would disqualify a medical license applicant.

Board officials couldn't be reached for further comment Wednesday.

Dando was a family practitioner in Catonsville for most of his career. The Baltimore Sun reported his rape conviction in May, after a female patient at a Western Maryland urgent care center said he touched her inappropriately.

He was charged with sexual assault in the Maryland case, but the charges were dropped in September after Dando surrendered his medical license.

Neither Dando nor a lawyer representing him could be reached for comment Wednesday.

The revelations prompted health officials to launch the inspector general inquiry, which began in June, to explore the circumstances of Dando's licensing and how the board handles applicants who disclose a criminal history.

The inspector general found that the board "should have been on notice to carefully scrutinize Dr. Dando's application for a number of reasons."

When he applied for licensure as a resident physician, Dando was in treatment for alcohol abuse, a program monitored by the board. At the time, the board was also alerted by Florida officials that he had not finished his residency in that state because he was convicted of a felony before he could complete it.

"The Board should have been on notice to proceed more cautiously with the review of his application," the report said.

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In 1997, a year after Dando's licensure in Maryland, Georgia officials told the Maryland board they were allowing Dando to withdraw an application for licensure.

If Georgia had denied the license instead, the denial would have to be reported to two national organizations that would have shared the information with state boards across the country.

Documents from Georgia officials didn't make clear why they planned to deny the application, but notations on the records indicated that the decision was related to a rape conviction, the Maryland inspector general report found.

But the inspector general found no evidence that Maryland officials looked further into the matter. Instead the board focused on his drinking problem, the report said.

Board officials were alerted to Dando's rape conviction again in 2003, when a patient complained that he was "habitually intoxicated," the report said. While investigating the complaint, the board received a fax from the Florida Department of Corrections "clearly outlining what had happened in that case," according to the report.

But no action was taken based on that information, the inspector general said.

The inspector general cited two other instances in which the board awarded licenses despite receiving false information from applicants.

In one case, a doctor had been court-martialed by the Army and convicted of a fraud and theft scheme, for which she served one year in prison. Like Dando, she understated her criminal history in her application, the report said. When asked for documentation, she told officials it was destroyed in a fire, and no further investigation was done.

Four weeks after her license was granted in Maryland in 2010, it was suspended because she drove a patient who had suffered a uterine rupture and bowel perforation to the emergency room in a private vehicle.

The suspension triggered investigations by Utah and Wyoming regulators, who uncovered false statements on her applications in those states.

In another case, a doctor's robbery and manslaughter convictions dating to the 1970s were not exposed until 1992, when Pennsylvania health officials charged him with providing false information on his medical license application there. When Maryland officials found out, he was reprimanded and placed on probation.

The report recommends that the board adopt a background check policy and acknowledges its efforts at reform. The inspector general also recommends the board update its software to better track complaints and discipline.

Board officials said in a letter dated Wednesday that efforts already underway to overhaul the state's doctor disciplinary process would help address what they called "numerous systemic issues related to licensure applications and complaint investigations."

Those efforts include the establishment of a stepped-up disciplinary process that has reduced a backlog of complaints that had grown to 400 in 2006.

Gene Ransom, CEO of MedChi, the state medical society, said he had not seen the report but agreed that the board has made improvements since the lapses involving Dando. "It's a different board," he said.

The board is also pursuing state legislation to implement the background check policy, which would use an FBI system to provide real-time notification if any doctors are arrested or convicted of a crime.

"The Board has made significant progress, but recognizes that improvement is ongoing and is committed to continuing to improve its processes," Singh and Farrelly wrote.

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