Baltimore County

Towson doctor suspended on misconduct charges

The state board that oversees Maryland doctors has suspended the license of Miguel Frontera, a Towson psychiatrist, for alleged improper conduct with five boys he was treating for behavioral issues between 2000 and 2009.

The doctor has not been charged criminally, but for now he cannot see patients. He faces a hearing Nov. 18 and can appeal the suspension.

Allegations from each of the boys, ages 10 to 12 at the time they were patients, were similar and all involved improper conduct during physical exams in his office that the doctor himself called "not, you know, necessary" and "very out of the mainstream of psychiatry," according to the suspension order issued by the Maryland Board of Physicians.

The public order says the investigation began after Baltimore County police turned over two reports in April. One report was filed in 2006 by a county high school crisis interventionist who said a boy she counseled told her he was repeatedly "molested" during treatment visits when he was 11 or 12. Earlier this year, the parents of another boy reported to police possible sexual abuse that they said occurred in 2003 when their son was 10.

The board launched an investigation into these cases, along with a separate case with similar facts that the board had closed against the doctor in 2006. Investigators also spoke to two other randomly selected boys that the doctor had physically examined during office visits. The boys were primarily being evaluated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the order says.

According to the order, the board investigation found that in four of the five cases, the doctor asked his patients to disrobe in front of him and put on a hospital gown. The order says the boys interviewed by police said Frontera then "performed physical examinations on them on a couch in the office," touching their genital areas.

Through an assistant in his office, Frontera referred questions to his attorney, who did not return phone calls.

Bill Toohey, a police spokesman, said police could confirm receiving only one complaint regarding a boy who believed he was inappropriately examined. He said police investigated in March and April, but in consultation with the county state's attorney's office determined that the allegation did not rise to the level of criminal activity. It was forwarded to the physicians board.

Jason League, chief of the child abuse-sex offense division of the Baltimore County state's attorney's office, said he didn't know why criminal charges weren't filed based on the March 2009 police report.

Referring to sexual abuse or molestation allegations, League said that "there are a whole lot of variables that go into these determinations" and prosecutors have to prove "intent of obtaining some kind of sexual gratification" by the perpetrator.

The physicians board is a panel of 21 people, including doctors, a physician's assistant and consumer representatives. It oversees the licenses of all doctors in the state.

It referred the cases to a psychiatrist, who determined Frontera had "engaged in unprofessional conduct in the practice of medicine, immoral conduct in the practice of medicine, sexual improprieties and sexual misconduct with patients." The reviewer also found that Frontera had "failed to meet appropriate standards for the delivery of quality medical care."

According to the order, the board also referred the cases to the Maryland Psychiatric Society, which evaluated the five cases and another five cases and found Frontera "failed to meet appropriate standards for the delivery of quality medical care and failed to keep adequate medical records."

John T. Papavasiliou, deputy director of the board of physicians, said Frontera will have an opportunity to provide the board with more information at the Nov. 18 hearing. The board could reinstate his license, continue the suspension or permanently revoke the license.

Frontera has had a medical license in Maryland since 1988. A Web site that bears his name, which has a 2009 date, says he practiced general and child and adolescent psychiatry, specializing in neuropsychiatry.

A spokeswoman for Sinai Hospital, Jill Bloom, says Frontera became an employee of the hospital when Sinai bought a large practice where he worked on Aug. 1. Bloom said the doctor did not disclose the investigation; the physicians board's order noted that an application for clinical privileges asked whether Frontera had been under investigation for sexual misconduct or child abuse, and the doctor had answered no.

"He remains an employee, but he can't practice," Bloom said.