The Medical Board of California is taking action against five San Diego doctors accused of putting patients at risk.
The Board files hundreds of accusations every year against California doctors, but this week it released an unusually long list of doctors it says are unfit to practice medicine.
Among the two dozen physicians listed in the Board’s latest "license alert" are three San Diego-area doctors accused of abusing alcohol or using illegal drugs.
Another local physician is accused of having a sex with a patient, and Medical Board investigators allege that the fifth doctor committed gross negligence in her surgical treatment of a female patient at risk for cancer of her reproductive organs.
Plastic surgeon Jason Hess, who has an office in Hillcrest, could have his license revoked or suspended for alleged problems with alcohol.
The Medical Board’s accusation refers to a DUI citation Hess received last June at an East Village DUI check point.
Investigators also say Hess has two prior DUI arrests, one 2008 and the other in either 1997 or 1998.
"Substance abuse among physicians is a very, very serious problem,” said Julie Fellmeth, a professor of public interest law at the University of San Diego. “It poses a significant risk of harm to patients."
Pediatrician Bret Gerber, who is associated with Scripps Health, was placed on administrative leave last year by his employer after police caught him with ecstasy and other illegal drugs near the annual “Burning Man” festival.
The medical board now claims that Gerber recently "acknowledged... a history of recreational drug use" and admitted he could "get in a lot of trouble" for using illegal narcotics, even during his personal time.
Those comments and the “Burning Man” arrest have now prompted the Board to publically state that Gerber is unfit to practice medicine and should have his license revoked or suspended.
Dr. Samuel Gerson of La Jolla has been on probation since last year for alcohol and drug offenses.
But the board has now ordered him to close down his medical practice and stop seeing patients after he failed two alcohol tests and admitted he'd been drinking in March of this year.
"He was given a second chance by the Medical Board,” said Fellmeth. “And he blew that second chance, and now they're doing what they should do, which is move to revoke his license."
Fellmeth said the Medical Board did the right thing several years ago when it stopped allowing doctors to enter confidential drug and alcohol treatment programs without telling the public about the details of their alleged offenses.
“I'd rather see the medical board take public disciplinary action, which patients can learn of from the medical board's website," Fellmeth added.
Dr. Gerson's lawyer did not respond to our request for comment, and Dr. Hess's assistant, who said he would forward our request for information to the doctor, did not follow-up with any comment.
Dr. Gerber's office referred us to Scripps Health, which sent us the following statement:
“Scripps Coastal Medical Group considers patient safety our highest priority. Because of the ongoing legal matters involving Dr. Gerber, we are unable to provide additional information at this time.”
A fourth San Diego doctor, who is a psychiatrist, is accused of sexual misconduct, a transgression that Fellmeth said is “the mortal sin for therapists.”
The Medical Board says Dr. Daniel Anderson, who has an office at the County of San Diego’s Psychiatric Hospital on Rosecrans Street, had a sex with a patient in his office, in their cars and in hotel rooms.
According to the six-page accusation filed April 22, that patient, identified as “V.C.”, claims she and Dr. Anderson smoked marijuana together and that Anderson sent her "very intimate email and pictures" of himself.
Fellmeth said the doctor/patient relationship must be strictly professional.
"It should not become social, it should not become business, and God forbid, it should not become sexual,” Fellmeth said.
When interviewed by an Medical Board investigator, Anderson denied he had sex with that patient and claimed he never sent her any nude photos.
He did not return NBC 7’s calls for comment.
Dr. Helen Chang, who has an office on Pomerado Road, is the fifth local doctor recently cited by the Medical Board.
Chang is accused of gross negligence in the surgical treatment of a female patient at risk for cancer.
Dr. Chang did not respond to our request for comment about that accusation.