Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D., Reprimanded
by Medical Board of California
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
In March 2017, the Medical Board of California charged Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D., with unprofessional conduct in her management of two patients. The complaint (shown below) indicates that in both cases, she failed to properly investigate symptoms that could have been due to cancers. In one case, the patient had bleeding due to uterine cancer but did not get diagnosed until she left Connealy's care and consulted another doctor. In the other case, Connealy a woman was given several prescriptions for estrogen even though she had a breast lump that remained undiagnosed for more than three months. The case was settled by a consent agreement under which she was reprimanded for poor recordkeeping and ordered to take a recordkeeping course.
Connealy founded and is medical director of the Center for New Medicine and a subsidiary called the Cancer Center for Healing in Irvine, California. The cancer center Web sites states that its focus is to "treat the while person—to look for the root cause of their cancer" and to "incorporate the best alternative and integrative therapies with proven conventional cancer treatments," including hyperbaric oxygen, intravenous vitamin C, and "advanced medical technology usually only found in major hospitals and universities." The site also claims that its "integrative cancer treatment is unique" and that Connealy is "one of the country's leading integrative physicians." Her CV and licensing records indicate that she had two years of postgraduate residency training in family practice but no specialty training in cancer treatment.
Attorney General of California
E. A. JONES III
Supervising Deputy Attorney General
BENETH A. BROWNE
Deputy Attorney General
State Bar No. 202679
California Department of Justice
300 So. Spring Street, Suite 1702
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Telephone: (213) 897-7816
Facsimile: (213) 897-9395
Attorneys for Complainant
BEFORE THE MEDICAL BOARD OF CALIFORNIA
DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS
STATE OF CALIFORNIA
In the Matter of the Accusation Against:
LEIGH E. CONNEALY, M.D.
Physician's and Surgeon's Certificate
Case No. 800-2014-P09657
1. Kimberly Kirchmeyer (Complainant) brings this Accusation solely in her official capacity as the Executive Director of the Medical Board of California, Department of Consumer Affairs (Board).
2. On or about June 16, 1986, the Medical Board issued Physician's and Surgeon's Certificate Number G 57433 to Leigh E. Connealy, M.D. (Respondent). The Physician's and Surgeon's Certificate was in full force and effect at all times relevant to the charges brought herein and will expire on July 31, 2017, unless renewed.
3. This Accusation is brought before the Board, under the authority of the following laws. All section references are to the Business and Professions Code unless otherwise indicated.
4. Section 2229, subdivision (a), of the Code states:
"Protection of the public shall be the highest priority for the Division of Medical Quality. the California Board of Podiatric Medicine, and administrative law judges of the Medical Quality Hearing Panel in exercising their disciplinary authority."
1Pursuant to Business and Professions Code section 2002, the "Division of Medical Quality" or "Division" shall be deemed to refer to the Medical Board of California.
5. Section 2004 of the Code states:
"The board shall have the responsibility for the following:
"(a) The enforcement of the disciplinary and criminal provisions of the Medical Practice Act.
"(b) The administration and hearing of disciplinary actions.
" c) Carrying out disciplinary actions appropriate to findings made by a panel or an administrative law judge.
"(d) Suspending, revoking, or otherwise limiting certificates after the conclusion of disciplinary actions.
"(e) Reviewing the quality of medical practice carried out by physician and surgeon certificate holders under the jurisdiction of the board.
6. Section 2227 of the Code provides that a licensee who is found guilty under the Medical Practice Act may have his or her license revoked, suspended for a period not to exceed one year, placed on probation and required to pay the costs of probation monitoring, or such other action taken in relation to discipline as the Board deems proper.
7. Section 2234 of the Code, states:
"The board shall take action against any licensee who is charged with unprofessional conduct. In addition to other provisions of this article, unprofessional conduct includes, but is not limited to, the following:
"(a) Violating or attempting to violate, directly or indirectly, assisting in or abetting the violation of, or conspiring to violate any provision of this chapter.
"(b) Gross negligence.
"(c) Repeated negligent acts. To be repeated, there must be two or more negligent acts or omissions. An initial negligent act or omission followed by a separate and distinct departure from the applicable standard of care shall constitute repeated negligent acts.
"(1) An initial negligent diagnosis followed by an act or omission medically appropriate for that negligent diagnosis of the patient shall constitute a single negligent act.
"(2) When the standard of care requires a change in the diagnosis, act, or omission that constitutes the negligent act described in paragraph (1), including, but not limited to, a reevaluation of the diagnosis or a change in treatment, and the licensee's conduct departs from the applicable standard of care, each departure constitutes a separate and distinct breach of the standard of care.
"(e) The commission of any act involving dishonesty or corruption which is substantially
related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a physician and surgeon.
"(f) Any action or conduct which would have warranted the denial of a certificate.
" " .
"(h) The repeated failure by a certificate holder, in the absence of good cause, to attend and participate in an interview by the board. This subdivision shall only apply to a certificate holder who is the subject of an investigation by the board."
8. Section 2266 of the Code states: "The failure of a physician and surgeon to maintain adequate and accurate records relating to the provision of services to their patients constitutes unprofessional conduct."
FIRST CAUSE FOR DISCIPLINE
(Repeated Negligent Acts)
9. Respondent Leigh E. Connealy, M.D. is subject to disciplinary action under section 2234, subdivision (c), of the Code in that she engaged in repeated negligent acts in the care and treatment of two patients. The circumstances are as follows:
10. On or about June 6, 2012, patient A.H.,2 a 68-year-old woman, supplied the Center for New Medicine (CNM), Respondent's medical practice, with a patient medical history to become a new patient. She reported no gynecological or genitourinary symptoms or illnesses.
2Initials are used to protect the privacy of the individuals.
11. On or about June 21, 2012, patient A.H. presented to the CNM for a comprehensive evaluation. In the medical record, the chief complaint is listed as "new patient consult." There are no gynecologic and genitourinary symptoms, illnesses or physical findings noted in the patient's medical records.
12. On or about August 22, 2012, patient A.H. returned for a second visit. Medical records indicate "Follow-up - results of expanded panel. . . ." There are no gynecologic and genitourinary symptoms, illnesses or physical findings noted in the patient's medical records.
13. On or about October 16, 2012, patient A.H. presented at CNM. The chief complaint was recorded as "Annual Pap." There are no gynecologic and genitourinary symptoms, illnesses or physical findings noted. The physical exam documents "Vulva, BUS,3 Introitus, Vagina, cervix, uterus, adnexa, rectal NML. "4 The Annual Pap is performed. The signature on the note is Respondent's nurse practitioner. A urinalysis on October 16 is negative for blood.
3"BUS" references the urethra.
4Presumably, "NML" is used as an abbreviation for "normal."
14. On October 17, 2012, the result of the Pap smear is, "negative for intraepithelial lesion or malignancy" but it does reveal atrophic vaginitis.
15. On or about November 6, 2012, patient A.H. returned to CNM for a fourth time. The appointment was with Respondent. Respondent documented physical findings as "Pap good." Respondent noted no additional gynecologic symptoms, illnesses or physical findings beyond "Pap good."
16. On or about January 8, 2013, patient A.H. returned to CNM for a fifth visit. The appointment was with Respondent. Patient A.H. showed Respondent pictures from her cell phone showing blood she had observed in the toilet after urinating on January 5, three days earlier. Respondent counseled patient A.H. to "keep an eye on it" and to let her know if it happens again. Respondent wrote the chief complaint as, "Follow up Bone Density results 5 months ago ... " Respondent's review of symptoms stated, "One week ago c/o blood while urinating (from vagina). It is gone now. Pt advised to come in and get evaluated." Respondent documented no further gynecologic and genitourinary symptoms.
17. On or about March 27, 2013, patient A.H. returned to CNM for a follow up. Patient A.H. again mentioned the blood in her urine to Respondent. Respondent documented the visit as a follow up but did not document any gynecologic and genitourinary symptoms, illnesses or physical findings in the progress note.
18. On or about May 2, 2013, patient A.H. returned to CNM and was seen by nurse practitioner L.L. Patient A.H. again complained of vaginal bleeding and brought in pictures. The nurse practitioner performed a pelvic examination. Later the same day, patient A.H. returned and a pelvic ultrasound was performed.
19. On or about May 21, 2013, a urinalysis lab test for patient A.H. was negative for blood.
20. On or about May 24, 2013, patient A.H. returned for a visit and saw nurse practitioner L.L., who documented the chief complaint as, "history of DUB5 —> no more bleeding. . ." The impression is also documented as "history of DUB. . ." The plan is documented as "needs follow up in 2 weeks." The records for the visit contain no further documentation regarding any gynecologic and genitourinary symptoms, illness or physical findings.,
5"DUB" is an acronym for "dysfunctional uterine bleeding."
21. On or about June 7, 2013, patient A.H. returned for a visit and saw nurse practitioner L.L. A pelvic ultrasound was performed. The report from the pelvic ultrasound found that "the endometrial strip measures 4.4 mm." It further states, "IMPRESSION: 1. The uterus is diffusely heterogeneous, perhaps due to several small fibroids. ·2. The endometrium is normal. . ." Patient A.H.' s medical records contained two copies of the pelvic ultrasound. One has a handwritten notation, "Dr. C 9/3/13." The other is stamped June 18, 2013 and it includes a handwritten notation indicating that patient A.H. has an appointment scheduled for June 21, 2013 22. On or about June 21, 2013, patient A.H. returned for a visit and saw nurse practitioner L.L. Patient A.H. complained of "hair thinning." There is no documentation of gynecologic and genitourinary symptoms, illnesses or physical findings noted in the patient's medical records.
23. On or about June 24, 2013, patient A.H. returned for a visit with Respondent. She complained again about blood appearing in the toilet when she urinated and she showed Respondent pictures on her cell phone that she had taken of the blood in the toilet. Respondent documented chief complaints as follow up on lab results and results of the pelvic ultrasound. Respondent wrote in the medical record "Pelvic UTZ small fibroids endometrium 4.4." Respondent documented an impression and plan which included no notations regarding gynecologic and, genitourinary symptoms, illnesses or physical findings.
24. On or about August 5, 2013, patient A.H. returned for her final visit at CNM and witl Respondent. Respondent wrote in the medical records that the visit was for "follow-up lab result: and hair loss." The medical records contain no documentation regarding gynecologic and genitourinary symptoms, illness or physical findings.
25. On August 27, 2013, patient A.H. went to a different medical clinic and saw a different doctor regarding the bleeding she had been having over several months. She told the doctor that the ultrasound she had recently received had shown normal endometrial thickness. The new doctor performed an endometrial biopsy which showed endometrial adenocarcinoma. A new ultrasound showed thickened lining suggestive of malignancy.
26. On or about September 13, 2013, patient A.H. underwent a vaginal hysterectomy, bilateral salpingo-oopherectomy and staging procedure. Subsequently, she received chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
27. Respondent was negligent in her care and treatment of patient A.H. when she failed to quickly investigate post-menopausal bleeding in order to exclude endometrial cancer or to initiate treatment for it as soon as possible. She failed to perform an early endometrial biopsy with pelvic ultrasound and/or refer her to a gynecologist.
28. On or about October 18, 2010, patient L.S. had her first of three appointments with Respondent. Respondent documented eight medical problems and a plan to address the problems.
29. On or about November 1, 2010, patient L.S. had her second appointment with Respondent. Respondent documented the chief complaint as a follow up of lab results, hormones and right breast lump. Under physical exam, Respondent documented, "Right breast pea-sized lump." Respondent documented her impression as "menopause, elevated progesterone and breast lump." Respondent documented the plan as "mammogram+ ultrasound Rx immediately." Respondent documented the diagnosis as "right breast lump."
30. On or about November 29, 2010, patient L.S. had her final appointment at CNM. She received a thermography follow-up. Respondent documented that the thermography was abnormal in the right breast.
31. Several months later, on or about March 24, 2011, patient L.S . received a refill of estrogen x3 through a nurse with initials "NC" in Respondent's office. Respondent's office protocol at CNM permitted a nurse to provide a refill to Respondent's patient if the patient had been seen within six months.
32. Respondent was negligent in her care and treatment of patient L.S. in that she provided multiple refills of estrogen to a post-menopausal patient whose breast mass remained undiagnosed after over three months.
SECOND CAUSE FOR DISCIPLINE
33. Respondent Leigh E. Connealy, M.D. is subject to disciplinary action under section 2266 of the Code in that she failed to maintain adequate and accurate records of the medical services she provided to two patients. The circumstances are as follows:
34. The facts and circumstances alleged in paragraphs 10 through 26 and 28 through 31 above are incomorated here as if fullv set forth.
THIRD CAUSE FOR DISCIPLINE
35. Respondent Leigh E. Connealy, M.D. is subject to disciplinary action under section 2234 of the Code in that she engaged in unprofessional conduct. The circumstances are as follows:
36. The facts and circumstances alleged in paragraphs 10 through 34 above are incorporated here as if fully set forth.
WHEREFORE, Complainant requests that a hearing be held on the matters herein alleged, and that following the hearing, the Medical Board of California issue a decision:
1. Revoking or suspending Physician's and Surgeon's Certificate Number G 57433, issued to Leigh E. Connealy, M.D.;
2. Revoking, suspending or denying approval of Leigh E. Connealy, M.D.'s authority to supervise physician assistants, pursuant to section 3527 of the Code;
3. Ordering Leigh E. Connealy, M.D., if placed on probation, to pay the Board the costs of probation monitoring; and
4. Taking such other and further action as deemed necessary and proper.
DATED: March 13, 2017
Medical Board of California
Department of Consumer Affairs
State of California
This page was posted on August 29, 2018.