Shooting Deaths Averted at UNC Chapel Hill in 2015. Speaking Up and Retaliation.
In this blog, omitting the names of some individuals is deliberate to protect them from notoriety they do not deserve; similarly some names are mentioned so that investigative reporters can verify the claims. I do not mention the names of all the different characters who were conspirators or accomplices in the cover-up, although I know who they are, which includes UNC judges. I do not want to put them at personal risk, which is more consideration any of them have shown me, and more importantly the victims I report on. Also it is important to mention that most faculty at UNC School of Medicine and more broadly the university system are highly competent and have integrity.
In late 2014 it was brought to my urgent attention by Bob Dixon, MD, program director of the Radiology training program, in my capacity as vice Chair of Quality and Safety in the Dept of Radiology, UNC Chapel Hill that a person had threatened all the Radiology residents (radiologists-in-training). As my background, I was/am the pioneer and major author of modern Abdominal MRI, pioneer of modern clinical MRI lung imaging, the major peer-reviewed author on the broad subject of safety in Radiology, and initial physician to describe and leading author on Gadolinium Deposition Disease, My publishing expertize is clinical observational research. I am not a 17 year old reporting on another 17 year old posting a photo of himself with a gun on social media. I had been aware and observed the person of concern for 23 years, who I, and most faculty, were well aware checked off most of the boxes for a mass murderer, including a huge gun collection. Suddenly this individual showed extreme emotional lability and then threatened the residents. I had a crisis of conscience,. This situation was ignored by the chairman of Radiology for many years. Do I say nothing and turn to hopes and prayers this mass killing does not happen, or do I "see something, say something, do something"? Although knowing that despite my status at a tenured full professor for 18 years, and 5 years earlier as a tenured associate professor, it was clear to me that risk to the lives of 24 young doctors and likely additional individuals in the firing field, even if the risk small, was of greater importance than any career or violent risk I would be subject to. What would you want a doctor to do in my situation?
Bob Dixon followed up about 1 month later, after his initial alerting about the one individual who posed a death risk to resident lives, about a separate individual, Paul Jaques, MD, who had been allowed to operate drunk on patients in the Interventional Radiology section for many years. He also told me he had reported this to the same above mentioned chair of Radiology, Matthew Mauro, MD, who did nothing.
I saw something, said something, did something
This began with me reporting the risk to the School of Medicine's (SOM) dean's office, because the behavior was ignored by the department of Radiology for decades. Predictably the SOM did an intentionally -incompetent investigation Into the individuals (see similar in JB Stewart's Blind Eye). I then was ethically driven to report to the Chancellor's office. In the end, again predictably, I was fired on a shameful, false and trivial charge (details will be brought out in future blogs). At some point I will release my letter that I sent to Chancellor Folt, and the response from Provost Dean.
I spoke truth to power
So as one of the most accomplished faculty at UNC Chapel Hill, no HR complaints against me, and with a long career at this university, I was fired in disgrace over a trivial and phony, drummed up charge.
There was no mass shooting deaths at UNC Chapel Hill Dept Radiology in 2015, in part from my efforts. Neither the chair of Radiology, the Deans of the School of Medicine or the Chancellor's office did anything. The major credit for the defusing of this lethal situation went to another vice Chair of Radiology, who will also remain nameless here since he desperately would like to avoid notoriety, who deftly and gently eased the potential perpetrator out of the UNC system.
At the time there was effort by some faculty in Radiology to get carried concealed weapons allowed on the UNC campus, I do not know if they were successful, but this does make me have concern about the current actual shooting death at UNC Chapel Hill.
I was fired in disgrace. Not surprisingly many of the .coven of conspirators to cover up the misconducts have experienced career advancement. This seems a counterintuitive occurrence and yet this is the most common outcome, as also reported in police misconduct (bad apples get promoted, good apples get demoted or fired), virtually all other professions, and recently reported with the Coast Guard training program misconducts. I will also address this in future blogs. In short people who engage in serious misconduct are often equally accomplished con people in other aspects: effective sycophants, effective cronies with senior administration, etc. A potent brew of self-serving despicable behavior creating a web of corruption.
I reported on a risk of gun-caused mass killing, and the separate situation that had occurred of the worst medical misconduct in modern US history. Why have I waited 8 years before going public?Two reasons: 1. I trusted (it turns out erroneously) the North Carolina legal system to see what is clearly apparent as the worst medical misconduct/ cover-up/ retaliation trifecta reported in modern US history (worst because of the severity of the ground floor misconduct, and the multiple levels of contemporaneous and post hoc cover-up). It has taken 6.5 years in the North Carolina legal system, and this long to get the ruling from the Court of Appeals (COA), stunningly, their ruling: that there was no retaliation either by the institution or by the named individuals. 2/3 judges, including the senior judge were UNC judges. I had not realized the extent of extreme-partisanship rulings by UNC judges in North Carolina. Essentially all the judges ruling in my case were UNC judges, I had thought they would show just ruling in a case that could not be more obvious, I was wrong. Extreme partisanship and loyalty to an individual or organization trumps truth. Now my case is before the Supreme Court of North Carolina, but 4/8 members are UNC judges... So I have little expectation of a fair ruling, unless they feel they are under public scrutiny, then maybe truth and actual justice has a chance. My question to all these UNC judges: do any of you have concern about what happened to the victims of Paul Jaques? Or is it just protect UNC at all costs, truth, justice and the public's lives be damned. 2. I did not want to conflate the work I was doing to provide knowledge about diagnosis and treatment on the subject of Gadolinium Deposition Disease (GDD), with the messy UNC story of speaking up about the worst medical misconduct in modern US history, and being retaliated against. I did not want to look like I had gone Giuliani.
So in early 2015 I reported about the risk of gun-related mass-killing at UNC. In the spring of 2015 there was a mass killing of students at UNC off campus. In 2023 tragically it has come to fruition a shooting death on the UNC Chapel Hill campus of a faculty member. I grieve this death. This is exactly why I risked my career, lost my university career, and have paid over $400,000 in legal expenses, to prevent this type of event from happening.
Somehow I feel I have to apologize to sufferers of GDD, that I also happen to be central to another controversial patient safety and faculty safety issue at UNC, that may dilute their message. But I do feel I have nurtured and developed knowledge about GDD enough to the point that it has a life of its own beyond me. I now have to focus on my other major cause: protecting patients from being mistreated, using the UNC account of a drunk doctor operating on patients, risk of gun violence, and hostile treatment of women in medicine. You had to think that someone brave enough to stand up to Radiology and Pharmaceutical Industry, was brave enough to speak up about other injustices in health care. Even the Batman was not only interested in preventing jewelry robbery, but was also very keen about protecting people from criminal masterminds.
Why did no one report worrisome behavior of the UNC student involved? In a posted photo of him in a group with other students and faculty, he clearly looks disturbed. Oh I know why, because 8 years ago a senior faculty member at UNC was fired for speaking up about a similar situation. This sidelined everyone else at UNC from having the courage to speak up about worrisome behavior: if someone with my stature can be fired, anyone can be fired. Well played UNC.
No one, it appears, had the courage to speak up about gross misconduct at USC, UCLA, Columbia, Michigan State, U of Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, and many, probably most, universities for their reported experiences with patient misconduct, and misconduct against women and children. I did and I was fired... My account is the reason that individuals in all professions, from medicine, sports, law, military, government, media, intuitively know that as nonvictim whistle blowers if they speak up, what will happen is they will get fired. Right now they were right. Unfortunately they were right to not speak up, which sadly answers Aly Raisman's question: 'why did no one speak up?' Who is prepared to be fired on a phony charge, and spend $400,000 in legal expenses in a failing attempt to try to achieve clear and obvious justice through a fraught legal system? As it stands now, no one.... except me. The sole living Tasmanian tiger. But some day soon I will be extinct.
The tables have to be turned on administrators who cover-up and retaliate against individuals who have the courage to speak up to protect other people, if there is going to be change. Do not misunderstand the nature of my account as an old white man airing personal grievances, 75% of the public are exhausted by this type of story. This is the account of a senior faculty non victim whistleblower with the courage to speak up against drunk doctors, abuse of women and junior doctors, abuse of patients, and threat of gun violence on university campus. I wish my efforts could have prevented this current death.
I am now prepared to speak to the national news to shed light on what in my opinion may be among the most important topics: dangerous mistreatment of individuals in the health care system, with targeted emphasis on holding administration accountable. Circumstances have to change to encourage people to speak up. I hope my account will be like the Spanish kiss felt all over the world.
Richard Semelka, MD.