The man appointed in place of a former East Tennessee State University College of Medicine professor accused of showing favoritism in the school’s internal medicine residency program has stepped down from his post, according to the school.
Dr. Gene LeSage assumed the duties of Dr. Hetal Brahmbhatt, who was an assistant professor at the medical school and who had served as director of the school’s internal medicine residency program until being suspended from administrative duties this past June.
LeSage sent a memo to Medical Dean Philip Bagnell on Wednesday requesting to step down as chairman of the department of internal medicine, a post he had held since 2008, according to the school. As chairman, he was Brahmbhatt’s supervisor. When he stepped down, he was no longer performing the residency director’s job.
Dr. J. Kelly Smith, who was chairman of internal medicine several years ago, was appointed interim department chairman and interim program director of the internal medicine residency program.
No reason was given for LeSage’s decision to step down. According to ETSU, LeSage is a gastroenterologist and is still a faculty member at College of Medicine. He will continue seeing patients and will also be involved in research.
Brahmbhatt had been accused in early June via several anonymous complaints to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education of favoring residents of Indian descent, meeting with a select group of residents to discuss the program and other residents and being discriminatory in duty assignments and the distribution of rotations and work load among residents.
He was suspended shortly after that from administrative duties. He continued to teach and see patients.
Brahmbhatt resigned from ETSU in August.
The investigation into the allegations against him was assumed by the Tennessee Board of Regents, the governing body for ETSU. According to the TBR, its office of internal audit is working with ETSU internal auditors on the investigation. Further information will not be available until the investigation is complete, the TBR said in an email.
LeSage’s request to step down from his position as chairman and Bagnell’s email informing the college of LeSage’s decision were obtained by the Johnson City Press via a Freedom of Information Act request.
According to the school, a national search for a new chairman and a new program director will begin soon. According to Bagnell’s email, Dr. Ken Olive will be in charge of the search committee.
Wilsie Bishop, vice president for health affairs and chief financial officer for ETSU, said the investigation into the allegations made this summer about the medical school’s internal residency program should not endanger the college’s accreditation.
“Our college is actually in really good shape,” Bishop said, adding she has been through many accreditation visits over the years and thought there would be no issues regarding reaccreditation.
Reaccreditation should occur for the medical school in 2012.
Bishop said that it is a good sign that the school acted appropriately when confronted with the allegations.
“So I feel like the actions that have been taken in the long run will strengthen the college,” she said.