Whitehaven OBGYN still in practice to lose license Nov. 30 for reported sex with patients

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners has ruled to revoke the license of a Whitehaven OBGYN at the end of November. But until then, WREG has learned he's still seeing patients.

The board recently held a hearing for Dr. Frederick Hodges, a physician at OBGYN Centers of Memphis over two days: March 8 and Sept. 25, 2017.

At the hearing, Hodges' attorneys, Frank Scanlon and Sam Helmbrecht and the state's attorney, Marc Guilford, agreed to a stipulation of facts that detailed the doctor's sexual involvement with patients and actions prescribing drugs to them without keeping notes in patient records.

“It’s double digits; 10 patients that had sexual relations with an OBGYN doctor,” said Dr. Michael Zanolli, a Nashville dermatologist who serves on the state Board of Medical Examiners, on the first day of the hearing.

Guilford argued Hodges kept up the behavior until he was caught. He said it started in the early 2000s and continued through 2013.

“There was a patient who came into your office for a patient appointment and then you ended up having sex with her," Guilford said during questioning. "Correct?”

“That’s correct," Hodges answered.

Lawyers said Hodges met one of these patients at a casino in Tunica in 2010. They called her “A.A.” in the case. They said Hodges started a sexual relationship with her and then brought her on as a patient at OBGYN Centers of Memphis, a clinic located in a professional office building near Methodist South Hospital.

Dr. Dwight Moore started the clinic in 1983 and still runs it. He testified at the first day of Hodges’ hearing in March.

“There were episodes when he was on call, the back-up person had to be called because he was unavailable," Moore said.

But Moore said he never knew about Hodges’ sexual encounters with patients.

Investigators also said Hodges prescribed "A.A." controlled substances, including the opioid hydrocodone.

“At some point did you come to believe A.A. was selling the drugs you were prescribing to her?” Guilford said.

“Yes I did," Hodges answered.

“Did you find it difficult to turn down her requests for prescriptions or money because she was your girlfriend?”

“Because I was in a sexual relationship with her, yes," Hodges said.

At one point, Hodges was giving $1,000 a month to the 26-year-old patient, Guilford said. Hodges admitted in testimony he also took some of the pills himself and did cocaine with her.

“I was just using bad judgment at the time," Hodges said.

Amy Campbell, director of the Institute of Health and Policy at the University of Memphis Law School, said that's why it’s unethical for doctors to engage in personal relationships with patients.

“There’s such a power dynamic between a physician and their patient, that you’re not supposed to have sexual relations with your patients," she said.

Hodges’ coworkers said the patient had an episode at his office on September 6, 2013. She was yelling that he gave her a sexually-transmitted disease.

Hodges' boss told him to take time off, so he checked in to an Atlanta treatment center at the end of 2013, stayed for about six months and committed to ongoing therapy.

“Dr. Hodges does not pose a significant safety threat to his patients or staff regarding his past sexual boundary crossings providing he is compliant with his maintenance treatment program,” said Sarah Gregg, a registered nurse at Atlanta Psychiatric Consultation Center.

Since then, Hodges has continued to see patients. WREG called his office to check and asked if it was possible to make an appointment with Dr. Hodges.

“Okay," the receptionist said. "And what are you coming in for?”

The receptionist offered to schedule an appointment. At that point, WREG reporter Stacy Jacobson identified herself and asked to speak with Dr. Hodges or the office manager.

She asked the office manager asked if patients knew the state board ruled to revoke Hodges’ medical license at the end of November. She said patients had not yet been notified, which constitutes another egregious violation of trust, according to Campbell.

“If you are a physician where patients are under sedation, in compromising situations with a robe on, these are things that would be material for a patient to know if they’d want to continue a relationship with you," she said.

Methodist Hospital has barred Hodges from being on-call since he came back from treatment in 2014.

But as of March, Hodges said he was still on-call at Baptist.

“Hodges pretty much takes care of all the Baptist calls himself," Moore said.

Even though the board has revoked Hodges' license to practice as of November 30, it ruled he could reapply for his license the next day. WREG is still waiting on the transcript from the second day of testimony in September to understand why board members made this decision. WREG submitted a public records request to the Tennessee Department of Health on November 6, but have not yet gotten a response.

WREG also asked state officials why it took three years to act on this case. They explained the state board only reacts to complaints, so they don't know of a case until someone tells them about it.

WREG also reached out to the three board members who heard Hodges' case but only heard back from one who said she had no comment.

Baptist Hospital has not responded to WREG's repeated inquiries about Hodges' standing with the hospital.

Hodges' lawyer never responded to an email request to set up an interview with his client.