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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dr. Chacko Goes Local

UPDATE: Please also check out my new book, The Definitive Dossier on PTSD in Whistleblowers, for only $3.99, in which I dedicate chapter four entirely to the exploits of Dr. Anna Chacko. 

The Pittsburgh Tribune Review just reported on matters I've been covering for the last three weeks with this story.

In an action he acknowledged was highly unusual, the chairman of a congressional subcommittee personally intervened to restore the job of a top physician in the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Health System.

Dr. Anna Chacko, head of the radiology department in the veterans health agency, went back to work after Rep. Brad Miller, D-Tenn., wrote a letter to VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. He said "there is something very wrong in the management of the VAPHS."

According to the May 15 letter, Chacko was placed on involuntary leave and barred from entering her Oakland office at the VA's University Drive site unless accompanied by a police escort.

The story goes on to recount a lot of the things I wrote in this piece. Dr. Anna Chacko became the head of radiology at the Pittsburgh VA in October of last year. Within weeks, people within the hospital, and especially within her department, began complaining about her. An investigative board was convened in March and in April the board recommended that she be removed. Dr. Chacko challenged the results and it was at this point that she reached out to Congressman Brad Miller of North Carolina. Congressman Miller had investigated the same Pittsburgh VA on a separate matter involving the willful destruction of a rare strand of legionella. In that investigation, Miller implicated a Dr. Mona Melham, a high ranking official in the Pittsburgh VA.

On May 15th, Congressman Miller sent a letter to the head of the VA system, General Eric Shinseki. In that letter, Congressman Miller defended Dr. Anna Chacko. In his estimation, Congressman Miller felt that Dr. Melham was targeting Dr. Chacko and that there were serious questions about management in the Pittsburgh VA. Most importantly, Congressman Miller felt that "an internal report that claimed the department's performance had "begun to suffer under Chacko's leadership" was unfounded." I would take serious issue with this characterization. According to sources I have spoken with inside the Pittsburgh VA, Dr. Chacko is described as a tyrant. She threatens legal resident aliens with calling immigration if they cross her, she refuses to do her clinical duties, lies systematically, and bullies her subordinates. Furthermore, her behavior is the subject of another suit by another colleague, Kristi George, at her previous employer St. James Hospital.

An employee at St. James Healthcare has filed a lawsuit against the hospital claiming the new director of radiology has been defaming her at work.

Kristi George alleges that Dr. Anna Chacko has been making false statements about her in an attempt to get her fired, according to documents filed in Butte district court.

One source at the Pittsburgh VA told me they reached out anonymously to Congressman Miller's office while all of this unfolded and gave the office a list of complaints about Dr. Chacko. The question then becomes just how much investigation Congressman Miller did before determining that it was unfounded that Dr. Chacko had created a poor working environment at the Pittsburgh VA. If you've been reading this series you know I have referred to Dr. Chacko as a Psychopath and I have laid out a case that she is a "disruptive physician". So, clearly, I would take issue with his characterization that it was unfounded that performance had suffered under her leadership. A call has been placed to his office and I am waiting for a return phone call. If and when there is a return call, I will follow up.

Frankly, it's not exactly clear what Congressman Miller's jurisdiction here is. He's a Congressman from North Carolina. In fact, he starts the letter by acknowledging that what he was doing was extraordinary. He chairs a sub committee, Health and Sciences, that has jurisidiction over the VA, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he has jurisdiction over hiring decisions at the Pittsburgh VA. Also, like with me, Dr. Chacko refused to speak with Mr. Roche citing lawyer's recommendations. That's ironic since she had no trouble being quoted for this article written about a year ago. Of course, that was largely positive towards her, though I'm sure that's merely a coincidence.

Finally, Congressman Miller's office never returned repeated messages when I tried to reach them and so it's only now weeks after I published my piece that the office even acknowledged playing a role in getting Dr. Chacko her job back. I will update as soon as calls to General Shinseki's office and Congressman Miller's office are returned.


Here's the definitive dossier of Dr. Chacko.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if Miller was just duped by Chacko and now proably feels embarrassed. Chacko was apparently very clever to find someone who already had a beef with the Pittsburgh VA.

mike volpe said...

That's possible and ultimately irrelevant. He now admits writing the letter and so he needs to answer for what I have discovered and what is all over the internet. He went to bat for her. He's not denying this. So, how much vetting did he do before he went to bat for her, furthermore, what is he doing to fix the problem? Is he investigating the situation? Is he doing anything to fix it?

Anonymous said...

Do you expect a congressman to say "yes, Mike, I did a sloppy job??"

mike volpe said...

I don't expect anything however all of this could be rectified if people owned up to mistakes and fixed them. Instead, it appears they are hiding from them.

Anonymous said...

Rashmikant (call me Bob) Shah is an odd character. Techs dreaded his non-stop talking because it was hard to get work done. His nuclear readings at Lahey were somewhat of a joke. Chacko's repeated hiring of Shah is proof enough of her administrative incompetence. A very good Lahey nuclear reader left Lahey as soon as Chacko/Shah arrived.
Chacko herself did so little radiology work that her interpretive skills could not be assessed

Anonymous said...

What's ludicrous about the Montana situation is how Chacko packaged it as the big city big campus radiologists coming to the rescue of the backward hinterlands. The reality is that the level of skill offered was probably way less than what was there already. St. James should be ashamed of itself for stabbing their own radiologists in the back in the search for financial profit.

Anonymous said...

Bob's (Rashmikant Shah) readings at the Pittbsurgh VA leave much to be desired. It is bringing down the department as a whole because clinicians lose respect for other radiologists and do not trust them to take care of their patients. Majority of the rads and clinicians think Bob is a joke. The clinicians often confer with other rads in the departemnt about Bob's readings!

Chacko overreads everything so its no wonder that she has to be right sometimes! Is she not worried about radiation exposure when she orders CT scan for almost every patient Xray that she reads? Remember when she claimed the VA was radiating patients with Thallium?

Anonymous said...

I would guess that Chacko's days at the VA are numbered. What is important now, if possible, is not to cave to her usual legal machinations. Hopefully these blogs and other notoriety will follow her wherever she goes, and maybe it will be harder for her to bring chaos to another venue.

Anonymous said...

I bet that, like an experienced chess player, the colonel and her lackeys are already planning ahead with valid passports and plenty of cash. It wouldn't surprise me if she and Rashmikant popped up in Canada the UK or India or better yet, some country without extradition. She is probably hosting a series of dinners at the G20!!

Anonymous said...

Mike, one small point that might surprise you and some readers is that the current 300K salary you quote for Chacko is actually rather low for a department head in the US at large. Chacko probably has taken a salary hit as she ran from one place to another.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what the VA is paying Bob? I hope for his sake it's not productivity based.

Anonymous said...

It is still 300K of tax payer money that she is pocketing to destroy a department, harm veterans and puts young physicians' lives and budding careers in jeopardy. She should be put away and I don't care whether in jail or in an assylum. This needs to be done IMMEDIATELY.

Anonymous said...

These things have a way of working out. It is always darkest before it goes pitch black.

Anonymous said...

I do not understand how Chacko keeps getting jobs. Even if there is a code of silence about her, because of her numerous law suits or threats of them, it should be obvious to anyone with more than 2 neurones that there is a major problem here when a physician of her vintage is moving around the country the way she does. It is not standard practice for an almost retired physician to change jobs more than twice max in the last few years, and she has been state hopping for a long time. There clearly is a problem which should have been obvious to all,, and she has needed to move on for some reason. Some-one did not do their home-work, and did not even read between the lines. In addition to Chacko being shown the door, the individual who hired her should follow her out. And after that, the congressman who stupidly supports her. ( I wonder what dirt she has raked up on him?)

Anonymous said...

Mike, I would like to thank you for all the work you have put into this. Somebody like Chacko needs to be put in her place, and I enjoy reading your posts and feel that you are doing many people a huge favor by exposing this psychopath. Keep doing what you are doing, and may justice prevail.

mike volpe said...

That second to last comment hits at the heart of the matter. The comment hits on a lot of issues and all those issues need to be explored. I believe that you are right. It is buyer beware. There should have been some red flags that clearly weren't explored. I do believe that in her twenty year military career Dr. Chacko developed several strong military alliances and that may explain how she received her job at the VA.

karim said...

A valuable post on leadership

Karim - Mind Power