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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Why Everyone Should Care About Dr. Anna Chacko

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. 

My second job out of college was with H.J. Meyers. Don't bother looking it up because it no longer exists. If anyone has ever seen the movie Boiler Room, it wasn't exactly that firm but it was close enough. While all the companies we sold did exist they were mostly the junk no one else wanted. There I met a legendary Chicago stock broker named Wil Rondini. Rondini was equal parts legendary, infamous, and genius. He's one of the greatest salespeople to ever live. He was also certifiable. By the time I'd met him, he'd been in the business fifteen years. He'd made millions many times over and he'd lost them. He'd once worked at Lehman Brothers but was now relegated to working in this pseudo chop shop because he'd become too big a hassle for most firms.

Wil rarely closed anyone all that long. It's as though he had an instinct and could tell. Yet, on one occasion, he kept closing this potential investor. The rule of thumb was you give someone ten closes and that's enough. Wil had long passed that. He was at thirteen or fourteen before he finally closed the guy. He got off the phone, rubbed his forehead and said, "that was close, I already bought him that stock". Things got so bad at H.J. Meyers that eventually our compliance officer had to call each and every person after Wil brought in a buy or sell ticket to confirm the trade. Among investment professionals, there's something called a U 4. It's essentially a detailed history of your investment career. Wil's U 4 was 72 pages, so I heard, by the time I met him. That's because over the years there were so many complaints from clients and colleagues that it got that long.

As such, Wil's job opportunities shrank and shrank. This U 4 essentially told the investment world just how much of a sociopath he was. I was thinking about Wil when trying to put into perspective the exploits of Dr. Anna Chacko. As brilliant and pathological as Wil was, he couldn't have dreamed up one tenth of the things that Dr. Chacko has. Furthermore, Wil always made money for himself and his firm. Eventually, he became such a problem that the money wasn't worth it. Dr. Chacko doesn't even do that. Instead, she comes into a hospital and simply causes damage. As I've said several times before, she came to St. James Hospital in Butte, Mt. There were four lawsuits. She took the radiology department from being seven figures in the black to deep in red and she left fourteen months later and took the other radiologists in the department with her.

That's the sort of damage that Dr. Chacko creates and she's been doing it for more than two decades. When Wil would switch jobs, his new employer would receive his U 4 and know exactly who they were getting into bed with. Wil was a stock broker for heaven's sake. It's rare to find a less respected profession. Yet, the system that governed Wil appears to have been much more strict in documenting his exploits than our health care system did in documenting Dr. Chacko's exploits.

We'd all think that it's impossible for someone to terrorize the medical field for two decades and continue to simply get away with it but Dr. Chacko has done it. We'd all think that medical boards, medical societies, and other medical governing bodies would have been accumulating her misdeeds all these years and warn future employers like the U4 did to Wil. Yet, they didn't.

Dr. Chacko has nothing to explain to any employer the way that Wil would have to explain his U4. That's a problem and in fact it's a huge problem. That's because Dr. Anna Chacko is a Psychopath. Someone isn't a Psychopath sometimes or once in a while. They are always a Psychopath. So, I've tracked her at several hospitals, the Pittsburgh VA, Lahey Clinic and St. James. You can bet, however, that similar stories exist at all her past employers. Those include the United States military where she served for 20 years. Somehow, Dr. Chacko managed to never have to worry about anything on the equivalent of a U4.

That's a massive problem. If a Psychopath can manipulate our medical system so that they can continue to abuse the system, get away with it and never face any serious consequence then our system has real problems. We need to then fix all the areas she exploited. We can only do that if the matter is fully investigated. The key question I have asked since I begin to follow this story is how did she get away with so much. I've only partially answered that question and that's because I only have part of her story. There's a twenty year military career that I know little about. She's spent time in Texas, Hawaii, San Francisco, Colorado, the University of Rochester, and at Boston University Medical Center and I don't know what happened there yet. I know that it followed the same pattern at all the places I have a good grasp of.

Dr. Chacko took advantage of our legal system to sue anyone that ever got in her way. She also made sure to lock up agreements of silence with each prior employer so that they couldn't then tell future employers exactly what happened. She took advantage of our politically correct society. Whenever she could, she would pull out both the race and gender card and accuse others of racism and sexism. Such accusations would cause others to back off. Our medical system was designed as such so that each and every hospital was more encouraged to settle with her, keep her quiet, rather than deal with her so that she never did it again. Worse yet, Dr. Chacko used clout, the clout of politicians and other powerful people, to get things no one else could get. As such, no matter who got in her way, she always had more powerful friends to take care of them. All of this is a huge problem.

If Dr. Chacko can exploit our medical system for nothing but evil, anyone can. Make no mistake, that's exactly what she's done. A Psychopath knows nothing but evil. The medical system was her accomplice in this evil for more than two decades.

I reported yesterday that as of Friday she was on "indefinite administrative leave". Let me put the last two and a half years of Dr. Chacko's employment history into perspective so that everyone knows just how critical it is to know her entire work history. She arrived in Butte, Mt. in July of 2007. She spent fourteen months there. She created such chaos that no less than four lawsuits occurred as a result of her behavior. She ran the radiology department into the ground and turned it from deep black to deep red, and when she left, she took the other radiologists with her. Then, she arrived at the Pittsburgh VA. Almost immediately, complaints were filed against her. Then, in March, the hospital held an investigative board. That board recommended that Dr. Chacko be removed. Dr. Chacko was able to reach out to Congressman Brad Miller and he reached out to General Eric Shinseki. Then, word came down from Shinseki's office to keep her in her place. She returned to work on August 1st. She behaved even worse following her return. In part that's because her ability to overcome the VA's attempt to fire her made her more intimidating not only to staff but even her own bosses. Then, following several of my stories and a story from the Pittsburgh Tribune, she was two days ago again put on indefinite administrative leave.

If this story is let go, she'll possibly be able to figure out a way to get back into the Pittsburgh VA. More like is that she's removed from the Pittsburgh VA and she winds up at another hospital somewhere. She'll almost certainly sue the Pittsburgh VA and that's because nearly all her previous, if not simply all, have faced lawsuits from her. Then, Dr. Chacko will again be free to continue to engage in this somewhere else. She has to. Dr. Chacko spends money in such a way that no matter how much she makes it's not enough. She owns three homes, Butte, Mt., Hawaii and Pittsburgh, that I know of. Her expenses will simply not allow her to retire quietly. She has to keep working.

Beyond that though, all the weaknesses that Dr. Chacko has exploited her entire medical career will continue to be open. A medical system that allows for a Psychopath to create a lucrative and profitable medical career is a flawed medical system. That's what happened and it happened because our medical system is flawed. The only way to fix the flaws that Dr. Chacko exploited is to investigate her entire career fully. There are reasons why, despite burning bridges each and every time, Dr. Chacko was able to find another hospital to hire her. The public needs to know those reasons so that no one else is ever able to do the same thing. Everyone should care about Dr. Chacko, and her exploits, because she abused and manipulated our military, medical, legal, and cultural systems, and no one like her can ever manipulate them the way she has again. To do that, we must know the truth. To know the truth the public must care. So, that's why, in my opinion, everyone should care about Dr. Anna Chacko.


Here's the definitive dossier on Dr. Chacko.


pacific said...

"...she left fourteen months later and took the other radiologists in the department with her."

If she is as bad as you say she is what does this say about those she "took" with her?

Anonymous said...

Another fantastic article Mike. You have found a whole new angle with your comparison to a "U4". Isn't it odd that the very gov't which seeks to condone Chacko's behavior is the same one which wants to push a healthcare plan on us? This is inclusive of EMR which is utter nonsense. They can't contain a lone misfit and yet they want to own each piece of my medical Hx.

One phrase which always, and I mean always raises eyebrows in the medical community is "Patient Care". As soon as those two words are uttered in a hospital, clinic or even a manufacturer, everything changes. That's the medical equivalent of an emergency stop button. How is it that Chacko's behavior hasn't evoked the effect of "Patient Care"? Can anyone on this thread honestly tell me that there has been no effect on Pt care? The unfortunate subjects of her vitriol have no doubt walked away with less confidence in themselves and the profession/craft they are charged with performing.

For God's sake.... Lock this wonan up and restore our faith in the system.

Anonymous said...

I believe that Mike is right, and he has done us a great service with his excellent investigative reporting.

The only caveat--and which Mike has also touched upon a bit--is that the state, corporations, and others in power are potentially capable of much more harm than an individual.

There has to be a balancing act such that disruptive people and obvious psychopaths are thrown out while honest people--even those who shake the boat a little--get a fair deal. The legal system is a refuge for these people as well as the Chacko's of the world. It's a little like OJ getting to walk, but you're happy the system is there to protect the innocent, too.

Anonymous said...


Snakes in suits Paul Babiak

These books discuss the phenomenon of sociopaths and psychopaths in places we don't expect to find them, like in medicine.

Curious that the cone of silence seems to be intact at some of the places Chacko visited herself on. In part, it's probably due to embarrassment by the people who were taken in. The legal maneuvering to cover this up has as much to do with her employers and "colleagues" acquiescence to her behavior.

Anonymous said...

I think you would have to ask legal experts how the concept of legal settlement came about as well as agreements to remain silent. This must fulfill some societal need since such agreements are rather common in all fields.

Anonymous said...

Any word on the current state of the radiology dept at the VA? Who's running it? What's the mood? Does Chacko still have an office? Is Bob still hanging around? Does Chacko go to any Steelers games?

Anonymous said...

The department at the VA is functioning quite well but most staff have not been informed of the official status of Dr. Chacko. Yes, there is a divide in the department between "pro" or "anti" Chacko but your characterization of a department in chaos is very far from reality. It is a department that carries on it's mission of patient care because of staff dedication to veterans. We are very focused on that service. Let's move on, please.

mike volpe said...

I don't remember describing a department in chaos. If you are referring to the comment before yours, I don't think the commenter did either. I don't think that Dr. Chacko made life pleasant on anyone there. If we simply move on, then Dr. Chacko winds up doing the same thing again somewhere else. That can't happen again.

Anonymous said...

I have worked in a pathology department of a well known and respected academic hospital and witnessed this type of behavior, bordering more on narcissistic egomania, in a pathologist that attempts to take over every department they ever get hired at. The ensuing chaos and strife that occurs for a year or two before that pathologist is moved on is detrimental to the staff and patient care. The pathologist simply moves on to another hospital due to threats of lawsuits as well as the hospital just being glad to be rid of the person. This behavior unfortunately exists in many professions.

Anonymous said...

The denouement? Did this end with a bang or a whimper? Or nothing? Is she back in action? Did you acquire a cone of silence?

mike volpe said...

It hasn't ended yet. I haven't received a "cone of silence", but I have nothing new to report yet. I am working on several things, and I am always looking to speak to people with anything relevant. Of course, your anonymity will always be maintained.