When Dr. Chacko was head of radiology at Lahey Clinic, she took an extra special distaste for one radiologist in particular. She blistered and butchered her until she quit and went to work at Mass General. Dr. Chacko wasn't done terrorizing her. She befriended the wife of the head of radiology at Mass Generall. One day, she called him. She told him that she'd just had lunch with his wife and if he didn't fire her immediately, she'd tell his wife that the two of them were having an affair. The director of radiology complied and fired her.
The daughter of one of Dr. Chacko's former secretaries at Lahey Clinic described the experience like this,
My mom worked for this tyrant, as her admin, for 3.5 years (mom always makes us add the .5 to the 3 yrs as it was torture working for her!). She absolutely sucked the life out of my mother. She finally got relief when AKC was removed from Lahey Clinic. I was not aware that anyone knew how evil this woman is and am relieved to know that the word is spreading. My whole family suffered as a result of the way she treated my mom as well as other co-workers.
The story of the reign of terror by Dr. Anna Chacko is equal parts intense pathological character study, parts political thriller, parts lessons in the weaknesses of our military system and our medical system, but most of all, this story is as un American as an story you'll hear. Dr. Anna Chacko is a Psychopath. She has unleashed a reign of terror in both VA hospitals, the military, and private hospitals for the better part of two decades. Folks that had the unfortunate "pleasure" of working with her developed depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and one even confided in me that they thought about suicide.
To understand Dr. Anna Chacko's pathology, you only need to go to a story in the memoir she wrote, My Journey Out of India.
When little Anna was ten years old, her teacher in school gave the class an assignment to draw a butterfly. There was a girl in the class that was beautiful and Anna didn't like her. That girl brought in a perfect butterfly and the whole class loved it. Anna was sure that the girl had gotten her dad to draw it, and she went home and had her own father draw one. The butterfly he drew was so good that the teacher could tell that Anna didn't draw it. The teacher scolded her for having her parents do her homework for her. Anna was so flabbergasted that she went home, told her mother, and demanded that she get the teacher fired. That's exactly what her mother then did and the teacher lost her job.
Dr. Anna Chacko was originally born in India. She came to the States in the late 1970's and almost immediately enrolled in the military. She eventually rose to the rank of Colonel. She spent time in Colorado, Hawaii, San Francisco, and at the Brooke Army Medical Center during her time in the military. She developed impressive credentials while in the military. That included four fellowships, work assisting the Army Surgeon General, and working as the head of radiology in several different hospitals within the military.
In fact, the only weak spot in my investigation of Dr. Anna Chacko comes from her military service. I've been told there have been allegations of sexual misconduct, verbal and physical abusive, and that she spent time in so many places because she was moved when things got too hot. Nothing has been confirmed. The only story I've been able to confirm is vital to the rest of the story. Sometime in the mid 1990's she began working at Brooke Army Medical Center with Dr. Bob Shah. At some point, Dr. Shah misread a radiology exam. His mistake lead to the death of the patient. Since he was in the military, there was no civil penalty. Instead, he was facing military justice. He would have faced some sort of reckless homicide charge and faced years in prison. Then, Dr. Chacko conveniently lost the film. The case was dropped, but Dr. Chacko has been blackmailing Dr. Shah since. He's literally followed her all over the country. He's also been her chief defender every time there was a problem. (which happened every time)
Sometime in the early 1990's, Dr. Chacko also crossed paths with General James Peake, though he wasn't a General yet. So began a relationship that continues today. At no less than three hospitals, Lahey Clinic, St. James Hospital in Butte, Mt., and the Pittsburgh VA, Dr. Chacko had a photo of General James Peake in her office. She would often point to this photo with colleagues and warn them that she has "political juice". General James Peake was head of the VA system prior to General Eric Shinseki. While I can't confirm the nature of the relationship, the rumor told to me was that back in the 1990's, Dr. Chacko produced a sex tape of General James Peake and has been blackmailing him ever since.
Her military career ended in the late 1990's. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Chacko arrived at Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Massachusetts. The hospital was generally profitable however the radiology department was inefficient. This not only meant that it was leaving profits on the table but it caused all sorts of headaches for all the other departments that had to work with it. Dr. Chacko came in as the head of radiology to fix the inefficiency. She did. The department almost immediately became exponentially more profitable and more efficient. She became a sort of golden girl within the hospital. Her stature and power grew.
As a result, her deep pathology remained hidden from most besides those that she made a target. First, almost immediately, she brought in Dr. Bob Shah to be one of her radiologists. Then, she began exhibiting erratic behavior. She would bring radiologists into her office and ask them why their colleague "hates you". Then, she would repeat the process with the other radiologist. She would also brow beat and humiliate colleagues. The most infamous incident was recounted as such. (this incident has been confirmed by both the target and another individual at this meeting, both were off the record and so I have eliminated all names)
The resident, an American educated daughter of immigrant Indian professionals, was a resident in Radiology in our department from July 01 to June 05 and had first hand trauma from her. She made a minor error, tiny and not clinically significant. But she had resisted Dr. Chacko's effort to make a big deal out of it. She did not become subservient and grovel. At the next staff meeting, the resident was assigned to attend and Dr. Chacko laid into her, called her lazy, careless, stupid, etc. We, the staff, sat in horror, too amazed to speak up. We looked at each other in shock, and just as we were about to say enough, lets move on, she stopped and discussed another issue. But she swung that issue around to residents and then began the attack this resident anew. We were too shocked to say anything, we looked around like “are we hearing this correctly, this is too much”. We were whispering and about to say move on when she stopped, started on another item. The item was again artificially swung to residents in general and then on to this resident again. We again listened and were about to speak up and the cycle repeated itself 6 or 7 times, each time a shorter echo
but no less personally violent.
By 2003, Dr. Chacko was looking to land the contract to provide radiology services to the VA hospital in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. The problem, if you will, was that the VA Hospital in West Roxbury had a perfectly good radiology department run by a reputable radiologist. So, Dr. Chacko sprung into action.
The lead of the department was a gentleman named Dr. Elon Gale. At some point, Dr. Chacko befriended Dr. Shukri Khori, the head surgeon at the West Roxbury VA Clinic. Dr. Chacko got Dr. Khori to go to the Inspector General of the hospital and
complain that Dr. Gale's contract was negotiated improperly. This was the first of several complaints that Dr. Khori filed against the department. While the charges were eventually dismissed. Dr. Gale experienced such a hostile work environment that he left the clinic and he took most of the good radiologists with him.
With the radiology department in shambles, West Roxbury had no choice but outsource their radiology work. Upon receiving the contract, Dr. Chacko sent all the radiologists she didn't like at Lahey to work at West Roxbury. That's because it was way in the suburbs, had far fewer resources, and this would isolate them from the rest of the hospital.
The most extreme form of tyranny came in this story. ( the original source of this story not only demanded to remain anonymous but also demanded that all principles have their names kept anonymous) There was a radiologist that Dr. Chacko developed a rivalry with at Lahey. This radiologist eventually moved to another hospital in Massacusetts. Dr. Chacko wasn't done. She befriended the wife of the head of radiology at this hospital. Then, she called her husband and told him that either he fire the other radiologist or Dr. Chacko would tell his wife the two of them were having an affair. The radiologist was eventually fired and they now work in Hawaii.
Then, complaints began to develop that one radiologist in particular was missing far too many abnormalities in their radiology charts. Before anyone could do anything, Dr. Chacko, with no one's approval, hired Dr. Elizabeth Zacharias to be the quality control radiologist. Dr. Zacharias was no ordinary doctor. She was Dr. Chacko's sister. In other words, Dr. Chacko hired her sister to be the radiology IG. Dr. Zacharias found nothing wrong with radiologist that was complained about but did find several inconsistencies of radiologists that Dr. Chacko didn't like. Dr. Zacharias then stayed on as a radiologist. When winter hit, Dr. Zacharias moved to Hawaii but Dr. Chacko arranged for a PACS machine and tech team to fly to Hawaii and install it in Dr. Zacharias' home for a cost of about $70,000. This was also never cleared with administration.
By then, the administration soured on Dr. Chacko. She was eventually removed but only after a long investigation that included the administration sending in a mole to pretend they were Dr. Chacko's business manager and this mole began to send documents back to the higher ups. Eventually, the administration discovered that Dr. Chacko had the radiology department purchase several million dollars worth of radiology equipment and subsequently Dr. Chacko's son was given a plumb job with Fuji in London.
In fact, the purchase of radiology equipment has always been the subject of great peculiarity by Dr. Chacko that ultimately is almost certainly covers a great deal of corruption. First, a private investigator once investigated the purchase of radiology equipment by depatments that Dr. Chacko ran. They found that with nearly every single purchase Dr. Chacko purchased a piece of land, a trust was started, a large deposit was made into one of her bank accounts, or she received some other financial windfall.
Second, Dr. Chacko has a long history with General Electric. In fact, she has ties to the very top of General Electric. Here's how one sales rep with a competing firm described a story she repeated often about Joe Hogan. Hogan was then head of GE's radiology department. Soon after, he replaced Jeffrey Immelt as head of GE Health Care when Immelt became CEO of GE itself.
Shortly after a meeting where Joe Hogan (then CEO of radiology at GE and in the future CEO of GE Health care) went to Lahey,he and his entourage went back to the Corporate Jet which was sitting at Hanscom airfield in Lexington, MA. She said that she was in her office and the phone rang. It was Joe Hogan telling her to go outside and look up. Allegedly he had the pilot "dip" the wings back and forth as they passed low overhead. She was very proud of that one. I'm sure she's told it to plenty of others.
Dr. Chacko bought tens of millions of dollars worth of GE radiology equipment while at Lahey. She bought several million dollars worth of GE radiology equipment while at St. James Hospital in Butte. She was pushing very hard to also buy several million dollars worth of radiology equipment while at the Pittsburgh VA (her most recently employer starting in October of 2008 until she was removed very recently, more on that in a bit)
The head of radiology isn't the one that buys radiology equipment. That's the job normally assigned to the radiology manager, that's the top administrative person in radiology. While at Lahey, Dr. Chacko quickly fired the radiology manager and replaced that manager with Jeff Elliot. Elliot was her radiology manager while they worked together in Colorado. He was then retired and so somehow he came out of retirement to be a radiology manager in Boston. In Butte, Mt., the radiology manager when Chacko arrived was Kristi George. According to court filings, Dr. Chacko immediately began making disparaging remarks about George, her competence, and questioned whether George was fit for the job. (George was eventually fired and sued and that suit has since been settled and is under seal) Within months, Dr. Chacko convinced the CEO of St. James to remove George's responsibilities of purchasing radiology equipment and hand them to Dr. Chacko. She then proceeded to buy multi million dollars worth of radiology equipment. St. James has since gotten into deep financial dire straits, largely as a result of Chacko's management of the radiology department, and they are on the verge of defaulting on lease payments of much of this equipment.
From Lahey Clinic, Dr. Chacko moved to the Boston University Medical Center. She was hired there by Dr. Alexander Norbash, the head of radiology. Another doctor, Dr. Elizabeth Oates, had been making a series of complaints against Dr. Norbash. A source tells me that Dr. Norbash hired Dr. Chacko with the express intent of having her terrorize Dr. Oates until she quit. That's what happened within a year of Chacko's arrival at BU. About a year after her arrival, Chacko was fired for sexual harrassment herself.
She arrived in Butte in July of 2007. Even before her arrival, she made a splash. A suit was filed on her behalf against a radiologist at St. James named Dr. Jesse Cole. She claimed that he threatened her on a phone call. Dr. Cole denied the charge and maintains to this day that he did no such thing and that the call in question lasted fifteen seconds. The charges were eventually dismissed. The only charges left are a set of counter suits by Dr. Cole against St. James and Dr. Chacko's name is prominently mentioned in testimony.
When Dr. Chacko took over the radiology department at St. James it was seven figures in the black. It had three radiologists. Dr. Cole was the newbie, since he was only there since 1996. The other two radiologists, Dr. Wright and Dr. Driscoll, were there a combined 60 years. She brought in a team of radiologists with her including Dr. Shah. All three, Cole, Wright and Driscoll, were eliminated.
What followed was chaos. Her personal secretary, Linda Murphy, described to me an environment of terror. Dr. Chacko would often threaten her with her job. She would routinely call Murphy in the middle of the night. If Murphy didn't answer the phone, Dr. Chacko would continue to call. Once Ms. Murphy went on vacation for three days. Dr. Chacko repeatedly called her while on vacation, forced her to come home a day early, and then forced her to work a near twenty hour day when she returned.
At the time of her arrival, Kristi George was best friends with Jeri Doyle, her immediate deputy in the radiology department. Multiple sources confirm that Dr. Chacko made no secret that she was going to "flip" Doyle and make her side with Chacko against George. Doyle and George are no longer on speaking terms and Doyle now has George's old job.
Chacko finally left Butte in September of 2008. She left a department deep in the red. All four radiologists left along with Dr. Chacko. Dr. Shah (who was with her at Lahey, BU, and now St. James) would go with Dr. Chacko to the Pittsburgh VA.
At the Pittsburgh VA, the behavior of Dr. Chacko was the same as it had been previously. She threatened legal resident aliens with calls to immigration if they crossed her. She often refused to do her rounds. She lied about colleagues. One radiologist, Dr. Tanuja Kanderi, claimed that Dr. Chacko called her other employer, The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and made disparaging remarks about her to their staff. Things got so bad that in March of 2009, the Pittsburgh VA held an administrative investigative board. Almost half of the 14 radiologists testified. All testified about abuse behavior, all but one, Dr. Bob Shah. He testified that Dr. Chacko was being demonized.
In April, the boad recommended that Dr. Chacko be removed. Dr. Chacko then challenged the results. Then, she used her political juice. She reached out to Congressman Brad Miller of North Carolina. About a year previous, Congressman Miller headed an investigation of the same Pittsburgh VA about lost strain of legionella, a rare strain of disease. He found several members of the Pittsburgh VA chain to be at fault. On May 15th, Congressman Miller wrote a letter to General Eric Shinseki on behalf of Dr. Anna Chacko. In that letter, Miller said, "there's something very wrong with the management at VAPHS (the acronym for the area that the Pittsburgh VA is in)". He referred to Chacko as a "whistle blower" and said that she was being singled out and targeted for her reports of corruption. By the end of the month, word came down from Shinseki's office and the Pittsburgh VA was told to put her back in her role.
She resumed her duties on August 1st. She was more energized and powerful. She all but refused to do any clinical work. Her threats and tyranny only got worse. Doctors complained again and then at the beginning of October she was put on indefinite administrative leave again pending another adminstrative board investigation. That has been completed and the testimony largely mirrored the first board though I can't confirm any outcome though a well placed source with extensive knowledge of the whole situation assured me that she would never return to the Pittsburgh VA at least.
Neither General Shinseki nor Congressman Miller have ever answered repeated requests for explanations why a Congressman from North Carolina felt the need to weigh in on a hiring decision for the Pittsburgh VA and why the head of the entire VA felt the need to override the decision of the Pittsburgh VA. It's unclear how much if anything at all either knew about her past.
Dr. Chacko is currently under no investigations that I can confirm. This despite the fact that the details I have recounted would have violated numerous medical ethical procedures that would have been the perview of any medical board, JCAHO, the VA system, and the Justice Department as well. While I can confirm the complicity of both Congressman Brad Miller and General Eric Shinseki in keeping Dr. Chacko in place, that doesn't mean that the politicians and others with juice are limited to those two. There are also no Congressional investigations into her behavior despite several committees being aware of her story.
The latest I can report on Dr. Chacko was a call placed to St. James Hospital from someone identifying themselves as Dr. Weiman of the Fresno VA. They were looking for a reference for Dr. Chacko because they were about to interview her. That would have been impossible. St. James, like nearly all her previous employers, have settled with Dr. Chacko and that settlement includes a confidentiality agreement that includes a strict requirement that St. James, along with Lahey and many others, not making "disparaging comments" against Dr. Chacko. At Lahey Clinic, Dr. Mary Anna Sullivan was made aware of Dr. Chacko's behavior. Along with being a doctor at Lahey, she was on the board of Lahey, and she was on the Massachusetts Medical Board. Those charges never materialized. At St. James, some of the staff was unionized by the Teamsters. Several complaints were made to the Teamsters about her behavior but those complaints never lead to any action.