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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Inside the Mind of 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. 

5[1][1].29.09 Second Amended Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial

That's a copy of a civil complaint filed on behalf of Kristi George against Dr. Anna Chacko and the hospital that employed both at the time of the incidents in question, St. James Hospital. Both George and Chacko worked at St. James Hospital in Butte, Montana from July of 2007 through September of 2008. The complaint lists how Dr. Anna Chacko systematically maligned, disparaged, and lied about Kristi George in an attempt to have Kristi George fired. In fact, Chacko began, according to the complaint, to attack George on Chacko's first day of work even though George was still on vacation then. As such, Chacko was attacking George even though they hadn't yet really met and certainly hadn't yet worked together. (of course, it's important to note that this complaint was filed on behalf of George and so it's fair to call it one sided. This case has since been settled and sealed)

To understand the inner workings of the mind of Dr. Anna Chacko you need to ask yourself a very important question about this complaint. That question is why. Why did Dr. Chacko disparage Kristi George? In fact, in its own demented way, this wasn't personal. Now, I'm sure that Kristi George may likely take issue with that characterization. After all, if someone attacks you while you're on vacation, you might find it personal. In fact, Dr. Chacko attacked Kristi George because of her job title. Kristi George was the radiology manager at St. James, an administrative position. One of the duties of the radiology manager is to buy radiology equipment when necessary. In an honest process, the radiology manager brings in all legitimate firms and then compares prices, service, quality, etc.

An honest process wasn't what Dr. Anna Chacko was looking for, and so, Kristi George needed to be marginalized. In fact, within a couple months, Dr. Chacko was able to convince the CEO, James Kiser, to remove the responsibility of purchasing equipment from George and instead give it to herself. From there, Dr. Chacko proceeded to purchase more than two million dollars worth of radiology equipment and almost all went to GE. In fact, everywhere Dr. Chacko goes, GE gets a lot of her business. Some of the radiology equipment that Dr. Chacko purchased is about to be repossessed as the hospital is struggling to make the payments on them. According to a private investigator, each and everytime Dr. Chacko is able to make a radiology equipment purchase, she invariably winds up with a piece of land, money in her account, or some other perk. So, taken together, Dr. Chacko went after and attacked Kristi George because she's honest and held the wrong title at St. James.

To further understand the mind of Dr. Anna Chacko let's take a look at an article from Pittsburgh about her. (Chacko took over as head of radiology in the Pittsburgh VA after leaving St. James)

Miller said the decision followed Chacko's allegations that one of her superiors, Dr. Mona Melhem, "potentially compromised patient care and subjected patients to increased doses of radiation."

The agent involved in these doses is called Thallium. That's the agent that Dr. Chacko complained was harming patients. Thallium is a radioisotope used to perform heart scans. Her complaints were so vociferous that the Inspector General was forced to investigate. The Inspector General concluded the VA did nothing wrong in administering thallium into their x ray exams.

Well the IG should have. Multiple radiologists I spoke with told me that while Thallium is radioactive it's very low grade. A sort of competing agent is Molybdenum. (it's not quite that simple but let's leave it there) That's also low grade. All the radiologists I spoke with said that which you use is entirely contextual and dependent on a series of factors. One thing that's important to note is that Thallium is much more readily available than Molybdenum, which is only made in one lab in Canada.

To understand the mind of Dr. Anna Chacko, you also need to know that she's a part owner in a company called, Moly99Montana. I can't be certain what Moly99Montana is for but I have a big hunch. Now, imagine if a head of radiology in a VA hospital were able to convince the brass at the VA that Thallium was dangerous. Imagine further that the same doctor owned a company that produced the competing agent, Molybdenum. Imagine that this same doctor already had a long standing relationship with a powerful company that had the resources to help produce Molybdenum on a mass scale. Since there's only one other lab producing this, there's little competition. Once Thallium is deemed too dangerous, there will need to be some company to supply Molybdenum. Soon, the same doctor has just orchestrated so that their company is the sole provider of molybdenum to the entire VA system. Welcome to the mind of Dr. Anna Chacko.

Dr. Chacko arrived at the Pittsburgh VA in October of 2008. One person that was significantly responsible for bringing her over was Dr. Mona Melhem. It would surprise some to learn that Dr. Chacko then proceeded to viciously attack Dr. Melhem for the entire time that Chacko was at the Pittsburgh VA. In fact, Dr. Chacko complained about Dr. Melhem to both the IG's office and to the whistleblower tipline. Why would Chacko attack the person that brought her over?

That goes back to an incident that occurred before Dr. Chacko even arrived at the Pittsburgh VA. In this incident a rare strand of legionella was destroyed by the administration of the VA. The strand was the culmination of years of research by Dr. Joseph Vu, who had been fired months earlier by the VA. This incident received so much attention that Congressman Brad Miller of North Carolina's 13th district held an investigation in his science sub committee. The conclusion of that investigation put much of the blame on the same Dr. Mona Melhem.

So, when Dr. Chacko came into the Pittsburgh VA, Dr. Mona Melhem was a weakened and vulnerable leader. If you were going to try and take out anyone in the Pittsburgh VA, Dr. Mona Melhem was going to be the easiest target. If you take out someone in the leadership, your own power grows. With that power, you're free to do as you please, like say buy all the GE equipment you want. In fact, Dr. Anna Chacko was pushing the VA to replace millions of dollars worth of radiology equipment and replace it all with GE equipment and Dr. Melhem was one of the people that resisted. Dr. Chacko was still putting pressure on the administration to replace said equipment at the time of her removal.

Finally, Dr. Anna Chacko worked as the director of radiology at Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Massachusetts (a suburb of Boston) from 2001-2005. Lahey Clinic is a rather well respected clinic and much of its staff is long term there. Some have been there most if not all their careers, thirty and forty years. In fact, a couple of the radiologists on the staff had previously been the director of radiology at Lahey and had stepped down and ceded power. As such, these were doctors of power and prestige.

Of course, between staff and support, there are those that have only been there months or a few years. To understand the mind of Dr. Anna Chacko, you go back to the initial meeting she had with staff. At this meeting she opened up by saying something like,

I know some of you were against my hiring, but moving forward we're working as a team

This was a shot across the bow, as the person who told me the story described Chacko's words. The process was in fact contentious to hire Chacko. In fact, one could assume that the process to hire the head of radiology at an institution like Lahey would always be contentious. So, Chacko may have known that some were against her or she may have just assumed it.

Chacko then spent the next five years playing mind games with each and every person in the department. She was abusive and demeaning with the lowest level staffers: secretaries and the like. She'd call the radiology main number and if the secretary didn't answer she'd run out of her office and scream at the secretary mercilessly in front of the staff. Chacko eventually disallowed the secretaries from taking lunch and forced them to eat at their desks.

The radiologists with intermediate years of service Chacko would also play mindgames with. She'd bring a radiologist into her office and then ask

why does so and so hate you

Then, Chacko would bring in so and so and reverse the process.

Finally, those with respect, Chacko wouldn't try and intimidate and demean. Instead, she'd try and ally them with her. If there was a radiologist that Dr. Chacko wanted gotten rid of, she'd bring in one of the respected radiologist, talk bad about her target and something like,

help me get rid of them.

Chacko would then try and use those with prestige and power as allies against any doctor or other employee she didn't like.

Welcome to the world of Dr. Anna Chacko.

Of course, here's my full dossier of Dr. Anna Chacko.


Anonymous said...

This is a great synthesis of how Anna Chacko operated. It went on far too long.

At least any future employers cannot claim that they were not forewarned. I am still curious about where and when she will pop up like a bad penny. Fortunately, the www is everywhere.

My guess is she might try to latch on to some regulatory aspect of Obamacare, perhaps as a reviewer of hospital and/or radiology sites. On the other hand, she may not want a "simple" job which does not allow her to enlarge her rice bowl through equipment purchases and kickbacks.

Anonymous said...

Any guesses on whether Chacko, on receiving kickbacks from industry, paid tax on the income?

Anonymous said...

The name of the VA Dr. that was fired was Victor Yu. What a shame. Dr. Melhelm was a perpertrator and the congressional inquiry did not place blame but found wrong doing on her part. The destruction of decades of work was malicious and caused irreparable harm. You make her sound like a victim whereas she is really the one you should be writing about. Look up Dr. Yu's pleading in District Court and publish that. Your VA sources are wrong at best. Who is your fact checker ? How do you know what the IG said in it's report ? Get it from FOIA and publish it.

mike volpe said...

Dr. Chacko, come on now. You know that journalists aren't supposed to reveal their sources. In this case, I can. It's Wally Roche, who wrote the article in which the VA told him that nothing wrong was found. So, take it up with him.

As for you, you can come onto every one of my stories and put the blame on everyone else but the case is the case, and when you show up and leave comments it's obvious.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Volpe, This only goes to show how you don't know what you are talking about. I am not Dr. Chacko. I know all the players going back quite a few years, long before Dr. Chacko, I worked for the VA in Pittsburgh and have much first hand knowledge. I am a stake holder in the VA and a decorated combat veteran. The facts about Dr. Melhelm will come out with a verdict in District Court. Did you bother to look at Dr. Yu's complaint ? I assure you that my only interest is that veterans get the treatment they deserve. Can you tell me how many of the VA managers in the Pittsburgh Healthcare system are Veterans ? Why is that important, because unless you fought with us and watched your friends die and killed our countries enemies you might not have the empathy necessary to understand what our veterans deserve. I assure you that I was not a rear escelon ranger but literally fought in the trenches of Con Thein and the jungles of Vietnam. And yes I killed vietcong and NVA regulars. You owe it to us veterans to get your stories right !

mike volpe said...

Good job, Dr. Chacko, but no one buys this nonsense.

I didn't need to read Vu's complaint since the findings of the Science committee, which I did read, may as well have been written by Vu. Like I said, it was he said/she said in that case and since I wasn't there I don't know what happened. One source, however, summed it up well when they said, "in a situation like this, there's plenty of blame to go around".

You are fixated with blaming your problems in the VA on Melhem. Tell me, was it Dr. Melhem that made you scream at the top of your lungs, "Kiss my big Indian ass" as you were carried out of Lahey Clinic? Was it Dr. Melhem that made you attack Kristi George at St. James? Was it Dr. Melhem that caused your removal, for sexual harassment from the BU Medical center?

It would be easier to believe this nonsense if you weren't getting into constant trouble everywhere. The fact is that Dr. Melhem only knew you for a year or so and you've been getting into trouble for three decades.

So, please, stop pretending you are a decorated vet. When you comment it's obvious. You've been telling me that the real corruption is Melhem, Moreland and the VA since my first piece. I know when you come so stop insulting my intelligence.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Volpe, Again I am not Dr. Chacko. I am not Dr. Yu and I am not Dr. Stout. Please do not call me a liar. I am a decorated veteran with 20 confirmed enemy kills ( no women and no children )19 NVA and one Viet Cong. I am a significantly disabled compensable veteran. I am proud of my service, I love my country. I would enjoy meeting you sometime and telling you about some of my Vietnam experiences, but mainly so that you could wipe that smug grin off your face. Dr. Chacko and Dr. Yu will eventually be vindicated by a judge or jury at which time I hope you will see the errors you have made. Please realize that everything I have said is true. Death before dishonor was not just our battalion motto but it was our way of life. If you really believe I am Dr. Chacko then I have a bridge to sell you. Post your phone number and I'll give you a call. Sincerely, an aging Marine

mike volpe said...

Dr. Chacko, obviously, I'm not going to post my phone number. My email, however, is on the site,

You have my phone. We've spoken once so you can find it in your records which I'm sure you've kept.

Anonymous said...

These old Marines are sick and tired of frozen Lean Cuisine entrees taking the place of unlabeled Legionella samples in the VA fridge!!

They don't like Thallium either.

Kiss her big Indian Marine ass!!