Embattled physicians to exit Nebraska children's hospital in August

Omaha, Neb.-based Children's Hospital & Medical Center President and CEO Richard Azizkhan, MD, and the physician whose performance is at the center of a lawsuit filed earlier this year are both leaving the hospital in August, according to local TV station KETV.

Dr. Azizkhan will retire Aug. 16, and the hospital's former board of directors chair will serve as interim leader until a permanent replacement is found. Dr. Azizkhan agreed to assist in an advisory capacity until a permanent president and CEO is hired.

"I would like to thank everyone at Children's for the tremendous honor and privilege to lead this incredible organization through a time of rapid change," Dr. Azizkhan said in a press release. "I am extremely proud of all the dedicated professionals whose amazing work improves the lives of children every day."

In January, Dr. Azizkhan was named in a lawsuit brought by two surgeons claiming they were wrongly suspended after reporting concerns about the competency of a colleague. Adam Conley, MD, a pediatric neurosurgeon, was at the center of those complaints, and he'll also be leaving the hospital in August, according to KETV. The hospital didn't provide a specific departure date for Dr. Conley, according to WOWT

Mark Puccioni, MD, one of the surgeons who filed the lawsuit in January, alleged he was encouraged by Dr. Azizkhan to hire Dr. Conley. Dr. Puccioni and another surgeon claim they were suspended after reporting concerns about Dr. Conley to hospital administration.

The hospital expressed support for Drs. Azizkhan and Conley after the lawsuit was filed.

"Children's Hospital & Medical Center does not comment on pending litigation other than to say we strongly disagree with these allegations," the hospital said in a statement to WOWT in January. "We stand behind our executive leadership, medical team and our processes, and are confident that these claims against our hospital, Dr. Azizkhan and Dr. Conley will be proven to be without merit."

In court filings, the hospital alleges the surgeons who filed the lawsuit are making false accusations to protect their business interests, according to The World-Herald.

In a July 15 statement, the hospital's current board chair thanked Dr. Azizkhan for his years of service. Since Dr. Azizkhan joined Children's Hospital & Medical Center in 2015, the hospital has recruited roughly 150 pediatric specialists and surpassed a $50 million capital campaign to build a new facility called the Hubbard Center for Children.

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