Mayo physician fired after publishing book critiquing system's policies: 10 things to know

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Steven Weiss, MD, a physician at Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic has been fired after self-publishing a book about working through the pandemic and identifying himself as a Mayo employee, according to a June 19 report by the Leader-Telegram.

Dr. Weiss practiced at Mayo's Eau Claire campus for 32 years. He said he was fired solely for publishing his book, Carnage in America: COVID-19, Racial Injustice, and the Demise of Donald Trump, which contains "unauthorized use of confidential business information, self-identification as a Mayo employee without appropriate approval, inappropriate use of patient identifiers and derogatory and unprofessional commentary placing Mayo in a negative light," according to the health system. 

Ten things to know:

  1. Dr. Weiss's book follows his journey through the pandemic beginning when the first Wisconsin resident became ill.

  2. The book covers political rhetoric about COVID-19; political, religious and cultural influence on perceptions of the pandemic; treating patients; the 2020 presidential election, where he criticized former President Donald Trump's handling of  the pandemic; and critical commentary on Mayo Clinic, such as its Epic EHR rollout in 2017 through 2018.

  3. His book includes an excerpt in which Dr. Weiss faulted Mayo for reducing the use of N95 masks at the start of the pandemic. “Staff wearing N95s for other than institution-approved indications, which don’t include routine care to patients with documented COVID infection, could be cited for ‘failure to work,’ prelude to possible termination,'" he wrote.

  4. In a letter dated June 4, the health system said it terminated the internist due to warnings Mayo had given Dr. Weiss in the past. His formal termination letter said his contract was ending "without cause." Dr. Weiss will remain on leave until Sept. 13. Until then, he will receive his salary and benefits but cannot return to the health system to see patients, the Leader-Telegram reported.

  5. Dr. Weiss was given the opportunity to resign between June 11 and June 14, but he chose not to, according to the June 4 letter. A Mayo Clinic personnel committee and a vote by its board of directors agreed Dr. Weiss's actions warranted termination, the Leader-Telegram reported.

  6. Dr. Weiss told the Leader-Telegram that he changed patient identifiers to protect patient privacy and was unaware Mayo had a book publishing policy.

  7. Mayo told Dr. Weiss there is a publishing policy requiring staff to submit any book for review before publishing it. “The (Personnel) Committee concluded that you knew, or should have known, about the relevant policies, expectations and resources available to you before promoting and publishing your book," Mayo said in a June 4 letter outlining warnings Mayo had given to Dr. Weiss.

  8. Mayo asked Dr. Weiss to stop identifying himself as a physician at Mayo Clinic when sharing his opinions publicly after he published an opinion piece in the Leader-Telegram, the June 4 letter said. Mayo asked him to identify himself as an Altoona resident and an internist in Eau Claire, the June 4 letter said. Mayo Clinic warned Dr. Weiss not to use the Mayo Clinic name "for personal causes," the June 4 letter stated.

  9. Dr. Weiss' book was written without Mayo’s knowledge or approval and did not adhere to Mayo Clinic policies, Richard Helmers, MD, regional vice president of Mayo Clinic's Northwest region, told Becker's. Mayo is not affiliated with any political party, and patients can be reassured that care they receive is not impacted by political views, Dr. Helmers said in reference to Dr. Weiss's comments about former President Donald Trump.

  10. In the last month, Mayo has communicated several times with Dr. Weiss about past and current concerns, Dr. Helmers told Becker's. The health system has provided Dr. Weiss with a complete copy of his personnel record, which includes letters and emails that specifically relate to the issues he has recently spoken about, Dr. Helmers told Becker's.

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