Medscape names the best and worst physicians of 2015

Over the course of 2015, physicians across the world conducted groundbreaking research, aided countless patients and advocated for numerous causes. Other physicians made poor decisions.

Medscape took a closer look at some of the biggest accomplishments and blunders in 2015, and named the "best" and "worst" physicians of the year. While the best "were chosen from the many physicians who reached the highest standards of their calling," the worst "were selected from the extremely short list of those who have been convicted, jailed and/or who have forfeited their medical licenses for gross misconduct," according to Medscape.

"Best" physicians of 2015

  • Oliver Sacks, MD. Dr. Sacks, a neurologist and renowned author, died of cancer in late August at the age of 82. Throughout his life, he served as a professor at various New York City-based academic medical centers. He was known for his research and writing about patients with neurological syndromes.
  • Abdul Ghafar Ghayur, MD. Although Dr. Ghayur, a plastic surgeon in Afghanistan, performs surgeries on wealthy citizens, he uses the extra money he earns to perform operations on low-income patients. "If a patient comes and says, 'I can only pay $100,' I can do it for $100. Or $20, or $30," he said, according to Medscape.
  • Bennet Omalu, MD. Dr. Omalu conducted research and found a neuropathy — caused by continued blows to the head — in the brains of NFL players, most notably among Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster. His work in the field led to the upcoming film "Concussion," in which Will Smith plays Dr. Omalu.
  • Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, and Xiaoliang Sunney Xie, PhD. Drs. Deisseroth and Xie were jointly awarded the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research for 2015, a prize of $500,000. Dr. Deisseroth received the award for his work in the field of optogenetics. Dr. Xie won the prize for his work in the field of single-cell biology.
  • David Sackett, MD. Dr. Sackett died in May at the age of 80. He was often called the father of evidence-based medicine, which focuses on public health and clinical practice. According to him, EBM is "the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients," according to Medscape.
  • Levi Watkins, MD. Although Dr. Watkins died in April at age 70, he accomplished numerous endeavors during his life. Not only was he the first physician to successfully implant an automatic defibrillator, but he was also a civil rights activist. As a young man, he participated in the 1955-56 Montgomery bus boycott and volunteered with Martin Luther King Jr. When he wasn't accepted to the University of Alabama at Birmingham's all-white medical school, he went on enroll at Nashville-based Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and become the first African American to graduate.
  • James "Red" Duke, MD. Dr. Duke, known for his Texas accent and thick mustache, assisted in the development of the Life Flight helicopter emergency service. In addition, he hosted a TV show called "Texas Health Reports." Dr. Duke died in April at age 86.
  • Elijah Saunders, MD. During the course of his career, Dr. Saunders, a cardiologist, focused on the treatment on African American patients. He was the first African American resident in internal medicine at Baltimore-based University of Maryland School of Medicine, as well as the first practicing African American physician in the state of Maryland in 1965. His research "showed that certain blood pressure medications and regiments are more effective for black patients," according to Medscape.
  • L. Scott Levin, MD. Earlier this year, Dr. Levin led a team of 40 at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in performing the world's first pediatric bilateral hand transplant. With his team, Dr. Levin operated on 8-year-old Zion Harvey for 10 hours. One month post-surgery, Zion could pick up a piece of pizza with his new hand.
  • Sanjay Kishor Saint, MD. Dr. Saint was awarded the 2015 Distinguished Scientist Award by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology in June. His research has focused on uncovering ways to prevent infections. In addition to serving as a professor of internal medicine at Ann Arbor-based University of Michigan, Dr. Saint has authored over 250 peer-reviewed papers.

"Worst" physicians of 2015

  • Farid Fata, MD. Dr. Fata, a hematologist-oncologist, was sentenced to 45 years in prison for administering excessive or unnecessary chemotherapy to 543 patients, some of whom he intentionally misdiagnosed. Through the scheme, he was able to fraudulently bill Medicare and private payers at least $17 million for the treatment.
  • David Ming Pon, MD. In October, Dr. Pon, an ophthalmologist, was charged with pretending to perform unnecessary surgeries on patients. According to federal prosecutors, he lied and told over 500 Medicare patients they had macular degeneration. By doing so, Dr. Pon was able to bill Medicare and earn over $7 million.
  • Joseph Mogan III, MD. Dr. Mogan owned and operated two "pill mills" in the suburbs of New Orleans. Through the mills, he and his co-operator, Tiffany Miller, handed out illegal narcotic prescriptions on a cash-only basis. Dr. Mogan was sentenced to approximately 8 years in prison, and would have received a longer sentence had he not testified against a New Orleans police officer who gave him suggestions on operating undercover. The officer assisted Dr. Mogan because Ms. Miller gave him sexual favors and thousands of dollars in cash, according to Medscape.
  • Aria Sabit, MD. Apex Medical Technologies, a spinal surgery instrument distribution company, told Dr. Sabit if he made a $5,000 investment and used its hardware, he would receive part of the revenue. Dr. Sabit did so and received $439,000. In addition, he billed Medicare, Medicaid and private payers $11 million for procedures that didn't use the documented hardware. He's currently facing a prison sentence of 9 to 11 years.
  • Tiffany Ingham, MD. An anesthesiologist, Dr. Ingham and her surgical team mocked a sedated patient during a surgery. They made lewd comments on the patient's penis and put a false diagnosis of hemorrhoids in his medical record. The patient, who accidentally recorded the situation on his cell phone, filed a lawsuit and was awarded $500,000 for winning the case. Dr. Ingham later resigned her position at Tavares-based Florida Hospital Waterman.
  • Dong Pyou Han, PhD. Dr. Han, a former researcher at Ames-based Iowa State University, was charged with "systematically falsifying data to make an experimental HIV vaccine look effective," according to Medscape. During the research, Dr. Han was supposed to inject a vaccine into rabbits and then test them for HIV. Instead, he injected the rabbits with human antibodies and reported false results to the lab director. The National Institutes of Health later awarded the lab director $13 million for the research, which was presented at three academic conferences. Dr. Han was sentenced to 57 months in prison.
  • Arthur Zilberstein, MD. In June, the Washington Medical Quality Assurance Commissions found Dr. Zilberstein, an anesthesiologist, guilty of sexting in the operating room. Dr. Zilberstein "was charged with exchanging sexually explicit texts during surgeries when he was the responsible anesthesiologist, improperly accessing medical-record imaging for sexual gratification and having sexual encounters in his office," according to Medscape. In addition, he had sexual relations with a patient and issued at least 29 unauthorized prescriptions.
  • Harold Persaud, MD. Dr. Persaud, a cardiologist, charged Medicare and other payers $7.2 million for needless procedures, including stent insertions, catheterizations and imaging tests. He was convicted in September and was also found guilty of numerous other accounts, including one count of healthcare fraud and 13 counts of making false statements, according to Medscape.

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