In 2010 – the same year Dr. J. Paul Muizelaar first performed an experimental treatment on a dying brain cancer patient at UC Davis Medical Center – the neurosurgeon made more money than 99.9 percent of all employees in the University of California system.
With a total compensation package of $801,841 in 2010, he was the 35th highest earner, behind 27 other physicians, four athletic coaches and three executives, according to the most recent UC salary data.
Muizelaar, 65, and an underling, Dr. Rudolph J. Schrot, 44, have been banned from engaging in all research on humans after university officials accused the doctors of skirting stringent rules governing such work.
Muizelaar has been chairman of the UC Davis Department of Neurological Surgery since his arrival in 1997. He hired Schrot to be a resident in 1999, then brought him on board as an assistant professor in the School of Medicine.
Muizleaar said he specifically hired Schrot to explore the idea of using bacteria to treat deadly brain tumors.
In penalizing the neurosurgeons, university officials made clear that Muizelaar was the senior doctor and that Schrot had been working under Muizelaar's direction, according to an October 2011 letter to the federal government from Harris A. Lewin, UC Davis' vice chancellor for research. (See the letter at www.sacbee.com/investigations)
Four times in his eight-page letter, Lewin pointed out that Schrot was acting on Muizelaar's behalf when the alleged judgment errors and procedural blunders were made.
Lewin's letter is a stinging rebuke of Muizelaar, who has been a well-known figure nationally and within his own university. The neurosurgeon's academic résumé is 55 pages long and cites his advisory roles with institutions around the world.
Despite the research controversy at UC Davis, Muizelaar continues to review grant proposals for the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Institutes of Health, the world's largest source of medical research funding.
Muizelaar, who previously was a professor of neurosurgery at Wayne State University in Detroit, was hired directly into the top post at UC Davis – even though he lacked a California medical license.
A native of the Netherlands, where he was educated, Muizelaar was brought into the UC Davis School of Medicine under a "special faculty permit" issued by the Medical Board of California.
The provisional permit allows a foreign doctor who has been recognized as "academically eminent" in a specific field to practice at a sponsoring California medical school and its formally affiliated hospitals.
Currently, only 15 doctors at six of California's eight medical schools eligible to receive them hold special faculty permits.
Muizelaar said he has not gotten a California license because he already works 80 to 100 hours a week and the step is "not necessary."
"I'll be frank with you, I'm world famous, so they gave me the license to practice here," he said. "I can go sit for the exams, but why would I do that?"
In defending himself to university officials, Schrot pointed to Muizelaar's high profile as evidence that the doctors "were not acting in isolation," according to a Sept. 22, 2011, memo from Schrot to the leaders of the institutional review board that halted their work.
"I discussed our plan for treatment of each patient with Dr. Muizelaar, who is a seasoned senior clinical researcher, having served as PI (principal investigator) on numerous clinical trials," Schrot wrote, also referring to Muizelaar's advisory roles with the federal government.
Schrot's total compensation in 2010 was $458,379, UC data show.