A Granite Bay physician accused of groping three female patients has been placed on five years’ probation by the Medical Board of California, according to an order that took effect this week.
Dr. Syed K. Zaidi, 41, who is board-certified in internal medicine, could have lost his license after the medical board accused him of sexual misconduct, negligent care, dishonesty in his medical records and failing a psychiatric exam.
Additionally, the board weighed evidence that Zaidi had been arrested by Roseville police in 2011 for allegedly striking his wife and young son. The charges later were dismissed, and Zaidi’s wife, also a physician, refused to testify at medical board proceedings.
The medical board’s formal accusation followed complaints by three female patients that they had been mistreated by Zaidi between 2009 and 2013. Since being licensed in California in June 2008, he had worked about 5 1/2 years for UC Davis Medical Group and one year at Kaiser Permanente.
According to documents filed in the case, a 35-year-old female patient said Zaidi had required her to have a gynecological exam when she sought to refill a thyroid prescription, and had her stand naked in front of him and turn around so he could conduct a skin examination. Another woman, 25, said she had been subjected to a similar skin exam in the nude, along with exposure of her genitals while on the exam table, when she went for help with a skin rash on her feet, the records state.
A third woman, whose older complaint was given more limited weight, said Zaidi had lifted her bra and touched her nipples in 2009 while listening through his stethoscope for a cough, which she contended she did not have, the records state.
In reaching its decision, a panel for the medical board agreed with a recommendation last year by an administrative law judge to stop short of revoking Zaidi’s license. Among other things, several experts had identified inconsistencies in the patient accounts, and the judge determined that a psychiatric examiner for the medical board had not adequately supported his mental health diagnoses of Zaidi.
“His competence as a medical provider is not in question, but a part of being a good doctor, is making your patients feel safe and protected in the medical examination room and treating them with respect,” wrote Administrative Law Judge Erin R. Koch-Goodman in her August 2016 recommendation.
“To that end, respondent still has some work to do, but he is a good candidate for probation.”
While calling his behavior toward the two women in 2013 “incorrect,” the judge also noted that Zaidi “seemed oblivious to the patient’s perspective, but not devious or intentional.”
The judge’s report also found that cultural issues and poor communication skills may have contributed to the doctor’s problems with patients, and that he “should also strongly consider working on his empathy skills.”
At a January meeting, Zaidi’s attorney urged the medical board panel to dismiss the accusation and drop the penalties. M. Bradley Wishek of Sacramento told The Sacramento Bee this week he anticipates that his client will file a petition in Superior Court, which amounts to an appeal.
Zaidi briefly addressed the panel in January.
“I just want to say I have gone through a lot of trauma. My family – we have suffered,” he said. “And I feel sorry for these patients, I truly do …
“It was never my intention in these examinations for any sexual gratification or anything like this. I was doing what I was taught in my education, how to do thorough exams.”
UC Davis Health officials said in a statement this week that they had cooperated fully with the medical board’s investigation.
“The safety of our patients is our highest priority, and we are committed to ensuring that the care we provide them is of the highest quality, safety and integrity,” the statement read.
While practicing at UC Davis, Zaidi had been the subject of about 20 patient complaints, almost all of them “about communication, or a lack thereof,” according to medical board documents. An expert who reviewed those complaints reportedly found none related to his competence as a physician or any misdiagnoses.
“(I)nstead, patients complained that (Zaidi) was rude, demeaning, and refused to prescribe medications, including narcotics,” the documents state.
The proposal to place Zaidi on probation – with a detailed list of terms and conditions – was first made last year by Koch-Goodman after days of hearings and conflicting testimony in Sacramento. In November, the medical board rejected the judge’s proposal but came back this year and approved it with only a few minor word changes.
The order took effect Wednesday. Among other conditions of his probation, Zaidi must complete multiple education and ethics courses, engage in psychotherapy, pay for a licensed physician to be his “monitor” and agree not to conduct a “solo practice.”
“He can’t run his own show,” explained Cassandra Hockenson, spokeswoman for the Medical Board of California. “He must practice in a group.”
The state also is requiring that a third-party chaperone be present when he is examining or treating female patients. He cannot see patients in his or the patient’s home, unless the individual lives in a nursing home or similarly licensed facility.
Born and raised in Pakistan, Zaidi attended Dow Medical College in his native country and graduated in 1999. He came to New York in 2003 and worked and trained on the East Coast and in Ohio before moving to California, where he was licensed to practice medicine in June 2008.
He worked for UC Davis through early January 2014, then for Kaiser Permanente until January 2015, the documents state.
The records described instances in which Zaidi felt he had been treated poorly by colleagues because of his ethnicity. According to the documents, Zaidi had an “uncomfortable encounter” with a supervisor at the Carmichael clinic who reportedly told him: “If you don’t like it, go back to where you came from.”
At January’s hearing, Zaidi said he had not worked for about two years. The documents described him as now being a stay-at-home father for four young children, and that he has continued to study medicine and read material on doctor-patient communication.