California clinic doctor suspected of taking nude photos of patients

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 23, 2014 7:47 PM

By Marty Graham

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - A doctor who volunteered at a San Diego-area health clinic for the poor and uninsured is suspected of taking more than 1,300 sexually explicit photographs of female patients with his mobile phone, according to court documents filed by state medical board investigators.

Jeffrey J. Abrams, 67, an endocrinologist, has not been arrested and still holds a state medical license, but has been suspended by the clinic, officials there said on Thursday.

Calls to Abrams' office were not immediately returned.

Attorney Jessica Pride, who represents the patient who first accused Abrams of misconduct in July, said more than a dozen other women had come forward with similar allegations, some going back 20 years.

All were patients of Abrams at a clinic in El Cajon, east of San Diego, operated by the national organization Volunteers in Medicine.

"These victims were particularly vulnerable since they needed medical care and had nowhere else to go," Pride said. "It is particularly egregious that Dr. Abrams took advantage both of these women and of the facility, which serves a desperately unmet need. They trusted their doctor."

Amy Hamlin, executive director for the national Volunteers in Medicine office, said the El Cajon clinic was cooperating with the investigation. "We find this alleged behavior to be abhorrent and inexcusable, and completely contrary to our mission," she said.

Maureen Hartin, the clinic's chief executive, said Abrams was placed on "an immediate leave of absence" when the investigation began.

The case stems from a complaint lodged with the state medical board in July by an unidentified patient who visited the clinic in January for stomach pains, according to search warrant documents filed by a board investigator in San Diego County Superior Court.

The woman reported that Abrams told her to undress and lie down on the examining table, and then put his finger in her vagina twice. She immediately stood up and tried to cover herself, before Abrams put her arms at her sides and took five pictures of her, said court documents.

The July search warrant led to the discovery of more than 1,300 pictures of nude or partially clad women and girls on Abrams' cellphone, the documents said.

Abrams has practiced medicine for more than 40 years, according to state records. He has a voluntary teaching appointment at the University of California at San Diego, where spokeswoman Jackie Carr said he did not see patients.

(Reporting by Marty Graham; Editing by Steve Gorman and Peter Cooney)