The Ohio State Medical Board has disciplined 19 doctors in Greater Akron over sexual behavior with patients or others over the past three decades, state records show.
The scope of the doctors' specialties is broad, ranging from family medicine and podiatry to anesthesiology and psychiatry.
Not all of the trouble involved patients.
One former internal medicine doctor in Akron, for example, lost his medical license in 1998 after pleading guilty to two felonies involving drugs. State records show he was trading prescriptions for sexual favors from strip club dancers at a motel.
Area doctors who ran into trouble with patients were accused of everything from a French kiss to having sex, records show.
Most cases involved a single patient, or doctors who have since died.
But there are three local doctors who faced discipline over the sexual mistreatment of multiple patients and a fourth who repeatedly used an Akron psychiatric patient like a "sex toy," according to a state prosecutor.
All but one of these doctors lost their licenses. The medical board has not yet ruled in the case of Dr. Mark Meacham, a longtime family doctor who practiced in Brunswick. Meacham was released from probation in August only to face new allegations in December.
Here's what we know about the four area doctors who faced discipline from the medical board over allegations of sexually mistreating patients:
Stow doctor accused of rape, gross sexual imposition
Name: James Patrick Bressi
Area of practice: Osteopathic medicine
Location of former practice: Stow
Year of license revocation: 2015
James Patrick Bressi was indicted in 2013 on 27 counts of rape, gross sexual imposition and misdemeanor sexual imposition involving 10 patients and a clinic nurse. He was accused of inappropriate contact during medical examinations.
During his 2014 trial, Bressi denied engaging in offensive sexual contact with patients or employees and contended that his former partners were attempting to oust him from their practice, Summit Pain Specialists in Stow.
Bressi said his accusers must have mistaken two bottles he carried in his pockets - one filled with the sweetener Stevia, another with a dietary supplement - as his genitals rubbing against them.
Bressi was convicted in August 2014 of a misdemeanor charge of sexual imposition and cleared of the other counts. He was sentenced to 59 days in jail but appealed and his sentence was stayed. He voluntarily surrendered his Ohio medical license in 2015.
The clinic closed in August 2016.
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Joy Oldfield ruled in November 2018 that new evidence could change the outcome of Bressi's criminal case. The new evidence included emails from one of Bressi's former partners to his attorneys asking if they should get an alleged victim to embellish her story against Bressi.
The emails were uncovered by Zachary Burkons, a receiver in a bankruptcy case for Summit Pain Specialists. He received 20,000 emails as part of the case.
In April 2020, the 9th District Court of Appeals upheld a decision by Oldfield that granted Bressi a new trial.
James Bressi:Former doctor reaches deal to end long legal saga over contact with patients
In June 2022, nearly a decade after first facing allegations of inappropriate contact during medical examinations, Bressi reached a deal to end prosecution.
Judge Oldfield found Bressi guilty of disorderly conduct after he entered a no-contest plea. He will not serve any jail time and was ordered to pay court costs.
Bressi's attorney Mike Callahan said at the time that the plea deal put the criminal case to rest and it was time to move on.
"The only alternative would have been to retrial," he said. "Any time you do that, the outcome is a question. But this plea was a sure thing. This sentencing was clearly done to get the case over with."
Attempts to reach Bressi were unsuccessful, but Callahan reiterated that had Bressi not agreed to a plea deal, "we would have been back up at the Court of Appeals maybe again. It's just kind of a never-ending saga."
Callahan does not represent Bressi in some civil cases, which continue.
Gynecologist convicted of raping patients
Name: Azzam Ahmed
Area of practice: Gynecology
Locations of former practices: Offices in Twinsburg, Parma and Newbury, and one-time head of gynecology at Parma Hospital
Year of license revocation: 2014
Azzam Ahmed, who owned Women's Comprehensive Care clinics in three suburbs in Northeast Ohio, had been molesting female patients for 25 years, prosecutors have said.
But it wasn't until a Parma woman went to police in 2002 that authorities took action.
The woman explained to The Plain Dealer what happened in 2004: Ahmed had been her doctor and she liked him until one day she went to see him about a cyst. As she sat on an examining table wearing nothing but a paper gown, he came into the room, lifted her legs and put his finger in her.
The woman told the newspaper Ahmed then kissed her leg, began rubbing her and telling her she was beautiful.
When she went to Parma police, detectives discovered from the Ohio medical board that her allegations weren't the first. The medical board had ordered Ahmed to have a chaperone present during his exams since 1995, following complaints from six other patients.
Investigators suspected there were other victims. When they publicized the case, more than 100 women came forward. Out of 105 complaints, 71 were too old to prosecute.
In 2004, Ahmed faced trial in Cuyahoga County on 53 charges.
One of the witnesses was another doctor who fired Ahmed 25 years before for kissing a patient and fondling her breasts. That doctor never reported Ahmed.
Thirty-four women testified, saying Ahmed groped, kissed and fondled them at one of his three offices.
A jury convicted Ahmed of 20 of 53 charges against him, including two counts of rape, seven counts of sexual battery, and 11 counts of sexual Imposition.
A judge initially sentenced Ahmed to 45 years in prison, but later reduced his sentence to 11 years.
The Ohio medical board permanently revoked his license in 2014, citing the convictions.
Records show that Ahmed, after being released from prison, returned to his home in the wealthy Cleveland suburb of Moreland Hills, where he still lives, registered as a sexual predator.
Psychiatrist treated patient as 'as personal sex toy'
Name: John Michael Schechter
Area of practice: Psychiatry
Location of former practice(s): Community Support Services of Akron, private practice in Solon
Year of license revocation: 2004
An Akron-area woman who had been sexually abused by her father for 15 years went to John Michael Schechter in 1996 after her former psychiatrist moved.
The woman, already diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder, told Schechter she had recently started cutting herself, court records show.
Schechter prescribed her medication, but by 1998, she was becoming more "psychotic" and began burning herself, court records show.
Sometime soon after the woman started seeing Schechter, she told him she was attracted to him. Court records show that Schechter initially told the woman her feelings were likely transference, a relatively common phenomenon when someone in therapy redirects feelings about one person to the therapist.
As time passed, Schechter allowed the woman to tell him about her sexual fantasies about him, court records show.
Schechter told the woman there were boundaries he couldn't cross with a patient. But court records said he also told the woman, "You can say and do whatever you want, but you need to stay in your seat."
That led the woman to "disrobe and/or masturbate" in the presence of Schechter about 36 times, Schechter told the medical board, court records show.
Schechter once touched the woman through her panties but stopped before it went further because he knew he could lose his license, records show. But in 2000, after reading another of her sexual fantasies, Schechter and his patient had sex in his office, records show.
In April 2001, the woman was hospitalized again after self-mutilating and other behavior, court records said, and Schechter acted as her attending physician.
The woman later told the medical board that she was hospitalized because of her feelings for Schechter, according to court records.
She "felt with him the way she had felt with her father when she was a child," court records show.
That summer, the woman later told the medical board that Schechter "stimulated himself through his clothing while she told him another erotic story," court records show.
Schechter, the woman told the medical board, threatened to kill himself if she ever told anyone about their sexual relationship.
He also told her no one would believe her if she did tell, court records show.
At some point, the woman confronted Schechter and wanted to know why they only had sex when he wanted it, court records show. Schechter mentioned the possibility of his wife finding out, court records show.
"And with that he hit me across the face," the woman said in court records. When she asked if he wanted to fight, "Schecter pushed me, and I hit a wall that was like a corner sticking out wall."
Schechter then left the office, with the woman lying on the ground.
Schechter told the medical board he did not slap the woman out of anger but to calm her down because she was out of control and grabbing at him.
He also said he returned to the office about 30 minutes later to make sure she was OK, but the woman was gone.
Schechter continued to treat the woman until about March 2002, about the time he discovered she had stopped taking the anti-psychotic medication he had prescribed.
Around this time, the woman confided in another doctor about her sexual relationship with Schechter, court records show.
Schechter initially denied the allegations and told the other doctor the woman was "delusional," court records show.
But after Schechter severed his treatment relationship with the woman, he accompanied her to an appointment with the other doctor and conceded what happened, court records show.
Schechter told his wife and then went into therapy himself, court records show.
In October 2002, the woman was again hospitalized after realizing "that I was abused and exploited, and I just got angry, and I felt rage, and I just had to get help," the woman said in court records.
The woman said she thought she was in love with Schechter and that feeling was exacerbated by her bipolar disorder.
"My husband, my marriage suffered … [my] work suffered … And I don't know if I will ever get over this," she said in court records.
In 2004, as the medical board considered permanently revoking Schechter's license, he told them that had turned his life around. He said he wanted to see patients again and share what he learned to help others clearly define relationship boundaries between patient and doctor.
Attorneys with the state attorney general's office told the board Schechter should never practice again because he "used this patient as his personal sex toy," court records show.
The medical board unanimously voted to permanently revoke Schechter's license, with one member saying this "case was probably the most difficult, most egregious she has had to read in the 11 years she's been on the board," court records show.
Schechter, who did not return a call left on his business voicemail in January, appealed the revocation in courts but lost.
Medina County doctor accused of having sex with patients
Name: Mark Meacham
Area of practice: Family medicine. Former medical director of the Cleveland Clinic's Brunswick Family Health Center and Medina Hospital's medical office building.
Discipline: Probation in 2021; new allegations in 2022
The Ohio State Medical Board lifted Mark Meacham's probation in August 2022, two years after he faced allegations of having sex with a patient.
In December, four months later, the board cited him again over allegations he had sex with two patients.
Meacham, who lives in the Bath Township area, could not be reached and an attorney who once represented him in a divorce did not respond to a message. Someone who answered the phone at his former Brunswick office in January said he hasn't worked there in a couple of years.
Meacham retains his license for now and, because of that, there is not as much public information available compared to doctors whose licensed are revoked, or those who sought to overturn a revocation.
Medical board records show that Meacham was first cited in August 2020 for violating the doctor-patient relationship by having a sexual relationship with a patient.
In April 2021, the board suspended Meacham's license for one year, fined him $6,000 and required him to take medical education courses, records show.
Meacham completed a professional ethics course within two months, but the board did not release him from probation until August 2022.
Less than four months later, records show he ran into trouble again.
This time, the board issued a citation alleging Meacham "engaged in sexual encounters involving physical touching, sexual intercourse, and requesting nude photos" with two patients.
Those allegations have not yet been resolved.
Reporter Betty Lin-Fisher contributed to this report. She can be reached at email@example.com Reporter Amanda Garrett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Four Akron-area doctors disciplined for sexual conduct with patients
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