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Eye Surgeon Wins Close Call

Dr. Alan Mendelsohn
Dr. Alan Mendelsohn

A letter from the Federal Bureau of Prisons almost cost Alan Mendelsohn his medical practice, only months after resuming it.

The prominent Hollywood eye surgeon, who served 2 ½ years of a four-year prison term on charges of public corruption and tax evasion, was sent to a halfway house in July.  There, residents are required to work during the days but must return each evening.

Dr. Alan Mendelsohn
Credit myeyesurgeons.com
Dr. Alan Mendelsohn

Citing his release from prison, Mendelsohn asked the Florida Board of Medicine in July to reinstate his license, which it did on Aug. 1. At the time, neither the state Department of Health nor members of the Board of Medicine knew that Mendelsohn was still considered an “inmate” in the eyes of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Technically, he was still “incarcerated” and will be until June 30, 2015.

The DOH learned this in a letter from Carlos Rodriguez, residential reentry manager for the Bureau of Prisons. Rodriguez said that in order to practice medicine, Mendelsohn needs to provide written confirmation that the medical board knows he is still considered incarcerated.

At a meeting Friday in Deerfield Beach, DOH prosecutors said the medical board should reconsider its reinstatement of Mendelsohn's license. They said he did not meet the legal requirements to resume practice on disciplinary probation.

Mendelsohnand the attorney who appeared with him in August, Monica Rodriguez, told the board neither of them was aware that the Bureau of Prisons still technically considered residents of the halfway house as inmates. They said they had not intentionally misled the board in sayingMendelsohnhad been released.

Then Mendelsohn threw himself on the mercy of the board, saying he has been working hard to get his medical knowledge and surgical skills honed and ready.

Several board members sided with DOH, saying they worried that Mendelsohn might be restricted to his quarters at Dismas Charities in Dania Beach at a time when a patient needed attention. But Mendelsohn said if that happened and if he couldn’t get permission to go out, other surgeons would provide backup.

After some discussion, board members voted 6 to 4 in Mendelsohn’s favor.  

Mendelsohn had by far the highest profile of any name on the board’s agenda at Friday’s meeting. That’s because, not so long ago, he was a high-flying GOP political fundraiser who bragged he could wrap the Florida Legislature around his little finger.

Mendolsohn pleaded guilty in 2010 to public corruption and tax evasion. At the sentencing,  U.S. District Judge William Zloch gave him four years because “the corruption in this case strikes at the heart of the Florida Legislature,” the Miami Heraldreported at the time.

The surgeon admitted he paid the then-chair of the Senate Health Care Committee, Democrat Mandy Dawson, $82,000 to keep her from thwarting the Florida Medical Association.   Dawson later pleaded guilty to tax evasion and served six months; she has been arrested twice while on probation after testing positive for cocaine, according to recent reports.

As for tax evasion, Mendelsohn pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the U.S. government for failing to report  $700,000 in income from political action committees, lobbying clients and his surgical practice. Court records showed he spent the money on a mistress, his children’s private schools, a luxury car and more.

Another former inmate who came before the medical board on Friday, orthopedic surgeon Alfred Massam, was also allowed to resume practice on probation. Massam, 71, pleaded guilty to embezzlement in August 2012. (See After Prison, Surgeon Returns to Practice. )

--Health News Florida is part of WUSF Public Media. Contact Special Correspondent Carol Gentry at cgentry@wusf.org. For more health news, visit .

Copyright 2014 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.After serving two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia, Gentry worked for a number of newspapers including The Wall Street Journal, St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times), the Tampa Tribune and Orlando Sentinel. She was a Kaiser Foundation Media Fellow in 1994-95 and earned an Master's in Public Administration at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 1996. She directed a journalism fellowship program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for four years.Gentry created Health News Florida, an independent non-profit health journalism publication, in 2006, and served as editor until September, 2014, when she became a special correspondent. She and Health News Florida joined WUSF in 2012.
Carol Gentry
Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.
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