A well-known Harvard psychiatrist who treats patients with eating disorders and has written textbooks on the topic has surrendered his medical license after officials found he engaged in sexual misconduct with a bulimic patient.
The Board of Registration in Medicine accepted the resignation of Dr. David B. Herzog Wednesday. The board said that after hearing from the woman who had been his patient, it took “the most serious, immediate, and impactful action allowed by law in order to protect the public and prevent this physician from ever practicing medicine again.’’
Herzog, 66, is founder of the Harris Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, where specialists research eating disorders, provide advocacy and education, and treat patients. Herzog has received numerous awards and published dozens of articles and three books, according to the Mass. General website. He is also certified in pediatrics.
Findings of an administrative magistrate describe an increasingly friendly relationship between Herzog and the woman, referred to as Patient A, that blossomed during office visits and frequent e-mails in 2009 and 2010 and culminated in a sexual encounter at her home in August 2010 while her husband was away.
The board also found that Herzog did not keep appropriate treatment records for the patient.
In a statement from his lawyer, David Gould, Herzog denied that he had a sexual relationship with the patient.
“These allegations are absolutely baseless, and Dr. Herzog categorically denies them,” Gould said in the statement, e-mailed by the public relations firm Solomon McCown. “The allegations regarding his conduct toward this patient are not corroborated by any direct or indirect evidence. The magistrate’s findings and recommendations are an absolute travesty that we vehemently oppose.’’
Gould said that Herzog has helped thousands of patients during his 34-year career and that this is the first complaint regarding his conduct.
“Despite his strong desire to defend himself against this injustice, he chose to voluntarily resign his medical license because he believed it was the best way he could continue to help people,” Gould said. “This has been an extremely painful personal and professional episode.’’
Herzog is still employed by Mass. General in a nonclinical role and is still a Harvard Medical School professor, Gould said through the firm. A medical school spokeswoman said she needed time to research the situation and could not comment.
“The hospital was surprised and saddened to learn about the allegations against David Herzog, M.D., an internationally renowned authority in the field of eating disorders,” said Peggy Slasman, spokeswoman for Mass. General.
“He currently has a nonclinical appointment at Massachusetts General Hospital, which permits him to conduct research with no patient contact,” she said in a statment. “Now that the Board of Registration in Medicine has accepted his resignation, MGH will determine an appropriate course.”
The patient, a wealthy lawyer, was 55 at the time of her complaint and had suffered from bulimia for more than 30 years. In e-mails she provided to the board, she and Herzog talked about the weather, golfing, celebrities he had met, and mutual acquaintances.
Gould said that Herzog now “will focus his time and energy on advocacy and policy work, conducting research, generating new research and supporting the development of new researchers in eating disorders.’’Liz Kowalczyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.