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R.I. CRIME

R.I. chiropractor charged in sexual assault of patient; Health Dept. suspends his license for second time

Dr. Thomas P. Sowa was arrested by Cumberland police last week on three felony charges of second-degree sexual assault, as well as simple assault in his office

The Rhode Island Department of Health on Capitol Hill in Providence.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

CUMBERLAND — A Rhode Island chiropractor is charged with sexually assaulting a patient, leading the state Department of Health to suspend his license for the second time in two years.

Dr. Thomas P. Sowa, who has been a licensed chiropractor with physiotherapy since 1988, was arrested by Cumberland police last week on three felony charges of second-degree sexual assault, as well as simple assault in his office at 175 Nate Whipple Highway.

Dr. Thomas P. Sowa. Cumberland Police Department

Sowa, 60, is accused of having a woman completely undress during three visits in June, during which he allegedly gave a “full-body massage” that included her breasts, buttocks, and between her legs, according to the Health Department. He is also accused of simple assault on another woman in June.

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The incidents were brought to the attention of the Health Department on Aug. 24, and the police arrested Sowa the next day. He was arraigned at Providence District Court, where he was released on his own recognizance and ordered not to have contact with the alleged victims.

Interim Health Director Dr. Utpala Bandy suspended Sowa’s license on Aug. 26, citing “gross unprofessional conduct.” An administrative hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

No one answered the phone at Sowa’s office on Friday, and there was no lawyer listed as representing Sowa.

Since 2011, Sowa has been charged several times with driving under the influence and refusing to take a chemical test for alcohol. His driver’s license was suspended for three months in in 2012, and for six months in 2018, and Sowa was also ordered into treatment, according to court records.

Around the same time, the Health Department also received a complaint about Sowa’s behavior.

In February 2018, a woman seeking help for her back made an appointment with Sowa, who had her change into a johnny gown. Sowa began giving her a massage and then unsnapped her bra and exposed her breasts, according to a report from the Health Department.

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Sowa touched the woman in ways that were “completely superfluous” to treating her back pain and touched parts of her body that had nothing to do with her back pain, according to a report from the Health Department and the RI Board of Chiropractic Examiners. Sowa also isn’t licensed to perform massage therapy.

Sowa’s license was suspended for six months under a consent order in late 2019, although the suspension was stayed pending a probationary period. Sowa was required to get a licensed chiropractor to monitor his practice and randomly select four patient charts each month to review.

Sowa was also banned from seeing female patients alone; the consent order required him to have a licensed female health care worker as a chaperone during those appointments.

Sowa got in trouble again during the probationary period, when in July 2020 a female patient called for help after finding him alone at his office and appearing to struggle with a medical emergency.

Firefighters determined that Sowa was actually “highly intoxicated,” according to another report from the Health Department, which found the patient’s “chiropractic treatment need would have been very compromised” if he’d attempted to treat her.

Sowa also didn’t have a chaperone for the appointment with that female patient. Then-Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott immediately suspended his license. Under a consent order signed in December 2020, Sowa’s license was suspended for three months, and he was placed on subsequent probation that included having him attend weekly alcohol treatment sessions and submit to random alcohol urine screenings.

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The probation ended on April 2021.


Amanda Milkovits can be reached at amanda.milkovits@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMilkovits.