UPDATED
Physician Behind Surgisphere Scandal Switches Medical Licenses
UPDATED
Physician Behind Surgisphere Scandal Switches Medical Licenses

Physician Behind Surgisphere Scandal Switches Medical Licenses

Sapan Desai has inactivated his license in Illinois, where multiple malpractice lawsuits against him are pending, and obtained a new one in Ohio.

Catherine Offord
Catherine Offord
Oct 23, 2020

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Update (November 2): Sapan Desai has requested that his newly obtained Ohio medical license be inactivated, according to documents obtained by The Scientist. In correspondence sent a few days after this story was published, Desai wrote to the State Medical Board of Ohio that he would “not be practicing medicine in the state of Ohio.” 

Sapan Desai, the embattled vascular surgeon and CEO of the now-defunct Surgisphere Corporation, has inactivated his medical license in one state and obtained a license in another.

Each US state has its own licensing board, and generally a doctor requires an in-state license to practice medicine there—although Illinois is one of many states that is granting emergency authorization to some out-of-state physicians in response to the COVID-19 crisis, provided they have an active license and are in good standing.

According to public records held by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), Desai’s license, which was issued to the South Barrington–based surgeon in 2013, was recently inactivated—a change requested voluntarily by the licensee that prohibits them from practicing medicine in the state. The license isn’t set to expire until 2023.

On September 25, according to records held by the State Medical Board of Ohio, a new medical license was issued to a Sapan Desai based in South Barrington, Illinois, with a specialty in vascular surgery. That license is valid until 2022.

Desai became the focus of a scandal earlier this year after Surgisphere provided data for several high-profile studies on COVID-19 patients. Those studies were quickly retracted after scientists and journalists raised questions about the provenance of the data, and independent auditors were refused access to the company’s database. The company disappeared shortly thereafter, and Desai stopped responding to requests for comment.

See The Scientist’s Investigation into Surgisphere Corporation

Over the summer, The Scientist spoke to a number of former colleagues and supervisors who described long-standing concerns about Desai’s conduct as a physician, including firsthand experiences of Desai providing false information about patients.

See “The Surgisphere Scandal: What Went Wrong?

Desai resigned from his latest position as a physician at Northwest Community Hospital in February this year following the filing of a string of medical malpractice lawsuits against him in Cook County, Illinois. He told The Scientist in May that he deemed any lawsuit naming him to be unfounded and that he left Northwest for personal reasons.

An employee at IDFPR’s complaints center tells The Scientist that the department cannot confirm or deny whether any investigations are underway into a particular physician’s actions, and says that no information about ongoing investigations is shared publicly or with medical boards in different states unless and until an investigation results in disciplinary action.

Contacted by The Scientist, an employee at the American Board of Surgery confirms that Desai is still certified with the board, but notes that the medical license on file is the Illinois license, not the Ohio one. Surgeons are required to contact the board themselves with any changes in license status.

The State Medical Board of Ohio’s chief communications officer confirms in an email to The Scientist that Desai’s license in Ohio is active and shows no board disciplinary action. She adds that applicants for licenses are required to undergo background checks and report any malpractice settlements or disciplinary actions against them.