USC gynecologist accused of abusing patients faces loss of medical license
Dr. George Tyndall, the longtime campus gynecologist at USC, faces the loss of his medical license after state regulators formally accused him of negligence and sexual misconduct with several patients.
The charges brought by the Medical Board of California come as Tyndall and USC face hundreds of civil claims from women who allege sexual abuse and harassment. On Friday, USC announced that it had agreed to pay $215 million to settle a federal class-action lawsuit brought by several former patients. The university’s total legal costs for the scandal are expected to be significantly higher.
The medical board’s accusation outlines a series of appointments with five patients in which Tyndall allegedly made lewd remarks, performed “non-clinical” breast and pelvic exams, and in one case, mocked the injuries of a patient after she told him she had recently been sexually assaulted.
According to the 13-page accusation, Tyndall locked the door when meeting with a graduate medical student in 2012, watched her disrobe and repeatedly inserted his fingers in her while complimenting her body, asking if she worked as a model and wondering about her mother’s beauty.
While performing a vaginal exam on an undergraduate student in 2016, Tyndall allegedly said her boyfriend was a “lucky guy.” Another patient said he used both hands to grope her breasts, a departure from standard exams, according to the Sept. 26 filing, which has not been previously reported.
Tyndall, 71, has repeatedly insisted that his care aligned with medical norms, and in a series of interviews with The Times earlier this year, he defended his frank discussions about sex as a way to counsel and connect with his mostly younger patients. In August, he voluntarily agreed to surrender his license in order to focus on his defense, and he now has a team of lawyers to handle criminal, civil and regulatory matters. He has denied any wrongdoing while working at USC.
The attorney representing him before the medical board, Peter R. Osinoff, declined to comment.
An investigation by the Los Angeles Times first revealed that Tyndall was accused repeatedly of misconduct by patients and staff but was allowed to continue treating students until 2016.
The Times reported that an internal investigation concluded Tyndall’s behavior during pelvic exams was outside the scope of current medical practice and amounted to sexual harassment of patients. Tyndall was allowed to resign quietly with an undisclosed financial settlement, and USC did not notify the medical board until March — months after his departure.
Tyndall began working at USC in 1989, but the board’s accusation contains the accounts of patients who saw him during his final decade at the university.
In 2009, he allegedly showed a graduate student a “provocative photograph” of his wife, inquired about her sex life and later gave her prescriptions for the morning after pill, even though she did not seek the medication, according to the filing.
In the 2012 appointment with the graduate medical student, Tyndall asked where she was from in China and then proceeded with the pelvic exam. He inserted his fingers into her and “moved his fingers in and out, back and forth, repeatedly, for several minutes.” After she asked him to stop, Tyndall said it would conclude in a few minutes “and that she should just relax,” according to the filing.
At one point, Tyndall put his face “within a couple of inches of her vagina” and she heard him “breathing heavily,” according to the filing.
Tyndall also allegedly encouraged her to take birth control so that her boyfriend could enjoy unprotected sex, the filing states. The board alleged the exam was unprofessional and amounted to sexual misconduct.
In the wake of The Times’ reporting, scores of former patients shared accounts of Tyndall’s behavior. The accounts detailed in the medical board’s filing dovetail with the allegations of more than 460 former patients who have filed lawsuits against USC, alleging sexual abuse and harassment at the student health center.
A criminal investigation by the L.A. Police Department is ongoing. Detectives so far have presented 64 cases to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s sex crimes unit. Prosecutors are evaluating the cases, and no charges have been filed against the physician.
The medical board’s high-profile case against Tyndall follows the agency’s decision this summer to revoke the license of former USC medical school dean, Dr. Carmen Puliafito.
The board accused Puliafito of using methamphetamine and heroin and providing drugs to criminals and addicts while running the Keck School of Medicine, part of a hard-partying double life that The Times exposed in 2017. The allegations played out this spring in a downtown L.A. courtroom, where Puliafito’s attorneys denied that the Harvard-trained ophthalmologist provided drugs to others and said the former dean suffered from bipolar disorder.
An administrative law judge ultimately determined Puliafito showed “an appalling lack of judgment” while leading the nationally ranked medical school and recommended he should not be allowed to practice again in the state.
Puliafito is appealing. In September, his attorney filed a petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court asking a judge to set aside the medical board’s decision. His attorney argued that the medical board violated disability laws and treated his client differently than other physicians suffering from substance abuse.
“The Board improperly imposed a moral judgment on Dr. Puliafito’s conduct, penalizing him for his mental illness, without even being willing to evaluate his present safety to practice,” the petition stated.
Times staff writer Harriet Ryan contributed to this article.
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