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Behavior Could End Doctor's Career

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Back Center (archive)
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A Central Florida doctor accused of molesting six women patients – sometimes while he was injecting pain medicine into their spine – is expected to receive the ultimate punishment Friday from the Florida Board of Medicine.

The board, meeting in Stuart, is expected to revoke the license of Dr. Albert Esmailzadeh, 49, a certified pain specialist.  That is the recommendation from Administrative Law Judge R. Bruce McKibben, who held hearings several months ago.

“By all accounts, (Esmailzadeh) is a skilled and proficient pain management physician,” wrote McKibben,  but that “does not excuse his behavior.”

The doctor, who lives in Viera, denied at the formal hearing that he molested the women. What they felt rubbing against them was probably syringes in his lab-coat pocket, he testified.  

The doctor’s testimony was so implausible, McKibben wrote, that it “was, frankly, insulting to a person of average intelligence.”

Reached by phone on Thursday, Esmailzadeh said he hopes for vindication but expects the board to vote for revocation. If that happens, he said, he will appeal the case to the court system. Ordinarily doctors are allowed to practice while the appeal is pending.

“I hope to God the board goes with me, because I’m innocent,” he said. “For this to happen, I’m devastated.”

In the past two years, Esmailzadeh has been practicing under an emergency restriction order that limits him to treating men. He said he worked at a pain clinic until December, when he lost his job.

He is being sued by one of the women, listed in court records only as "Jane Doe." He said he doesn't see how anyone could win money from him.

“I’m unemployed,” he said. “I’m flat broke.”

Esmailzadeh worked at Melbourne’s Back Authority for Contemporary Knowledge – usually called “The Back Center” – from January 2008 to September 2011, state records say. The medical director there fired him after receiving a number of complaints from women patients, the records say.

One of the patients called police, records show, but the officer believed Esmailzadeh's denial. That enabled the doctor to get another job.

From March 2012 through April 2013, Esmailzadeh worked at Advantacare Clinics in Daytona Beach and Altamonte Springs. He was fired after the Department of Health issued its order restricting his practice, according to a television news report at the time.

In December 2013, as Health News Floridareported at the time, his attorney and the Department of Health prosecutors agreed to settle the case with a reprimand, $20,000 fine, and continued restriction on his license.

But the medical board refused to accept the settlement. “This is a bad actor, a real bad actor,” then-Board Chair Zach Zachariah said at the time. The vote set the stage for the hearing before McKibben.

Also, the board early Friday voted to approve a long-disputed rule that allows a charge of $1 a page for copies of medical records.  Check later for an update.
--Special correspondent Carol Gentry is part of WUSF in Tampa. Health News Floridareceives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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.