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Dr. Zafar Iqbal, a Physician from Pennsylvania has had his Medical License revoked for Unwanted Sexual Advances. The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania (“Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court”) stated in its unreported opinion dated April 18, 2022, “Zafar Iqbal (Dr. Iqbal) petitions for review of the November 2, 2020, order of the State Board of Medicine (Board) revoking his license to practice medicine in Pennsylvania on the basis of multiple incidents of unwanted sexual advances toward nurses and medical support staff. The Board concluded that revocation is warranted because Dr. Iqbal’s conduct violated the prohibition on immoral and unprofessional conduct set forth in the Medical Practice Act of 1985 (MPA) and its associated regulations. Upon review, we affirm.”

Background Facts

Dr. Iqbal had been a licensed medical doctor in Pennsylvania since 1990 and specialized as a nephrologist. In 2003, Dr. Iqbal lost his practice privileges at the Fresenius Dialysis Center after allegations of sexual harassment by several nurses. In 2012, after an incident involving unwanted sexual contact with a nurse when he was practicing at UPMC Passavant (UPMC), Dr. Iqbal received a warning but no formal discipline.

On August 1, 2015, while still at UPMC, Dr. Iqbal made unwanted physical advances toward a nurse in an elevator, by kissing her and putting his tongue in her mouth. She reported it to her superiors the same day. After an investigation and internal proceedings, UPMC’s board of trustees revoked Dr. Iqbal’s hospital privileges as of March 17, 2016.

On November 7, 2017, while working for Curahealth in Oakdale, Dr. Iqbal sexually assaulted a medical records clerk, who reported it to the police on November 9, 2017. Dr. Iqbal was suspended from Curahealth and after a bench trial on November 20, 2018, he was convicted of one count of simple assault (a second-degree misdemeanor) and three counts of harassment (a third-degree misdemeanor). He was sentenced to five years of probation.

Dr. Iqbal acknowledged that he has had about 15 extramarital affairs, about half with women from his medical workplaces who were nurses or support staff. He maintained that in the past, allegations of sexual harassment have been lodged against him after an affair soured.

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court stated that physician disciplinary sanctions are within the Board’s discretion and must be upheld unless the Board acted in bad faith or fraudulently or the sanction constitutes capricious action or a flagrant abuse of discretion. Generally, a reviewing court may not substitute its judgment for that of the agency whose decision is being reviewed. The Court’s review is therefore limited to determining whether constitutional rights have been violated, whether the findings of fact are supported by substantial record evidence, and whether errors of law have been committed. The Board is the ultimate fact finder and may accept or reject the testimony of any witness in whole or in part, and the Court is bound by those determinations. Thus, when reviewing a decision by the Board, the Court may not re-weigh the evidence which was presented or judge the credibility of witnesses.

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court held: “We agree with the Board that the extensive evidence presented by the Bureau and summarized above fully supports the sanction of revocation. That determination was amply supported by substantial evidence of record and was not legally erroneous, arbitrary, or capricious. This result is also consistent with the holdings of Tandon and Flickinger, where this Court has upheld severe sanctions for doctors found to have violated the MPA and its regulations against unwanted sexual advances and attacks on nurses and support medical staff … As the Board’s determination was supported by substantial evidence of record and Dr. Iqbal has not shown that the Board acted arbitrarily, capriciously, or in a legally erroneous manner, we affirm the Board’s order revoking Dr. Iqbal’s license to practice medicine in Pennsylvania.”

Source Iqbal v. Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, State Board of Medicine, No. 1190 C.D. 2020.

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