Statement to Active Patients Addressing Recent News Releases

August 19, 2021
To Active Patients:

Due to the repeated news releases regarding my case before the Tennessee Medical Board - I have found it necessary to provide some details that have not been made available. I have, to date, remained silent as I sought to resolve this matter with the Department of Health and Medical Board and return to full-time practice. It has become increasingly clear that I can no longer remain silent since someone wishes to try me before the court of public opinion. I believe that my patients are owed an explanation for the disruption of their care. I am therefore going to present my case.

The headlines have at all times given the appearance that the allegations against me were proven. Careful review of the facts of my matter before the Board does not allow one to come to that conclusion. The stories have always been highly sensational and relied on shock value to produce an emotional response. The news stories have consistently communicated that I was accused by multiple patients of emotional and physical abuse. In fact, this case has relied on the complaint of a single patient. The other referenced patients in my case were actually present to give testimony that I had never been emotionally nor physically abusive towards them.

I believe that a review of the facts and evidence in my case would lead to a different conclusion than the news has sought to elicit. I trust in the ability of my patients to evaluate evidence and come to a reasonable conclusion once given facts.

Fact #1: This case has always been based upon the allegation of a single patient accusing me of emotional and physical abuse.

Fact #2: There were eight patients who came forward to share that my interactions with them have always been professional, encouraging, but never abusive. These eight patients also refute that the interaction in question was interpreted as abuse: they understood it as humor and testified to this.

Fact #3: The implements referenced by the news were not purchased by myself, but were gifts given by one of the patients who came forward to explain her sense of humor and that she gave the implements to me after a discussion we had about a Bible verse. No one was ever referred to as a mule. This accusation is the result of deliberately twisting a conversation I reported having with this same patient.

Fact #4: The testimony of the complainant contradicts itself and suggests that she is being dishonest. The complainant stated that she suffered a bruise at my hand and that this bruise resolved in a two-day period. The State’s expert witness, a forensic psychiatrist, refuted this claim, noting that a bruise does not resolve in two days.

Fact #5: An administrative law judge’s assessment of the complainant’s disability petition called her credibility into question due to multiple discrepancies in her reported medical and psychiatric history.

Fact #6: The State’s expert drew attention to the fact that he is a forensic psychiatrist and calls into question any information given by someone he examines once they have been caught in a lie. By this standard he would be unable to affirm the complainant as credible.

Fact #7: This case was about a patient alleging abuse at my hand, yet one Board member used his opportunity to question me to ask if I believe that the Bible is inerrant. I responded affirmatively. I was then asked which version of the Bible I read, and I said the KJV - which prompted the panel member to tell me that there are more than fifty-seven versions of the Bible. I then responded that I am not aware of the number of versions of the Bible there are. I only know that the Bible was written by men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write as they did and therefore the Bible is inerrant. This line of questioning represents bias against me due to my faith and should have had no bearing on the matter which brought me before the Board. No one present objected to this questioning as inappropriate.

Fact #8: As the panel members discussed my case and their proposed discipline in my presence, one Board member expressed concern that the sanctions considered against me were too severe in light of the fact that my offense was not “egregious”. This caution was dismissed by the other two panel members.

Fact #9: I was ordered to have a fitness for duty evaluation at Vanderbilt, to attend a course on ethics and boundaries at Case Western Reserve, and to pay civil penalties on the one patient alleging abuse and each of the eight supporting patients that testified on my behalf. While all of the evidence supported my testimony as truthful, I was suspended and ordered to pay the state of Tennessee $50,000.00 for the cost of the proceedings.

Fact #10: The findings of the assessment at Vanderbilt was that I was fit to practice psychiatry and no evidence of impairment was found.

Fact #11: I was ordered to have supervisory counseling with a psychologist approved by the medical director of the Tennessee Medical Foundation (TMF). I was instead referred for psychotherapy with a forensic psychologist. The sessions began in November of 2018.

Fact #12: The psychologist expressed concern about my referral since I lacked a diagnosis and did not appear to need his services. This concern was expressed in two written statements presented to the TMF in January and February of 2019.

Fact #13: I was never assessed by the TMF medical director or administrator to determine if their services were appropriate for me. The mission statement of the TMF on the contract that I received states, “It is the mission of the TMF to identify and to intervene on behalf of physicians impaired by mental illness or substance abuse.” Neither of these conditions applied to me, but attempts have been made to mandate that I sign their contract for services.

Fact #14: During my second hearing before the Board on 7/21/21, one member remarked after viewing the contract I had been given to sign, “I would not have signed that contract.” This would seem to validate that my concern was legitimate.

Fact #15: The effect of having my license suspended from June to November of 2018, the repeated negative news releases, and limitations on my license due to it being placed on probation forced me to operate my practice at a loss for the past three years. This situation therefore prevented me from having a realistic chance of paying the original fine assessed.

All of the statements above can be substantiated by the case transcripts which can be accessed by anyone who wants to make an informed decision about this matter. The news media wants to inform and warn you, but to-date, they have not provided the facts - just sensationalized headlines. The publicized stories about me have sought to give their opinion and manipulate the public to come to their desired conclusion. This should be an affront to anyone who feels able to think and make decisions for themselves when given facts.

All of the information about my proceedings before the Board are public record and can be accessed by anyone by reaching out to the Administrative Procedures Division (APD) of the Tennessee Department of Health. Case numbers to reference are:

  • #APD 17.18-13814A
  • #APD 17.18-191355A
  • APD Phone No.: (615) 741-7008
    I also penned this message to advise that patients seek assistance with having prescriptions filled by other providers while I continue to work toward resolving this issue with the Tennessee Medical Board and Department of Health. I am deeply sorry for the fact that your care is again interrupted by this matter. I appreciate your confidence in me and value the support that you have shown.

    Sincerely ~
    Valerie Augustus, M.D.