The founder of an Irvine cancer treatment center recently accepted a public reprimand from state officials over her care for two post-menopausal patients who saw the doctor for months without the early stages of uterine cancer for one and a breast mass for the other being detected.
The Medical Board of California discipline for Dr. Leigh Erin Connealy, who is also an author, lecturer and 30-year veteran of the industry, became effective on Dec. 29, according to state documents you can read here.
Connealy in 1992 founded the Center For New Medicine, where she serves as medical director, and in 2009 opened the Cancer Center For Healing, which are both located at 6 Hughes Drive in Irvine. She is also the author of Be Perfectly Healthy (Perfectly Healthy, 2011), a compilation of healthy living articles she has written, and The Cancer Revolution (De Capo Lifelong Books, 2017). She is a frequent lecturer and also gives health advice via several YouTube videos as well as her website ConnealyMD.com.
According to the biography on her website, she attended the University of Texas School of Public Health and the University of Health Sciences Chicago Medical School. She completed her post-graduate training at the Harbor/UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.
"Dr. Connealy soon realized that conventional medicine had very limited returns and did not always improve the health of her patients, who were hungry for alternative approaches to improve their health," reads the bio. "This led her to study integrative and complementary therapies, and since then she has revolutionized the landscape of medicine. Dr. Connealy feels that we must treat the patient with the disease and not the disease of the patient. She has discovered that many factors contribute to the disease process; therefore, many modalities must be used to reverse it. She makes this happen every day in her multi-disciplined, state-of-the-art clinics."
Connealy and her Sacramento-based attorney, Richard A. Jaffe, recently reached a settlement with the state medical board that acknowledges she "has never been the subject of any disciplinary action in over thirty years of practice." However, with their Oct. 2, 2017, signatures on an accompanying acceptance letter, Connealy and Jaffe agree that the doctor is "admitting responsibility at an early stage in the proceedings" and that she "agrees to be bound by the Board's imposition of discipline as set forth in the Disciplinary Order."
That discipline? Connealy must complete a medical record keeping course.
That is due to repeated negligent acts, poor-record keeping and unprofessional conduct in the treatment of two patients, according to medical board documents.
A 68-year-old woman identified only as A.H. began seeing the doctor in June 2012, starting with a routine physical and continuing with three follow-up visits through November of that year. No gynecological or genitourinary symptoms or illnesses were logged on her medical charts from those appointments, although "atrophic vaginitis"—inflammation of the outer urinary tract—is noted for the Oct. 17, 2012, visit.
When A.H. returned to the Center for New Medicine in January of 2013, she showed Connealy an image shot from a cell phone of blood in the toilet after the patient had urinated three days before the visit. The doctor advised keeping an eye on it and letting her know if it happened again, which is noted on the medical chart. No other gynecological or genitourinary symptoms were documented at that time. A.H. returned two months later for a follow up and told Connealy about blood in the urine again. The physician noted no gynecological or genitourinary symptoms, illnesses or physical findings in the progress notes.
A Center for New Medicine nurse practitioner saw A.H. in early May 2013, when the patient again complained about vaginal bleeding. A pelvic examination and ultrasound were performed that day, and a urinalysis lab test came back a few weeks later indicating negative for blood. The record from a follow-up visit in June of that year indicated a pelvic ultrasound found that "the endometrial stripe [lining of the uterus] measures 4.4 mm," that the "uterus is diffusely heterogeneous, perhaps due to several small fibroids [tumors]" and that the "endometrium [mucous membrane that lines the inside of the uterus] is normal."
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At a June 21, 2013, follow up, A.H. complained of thinning hair, but "there is no indication of gynecological or genitourinary symptoms, illnesses or physical findings noted in the patient's medical records." A.H. returned three days later to show Connealy a new cell phone image of blood in the toilet, and the doctor noted "Pelvic UTZ [ultrasound] small fibroids endomentrium 4.4" but, again, no other gynecological or genitourinary symptoms, illnesses or physical findings are documented. Nor were they for A.H.'s final visit to the Center for New Medicine on Aug. 5, 2013, when Connealy only noted the appointment was for "follow-up lab results and hair loss."
On Aug. 27 of that year, A.H. saw a different doctor at a different clinic, complained of the vaginal bleeding she had experienced for several months and explained that recent ultrasounds showed normal endometrical thickness. According to the medical board: "The new doctor performed an endometrial biopsy which showed endometrial adenocarcinoma [uterine cancer]. A new ultrasound showed thickened lining suggestive of malignancy." The following month, A.H. underwent a hysterectomy and subsequently received chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Connealy was found to be negligent for failing to quickly investigate the post-menopausal bleeding A.H. was experiencing, to initiate treatment as soon as possible and to perform an early biopsy or refer the patient to a gynecologist.
Repeated negligent acts are also cited for Connealy's treatment of a patient identified as L.S. who had three appointments in October-November 2010. Over that time, Connealy detected a right breast lump and prescribed estrogen to L.S., who received a refill from a nurse in March of 2011. Connealy "was negligent in her care and treatment of patient L.S. in that she provided multiple refills of estrogen to a post-menopausal patient whose breast mass remained undiagnosed after over three months."