Medical Board Revokes License of Bulimic Kleptomaniac Physician: UPDATE

UPDATE, FEB. 24, 11:26 A.M.: Dr. Ella Zander contacted the Weekly to say there is an opportunity for her story to help others suffering from bulimia and kleptomania despite the negative light she says was cast by our original post and the Medical Board of California. Her full letter follows:  

Mr. Coker,

Yes, I‘ve been suffering from anorexia and bulimia since I was 14 years old. I didn’t choose to have it and wouldn’t wish it to my worst enemy. I would rather have cancer, than an eating disorder.

During that time I also developed acute streptococcal myocarditis and spent 1.5 months in pediatric cardiac unit, where I fell in love with the cardiologist, who took care of me. She became my role model and that’s when I realized that I want to become a doctor.

I love medicine. I love taking care of people, dealing with most challenging situations on daily basis. Medicine has been my job, my passion, my hobby. Being a doctor was the ONLY thing I ever wanted to do and I had been giving it all.

Kleptomania came along later, in my thirties. Yes, it was my stress reliever, “quick fix.” But it had been also the source of my biggest shame, pain and suffering. I didn’t want to hurt anybody. I just couldn’t stop, no matter how hard I tried to treat it. Like any other addiction does, it took control over me.

It ruined my life and it hurt my children, my husband, and my parents. The only area of my life that had NEVER been affected was my practicing medicine. If anything good could come out of it, it gave me better understanding of people’s suffering. I was driven by a desire to help my patients with their physical and psychiatric conditions. My own disease helped me help a lot of people, but I just couldn’t cure myself.

I am NOT a thief, I am NOT a liar. During my 34 years of practicing medicine it had never been an issue. Hundreds of people may attest to it.

Yes, California Medical Board revoked my license to practice medicine, despite recommendations of their own experts and despite the fact that there had never been any malpractice cases or complaints against me.

There are a lot of people who suffer from bulimia and kleptomania, and I hope that my story will help them realize that they are not alone, that they should look for help despite of their shame, before they either die from one of those conditions or go to jail, where the system will crush them.

Reading your article can make people believe that I am such a villain, taking advantage of the society and of people who trusted me with their lives. I can only hope that they stop for a moment and think, that there is a real person behind all of those “facts”( many of them are simply wrong), that devoted all her life to helping other people out of love for them and for the art of medicine.

Sincerely, Alla Zander, M.D.

ORIGINAL POST, FEB. 22, 9:10 A.M.: In 2010, Dr. Alla Zander promoted the “laser pick me up” procedure at her Laguna Hills Alladerm office that was supposedly all the rage among “many celebrities on the red carpet.”

But in the years since Zander has been called to the carpet by The Medical Board of California, which ruled as of 5 p.m. Friday her license to practice medicine has been revoked.

The cause has nothing to do with shoddy cosmetic surgery general physicianing.

No, the revocation came because Zander is a bulimic kleptomaniac.

In early August 2012, Zander tried to steal merchandise from a Laguna Hills Ralph’s supermarket. She was later charged with a count of second degree burglary.

Besides dealing with the law, Zander had to answer to the medical board. Later that August, she told medical board investigators “that she suffers from kleptomania along with bulimia nervosa,” according to the board’s decision and order dated Jan. 20.

“Respondent admitted to getting a ‘quick fix’ from binging and purging, as well as stealing food from grocery stores,” the document continues. “She likened the feeling she experiences to the adrenaline rush drug users experience.”

On Aug. 27, 2012, Zander pleaded guilty in Orange County Superior Court and was sentenced to probation.

But that had not been Zander’s only incident. She had multiple petty theft convictions from incidents at South County stores dating back to 1999, as well as convictions for violating parole, general burglary and theft with a prior conviction.

Her medical license had been revoked in 2007, and then stayed for a seven-year probationary period, for trespassing at an Albertson’s, trying to steal merchandise from Daisy Shoppe in Mission Viejo, failing to comply with weekly psychotherapy requirements, failing to submit quarterly probation reports and failing to notify the board of her return to medicine, according to the decision.

The medical board has essentially decided that, in light of the 2012 conviction and Zander’s lack of response to treatment, the stay is being lifted on the 2007 revocation, which means it is now being fully enforced.

The board’s decision includes a portion from a psychiatric report, which states that Zander conceded she had been bulimic since age 15 living in Russia and her problem with shoplifting began in 1990, when she was 25 and stealing food “she did not really need.”

Once in the U.S., she started stealing food in markets and then department store items, she told the psychiatrist, adding that by the time of the session she had been shoplifting every time she went to the store for the past few years, which was every other day.

The crimes gave relief from “the tension, restlessness, it just makes me feel better,” Zander told the shrink.

“The foregoing is virtually a textbook description of kleptomania,” the medical board concluded.

The psychiatrist said Zander’s afflicition should not preclude her from practicing medicine, but the medical board found her condition has not really changed since the board became aware of it more than a decade ago. The board cited times Zander said she had her problem under control to the psychiatrist, only to be caught stealing again.

In the years since, Zander’s 2012 conviction has been expunged, and a second psychiatrist she has been seeing reports that while she is still in treatment for kleptomania, he is not aware of her continuing to steal, according to the board.

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