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Probation, training urged for doctor

Further, the state Department of Health says an earlier order blocking Dr. Zafar Syed Shah from examining female patients remains in effect.

By CHASE SQUIRES

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 2, 2001


DADE CITY -- A state administrative judge this week recommended the state Board of Medicine punish Dr. Zafar Syed Shah for fondling an 18-year-old patient in 1999 at a Zephyrhills clinic.

Administrative law Judge William Cave issued an 18-page ruling Tuesday after reviewing recommendations from the state and from Shah's attorney and after listening to witnesses in a November hearing held in Dade City.

The judge recommended Shah, 35, who specializes in internal medicine, be placed on probation for one year. The judge also recommended he take a training class called "Professional Boundaries: Preserving the Physician-Patient Relationship" and be fined $2,500.

A spokesman for the state Department of Health said an earlier order blocking Shah from examining female patients remains in effect until further notice.

In 1999 and 2000, Shah -- who formerly worked at the Mid Town Clinic in Zephyrhills -- was arrested three times on sex charges, accused of inappropriate contact with three teenage girls during 1999. He was cleared of one charge of sexual battery involving a 15-year-old patient in a trial last summer, and the state declined to prosecute two other charges.

Despite the acquittal and lack of prosecution, the state Board of Medicine pressed ahead with administrative complaints last year.

Cave recommended that one of the three complaints -- the same one the doctor was cleared of at trial last year -- be dismissed for lack of evidence. Shah is scheduled this month to face another hearing on a separate charge that he had sex with a 15-year-old family friend at her home.

Department of Health spokesman Bill Parizek said Cave's recommendations will be forwarded to the state Board of Medicine for final action. The board can accept the recommendations or return them to the judge for review, he said.

In his ruling, Cave found that Shah improperly touched the 18-year-old woman's genitals with his bare hands and "fondled or otherwise touched (the woman's) genitalia which was outside the standard of care and constituted sexual misconduct in the practice of medicine."

The woman had gone to see the doctor for a medical referral and had complained about a possible urinary infection, the judge reported.

Cave said the woman's testimony at the November hearing was believable and said Shah's response "lacks credibility."

Neither Shah nor his attorney, A.R. "Chip" Mander, could be reached for comment Thursday.

In the remaining case, Shah is accused of having sex with the 15-year-old family friend. His new attorney, Jack Hoogewind, said Thursday the doctor is innocent and plans to offer a defense at the March 15 hearing.

In that case, Pasco County Sheriff's Office investigators said Shah admitted having sex with the girl, and the girl's mother said she had walked in and caught the two in the act.

But prosecutors later said the girl denied having sex, and Shah's admissions were made before he was made aware of his right to remain silent. He declined to make any statements after he was read his rights, prosecutors said, and the case was never brought to trial.

Hoogewind declined on Thursday to say if Shah was actively practicing. Shah no longer practices at the Zephyrhills clinic, and no listing for an office under his name could be found in area directory assistance. An Oldsmar medical center he listed as his place of business last year reported then that he had stopped working there.

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