UW Health doctor resigns amid sexual misconduct allegations
MADISON, Wis — A 40-year career in medical practice came to an end suddenly and quietly for UW Health internal medicine doctor, Michael Thom, after he resigned amid allegations that he inappropriately touched a patient and sent explicit photos of himself.
The patient accused Thom of groping her breast and sending pictures of his genitals. He stopped treating patients in December after UW Health was informed of the allegations. They immediately opened an investigation and sent their findings to the state.
The state Department of Safety and Professional Services called the allegations “very serious,” according to documents obtained by News Three.
The 67-year old eventually resigned after a state attorney encouraged Thom’s lawyer to have the doctor surrender his license before the medical board committee could open an investigation, which would have made his actions public.
Joost Kap, an attorney for the state licensing department, wrote in an email that “the timing is important.”
Kap told a member of the medical examining board to promptly accept Thom’s surrender of his license so a medical board committee meeting a few days later wouldn’t open a case against him.
“Once opened, the surrender would have to be accomplished by a public order, which is what Dr. Thom seeks to avoid in light of the embarrassing circumstances,” Kap wrote in a Feb. 9 email to Dr. Mary Jo Capodice, secretary of the medical board.
“There is no danger to patients or the public in accepting the surrender now, and doing so would conserve board and department resources,” Kap continued.
Capodice approved the surrender nine minutes later the same day. Thom resigned from UW effective Feb. 15.
“I never saw a case where a surrender was ushered through so that there would be no public record,” said Arthur Thexton who spent 24 years investigating misconduct by medical professionals for DSPS. “The public did not have the benefit of knowing what happened and why,” he said.
Although, Thexton does not believe the issue was expedited for malicious reasons, he doesn’t agree with the way the situation was handled.
“The whole point of having a medical board and having licenses or professions like this and that is to protect the public and part of that is the public having confidence that it its being protected,” Theton said.
Thom didn’t deny the photos were of him and said the sexual relationship was consensual, said his attorney, Patti Putney. He did not respond to News 3’s request for comment.
Thom wrote a letter saying he was retiring for “personal reasons.” DSPS chose not to investigate the incident after he surrendered his license.
UW and the state reported the case to the national practitioner data bank.
Kristen Reader, assistant deputy secretary for DSPS, said the department handled the matter in full compliance.
“This resolution secured the department’s mission of public protection and eliminated the risk of lengthy litigation, which could have resulted in an uncertain outcome that may have ultimately allowed Dr. Thom to remain eligible to practice,” she said.
UW Health spokeswoman Lisa Brunette said the system has had one other incident with a patient alleging sexual misconduct by a physician. That incident happened in 2007. The doctor in that case ultimately resigned from the UW physician group.
Thom was received an award from UW Health in 2016 for excellence in patient experience.
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