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Why it is important to know what those letters after a doctor's name mean?

I learned something new today that I want to share with all my Blog and Facebook friends… this is long but worth the read if you care about knowing who the doctors are who care for you and your family.

I needed to research a Facebook advertisement offering stem cell therapy to patients with cardiomyopathy, not HCM specifically but many HCM’ers were asking questions about it use in HCM.    I noticed the CV (also known as resume) of the director of this particular medical program listed a professional accreditation that I was unfamiliar with, M.A.A.C. ,which stands for a Master of American Academy of Cardiology. This led me on a search to figure out who the American Academy of Cardiology was, what I learned is simply frightening.

Thanks to some friends on Facebook who helped me find some links I found a letter offering the accreditation of the American Academy of Cardiology. The letterhead had a Boston address on it specifically a Newbury street address – and I happen to know where that might be – it is a retail section of town, I thought this was odd. (update: it appears to be a UPS store!https://www.google.com/maps/place/304+Newbury+St/@42.34886,-71.085239,3a,90y,124h,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sygy96USIYpeo39bEQzMgxw!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x89e37a0f8ef6e133:0x3ad1ea911cc51b07!6m1!1e1)  The bottom of the letter had some very interesting language as a disclaimer in that infamous “small print”. This small print indicated that the American Academy of Cardiology was related to other organizations specifically the American Board of Cardiology and is “now affiliated with the Congregation of Fellowship Organizations for Medical, Humanitarian, Scientific, Educational, Ethical, Religious Ministries Incorporated Nevada founded as a nonprofit corporation in the State of Nevada.” , So OK… who are they?

The letter was signed by Rev. Dr.  A. Lasko who had a very long series of letters after his name including M.D., D.Divinity (Hon), F.A.B.H.P, M.A.B.H.P.,F.A.C.G.S.,M.A.C.G.S., F.A.A.C .  The websites listed on the bottom of the letter is nothing more than a  basic shell websites with no real content and dose not appear to have been updated for several years. The letter stated for a fee of $300 you would be able to use the letters M.A.A.C after your name for a period of five years if you completed the form and sent it to them.

fraud

The information that you are required to submit with your application include questions such as “approximate number of patients with cardiac arrhythmias in the past three years, approximate number of coronary artery disease patients seen in the past three years, approximate number of cardiac failure patients seen in the past three years, approximate number of ECGs seen, read or were taken in the past three years.”  Then there are several pledges you must take including promising to be humane ethical  and kind and maintain religious values.  The pledges include “exemplifying the Golden Rule and 10 Commandments and similar laws given by major world religions.”

I don’t about you but I found all of this incredibly bizarre… so I contacted the State of Nevada Secretary of State office and spoke to a representative.  I wanted to learn more about the man who signed this letter and the organizations he claims to be affiliated with. What I learned was he IS all of the organizations he claims to be affiliated with, I do mean he personally, he is the Director, President, Secretary and Treasurer of at least two dozen organizations claiming to be a myriad of professional societies mostly medical – one legal and one ministry. I did not check every single organization but of those I did check every one is in a “revoked” status with the State of Nevada for failure to comply with reporting criteria.

He operates under several different names including Keith A Lasko, A. Lasko, and the name listed on this letter Rev. Dr. A. Lasko.   I also found this article written about him in 2010

http://www.courthousenews.com/2010/04/29/26833.htm

     “ (CN) – A doctor who was drummed out of the profession for cheating old people set up a bogus Web site to sell people “illegitimate medical certifications and the right to list ‘letters’ after their names,” the American Board of Surgery claims in Philadelphia Federal Court. It claims Keith A. Lasko named his company the “American Board of General Surgery” to cash in on the legitimate board’s name.
     The American Board of Surgery, a real, 70-year-old organization, claims Lasko also abused its trademark in naming his Web site, to mislead physicians and falsely claim a relationship with the real Board.
     The American Board of Surgery says Lasko has been in trouble with medical authorities since 1991, when the Medical Board of California found that he not subjected old folks to excessive procedures and billed for diagnostic procedures that were not performed.
     After California revoked his license, New York, Illinois, and Mississippi followed suit, the Board says. 
     It adds that in 1997, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration revoked Lasko’s certificate of registration, prohibiting him from dispensing prescription drugs.
     “After losing his privilege to practice medicine in several states, Lasko create several entities – including the American Board of Hospital Physicians [and the] American College of Ethical Physicians – that sounded as though they were legitimate medical organizations when they were not,” the complaint states.
     The American Board of Surgery contends these acts – specifically the awarding of certificates for money – “demeans the reputation of legitimate boards” and “misleads consumers into believing that physicians who purchase an ABGS certification possess a level of expertise they lack.”
     The Board seeks an injunction, statutory and punitive damages for tortious interference, trademark violations, and unfair competition. Lasko now lives in Las Vegas, according to the complaint.
     It is represented by Gabriel Bevilacqua and Gregory Wartman with Saul Ewing of Philadelphia.”

And I found this lawsuit currently underway in Nevadahttp://dockets.justia.com/docket/nevada/nvdce/2:2013cv01893/97620 just one thing after another!

What is significantly disturbing about this entire situation is that patients who are attempting to identify qualified professionals to provide them with high-quality healthcare are not always aware of what accreditations and affiliations can mean. If somebody is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology it means something -there is an organization, a structure, an evaluation of data submitted for validation purposes and it is a true honor and accomplishment to be a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and to use the letters F. A.C.C. after your name.

This made up term “Master of the American Academy of Cardiology” is on the CV of a doctor who is currently facing charges in Floridahttp://www.casewatch.org/board/med/grekos/amended_complaint_2012.shtml and who is flying patients out of the USA for an experimental treatment without IRB oversight.   Can we say major red flags!

In this case and what turned out to led me on this quest to figure out who this “organization” really was – one must wonder if this title of M.A.A.C. actually lead people to have trust in someone, who maybe they otherwise would not have?  The doctor I was looking into is performing a highly investigational therapy that has no FDA approval and who has not provided any scientific documentation of his work  and is using an accreditation/title offered by a nonexistent organization in a manner that would lead the average patient to believe he has earned the title of “Master” of a cardiology related organization.

As a point of fact there are a few highly select physicians who have achieved the title of “Master” of the American College of Cardiology ,these few select individuals had dedicated a lifetime to the pursuit of cardiology services at the highest levels of academia. In fact, those achieving highest distinction in the field are awarded the title Master of the American College of Cardiology (MACC), a title bestowed upon a maximum of three practicing cardiologists each year.  Compare that to filling out a couple of forms and paying $300…. simply no comparison.  In this case one man took money to benefit himself and in turn the ones harmed are patients/ consumers.

In summary, I find this man/organization (if you can call it that) reprehensible and any physician who would be desperate enough to seek additional letters to put after his name not much better.

So words to the wise… understand what education and credentials your physician has (and what they mean) before agreeing to allow them to treat you or your loved ones.

happy doc

To the cardiology world other “letters you may see after your doctors names include: M.D. (medical Doctor), D.O. (doctor of osteopathic medicine), F.A.C.C. (Fellow of the American College of Cardiology), F.A.H.A (F Fellow of the American Heart Association), M.A.C.C. (Master of the American College of Cardiology), MPH (Master of Public Health), PhD (In the United States, the Ph.D. degree is the highest academic degree awarded by universities in most fields- it could be in a variety of fields), APRN (advanced practice registered nurse), R.N. (registered nurse) – this is not a complete list of all possible designations.

Your bighearted blogger,

Lisa