Robert Van Boven saves peoples’ lives. He also pisses people off.
The Lakeway (Austin, Texas) neurologist, currently embroiled in a years-long legal combat with the hospital that once employed him, the state agency that attempted to end his career, and a range of lawyers and officials who believe they can wear him down and defeat him, has a long record of getting crossways with the authorities.
In one professional position after another, he has consistently refused to go along to get along, and his resistance has cost him dearly. He is described by most fellow professionals as an extraordinarily accomplished doctor – among other distinctions, he was a member of the legendary 1987 Johns Hopkins surgical team that performed a groundbreaking procedure to separate conjoined twins.
But he has also repeatedly clashed with institutional expectations, rules, and administrators – and met with recurrent retaliation, most recently severe enough that he fears he may never be able to practice medicine freely again.
A 2014 letter from a former colleague, Lakeway Regional Medical Center hospitalist Dr. Louis Lux, captures a common doubleness of perspectives on Van Boven.
“In my 25 years of medical practice in the state of Texas,” Lux wrote, “I have never seen a neurologist more dedicated and passionate about patient care and quality of care than Dr. Robert Van Boven.
He is among the most intelligent of all neurologists that I have had the pleasure to work beside. … Due to his efforts, care, and concern, many patients have benefited with improved quality of life.
At times, some have not understood or fully appreciated the extent of Dr. Van Boven’s involvement, and have mistaken his zeal for arrogance or insult. In my experience, nothing could be farther from the truth.”
Similar statements from other doctors describe Van Boven’s selfless dedication to his patients and their welfare, as well as his occasionally contentious personality.
For more than a decade, Van Boven has been a serial medical “whistleblower.”
Recognizing incompetence, negligence, or willful wrongdoing among his institutional superiors or peers, he has refused to look away, and – risking his own livelihood and his family’s well-being – has time and again reported what he has found to oversight agencies charged with remediation or discipline.
Time and again, his reports of wrongdoing have been confirmed, and he has been vindicated – but only after great personal trouble and cost in money, time, energy, and stress.
If he were not so indefatigable and relentless, he would long ago have been broken or ground down into surrender.
A selected list of the results of Van Boven’s whistleblowing include a 2007 settlement with a Minnesota medical facility over its retaliation against him for reporting hospital harm; a 2010 settlement with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs over retaliation for his reports of mismanagement at a VA neurology facility at Pickle Research Campus (Austin); a brief 2010 dismissal from a Defense Department research appointment (reassigned after a public outcry); and most recently (2016-present), an ongoing legal dispute with LRMC and its successor, Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Lakeway, and the Texas Medical Board, temporary but devastating restrictions on Van Boven’s medical practice, and an eventual exoneration last December.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to practice medicine again,” he said some months ago. “But I’ll be damned if I’m going to let these bastards destroy me.”
Read the full article at The Austin Chronicle