MU medical school dean resigns as school is under investigation

The dean who was hired less than three years ago to fix problems at the University of Missouri School of Medicine has resigned as the school faces a federal fraud investigation.

Dr. Robert Churchill will leave the university in October to prevent further distractions surrounding the investigation of two of the school’s radiologists, according to MU officials.

The radiologists, Dr. Kenneth Rall and Dr. Michael Richards, were dismissed Friday as part of the shake-up after an internal audit found the doctors illegally billed Medicare for services performed by resident doctors in training.

A law firm conducted the audit for the university after the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Kansas City notified the school in November 2011 of its investigation into potential Medicare fraud. Rall stepped down as radiology department chairman in December, but stayed on as a professor.

“We were shocked and disappointed to learn about this, because any kind of fraud is entirely inconsistent with our health system’s values, our mission, and our commitment to patient care,” said Dr. Harold Williamson Jr., vice chancellor of the University of Missouri Health System, in a statement.

Both radiologists have clean records with the Missouri State Board of Registration for the Healing Arts, which licenses and regulates doctors.

Department of Justice spokesman Don Ledford said the agency doesn’t discuss pending investigations.

In what it calls the early stages of its own investigation, school officials said they have not turned up any evidence that radiology patients were harmed.

Resident physicians are allowed to read patients’ X-rays, but cannot bill Medicare for the procedure unless the images are also analyzed by a supervising doctor.

“We believe these two doctors sometimes claimed that they had actually completed this second review without actually looking at the image,” Williamson said in the statement.

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MU medical school dean resigns as school is under investigation

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