Police investigating after University of Michigan doctor fired for alleged sexual misconduct

Mark Franklin Hoeltzel's medical license suspended

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®, John Steckroth - Editor, Derick Hutchinson

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - The University of Michigan fired a doctor after he was accused of having sex with a young patient.

Mark Franklin Hoeltzel was fired after the state of Michigan licensing board suspended his license to practice last month. Michigan State Police confirmed the opening of a criminal investigation.

Hoeltzel worked as a pediatric rheumatologist at the University of Michigan Hospital. He's now under investigation by university police.

Hoeltzel saw his last patient Dec. 4. U of M officials said the minute they heard about the license suspension, they fired him.

There are four areas where doctors can get into trouble: Failing to exercise due care, showing incompetence, lacking moral character and unprofessional conduct. The state said Hoeltzel committed all four.

Hoeltzel first got into trouble in 2004 after exchanging flirtatious social media messages with an 11-year-old girl he'd examined at a U of M arthritis camp.

The hospital sent Hoeltzel to what they called a "boundaries course" as a result.

He wound up back on the hospital's radar after the State Licensing Board notified officials of a complaint against him last December.

The complaint details Hoeltzel's treatment of patient "A.W.," using initials to protect her identity. The treatment lasted from December 2015 to last November.

    Hoeltzel and the patient first met while she was under another doctor's care and he transferred her to his own. They began exchanging texts and emails.

During this time, the state claims Hoeltzel prescribed oxycontin and morphine to the young woman. 

"In 2016, they began engaging in a physical, sexual relationship, some of which took place in the doctor's clinic during A.W.'s appointments," the complaint says.

The complaint alleges Hoeltzel "often brought alcohol, which he shared with A.W. during his visits, despite the fact she was not 21 and was taking a number of medications."

The state alleges Hoeltzel "advised A.W. it was OK for her to drink while taking any of her medications ... although he did tell her not to take one of her medications with alcohol."

Local 4 visited Hoeltzel's Ann Arbor home Thursday, but he was not home.

Hoeltzel had 30 days to send a letter to the state disputing the charges, but he did not. A hearing for Hoeltzel is scheduled for March.

As of now, his suspension is temporary until the state board decides how to proceed.

The University of Michigan released the following statement:

"Dr. Mark Hoeltzel is no longer employed by Michigan Medicine. These are serious allegations, and we are taking steps to protect our patients. Their wellbeing is our highest priority. We know this is disturbing news for our patients, and we have reached out to them to offer resources. The most important thing to know is when Michigan Medicine was notified of an allegation of sexual misconduct from the state of Michigan, we immediately removed the physician from patient care duties, and he was not allowed to return to work. We immediately reported the allegation to police. We are fully cooperating with the law enforcement investigation that is underway."

Here's a letter that was sent to Hoeltzel's patients:

"Dear Parent/Guardian:

"We recently notified you that your child’s care was reassigned to a new Michigan Medicine provider in Pediatric Rheumatology with training and experience comparable to your previous Michigan Medicine provider, Dr. Mark Hoeltzel.

"We write now with an update: The State of Michigan has suspended Dr. Hoeltzel’s license to practice medicine following an allegation it received of sexual misconduct. As soon as we learned of the allegation we removed Dr. Hoeltzel from all patient care duties and notified the University of Michigan Police Department, which launched an investigation that is ongoing. Dr. Hoeltzel is no longer employed at the University of Michigan and has no access to patient records.

"Your child is our top priority. We understand that this information will be disturbing and a cause for concern.

"We have staff available to answer your questions Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The number is 855-336-5900. Additionally, the State of Michigan provides a mechanism for reporting complaints against licensed professionals at 517-373-9196 or through the following link: http://www.michigan.gov/ documents/lara/lara_ED_200PKT_AllegationPkt_477156_7.pdf

"We appreciate your understanding in the transition of your child’s care and we remain committed to supporting you, our faculty and staff at this difficult time."

Here is a statement from Marschall S. Runge, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president of Medical Affairs for the University of Michigan and CEO of Michigan Medicine:

"In early December, Michigan Medicine was notified that the state licensing board was investigating Dr. Mark Hoeltzel for sexual misconduct. We took immediate steps to protect our patients by removing him from patient care duties the day we were alerted, and not allowing him to return to work. He is no longer a Michigan Medicine employee.

"We also immediately reported him to law enforcement and have been fully cooperating with the investigation that is underway.  We continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement. In the meantime, we also have hired an experienced outside reviewer to investigate this matter. 

"These are very disturbing and serious allegations, and we have reached out to our patients to inform them of the situation, offer resources and provide them with a way to report any concerns.

"The president and senior leaders of the university are aware and supportive of steps we are taking to address this matter. We must continue to do everything possible to protect the patients who entrust Michigan Medicine with their care. We also urge everyone to report any instances of potential misconduct that occur."

Hearing process explanation

A spokesman for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs answered the following questions about the hearing process for case like this: 

1. Dr. Mark Hoeltzel was given 30 days to provide a response. Has he responded?

As of 1/25/18, LARA has not received a written response from Dr. Mark Hoetlzel. As stated on p. 7 of the Administrative Complaint, “failure to submit a written response within 30 days shall be treated as an admission of the allegations contained in the complaint and shall result in the transmittal of the complaint directly to the Board’s Disciplinary Subcommittee (DSC) for imposition of an appropriate sanction.” 
The ultimate determination of whether a health professional licensee violated the Public Health Code is made by the Disciplinary Subcommittee (DSC) of the health profession board. The DSC has the option of dismissing the Administrative Complaint or finding a violation of the Public Health Code and taking the disciplinary action against the license of the health care professional as provided under the Public Health Code.
The next of Board of Medicine’s DSC meeting is scheduled for March 14, 2018. This will be the earliest possible date that Dr. Hoeltzel’s case may appear on DSC’s agenda. The agenda for that meeting is publicly available two weeks prior to the meeting.

2. Was the revocation of his license temporary or permanent?

A summary suspension is a temporary emergency order issued when the public health, safety, or welfare requires emergency action. 

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