Health Care Heroes We Admire: Four Recent Whistle Blowers

It’s not easy to be a health care hero. To go against the grain and step out of line, especially in an industry like health care that is built on a strict chain of command: interns acquiesce to residents; residents must defer to fellows; specialists trump fellows. But each of the people profiled below felt that their call to duty was greater than the comforts of their career and the camaraderie of their peers.

Here are four Health Care Heroes we admire who have stood up in the past decade against doctors, hospitals and well-worn practices that are dangerous and put patients in harm’s way.

We applaud them.

2008 vitals whistle blowers anne mitchell vicki galle Health Care Heroes We Admire: Four Recent Whistle Blowers Photo
Anne Mitchell and Vicki Galle
When Dr. Rolando Arafiles showed up at the hospital in Kermit, Texas, alarm bells started going off. The doctor diagnosed patients without ordering labs, took people off and on meds without a full diagnostic checkup, and he pushed his own herbal supplements at the hospital where he worked.Fearing for the safety of their patients, Anne Mitchell and Vicki Galle ran a background check on Arafiles and found he was on probation in another city. They also brought numerous complaints to hospital administrators, all of which fell on deaf ears. Finally, they made an anonymous complaint to the Texas Medical Board. But instead of the physician being investigated, the nurses were targeted for unprofessional conduct and were fired from their jobs.

The case garnered media attention since nurses, who are often the front line, were, in essence, being told not to report dangerous doctors. Luckily, in 2011 the charges were dropped for Galle, and a jury acquitted Mitchell.

The hospital administrators were indicted for retaliating against the whistle blowers.

2011 vitals whistle blowers otis webb brawley Health Care Heroes We Admire: Four Recent Whistle Blowers Photo
Otis Webb Brawley, M.D.
When it comes to blame, Dr. Otis Webb Brawley, who is EVP of the American Cancer Society, has enough of it to pass around. In his book, “How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in America,” he takes to task hospitals advocating unproven screening and treatment, patient advocacy groups funded by hospitals and medical manufacturers, and doctors willing to capitalize on patients’ fears by over-treating them.His book also discusses the contrast of health care for the overprivileged and the lack of such care for the underserved.  He doesn’t exclude patients who think more care is better care.

As he questions the rationale and motivation of high-cost cancer treatments that don’t extend life expectancy and can take away quality of life, he advocates for prevention in order to avoid treatment.

2013 vitals whistle blower marty makary1 Health Care Heroes We Admire: Four Recent Whistle Blowers Photo
Marty Makary, M.D.
Makary is another doctor who could stomach surgery, but just couldn’t take the bad doctors he saw in hospitals. In 2013, he wrote “Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won’t Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care,” a tell-all that exposes doctors who routinely overdose children because of sloppy handwriting, amputate the wrong limbs and leave surgical instruments inside patients.Today, Makary is an advocate for transparency in medicine and common-sense solutions to health care’s problems, such as The Surgical Checklist, which he developed at Johns Hopkins. Makary champions the release of government-funded research to the public. He has also argued for professional physician associations to define and endorse the validity of quality metrics in health care.