Colleagues Express Disbelief Over Arrest of Doctor With "Picture-Perfect" Life
Dr. David H. Newman seemed to have it all: an impressive post in emergency medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, a prominent and growing public presence as an expert in health care reform, a wife who is a doctor, two young sons, and a gracious home in the New Jersey suburbs.
So when he was arrested on Tuesday and charged with sexually abusing two patients under his care in the emergency room, the reaction from his wide circle of colleagues was disbelief.
“I’ve gotten a whole bunch of frantic emails from around the world saying: ‘What’s going on? How could this be?’” said Dr. Jerome Hoffman, a professor emeritus of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has known Dr. Newman for more than a decade. “Everyone is saying: ‘David? This doesn’t make any sense.’”
Dr. Newman, 45, has been accused of drugging, groping and masturbating on a female patient and groping another in episodes several months apart, the authorities said.
The charges against Dr. Newman, a proponent of reforms in emergency care who has written widely about improving doctor-patient relationships, including for The New York Times, describe him as targeting young women for abuse when they sought treatment.
In one case, a 29-year-old woman called the authorities on Jan. 12 and said she had gone to the emergency room at Mount Sinai, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, for shoulder pain, and that between midnight and 2 a.m. she was assaulted by Dr. Newman, the police said.
She told the authorities that Dr. Newman had given her an extra shot of morphine, disabling her. Then he fondled her and ejaculated on her face, she said. After news reports emerged about those accusations, a second woman came forward on Saturday and told the police that Dr. Newman had abused her during an examination. That woman, 22, had gone to the emergency room with a cold on Sept. 21, when, she told investigators, Dr. Newman groped her breasts under her shirt, according to a criminal complaint.
Dr. Newman turned himself in to the police on Tuesday and appeared in court that night with his lawyer, John Wing. A judge ordered him held on $50,000 cash bail or $150,000 bond, which he supplied on Wednesday. He has been suspended from Mount Sinai pending the outcome of the case; administrators there declined to provide further details because of the continuing investigation.
Mr. Wing did not respond to a request for comment, but he told NBC News that Dr. Newman is “a good man and an excellent doctor.”
“We plan on dealing with this in a responsible manner,” he added.
Dr. Newman did not respond to a request for comment.
The arrest was a shocking turn of events for a man whom colleagues described as a thought leader in a medical movement to overturn decades of received wisdom and rethink treatments based on how effective they actually are, not on whether they are the traditional response to a complaint or the most profitable one for a provider.
Far from shying from the spotlight, Dr. Newman embraced it, writing columns in The Times and on The Huffington Post, creating a website that analyzes treatments and hosting a podcast with his wife, Dr. Ashley Shreves, 37. The two met when she was a resident in emergency medicine and he was her supervising doctor, according to an alumni magazine from Dr. Shreves’s grade school.
Dr. Newman is an associate professor and attending physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, where he has worked since 2010. He attended Albany Medical College and completed his residency in emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in 2001.
In 2005, he worked in a combat support hospital in Baghdad as a major in the United States Army Reserve, and in 2008 he published a book, “Hippocrates’ Shadow: Secrets From the House of Medicine,” that calls for reform in how patients are treated.
As his public profile grew, journalists took notice. In 2014, he was the subject of a profile in Wired that focused on his efforts to reduce unnecessary medical treatments. In the photo with the article, he perches on the back step of an ambulance, looking inquisitive and fit.
The article depicts Dr. Newman on a typical day in the emergency room as he steers patients away from traditional treatments. He does not give insulin to a patient with high blood sugar; he does not send a man who has a pain in his abdomen for a scan. Both patients do fine.
He is bold and confident but also has a personal touch — a detail that catches one’s attention in retrospect.
According to the article, he always places a hand on his patients — on an unblanketed ankle or a clammy cheek — even when he is not directly checking for clinical information.
“The patients get something out of it,” Dr. Newman told Wired. “And the contact helps me understand them medically. If they’re warm, if they’re cold, if they’re nervous or jittery.”