Dr. Richard Strauss is believed to have sexually abused at least 177 students at Ohio State University when he worked there between 1978 and 1998. A new investigation has found that the State Medical Board of Ohio knew about the abuse by the late doctor but did nothing.
A new investigation by a working group established by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine found that the state medical board investigated allegations of sexual misconduct against Strauss in 1996.
The board found credible evidence of sexual misconduct by Strauss and revealed that Strauss had been “performing inappropriate genital exams on male students for years,” but no one with knowledge of the case worked to remove his medical license or notify law enforcement, DeWine announced at a press conference Friday.
The investigation revealed that an attorney with the medical board did intend to proceed with a case against Strauss, but for some reason never followed through. That attorney, as well as others involved with the 1996 investigation, are now deceased and cannot be questioned about their conduct, DeWine said.
“We’ll likely never know exactly why the case was ultimately ignored by the medical board,” DeWine said Friday.
The allegations against Strauss — who died by suicide in 2005 — emerged last year after former Ohio State athletes came forward to claim the doctor had sexually abused them under the guise of a medical examination.
An independent report commissioned by Ohio State revealed in May that university personnel were aware of complaints that Strauss, a former team physician in the OSU Athletics Department, had sexually abused students as early as the late 1970s, but failed to adequately investigate the allegations. The report by investigators from the law firm Perkins Coie said Strauss sexually abused “at least 177 male student-patients.”
The investigation found that on at least two occasions, Strauss performed unwanted oral sex on patients. More than 100 former patients reported excessive groping or fondling, often without gloves. Other patients recalled inappropriate rectal exams, impromptu exams in locker rooms and at Strauss’ home, and unprofessional interrogation into their sex lives.
A review of cases in the past 25 years
The 1996 medical board investigation into Strauss began after Strauss complained to the board about another physician. During that investigation, a staffer was alerted to issues surrounding Strauss and subsequently opened another investigation into him.
DeWine said Friday that a former medical board employee told investigators that there was a “black hole” at the medical board at the time and that Strauss’ case “basically fell into oblivion.”
The report called the lack of an investigation a “missed opportunity” along with the failures to investigate Strauss at Ohio State University.
“Further, the collapse of those systems was against the backdrop of an astounding failure of anyone in a position of authority to come forward to initiate a Medical Board or criminal investigation into Strauss’ conduct,” the report stated.
DeWine said he has “deep concerns” that there could be other similar cases. He said the state medical board should examine each sexual assault case that was closed without action in the past 25 years. Sarah Ackman, deputy counsel for DeWine’s office, estimates there are approximately 1,500 such cases.
“I shudder to think that there could be other doctors out there, because their case may have gone into a black hole, are still allowed to practice,” DeWine said, adding that any similar cases found should be reopened for potential medical license revocation and law enforcement should be notified.
DeWine is calling for the state medical board to investigate any Ohio medical license holder, currently or in the past, who knew Strauss was sexually assaulting students, or was suspecting it, but did not report it.
“Doctors who heard the rumors or saw something suspicious had a legal duty to report it to the board. We need to know if they did,” DeWine said.