Armed with the concept of restorative justice, internist Dr. Michele Martinho shared her story of pleading guilty to a felony and taking bribes from the lab industry with McGovern Medical School faculty Dec. 12, in hopes of preventing others from making the same decisions.
Martinho said that her criminal act isn’t one that is read in the papers of physician wrongdoing. “It’s not the obvious story,” she said. “But I don’t want someone else to commit a crime like I did.”
Approached by a lab company, Martinho was offered cash for sending her patients’ labs to a specific company. She was paid $5,000 a month and as a result pled guilty to The Traveler’s Act. In all, 30 physicians pled guilty for referring labs as part of an FBI investigation in 2014.
Martinho, who is in private practice in New York, said although she had a gut feeling about the situation, she lacked business knowledge.
“I didn’t have a business background. There needs to be business of medicine as a foundation of medical school,” she said.
As the result of her crime, insurance companies dropped her, a fellow physician printed out her FBI press release to share with patients, and she had to release her hospital privileges. She took an online ethics certificate course where she learned the concept of restorative justice, which involves attempting to repair the harm caused by the crime with the broader community.
“I just wanted to get my message out to influence the next generation of physicians,” she said, adding that she reaches out to medical schools to tell her story.
Martinho has not yet been sentenced – she has been awaiting sentencing for three years now. She said she has repaid the money, paid taxes on what she was illegally paid, and had to pay attorney fees.
“When they say crime doesn’t pay, I have no words. My career has been ruined,” she said.