Baylor Taps the Brakes On Replacing the Chairman of its Dermatology Program

Baylor University Medical Center and the prospective replacement for dermatology chairman Dr. Alan Menter have mutually stalled the department’s succession plan, allowing Menter to retain the top position “indefinitely.” 

Dr. Clay Cockerell, a respected dermatologist and professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center, was set to begin the role on July 1. But that date came and went, and Menter remained. On May 10, the two men had appeared on a panel during a Baylor Health Care System Foundation board luncheon alongside Dr. Catriona Ryan, the vice chair of the program. They confirmed the changeover, and Cockerell said his five-year goal was to “double the size” of the dermatology program, according to this report in My Sweet Charity.

But about a month later, CBS News aired a package about a fraud scheme that offered veterans Walmart gift cards in return for DNA and urine samples. The labs, of which there were at least three near the Fort Hood Army post, would allegedly then bill Tricare, the public insurance program for the military and their families, for unnecessary drug and cancer screenings. The lab employees later ditched dozens of boxes of patient information, including photocopies of driver’s licenses and social security cards, and skipped town. While Cockerell was not accused of wrongdoing, the report said his dermatopathology lab’s contracts with Tricare were being used.

Cockerell said he does not own the Killeen-area labs and said the scheme was drawn up by a number of bad actors unbeknownst to him.

“While I work to correct the misinformation in the story, we thought it best to delay my appointment temporarily and mutually agreed to a short term pause,” Cockerell wrote in an email. “I look forward to assuming the chairmanship soon and will continue to teach and interact with the dermatology residents and other fine colleagues at Baylor Scott and White in the interim.”

In its statement, Baylor declined to provide an expected timetable of when the talks of Cockerell taking over would resume.

“Dr. Alan Menter is our chairman of dermatology, and he will remain in that position indefinitely. Dr. Clay Cockerell is a well-regarded dermatologist who has an excellent clinical reputation. We were previously in discussions with Dr. Cockerell about a leadership position at Baylor University Medical Center. However, both parties have formally paused the talks.”

In a separate statement posted to his website, Cockerell acknowledged having a “relationship” with the lab owners in Killeen, which is the Dallas-based Origen Laboratories. Origen shares an address with the operators of those labs, known as ProGen, a third party laboratory manager. A spokesperson for Origen did not return request for comment on Wednesday.

Cockerell didn’t discuss the business relationship further in emails with D Healthcare Daily, and he was traveling and unavailable for a phone call.

“I do not own a lab in Killeen. The lab that is managed by ProGen performed tests on specimens that were sent to us that were induced by dishonest individuals. We learned about it over nine months ago,” he wrote in an email. “ProGen terminated relationships with all individuals involved, notified the payer, and began voluntarily returning all monies garnered by the tests associated with the scheme.”

He did not say how much money was returned. Too, the Department of Justice has not confirmed whether it’s opened an investigation into the matter. Cockerell added that he is “confident that those responsible for the wrongdoing will be held accountable soon,” however.

Cockerell has had a career of more than three decades, most of which has been in the Dallas area. He is a past president of the American Academy of Dermatology and a clinical professor of dermatology at UT Southwestern, where he also offers five students an annual fellowship in dermatopathology. He graduated medical school from the Baylor College of Medicine in 1981 and served his residency at New York University Hospital in 1985. His fellowship came the next year from the New York University School of Medicine.

He currently is the medical director of Cockerell & Associates/Dermpath Diagnostics Dermatopathology Laboratories and is licensed to practice in more than two-dozen states.

Posted in Hospitals, News, Physicians.