Doctors Behaving Badly: Psychiatrist drew the sex abuse line at coworkers

Published on
March 24, 2010

Psychiatrist Frank Joseph Ilardi knows something about compartmentalization.

When confronted with the allegations that he had sexually attacked two women, Ilardi had a response straight out of a psychology textbook. According to the New York Office of Professional Medical Conduct, he said that everything he had been accused of – exercising undue influence on a patient, willfully abusing a patient and sexual contact between a psychiatrist and a patient – did not apply because the women who accused him of these things were his coworkers, not his patients.

Let's just assume for a minute that the difference matters. A doctor like Ilardi might ask, "But did you ever counsel these women, prescribe them drugs, treat them as if they were patients?"

And the truth, according to the New York investigators, would be yes. A woman identified by New York only as "L.H." was his patient. And one day in 2003 he told her that the drugs and the counseling and the working through her feelings were just sideshows. He told L.H. that what she needed was a "good old-fashioned roll in the hay." And then he exposed himself and tried to force her to perform a sex act on him. She refused, and so he bided his time. When the opportunity arose again, he was even more aggressive, according to the New York agency.

Around the same time, he also attacked a mental health specialist who worked at the hospital where he was a staff psychiatrist. He told the agency that she hadn't been a patient. No foul. And yet this did not end up mattering to the state of New York.

In June 2007, the agency forced him to give up his license.

None of this actually happened in New York. It happened at Charter North Star Hospital, now North Star Behavioral Health, a psychiatric hospital in Anchorage. In October 2006, Ilardi surrendered his license in Alaska, but, to this day, there are no details about the case on the Alaska State Medical Board's Web site.

If Ilardi had not also been licensed in New York, the record of what he did would not be found anywhere on the Internet.

He was licensed in Maine, too, and even Maine provides more information about what happened in Alaska, although not much. Unlike the Alaska record, Maine makes it clear that the reason Ilardi ended up in trouble in the first place was because North Star kicked him off its staff. As a result of that, Ilardi was prevented from renewing his medical license in Maine in 2005.

Final question: Does the Alaska State Board read its own secret files? When Ilardi asked that he be reinstated in Alaska, the state board denied his request in January 2010. The board didn't base its decision on what Ilardi did in Alaska, though. It based the decision on the fact that New York and Maine had taken action against his license and because he apparently also lost the ability to practice in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Talk about compartmentalization.