Dr Timothy Kuklo had an article that was withdrawn from publication and falsified research and forged the signatures of “A. T. Groth,” “R. C. Anderson,” “H. M. Frisch” and “R. B. Islinger.” They were claimed as phantasmagorical co-investigators of this invented study on Infuse, a Medtronic bone-growth product in lower-limb restoration. While the article was based on illusory clinical observations during his tenure at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, it was submitted and published during his tenure as associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at the Washington University in St Louis School of Medicine.
It is now confirmed that Dr Kuklo began his appointment at Washington University in St Louis on August 15, 2006 and received tenure on October 6, 2006. Such a narrow time frame between appointment and the granting of tenure is striking in that it is rather uncommon outside of medicine. For the vast majority of tenured faculty, they are probationary for six years, are granted or denied tenure at the end of that year and are either fired or receive continuous tenure at the beginning of their eighth year of service.
Certainly, it is not uncommon for a university to grant tenure simultaneously with an appointment when the individual is of senior rank and is an established figure in one’s field. While admittedly Dr Kuklo had considerable experience, a medical school should at least provide a longer probationary period to insure the viability of the appointment. Dr Kuklo was not promoted with tenure, the more common occurrence even on medical school faculties, but essentially was given tenure as a component of his initial appointment.
The purpose of the probationary period of six years before an up or out decision is made is clear: It gives the institution adequate time to assess a candidate’s scholarship, teaching and service and affords the academician a reasonable period to establish the appropriate credentials to undergo a comprehensive summative review of her performance.
In 2006, the year of Dr Kuklo’s appointment to the medical school, three physicians arrived WITH virtual tenure with the gap between appointment and receiving tenure constituting a few months. Dr Evan D. Kharasch arrived as professor of anesthesiology and received tenure five months into his appointment. Dr George A. Macones was also granted full professor rank in obstetrics and gynecology and received tenure six months after his arrival. Dr Kuklo, an associate professor, was the only one not granted a full professorship and yet received tenure only fifty-two days after his arrival on the St Louis campus.
One may assume that a medical school would be judicious, unless there is a palpable shortage, in conferring tenure simultaneously with an initial appointment only to those senior physicians who have proven based on distinguished career service that they should be granted a virtual lifetime appointment. However tenure may be revoked for a variety of reasons.
The classic document on tenure is the American Association of University Professors 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. One of the provisions for the revocation of continuous tenure is moral turpitude. While never defined like pornography, one knows it when one sees it. The falsification of research, the faking of signatures to create the impression of multiple authorship, the potential lethality that dishonest medical research could cause patients and eviscerate public health would certainly rise to the level of moral turpitude.
I think Dr Kuklo was smitten by greed. He was on the payroll of Medtronic and wanted to sell their product Infuse to ingratiate himself to his pharmaceutical masters. He faked the efficacy of Infuse in the treatment of Iraq War wounded in action by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other causes in order to peddle a product. His article, as has been reported, was withdrawn by the British-based The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery and he is forbidden from submitting any additional research to the journal. I doubt if any other reputable medical journal would accept an article for publication from Dr Kuklo.
As the A.A.U.P. has written in its 1999 Statement on Academic Freedom in the Medical School.
“The modern medical school has many of the attributes of a complex, market-driven health care system with professors often acting as entrepreneurs in research and in patient care. It is marked by conflicting roles and responsibilities, both academic and nonacademic, for faculty members and administrators alike.”
There needs to be a full inquiry, if one has not already been initiated, by the Washington University School of Medicine. A committee of faculty must independently assess the circumstances around this scandal. Dr Kuklo should, if he has not done so, hire an attorney with a specialty in employment law and in particular educational litigation to represent him. There are several in Illinois where I serve as vice president of the A.A.U.P. but they probably cannot practice in Missouri.
If Washington University does not take action then Dr Kuklo should be investigated by the appropriate licensing agency and a decision made whether his licence to practice medicine should be rescinded. I think such a process of determination must be implemented independently of the university’s actions or non-actions. Certainly the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, where Dr Kuklo received his medical degree in 1990, could upon examination revoke his degree of doctor of medicine.
In other articles I have disclosed significant family and personal connections to Washington University. Today I add more. I was born in a Washington University affiliated hospital and my father, who I have indicated served on the medical school faculty for over thirty years, died in a Washington University hospital. I went to day camp at the university and lived a few blocks from campus in University City. I played frisbee as a kid in the parking lot just west of Skinker and went to St Lous Symphony outdoor concerts during the summer. I protested against the war in Vietnam at Wash U and organised their student volunteers to support Eugene McCarthy’s presidential run. And now this? A possibly criminal physician who would dare fake research that could harm severely another human being in desperate need of efficacious lower-limb treatment. It is absolutely devastating and demoralising that this is happening and the silence of Washington University is deafening.
Blogging on Dr Timothy Kuklo:
May 20, 2010 Wall Street Journal reporter asks question
May 20, 2010 Kuklo cited in Journal of Bone and Spine Surgery
August 20, 2009 Colonel Kuklo resigns from Wash U
July 15, 2009 A.W.O.L. Speculation
May 17, 2009 Dr Riew first critiqued