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Rabi v. Iowa Board of Medicine

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 27, 2017

FIRAS RABI, M.D., Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
IOWA BOARD OF MEDICINE, Respondent-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Lawrence P. McLellan, Judge.

         Firas Rabi appeals a district court order affirming an administrative decision by the Iowa Board of Medicine. AFFIRMED.

          Michael M. Sellers of Sellers, Galenbeck & Nelson, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Julie J. Bussanmas, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.

          MULLINS, JUDGE.

         Firas Rabi, M.D., appeals a district court order denying him relief in relation to his application for judicial review of a disciplinary decision rendered by the Iowa Board of Medicine (Board). Rabi contends (1) the Board exceeded its statutory authority in disciplining him under its administrative sexual-harassment rule, (2) the evidence does not support the Board's findings that he violated the sexual-harassment rule, and (3) the Board exceeded its statutory authority in disciplining him for unprofessional or unethical conduct. We affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         In July 2006, Rabi began a three-year fellowship in the pediatric intensive care unit of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. After he completed his fellowship, he worked at the hospital as a general pediatric hospitalist, a contract position, with intentions of returning to the pediatric intensive care unit. When Rabi applied for a permanent position in the unit in 2010, a unit nurse made allegations of inappropriate behavior against him and enlisted other staff members to forward similar allegations based on their exchanges with him. The hospital investigated the allegations and, on June 18, 2010, concluded "[t]he evidence produced during the investigation [did] provide a reasonable basis to believe the Policy on Sexual Harassment ha[d] been violated." Rabi was placed on administrative leave and advised his contract with the hospital would not be renewed and would terminate effective September 30, 2010. Rabi reported the situation to the Board in July 2010.

         Based on Rabi's self-report, the Board initiated its own investigation into the matter and, on March 6, 2014, filed a statement of charges against Rabi, charging him with (1) sexual harassment pursuant to Iowa Code section 148.6(2)(i) (2014) and Iowa Administrative Code rules 653-13.7(6) and -23.1(10); (2) unethical or unprofessional conduct pursuant to Iowa Code sections 147.55(3) and 272C.10(3) and Iowa Administrative Code rule 653-23.1(4); and (3)practice harmful or detrimental to the public pursuant to Iowa Code sections 147.55(3) and 272C.10(3) and Iowa Administrative Code rule 653-23.1(3).

         In February 2016, the Board concluded Rabi violated the rules prohibiting sexual harassment and unprofessional conduct but not the rule prohibiting practices harmful to the public. The Board, among other things, suspended Rabi's license to practice medicine indefinitely and imposed a civil penalty of $10, 000. Rabi filed a petition for judicial review pursuant to Iowa Code section 17A.19 in the district court arguing, among other things, the Board exceeded its authority in disciplining him. In a thorough ruling, the district court affirmed the Board's decision in September 2016. Rabi appealed.

         II. Standard of Review

         Iowa Code chapter 17A governs judicial review of the actions of the Board. See Iowa Code § 148.7(9). "On appeal, our sole task is to correct legal error, if any, affecting the [Board's] decision." Boswell v. Iowa Bd. of Veterinary Med., 477 N.W.2d 366, 367 (Iowa 1991).

         III. ...


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