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UC Irvine's Hiring of Doctor Questioned

Ethics: As U.S. renews probe into medical school's cancer studies, dean says he can't understand why researcher was given job while under investigation.

December 05, 1998|PHIL WILLON and ESTHER SCHRADER | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The dean of the UC Irvine College of Medicine said Friday that he "can't even begin to understand" why the university hired a cancer specialist who was under federal investigation for falsifying research at a previous job.

According to a 1997 university inquiry, Dr. John C. Hiserodt later violated federal restrictions on the use of experimental drugs on cancer patients while he worked at a UC Irvine Chao Cancer Center laboratory. He resigned in 1997, university officials said.

The university acknowledged this week that federal health authorities are reopening their investigation.

Thomas Cesario, dean of the College of Medicine, said university officials padlocked the cancer laboratory after the allegations of unauthorized research surfaced in 1996. They also monitored Hiserodt closely throughout his stint at UC Irvine and sent three warning letters, Cesario said. State regulations protecting university employees prevented UC Irvine from dismissing Hiserodt, Cesario said.

Still, university officials were at a loss Friday to explain why the university hired him in the first place in July 1993, while the federal government was investigating allegations that he had submitted a falsified grant application three years earlier. The application was for his work at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

"I've asked myself the same question many times," said Cesario, who became dean after Hiserodt was hired.

William Parker, UC Irvine's associate executive vice chancellor, who oversaw research in 1993, said he was never told of the pending allegations when Hiserodt was offered a job. Parker said he was unsure if anyone at the College of Medicine was aware of the matter.

However, Gene Ioli, former manager of the cancer center's immunotherapy laboratory, said Friday that everyone who worked there knew about the allegations shortly after Hiserodt came aboard.

A month after UC Irvine hired Hiserodt full-time, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services barred him for five years from participating in federally funded cancer research projects because of his "scientific misconduct" in Pennsylvania.

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