The Doctor Behind the Disputed Covid Data


In 2008 or early 2009, Dr. Olcese and another chief resident shared concerns about Dr. Desai with their supervisors — senior physicians and faculty at Duke — during discussions about whether to promote him to the next year of residency. It is unclear what the faculty members discussed during their private deliberations, but ultimately, Dr. Desai was moved up. A Duke spokeswoman would confirm only his time there.

After his residency, Dr. Desai obtained an M.B.A. in three months from Western Governors University, an online university based in Salt Lake City, the school confirmed. Then, after starting a vascular surgery fellowship at the University of Texas at Houston, he ran into trouble. He had so antagonized some supervisors that they asked the department chairman to expel him, said Dr. Hazim Safi, who was then in that role.

“Some of the attending staff didn’t like his behavior, and didn’t want him to graduate,” Dr. Safi said in an interview.

While Dr. Safi said that Dr. Desai could be abrasive, he had worked on papers with the younger physician and was convinced the complaints were driven by personality differences and professional jealousy, not substantive deficiencies in surgical skill or patient care. Instead of failing him, he said, he gave Dr. Desai an opportunity to work on his professionalism and interpersonal skills.

“I intervened and he graduated,” the former chairman said.

At Dr. Desai’s most recent post at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, Ill., he became involved in at least four medical malpractice cases that are still pending, including three filed in 2019.

Those suits include a claim that he failed to properly perform surgery to restore circulation to an accident victim’s leg, which later required partial amputation. Another alleges that negligent treatment by Dr. Desai and other doctors resulted in the removal of a substantial portion of a patient’s bowel.

The earlier case against the hospital contends that Dr. Desai performed surgery in 2016 to remove plaque buildup from a 60-year-old man’s carotid artery, then failed to come to the hospital after he developed swelling in his neck that caused difficulty swallowing and breathing. The patient later died.



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