Former UCLA gynecologist faces sexual battery charge as school launches probe: report

A former staff gynecologist at the University of California Los Angeles turned himself into authorities Monday after being charged with sexual battery and exploitation in connection with the treatment of two patients at a university facility.

Dr. James Mason Heaps, an obstetrician-gynecologist who worked part-time at UCLA Health since 1983, plead not guilty to the charges against him in a Los Angeles courtroom later in the day.  UCLA received a complaint against Heaps in 2017 and placed him on leave the following year, but did not publicize the reason until Monday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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“Sexual abuse in any form is unacceptable and represents an inexcusable breach of the physician-patient relationship,” UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block said in a joint statement. “We are deeply sorry that a former UCLA physician violated our policies and standards, our trust and the trust of his patients.”

Heaps is charged with with two counts of sexual battery, fraud and one count of sexual exploitation of a patient, Ricardo Santiago of the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, told USA Today.  UCLA Health spokesperson Rhonda Curry said the school first received a complaint about the doctor in December 2017 and launched an investigation.

During the course of the investigation, the school discovered two previous complaints against Heaps from 2014 and 2015. Heaps, however, was not placed on leave until June 2018 and was reportedly seeing patients in the interim. UCLA paid an undisclosed settlement to another student who saw Heaps during this time period and filed a complaint against him accusing him of inappropriately touching her, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"We are deeply sorry for this," Curry told the Los Angeles Times.  "We know we could have done better. … We want and need to hear from other possible patients."

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Heaps' arrest comes a year after the University of Southern California came under fire for allowing former campus gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall to allegedly sexual abuse hundreds of patients over the course of three decades. UCLA is now conducting a broader internal investigation over how it handles sexual assault claims and is urging other students who may have been abused by Heaps to come forward.