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Ex-McLean chief admits sex with patient

Guilt said to lead him to resignation, crisis

Jack M. Gorman reported himself to New York regulators. Jack M. Gorman reported himself to New York regulators.

The former president of McLean Hospital in Belmont, who abruptly left his post last year without explanation, has admitted to "inappropriate sexual contact" with a patient that led to a personal crisis while he was running the prestigious psychiatric hospital, according to documents and an associate of the psychiatrist.

Dr. Jack M. Gorman had stunned the staff at the Harvard-affiliated hospital in May 2006, resigning after just four months on the job for undisclosed "personal and medical reasons." It turns out that Gorman was having such guilty feelings about his relationship with the patient that he quit his job, according to the Gorman associate. At about the same time, Gorman reported himself to medical regulators in his home state and attempted suicide, said the associate and a New York official.

In an astonishing fall from grace, Gorman, 55, signed a consent order last month with the New York Board for Professional Medical Conduct admitting that he had inappropriate sexual contact "on more than one occasion" with the patient, violating a cardinal rule in psychiatry. He surrendered his license to practice medicine indefinitely, effective yesterday.

"This is a very unusual case," said Claudia Hutton, spokeswoman for the New York Department of Health, which includes the medical board. "Dr. Gorman self-reported to us inappropriate sexual contact with a patient."

Gorman's admission was serious enough to warrant a harsher than usual punishment, Hutton said. Under the board's order, Gorman can request that his license be restored after six months, but, even if it is, he would face five years of probation under the supervision of another doctor.

She said confidentiality rules prevent her from disclosing details of his relationship with the female patient, including when and where their encounters occurred. She said the board believed that the sexual contact occurred outside New York state, but she would not say whether it took place in Massachusetts.

Gorman, a highly regarded psychiatrist whose job included supervising psychiatry departments at other Harvard teaching hospitals, issued a statement yesterday taking responsibility for his actions.

"I have stepped forward and voluntarily acknowledged any mistakes I have made and, in doing so, have paid a huge personal price," the statement said. "I accept the consequences, but remain proud of my 30-year career of outstanding academic and clinical service and research."

Officials at McLean Hospital declined to comment on Gorman's suspension or whether they knew at the time the reason he resigned. Instead, Partners HealthCare, the parent company of McLean Hospital, reissued its statement from last year, saying that Gorman "has returned to New York to tend to his health."

"Out of respect for his family, we do not have any further comment on his situation at this time," the company's statement said.

The Gorman associate, who did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the case, said Gorman did not tell Harvard and McLean officials the underlying reason for his resignation, saying only that he had personal and medical problems.

Only two years ago, Gorman was at the peak of his profession, chosen to lead McLean, one of the nation's leading psychiatric hospitals, and to direct psychiatric care at other hospitals in the Partners system, including Massachusetts General Hospital. At the time, he had built his reputation at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City as a leading researcher into anxiety disorders, depression, and schizophrenia. Among his many publications was an article on suicidal tendencies in patients.

From the time of his arrival in Belmont in January 2006, Gorman, a married father of two, impressed people with his energy and drive as he reviewed the hospital's entire research program and met personally with a wide range of patients, students, and colleagues.

"He bounded down the halls; he just radiated hope," said one McLean staff member who asked not to be identified because she is not authorized to speak with the media about Gorman.

In late April 2006, Gorman abruptly took a medical leave for an undisclosed condition. Hospital officials initially assumed he would be back in a matter of weeks, even announcing at a May 16 benefit dinner that supporters should send get well cards wishing Gorman a speedy recovery. Two days later, Gorman resigned from McLean, giving up his psychiatry leadership posts at the Partners hospitals and a full professorship at Harvard Medical School.

Rumors circulated after Gorman's resignation that he had attempted to kill himself.

Some speculated that Gorman had a terminal disease. "It must be very serious. It's hard to think of what could stop Jack Gorman from doing what he really wants to do: leading McLean and leading Partners," Karl Ackerman, president of the Manic-Depressive and Depressive Association of Boston, said at the time.

At the time, McLean Hospital officials declined to clarify why Gorman left and appointed Dr. Gary Gottlieb to run the hospital until a permanent successor could be named. When Scott L. Rauch was named the hospital's leader in October, the press release made no mention of Gorman.

Yesterday, the unnamed associate of Gorman said that Gorman had an attack of conscience sometime after he began the sexual relationship with the patient, prompting him to offer his resignation from all his Boston posts. He also contacted the New York Board for Professional Medical Conduct to disclose the affair.

The New York consent order finds Gorman guilty of "negligence on more than one occasion" for his relationship with the patient. The order said that Gorman "mismanaged transference and/or countertransference in the care of" the patient, using psychiatric parlance for the romantic feelings patients sometimes feel for their caregivers. The mismanagement, the order said, "resulted in inappropriate sexual contact with the patient."

Gorman, who has had a medical license since 1978, said yesterday that his career is not over. "With the understanding and support of my family and friends I am hoping that I can in the future continue to make significant contributions in the field to which I have dedicated my professional life," his statement said.

Globe correspondent Josh Kendall contributed to this report. Scott Allen can be reached at allen@globe.com.

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