Three retractions, two lawsuits, one institutional inquiry for San Diego orthopedic surgeon

11832_5_2_OC.inddThree retractions, two lawsuits, one institutional inquiry. That’s not the kind of math anyone likes to do — but it’s the tally for Harish Hosalkar, a San Diego surgeon specializing in pediatric orthopedics.

Hosalkar became embroiled in a messy affair after problems surfaced in data he had published while at Rady Children’s Hospital — a facility he left under a cloud of recriminations. More on that in a bit.

One of the retracted papers appeared last year in the Journal of Children’s Orthopaedics (the official journal of the European Paediatric Orthopaedic Society). Titled “Clinical effectiveness of continuous passive motion (CPM) following femoroacetabular impingement surgery in adolescents,” the Hosalkar wrote the article with James Bomar, a researcher who had done an internship at Rady Children’s.

According to the notice:

The corresponding author, Dr. Harish S Hosalkar submitted this article to the Journal of Children’s Orthopaedics (JCOR) and it was published on August 2012, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 269–275.

The corresponding author, Dr. Hosalkar, subsequently raised concerns related to the accuracy of the data presented in the article and asked for withdrawal of the article.

The editors of the Journal of Children’s Orthopaedics who act according to the COPE Code of Conduct, consider this an infringement of professional ethics, and therefore, the decision has been made to retract the article published in the Journal of Children’s Orthopaedics.

The editors of the Journal of Children’s Orthopaedics are sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused to the reviewers, editorial, and publishing staff of the Journal of Children’s Orthopaedics. An apology is also extended to the readers.

The second paper, “Does Incisional Wound VAC after Major Hip Surgery in Obese Pediatric Patients Reduce Wound Infection and Scar Formation? A Pilot Study,” appeared in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, also in 2012. Its notice states:

Retraction notice: Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research has been made aware of concerns about the integrity of the dataset in Does Incisional Wound VAC after Major Hip Surgery in Obese Pediatric Patients Reduce Wound Infection and Scar Formation? A Pilot Study. Venkatadass K, Bittersohl B, Fomari ED, Bomar JD, Hosalkar H. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2012 Nov 6 [Epub ahead of print] (DOI10.1007/s11999-012-2677-9).

Accordingly, this article has been retracted by agreement of the authors, the Editor-in-Chief, and the journal’s publisher Springer.

And we’ve been told that a third article, “Open reduction and internal fixation of displaced clavicle fractures in adolescents,” from Orthopedic Reviews, will be retracted, too.

We also found this erratum, in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, referring to the Orthopedic Reviews article:

On page 503, the second full paragraph in the second column, which cites reference 36 (Hosalkar HS, Parikh G, Bomar JD, Bittersohl B: Open reduction and internal fixation of displaced clavicle fractures in adolescents. Orthop Rev [Pavia] 2012:4[1]:e1), should be disregarded. There may have been inaccuracies in the collection of data published in the paper cited as reference 36.

The Journal regrets the error.

According to Bomar, who had been looking for help finding a research project, Hosalkar sent him data that the physician had collected from an earlier study of adolescents who had undergone lower limb surgery. Hosalkar, however, suggested that Bomar was to blame, and that his sins were of omission:

I was clearly responsible for negligent supervision. But at the end of the day I had to go down to the ultimate rule, that the PI is responsible.

Hosalkar told us that in the wake of the revelations about the bad data he was asked to leave his positions at Children’s Specialists of San Diego and at Redy Children’s — an ouster he attributed to racism:

I was the only non-Caucasian physician in the group. … They wanted to use this to get me out of the practice. They said, ‘You are contaminating the kind of research’

that the institutions wanted to publish.

For his part, Bomar — who said the hospital conducted a six-month investigation into the affair — flatly denied that he had made mistakes:

It is an important thing that has been investigated thoroughly … It was not my data. It was Dr. Hosalkar’s data.

Bomar told us that two lawsuits were initiated in the matter, which the parties settled for no monetary damages. We spoke briefly with attorneys for both Hosalkar and his former colleagues, neither of whom had much to say to us about the matter.

However, Bomar said he was authorized to provide us with a few bullet points about the case, which we’ll paraphrase here:

1. Dr. Hosalkar was the principal investigator for the questioned studies and took full responsibility for any inaccurate data.

2. Dr. Hosalkar sincerely regrets any negligent reputational impact his actions may have shed on [the group practice or the hospital], including James Bomar.

3. Dr. Hosalkar believes the institutions have acted appropriately.

4. The parties have agreed to a mutual release.

The attorneys involved in the suits declined to discuss the details with us. We attempted to reach the research integrity officer at Redy Children’s but have yet to hear back.

Hat tip: Rolf Degen

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