It's been hell being a Las Vegas doctor

For Dr. Sharon Poon, the past few weeks have been hell.

Day after day she's grown more upset as she's read about physicians bringing shame to her profession: a doctor running a clinic that's forced authorities to request 40,000 people be tested for hepatitis and HIV; allegations that doctors conspired with an attorney to jack up medical costs for settlements; a doctor convicted of second-degree murder in the death of a patient.

"I became a doctor to take care of people," the 43-year-old anesthesiologist said Thursday evening. "Most of us have. We've worked to build up the reputation of the medical community in this town and it just breaks my heart to see it ripped apart by a few."

Feeling she had to do something to show the community that physicians don't condone behavior that results in doctors ending up in courtrooms and as the focus of police investigations, she contacted about 20 other doctors to see if they, too, were feeling the same way.

"It was a very grass roots thing," she said. "We just started calling doctors to see if they wanted to be part of a letter to the community. We want people to know how we feel, that we care about people. This is our community. We're patients, too."

The letter, signed by 177 physicians, appears on page 15A of today's Review-Journal.

Starting this past Saturday, each of the 20 physicans began calling other doctors and reading them drafts of the letter over the phone.

"We didn't want this to be a mass e-mailing kind of thing," she said. "It was important that we believe in this."

One of the doctors who signed the letter was Mark Barry, an orthopedic surgeon.

"People have to know that there are so many of us trying to practice good, ethical medicine," he said.

On Monday, Poon called the Review-Journal and learned that if she wanted the letter in the newspaper this week, she had to have it done by Tuesday.

She just made the deadline: "It's hard to get a lot of doctors to agree on one thing."

"Please don't say this was just my idea," Poon added. "All of the doctors who signed this believe strongly that we can't be seen as being complacent about what's going on in our community. What makes us do our jobs is hearing that we helped people. That's what we're really about."

Contact reporter Paul Harasim at or (702) 387-2908.


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