In America, we like to believe and are taught to believe that we are all equal and that no one is above the law. That is, we all are accountable to the same standard. Now, this sounds beautiful and eloquent in theory, but too often these principles are tainted by others, who appear to live and are treated by a different standard.
Please, let me present to you: Dr. Norman Ross Harbaugh Jr, 61, who served as President and Managing partner of Children’s Medical Group. I think that we all would agree that working with children or being an esteemed pediatrician, such as Dr. Harbaugh, is both honorable and admirable. However, before we vote Harbaugh into the Pediatric Hall of Fame, there are many details of his life that we must carefully and objectively consider.
Curiously, you can find a bevy of information about Harbaugh’s accomplishments, but what is buried deep in his accolades is a very unfortunate secret that must be illuminated, as he held the responsibility for thousands of our most precious: our children.
So, let’s discuss what has been hidden from the public eye. On May 16, 2017 in Gwinnett County, Georgia, Harbaugh was arrested for a DUI (Driving Under the Influence). As important as this case is to the well being of the general public, the record of this DUI seems to have mysteriously disappeared. It evaporated into smoke with lightning speed. Also, as is typical protocol, this incident was not reported to the Georgia Composite Medical Board.
Please understand that Harbaugh’s DUI resulted in him driving over a gore, which could have caused grave danger to anyone who was in the path of his out of control vehicle, with him at the helm.
Though Harbaugh received few to no consequences for his actions, we can accurately assume that the average Georgian citizen would have faced far stiffer penalties and many pediatricians in Georgia would have been on the ropes in their career. For example, if Harbaugh would have been convicted, as many would have, in accordance with Georgia law, we find that he instead dodged a bullet. In many instances, these actions would have resulted in stiff penalties for others in Harbaugh’s position. For comparison purposes, let’s think of a person of similar age who is not a prestigious pediatrician, but a postal worker, by trade. With honest thinking, there is a good probability that this person would have lost their job or faced a very uncertain future.
The following is what could have happened to Harbaugh, but did not. For example, he could have lost his license to practice medicine or had his ability to practice significantly restricted. Moreover, he could have been ordered to pay heavy and significant fines. As you may imagine, none of those possibilities saw the light of day.
On the light end, Harbaugh was required to pay a $2000.00 fine. That’s getting off lightly. With this some peculiar oddities arose.
The arrest is well documented, but four years later, still nothing further is recorded. To limit unnecessary speculation and wandering into the case, Harbaugh was directly reached out to add clarity to this complicated scenario, However, and unfortunately the pediatrician has failed to answer to his actions and this probe.
Additionally, we also sought to speak with the GA-Board, but they chose to decline all comments. Despite the clear public risk to our safety, they chose to remain silent.
While Dr. Harbaugh's arrest remains unaddressed by the GA-Board, per their own database, there should be an expectation of a Board with such responsibility to put the safety of the general population in the midst of their core goals and aspirations. In all, we must hold this board and its members to a high, if not higher standard. In essence, we have provided them with the keys to our safety, well being and health. With that, we should expect no less.
As we dig deeper into the abyss of this, we will find that Harbaugh is not alone in his egregious actions. Actually, we will find that there are many other pediatricians throughout the US, who have also been arrested for DUI. According to the California-based Center for Professional Recovery, they estimate that about 2,800 physicians are arrested for DUI annually. DUI is one of the most common causes for board discipline, suggesting that Harbaugh, unlike most physicians, was able to circumvent this entire process.
Under normal circumstances, this is what Harbaugh, rightfully, should have faced, but did not. He should have followed through with Normal Board regulations, as required by any physician, to self-report within the required time. From there the board should have conducted an investigation, a review of pertinent information, and then adjudicated the case as they deemed fit.
Aligned with the finding, regulations also require all inquiries to be publicly available for review. This allows for the general public to form an opinion based on the objectivity of the presented evidence. That is, people would be allowed to read, think and form an independent decision with access to pertinent information.
Let’s venture back to our comparison of Harbaugh to a postal worker. The following data points, coupled with the aforementioned information that has been presented here, make this comparison clear. For example, studies suggest that at the time of a first DUI, many drivers have already driven under the influence many more times, but weren’t caught or did not crash.
We must ask, with sobriety, if the average person were arrested on DUI charges, could they expect little to no consequences? I believe that the vast majority of us would answer this question with a resounding no.
As we continue to examine, there is no evidence of any action taken by the medical board, even years later, when members learned of Harbaugh's DUI. To this day, Harbaugh still has his license to practice medicine.
Harbaugh could have faced serious and life changing consequences. DUI is one of the most common causes for board discipline.
Today, Harbaugh is unfettered by his DUI. We will find that he has held elite positions within medicine and continues to hold a license. That is, his positions of power within the medical community include: serving as the former CEO of Kids Health First, an Atlanta-based Independent Practice Association, with more than 200 pediatricians.
Harbaugh is also on the board of directors of multiple boards including Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, The Children’s Care Network, and Kids Health First, Atlanta.
For the betterment of our medical community and overall community, we must take a close look into Dr. Harbaugh’s questionable and unchallenged past. We must do this to protect ourselves, our community and our children.