LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Cosmetic medicine is exploding in popularity as millions of Americans try to turn back the clock on aging and they are doing it in places called Med Spa's.
Med Spas are places you can get everything from facials to botox, laser treatments to liposuction. They're opening all across the country. Sometimes with minimal oversight by doctors - and that can bring devastating results.
"You know the saying in medicine you know enough to be dangerous? Well if you don't know enough you're really going to be dangerous," said Dr. Tami Cassis, a member of the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure who runs a dermatology and aesthetics center in Norton Commons.
The Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure said things turned dangerous for Louisville's Sandra McCaslin after she walked into the office of Dr. Philip Roberts.
Roberts was medical director and part owner of Abundant Living Medical Clinic in Lexington in 2011. It advertised natural hormone replacement as a way to boost energy and lead a healthier lifestyle.
According to an investigation by the state, Roberts was a lifetime emergency room doctor with no formal training in hormone replacement therapy when he joined the clinic.
Still, he took McCaslin off her traditional medication and started her on a cocktail of hormones and pills that included heavy doses of vitamin D. So much, she suffered kidney failure five months later tied to Vitamin D intoxication in her blood. The board of medicine wrote McCaslin could have died if she had not sought medical attention.
Something Roberts never knew, because they found he was not doing the follow up lab work he should have been.
"It's horrible," said Cassis.
Cassis said Med Spa's like the one Roberts ran are popping up all over as people look to profit in the growing popularity of cosmetic treatments. Procedures that, when done incorrectly, can lead to everything from excessive bruising and swelling to permanent scaring and in some extreme cases like Sandra McCaslin's, life threatening complications.
Cassis worries current laws give Med Spa's too much wiggle room as to how they operate. Requiring a doctor on staff, but not on site. A study from the Journal of the American Medical Association found between 2008 to 2011, procedures performed in medical spas by non-physicians account for almost 80 percent of lawsuits.
WAVE 3 News found Med Spa's in Louisville with medical directors who don't ever come to the office. And others overseen by doctors who don't have any background on the cosmetic procedures performed under their care.
"You don't go to your gynecologist to have your teeth pulled," Cassis said. "You don't go to your orthopedic surgeon to have your hair done."
The Kentucky Board of Medicine's investigation into Dr. Roberts found he was grossly negligent, grossly ignorant and grossly incompetent in treating McCaslin. The board also found he provided improper care to at least 18 other patients at his Lexington clinic and stripped Roberts of the right to practice hormone replacement therapy in Kentucky.
Now, Roberts is running a new hormone replacement clinic, in a new state: Tennessee. Which is where WAVE 3 News found him. Living in a home outside Nashville. Operating out of a pharmacy.
WAVE 3 News eventually tracked Roberts down in a parking lot not far from his office.
"I'm telling you no," Roberts said to the interview request as he placed his hand on the camera and held the lens down so it could not record video of him.
Roberts did not want to answer our questions on camera about his time in Kentucky or whether his patients in Tennessee have a right to know.
"You can call my attorney," Roberts said. "And he'll give you everything."
WAVE 3 News later reached out to try and get the name of the attorney Dr. Roberts was referring to, but Dr. Roberts did not respond to our messages. Shutting WAVE 3 News down just like the state of Kentucky did to him.
According to his new website, Roberts now holds a Masters Degree in Metabolic and Nutritional Medicine and is now certified by the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine.
The Kentucky Board of Medicine pointed out in their report all of that is a result of online courses he did not start taking until investigators began looking into him.
So what can patients do to make sure they are in safe hands when they choose a med spa?
Ask questions, like the following:
- Who is doing the procedure?
- Is it a doctor, or someone on their staff?
- What type of training has that person had?
- What kind of safety precautions are in place if something goes wrong?