A gynecologist who worked nearly 30 years at UCLA’s student health clinic, until retiring last year amid a misconduct investigation, is accused of sexually abusing patients, the university announced Monday.
James Heaps, 62, is charged with two counts of sexual battery by fraud and one count of sexual exploitation by a physician with two patients, according to Ricardo Santaigo, a public information officer with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Court records show the case was filed for warrant May 22 with a violation dated June 27, 2017.
Heaps pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Monday and was released without bail, the Associated Press reported.
The doctor surrendered to law enforcement Monday to face charges related his medical practice and encounters with two patients at UCLA Health in 2017 and 2018, UCLA said in a news release.
Although the school said Heaps turned himself in, Los Angeles police said he was not in their custody.
The college began investigating sexual misconduct allegations brought against Heaps last year and subsequently removed him from practice. The university said it terminated his employment, at which point Heaps announced his retirement.
The campus also said it reported Heaps’ conduct to the Medical Board of California and law enforcement. As of Monday afternoon, the state Medical Board’s database still showed Heaps’ license as active with no notable disciplinary actions.
The gynecologist had worked part-time at UCLA student health from 1983 to 2010 before being hired full-time at UCLA Health in 2014. He also held medical staff privileges at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center from 1988 to 2018, officials said.
“Sexual abuse in any form is unacceptable and represents an inexcusable breach of the physician-patient relationship,” Chancellor Gene Block and Vice Chancellor John Mazziotta said in a statement. “We are deeply sorry that a former UCLA physician violated our policies and standards, our trust and the trust of his patients.”
Heaps was also under investigation for improper billing practices, the school said.
In 2016, Heaps was among the 30 highest-paid employees across the entire UC system, taking home $1.18 million. He made nearly as much — $1.045 million — in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available.
The news follows similar allegations that came to light last year against longtime USC campus gynecologist George Tyndall. A Los Angeles Times investigation found that USC had for years ignored troubling reports of inappropriate conduct involving Tyndall, then eventually allowed him to resign with a financial payout — and without reporting the claims to his patients or the Medical Board of California.
A former men’s health doctor at USC has also been sued by at least 50 patients for alleged inappropriate conduct and sexual contact.
UCLA said it launched an independent investigation in March into the campus’ response to sexual misconduct in clinical settings, and whether the preventative measures it has in place are good enough.
The university is also partnering with Praesidium to provide support to any current or former students who may have been affected. Those with complaints or concerns about Heaps can contact Praesidium at 888-961-9273.
Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify that Heaps was hired full-time at UCLA Health after working part-time at the school’s student health clinic.