Joseph Santarsieri and Andrew Lombardozzi, chiropractors at Commonwealth Chiropractic and Acupuncture Center on Staples Mill Road, had their licenses temporarily suspended Aug. 21 because of out-of-the-office relationships with patients and, in Santarsieri's case, a substance-abuse problem.
Santarsieri “pursued a personal social relationship” with a patient during the course of treatment,” alleges an anonymous complaint filed with the Virginia Board of Medicine. “He invited her to a restaurant to watch a football game, after drinking heavily during the event he brought her back to his office for her to use the spinulator [sic],” a chiropractic work table. “Further, he visited her at her home one evening where Dr. Santarsieri became sick from drinking alcohol and left upon being requested to leave.”
In the resulting investigation, Santarsieri admitted the incidents. Santarsieri, whose father owns the practice, also admitted to using drugs then spending the night in the office. He said he's sought treatment for a crack cocaine problem.
After 15 months, Santarsieri can apply for reinstatement of his license.
It's unclear who filed the complaint against Santarsieri or if it's related to Lombardozzi's case, which resulted in a six-month suspension. That case centers on his relationships with two patients.
One of the former patients referenced in the filings dated Lombardozzi for about four months. In an interview with Style on condition of anonymity, she says that after she began treatment for upper back pain in October, Lombardozzi invited her out on New Year's Eve.
“I was kind of confused but excited,” she says of the initial call. “You know, here's a doctor. There's a doctor interested in me.” After their relationship ended, she says she tracked down another patient Lombardozzi had dated. Both women complained to the Board of Medicine.
Richmonder Dianne Franklin — who, along with her 38-year-old son, Chris, has been a patient of Lombardozzi's for more than a year — says the suspensions have not tarnished the doctor's image in her eyes. “It just makes my stomach hurt,” she says of his suspension. “He was such a nice person”
Jennifer Deschenes, the administrator in charge of discipline for the Virginia Board of Medicine, says the circumstances surrounding the relationship are irrelevant.
The law “states that even initiation by a patient doesn't negate the doctor's guilt,” she says. “The patient-doctor relationship, there's a vulnerability, there's a power. Basically that's been a forbidden relationship in the profession forever.”