Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Who is Dr. Bert O'Malley? And What Does He Have To Do With Roger Clemens?

The big Roger Clemens hearing is today. Both sides have a lot of witnesses with conflicting statements. As I was reading in one report on, a doctor who had reviewed Clemens' medical records did not contain any indications of steroid use:
In a late addition to its case, Clemens' camp planned to submit to the committee on Wednesday a letter from a Baylor College of Medicine professor who examined medical records supplied by Hardin's office. The physician, Dr. Bert O'Malley, wrote that the records, which covered Clemens' time with four baseball clubs from April 1995 to August 2007, were "devoid of suspicious indications" of steroid use, such as high blood pressure or cholesterol, increased recovery time from injuries, increased muscle size, mood swings and numerous other symptoms.
O'Malley also said he saw no record of abscesses, which contradicts a claim by McNamee that Clemens had an abscess on his buttocks while with the Yankees as the result of an injection. Clemens' camp told ESPN's T.J. Quinn that O'Malley was asked to review the records, but he was not paid.
But who is Dr. Bert O'Malley of Baylor College of Medicine? The name definitely struck my eye because I felt I had heard it before, but not in a medical context. Rather, I recalled my parents, who are in research, mentioning his name in the context of their work. A quick Google search later, it turns out, Dr. Bert O'Malley is primarily a researcher! Although he does have an M.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, he is now the chairman of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at BCM. Um, this man probably has not seen the inside of a hospital in 20 years. Even if he does go in occasionally, shouldn't a clinician in sports medicine be the person reviewing Roger Clemens' medical records? Kinda shady, Roger. Kinda shady.

Update: Just to be clear, I'm not questioning Dr. O'Malley's background or credibility. He's a well-known endocrinologist; the issue is more about Clemens' medical history. When the committee subpoenaed Clemens' full medical record, there was an MRI of a buttock abscess:
Clemens’s medical records showed that he might have received an injection of vitamin B12 about 10 days before he met with Taylor on July 28, 1998, to discuss the injury on his buttocks. 
At the time, the infection was serious enough that Taylor started Clemens on antibiotics and asked that an M.R.I. be performed on the infected area. The procedure showed that the infection was probably caused by an attempted deep muscular injection. 
The committee, as part of its investigation, spoke with Dr. Mark Murphey, a radiology expert, who reviewed the notes from the examination of Clemens’s buttocks. 
Murphey told the committee staff that it was highly unlikely that the infection was caused by vitamin B12, a well-tolerated substance. 
Murphey said it appeared, as McNamee had said, that the infection was caused by Winstrol, which has been known to cause infections if not administered properly.
Taylor told the committee that he had given about 1,000 injections of vitamin B12 in his 30 years in baseball, and that he did not remember a player developing any type of infection from it.
So yea, clearly there is some discrepancy here. The only explanations I can think of would be either Clemens did not turn this over to O'Malley, or O'Malley did not interpret this data properly, or the radiologist Dr. Murphey's assessment is wrong.

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  1. To Scrub Notes: I guess in your position you can say what you want with no facts, but you should know better. Yes, Bert O'Malley is a scientist but also a Professor of Medicine. How could you determine with no information whatsoever that he 'hasn't seen the inside of a hospital in 20 years'? Correct in that he only sees occasional patients, but he does ‘teach the doctors’ about steroids and medicine. I guarantee you there are few sports medicine docs that know as much about the item in question for Clemens. Nothing shady there friend.
    Also, there is no evidence in anyone's reports of an abcess on Clemens' buttocks. Three doctors examined him and reported that in recorded medical records. Don't believe everything you hear second hand.
    Responses to questions by others: The ‘selected medical records’ represented 'all' of the existing medical records and what was obtained by the Senate Committee. (O'Malley's report does not mention testicle exams; signs show up in blood well before testicle changes.
    Sorry, no big surprises in O'Malley's little bank account- he did the report for absolutely no fee.I guess some of the academics are crazy, huh?
    Ask all to read Pettite's actual recorded testimony; its not what was quoted by senators in the hearing and in papers. No one digs deep. Read and be surprised.
    O'Malley did not pass judgment on innocence or guilt- only said keep an open mind until some real evidence appears. Remember, this is America guys and gals.
    Come on Scrub Notes, you have a good career ahead of you if you can appreciate medical evidence is not obtained by word of mouth or in newspapers.

  2. Dear Scrub Notes:
    Sports Medicine Doctors are the physicians that could not get into detal school. I cannot believe you would think someone who looks at fractures and pushes pain medicine is better capable of analyzing the effects of steriods on the human body than docto Bert O'Malley. I have reseached Dr. O'Malley and he is one of the worlds most leading authorities on steriod hormone receptors. Before you ask "Who is Dr. Bert O'Malley"? You better be sure on your facts. Dr. O'Malley is WORLD famous in the area of steriods...shame on you for not doing your homeowork...

  3. I suppose as a blogger, I must also serve as my own ombudsman to some degree. In that respect, I must accept the criticisms posted here. My rush to post left the post more negative than it should have been and lacking in the background research it required. Heh, I also guess I assumed no one would care to read it, but apparently Google's search algo thinks differently.

    However, that being said, I'll respond to some of the points made in the two previous comments:

    1. My understanding is that Dr. O'Malley is a joint faculty member of the Dept. of Medicine, but not a full 'Professor of Medicine.' I still stand by the assertion that he is primarily a researcher. While I do not have access to his schedule, his biography lends itself primarily to basic science research.

    2. I am not questioning Dr. O'Malley's knowledge of hormones; however, my main point was that my opinion is someone with more clinical expertise should be asked to make this judgment. It would be like asking a nuclear physicist to judge a case of nuclear espionage. Sure, the physicist knows more about how nuclear weapons work, but that is not the same as expertise in espionage. One may disagree with my opinion or with the analogy, but I think it is worthy of consideration. However, I agree that I could have stated my point better and done more research on Dr. O'Malley's background before posting.

    3. My post clearly states that I think Clemens is being shady, not Dr. O'Malley, but I suppose people might read an inference there that I did not intend.

    4. In some sense, this is all 'hearsay.' I referenced the information I used. I will admit some selection bias, but I think it is clear that there is an MRI out there showing a lesion on his buttocks. Even if it is not clearly documented/remembered by everyone involved, one cannot simply conclude that it never existed.

    5. Bank account? I never said anything about him getting paid, and I think it is clear that he has not been.

    6. Also, one should consider it unlikely that anyone treating Clemens would openly note in his medical record something blatantly incriminating him of steroid use. Medical records are not 100% objective documents, but rather are crafted by human beings and are subject to the same biases.

    7. Insulting sports medicine doctors and shaming me doesn't really advance anything. However, I am guilty of starting this by my treatment of Dr. O'Malley, so I guess I should have seen this coming.

    Basically, my opinion was that being an expert on steroid hormone receptors and a researcher may not necessarily be the best qualifications for this kind of judgment. I am happy to hear contrary opinions, but I think it is a matter of just that, opinions. I will be more careful in the future to make clear what facts I am using, and what is my opinion.

  4. For a differing view, check out this post on "Is it a blog yet?"



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