A Phoenix-area congressional candidate, who made her career as an emergency room doctor a key point of her campaign, tells ABC15 she has not treated patients since 2007.
Hiral Tipirneni, D-Glendale, also settled a malpractice lawsuit just months before leaving her ER career, according to court records.
Tipirneni is facing former state Sen. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, in the April 24 special election for Arizona's 8th Congressional District. The women are vying to replace Trent Franks, who resigned from the U.S. House during a surrogacy scandal in December. The district includes Glendale, Peoria, Sun City, Surprise, and other west Valley suburbs.
The malpractice lawsuit was filed by a Phoenix woman, Belen Carrillo, before her death. Carrillo claimed that Tipirneni and a physicians employee group failed to give her a medically necessary tetanus immunization while treating her for a leg wound in 2001. According to the plaintiff's lawyer and son, Carrillo, then 72, contracted tetanus, ended up in a coma for weeks, and suffered kidney failure. The lawsuit says Carrillo sustained "permanent injury and disability."
"I did my best job as I did every time with every patient," Tipirneni said. "Although you feel very bad for any bad outcome and consequences a patient deals with, not every bad outcome is because of a mistake or bad medicine."
Tipirneni, 50, says the lawsuit did not cause her to change careers. Instead, Tipirneni said, she was impacted by two relatives who died from cancer.
"I took a little time off after our nephew passed away, and it was after that, shortly after that, I decided to change my pathway a little bit," Tipirneni said.
Tipirneni continues to have a valid Arizona medical license, and she never faced discipline from the Arizona Medical Board. Tipirneni is not currently board certified in emergency medicine. In recent years, she worked as a scientific review officer for a Virginia company, and she said that role includes acting as a "cancer research advocate."
At least two Tipirneni campaign videos feature her wearing medical scrubs and appearing in a hospital-like setting, ABC15 asked the candidate if that portrayal is disingenuous due to the fact she had not treated patients medically in more than a decade.
"No," Tipirneni said. "That's a skill set I am very proud of, and I worked very hard to acquire."
After ABC15 originally aired this story, the Tipirneni campaign issued the following statement:
"Desperate Debbie Lesko knows she is in trouble, so she's trying to distract voters from her agenda of cutting Medicare, Social Security and access to healthcare for Arizonans.
Dr. Hiral Tipirneni's service to thousands of patients and her work in cancer research are worthy of respect – not cheap political smears from a career politician.
In the span of just a few years, Hiral lost both her mom and her nephew to cancer. This is the reason she stopped working in the ER and dedicated herself to cancer research advocacy."