Steven Bander, MD, Receives FBI Director's Community Leadership Award
Steven Bander, MD, received the FBI Director's Community Leadership Award (DCLA) on March 2, 2011. The prestigious award was given to Bander for the programs he has funded using his qui tam settlement, including Saint Louis University's Bander Center for Medical Business Ethics.
The ceremony was held in the Pitlyk Auditorium of the Learning Resource Center at the Health Sciences Campus and hosted by the St. Louis division of the FBI. The awards ceremony was followed by a lecture by FBI Special Agent James Applebaum and Assistant U.S. Attorney of the Department of Justice Andrew Lay. Nearly 200 fourth-year medical students and faculty were in attendance.
One DCLA recipient is selected from each of the 56 FBI field offices in the United States each year. FBI special agents nominate individuals for the award whom they believe should be recognized for their tremendous support of FBI programs and investigations. This special award was formally created in 1990 to honor individuals and organizations for their efforts in combating crime, terrorism, drugs, and violence in America.
Bander was Chief Medical Officer for Gambro Healthcare U.S., which was, at the time, the world's largest supplier of kidney dialysis services. In April 2001, Bander filed a qui tam lawsuit claiming Gambro had defrauded Medicare and Medicaid out of hundreds of millions of dollars. Ultimately, Gambro was made to pay more than $350 million in civil and criminal penalties to settle the claim, which remains the largest settlement in Missouri history. Whistleblowers are entitled to a percentage of the settlement. Using settlement funding, Bander established a charitable foundation that focuses on business ethics in healthcare. In 2006, Saint Louis University formed the Bander Center for Medical Ethics with support from the foundation. In 2009, a sister program was established at Washington University, the Bander Business Ethics in Medical Research Funding Program. Special Agent in Charge M.B. Kinder, of the FBI St. Louis Division, who presented Bander with the award, said "Dr. Bander knew he would end his career, and he knew he would have to pay lawyers' fees up front to file his suit. What he didn't know was whether he would prevail. Yet he stuck his neck out because he knew he had to do what was right."
Bander thanked the FBI for the honor, and added that being a whistleblower is something he hopes none of the people in the audience would have to experience. "It was a big decision on my part and the repercussions have been life-long. Luckily for me, it has turned out to be very good. But again, it was an easy decision to make once we exhausted all our options of trying to make change within a company that did not want to change," Bander said. He also noted that Lawrence Biondi, S.J., Saint Louis University's President, embraced the idea of raising awareness about medical business ethics. His support set in motion plans to create the Center and integrate medical business ethics into SLU's School of Medicine curriculum.
James DuBois, PhD, DSc, the Director of the Bander Center, began working with Dr. Bander in 2006. He observed that Bander's vision for the Center was prescient. Within a year of establishing the center, the topic of medical business ethics was receiving significant publicity and becoming increasingly important. "The Association of American Medical Colleges produced reports on conflicts of interest. The Institute of Medicine produced a major report on conflicts of interest. Pharma produced new guidelines on relationships with physicians. The whole area really exploded," DuBois said. He added that with the help of Dr. Bander, the Bander Center for Medical Business Ethics is poised to meet the growing educational needs of students, residents and practicing physicians.
Most recently, the BF Charitable Foundation helped establish a new academic journal called Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics: A Journal of Qualitative Research. It will serve as a forum for exploring current issues in bioethics and its first issue, scheduled to be published this fall, focuses on conflicts of interest in medicine. To learn more about the Bander Center's resources and activities, click here.