ST. LOUIS - On Wednesday, the St. Louis division of the FBI awarded Saint Louis University alum and longtime benefactor Steven Bander, M.D., with the prestigious 2010 Director's Community Leadership Award. Bander was selected because of his courage and integrity in exposing alleged fraud and for his continuous dedication in promoting ethical business practices in medical care and research.
|Acting Special Agent in Charge M. B. Kinder presents Steven Bander, M.D. with the 2010 Director’s Community Leadership Award.|
Bander, who also is an adjunct faculty member in nephrology at SLU, was the chief medical officer for Gambro Healthcare U.S., which was the world's third largest supplier of kidney dialysis services. In April 2001, he filed a lawsuit claiming Gambro defrauded Medicare and Medicaid out of hundreds of millions of dollars.
"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," said acting Special Agent in Charge M. B. Kinder of the FBI St. Louis Division, who presented Bander with the award.
Bander told the crowd of nearly 200 fourth-year medical school students that he was thankful for the honor, but blowing the whistle on corruption is something he hopes they will never 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.
Ultimately, Gambro paid more than $350 million in civil and criminal penalties to settle the claim, which remains the largest settlement in Missouri history. With his portion of the settlement, 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. The foundation also established the Bander Business Ethics Research Funding Program at Washington University.
During his acceptance speech, Bander said Saint Louis University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J., embraced the idea of raising awareness about medical business ethics wholeheartedly. This set in motion the plan to create the Center and integrate medical business ethics into SLU's School of Medicine curriculum.
James DuBois, Ph.D., director of the Bander Center for Medical Business Ethics, began working with Bander in 2006. He told the crowd that within a year of establishing the Center, the topic of medical business ethics became a "sexy topic."
"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.
With funding from Bander's foundation, the Bander Center for Medical Business Ethics has been poised to meet the growing educational needs of students, residents and practicing physicians, DuBois said.
For example, the Center provides free online continuing medical education courses in medical business ethics to physicians around the world; it supports an endowed lecture series in partnership with Washington University and a fellowship program at the School of Medicine. The Center also developed a capstone course in medical business ethics for fourth-year medical students at SLU.
Most recently, Bander's foundation helped establish a new academic journal called, Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics: A Journal of Qualitative Research, which will serve as a forum for exploring current issues in bioethics. Its first issue, which focuses on living with conflicts of interest, will be published this fall.
"I am proud that one of our graduates and a member of our faculty is being honored for such a remarkable display of courage and selflessness," Biondi said. "Through his words and in his deeds, Dr. Bander exemplifies the very best of what we seek to instill in our students at SLU."
The ceremony was followed by a lecture given by FBI Special Agent James Applebaum and Assistant U.S. Attorney of the Department of Justice Andrew Lay.
The Director's Community Leadership Award was created in 1990 as the principle means for the FBI to publicly honor individuals and organizations for their efforts in combating crime, terrorism, drugs and violence to help keep America and its children safe.
The mission of the Bander Center for Medical Business Ethics is to promote ethical business practices in medical care and research through the development of training and investigation opportunities for medical students, residents and physicians in practice. Learn more about the Center.