Former USC doctor medical license to be revoked following assault allegations

Photo of the Keck School of Medicine, a tall gray building with a banner reading “Keck School of Medicine of USC.” There are stairs leading up to the building, surrounding foliage, another building, and a blue sky in the background.

The Medical Board of California will revoke Dr. Guillermo Andres Cortes’ medical license mid-June following an investigation involving three complainants. The board only found sufficient evidence for allegations filed by Dr. Meena Zareh, who was working as a cardiology resident at the medical center when she was assaulted by Cortes in 2015. (Daily Trojan file photo)

The Medical Board of California will rescind the medical license of a UCLA physician accused of sexually assaulting another doctor while working at the Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center in 2015.

The revocation of Dr. Guillermo Andres Cortes’ license comes after a March recommendation by California administrative law judge Thomas Heller following the Board’s investigation and will take effect mid-June. Heller found that the complaint, lodged by Dr. Meena Zareh, who worked as a resident with then-cardiology fellow Cortes at LAC + USC Medical Center in 2015, provided “clear and convincing evidence” that the sexual assault had taken place. The investigation involved three complainants, although only Zareh’s case was determined to provide compelling evidence. 

“The assault occurred in the workplace and violated professional, personal, and workplace boundaries,” the board’s recommendation read. “[Cortes’] violation of those boundaries raises significant concerns about his judgment, impulse control, and respect for the rights of others.”

In December 2016, Zareh filed a civil suit against USC and L.A. County alleging that each establishment pressured her to continue studies outside of USC or delay them. The case is currently pending, with the trial set for Sept. 15. 

Zareh reported the assault to the internal medicine residency program director, Eric Hseih, in February 2016, which launched the investigation against Cortes. Cortes was placed on administrative leave with pay for three months and later asked to return to work before the end of the investigation, with instructions to not interact with Zareh without supervision. According to court documents, Zareh claimed she was scheduled to work with Cortes twice. 

In a statement to the Daily Trojan, Keck Medicine of USC media representative Laura LeBlanc said the University promptly and adequately responded to the allegations as soon as they came to light.

“USC takes allegations of inappropriate conduct very seriously,” the statement read. “Once we became aware of Dr. Zareh’s allegations, we took appropriate actions in response.”

Cortes completed his cardiology fellowship with LAC + USC Medical Center in June 2017, shortly before accepting his current position as a cardiac electrophysiology fellow at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He was suspended in May 2018 following the allegations and remains suspended with pay. 

Following a Los Angeles Times article detailing Zareh’s suit allegations, the Medical Board of California began an investigation. The complainant also took a leave of absence from her fellowship program at LAC + USC Medical Center and has since become a cardiac research fellow at another location. 

Leslie Levy, Zareh’s attorney, wrote in an email to the Daily Trojan that the medical board decision did not provide complete justice, as USC and L.A. County — two entities which suppressed Zareh’s allegations — remain unpunished.

“This is one more example of USC’s failure to protect women from sexual assault,” Levy wrote. “USC and the County did not take [Zareh’s] complaint seriously and instead retaliated against her. The persons responsible for the retaliation and those who failed to act in accordance with the law remain seemingly untouched in positions of power.”

Cortes’ legal counsel declined to provide a statement before publication.