Dr Valerie Louise Augustus has been forced to close her office for two months and could lose her medical licence after it was discovered she beat at least ten patients with whips and riding crops and sometimes compared them to mules.
Augustus, who has headed Christian Psychiatrist Services for 17 years, was found to have used a riding crop – a thin whip normally used to strike horses – on the buttocks of a patient in 2015, according to Tennessee medical discipline documents that were made public on Friday. CPS boasts of using “cutting-edge medical technology.”
The patient, who had a history of physical abuse, was suffering from depression and struggling with suicidal thoughts, documents state.
Her website says:
We are committed to providing compassionate, patient-centered, high-quality care to patients from adolescence through adulthood. Through efficient use of office staff and cutting-edge medical technology, we are able to offer exceptionally accessible and personal care in a positive atmosphere.
It also says that:
Dr Augustus has a holistic approach to mental health. With a calling to address the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of people, Dr Augustus emphasizes a healthy diet and regular physical activity, while optionally integrating her spiritual beliefs and principles into each patient’s healing process.
An investigation by state authorities also found that Augustus had:
Made contact with other mental health patients with a riding crop, whip or other object.
The documents also state that Augustus kept both a riding crop and a whip “displayed in her office” and “compared her patients to mules” and that that Augustus kept both a riding crop and a whip displayed in her office.
Augustus’s licence was suspended for no fewer than 60 days, starting in June, after the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners said there was “no evidence” in psychiatrist literature for using whips or riding crops as an effective part of treatment.
To get her licence back, Augustus will be required to take a two-day class on “medical ethics, boundaries and professionalism” and be cleared by the Vanderbilt Comprehensive Assessment Program, which examines professionals who are having emotional or behavioral issues in the workplace.
If the program clears Augustus, she can then petition the board to get her licence back. If it is restored, she will start a probationary term of three years.
Augustus was also fined $10,000 – $1,000 for each patient she struck.
Augustus could not immediately be reached for comment. Calls to her clinic were unanswered, and a voicemail said Augustus was unavailable and clinic would be closed for June and July. The clinic’s website said Augustus was on “personal leave.”
Augustus’ discipline was revealed through a monthly announcement by the Tennessee Department of Health, which maintains public records on licenses for doctors, nurses, chiropractors, massage therapists and other health care professionals throughout the state. More than 100 disciplinary actions were included in the latest monthly report.