Medicine’s Loss Is Poetry’s Gain

On PoemHunter.com, Dr. Gershon Hepner (born May 5, 1938 in Leipzig, Germany, and has lived in LA for 30 years) writes: "I am a physician educated in England and living in LA. I am married to a brilliant poet, Linda, and a father of four children who are all above average, In addition I am a scholar of the Hebrew Bible, and have written a book due to be published in the summer of 2007, called Legal Friction: Interplay between Biblical Laws and Narratives. I am collecting a selection of my biblical poems that I hope to publish at the end of 2007 if I can find the time."

With the way Dr. Hepner (an Orthodox Jew in Los Angeles who’s welcome to attend any shul he wants including Young Israel of Century City and Beth Jacob) is racking up the criminal convictions, he should have plenty of time to select his best Biblical poems.

In the hands of the good Lord, medicine’s loss has become poetry’s gain.

Truly there are miracles all around us.

This 2005 report is delicious:

…In approximately 1985, Petitioner decided to change his practice to one primarily involving the care and treatment of personal injury patients. His practice was a great success and, between 1984 and 1989, he opened and operated satellite offices in Inglewood, Hollywood and Studio City, earning an average annual gross income of $1,700,000. However, that income was not legitimately derived. He paid "cappers" to provide him with personal injury . He billed for more extensive reports for patients he had not seen. He charged for more patient visits than actually occurred and charged at a rate of $500 per visit. He billed for other work he did not perform. Patients’ signatures were often forged on sign-in sheets so as to increase the amount of their bills without their knowledge. Petitioner’s inflated bills were paid by insurance companies in connection with patients’ personal injury claims. Petitioner also evaded income taxes and attributed tens of thousands of dollars of personal expenses to his corporation on his income tax returns.

…During the late 1980s, Petitioner’s conduct and demeanor began to change. He went through alternating stages of euphoria and depression. His life-style became flamboyant, even to the point of purchasing a taxicab-yellow Rolls Royce and wearing bright red silk shirts to his Orthodox synagogue [YICC?] (something he was aware was grossly inappropriate for such a congregation).

…[To help Dr. Hepner regain his medical license after serving four years in prison circa 2005:] Steven Weil, Rabbi of Beth Jacob Congregation, confirmed Dr. Hepner was a devoted member of Beth Jacob, was a biblical school [scholar], was assiduous in his Jewish studies, and enjoyed an excellent relationship in the community. Rabbi Weil stated that Dr. Hepner had expressed remorse for his criminal offenses.

[Doctors who went to bat for Gershon Hepner include Paul A. Lessler, Steven M. Kaye, Seymour Perl, Charles Feinstein, John Hochman, Ronald Ralbag, Samuel M. Berger, Bernard G. Slavin, Ivor Geft, and Jonathan Hulkower. You must read their recommendations for Dr. Hepner.]

…Petitioner has been active in religious studies and practice, and through such study has gained significant insight into ethics and his behavior.

…Petitioner practices Orthodox Judaism. In addition to his writing, he studies the Talmud nearly every day and attends a weekly Talmud class. He also gives seminars on the Bible once every three weeks. Petitioners believes his biblical and talmudic studies have helped him to "understand the gravity of [his] offenses and reinforce [his] determination never to commit any crimes again.

…Petitioner submitted numerous letters supporting the reinstatement of his medical license. The letters’ authors, both from within and outside the medical profession, all portray petitioner as an extraordinary individual who, despite his past transgressions, is a paragon of intelligence, competence, piety, honesty, integrity, trustworthiness and contrition.

…Dr. Hepner’s ex-wife, Linda Hepner, lives with Petitioner. In her letter of support, she described Dr. Hepner’s behavior in the late 1980s as bizarre, but believed he was successfully rehabilitated. His behavior is now more subdued and calm. He has regained his ex-wife’s confidence and trust. He is a caring grandfather. He voluntarily sees a psychiatrist every three months. Linda Hepner stated Dr. Hepner was fully rehabilitated in her letter.

On February 20, 2005, Investigative Assistant Gerard spoke to Linda Hepner. When asked why she wrote the letter, Linda Hepner said she wanted to move on, the past few years were terribly difficult; Dr. Hepner turned over a new leaf and wanted to be a better person. Linda Hepner said she had observed an enormous change.

…In 1995, [Dr. Hepner] went through an amicable divorce from his wife. He continues to reside in her home with two of their four children. Petitioner believes that neither he nor his wife ever stopped loving each other, but that his wife sought the divorce because of the stress Petitioner’s Bipolar Disorder, his crimes and conviction placed on her. He would like to reconcile with his wife.

During the 1980s, Hepner was a leader of an accident ring, getting these Mexicans to do a slam and stop on the freeway and trap people into accidents. Then these "victims" would come in to Hepner to be diagnosed. Ohmigod, soft tissue injury, $50,000, bill Medi-Care.

He pled rather than face trial. He claimed it was political.

So why did Dr. Hepner really divorce? To protect his assets. He could give them to her and to YULA/Museum of Tolerance. He made a deal with Rabbi Marvin Hier before going to prison so that his assets would be kept safe for Linda (who taught at YULA) and the kids.

Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky made similar financial deals with Rabbi Hier and the MOT.

While in prison, Hepner managed to get disability payments for being bipolar.

By contrast to all those taken in by Dr. Hepner, forensic psychiatrist James Rosenberg (circa 1997) correctly diagnosed Hepner’s bipolar disorder as a "ticking bomb" since Gershon went off his lithium and other meds.

Dr. Rosenberg "believed that a patient who suffered a recurrence could lose insight and fail to seek timely treatment, and manic physicians could become sexually inappropriate…"

That sounds like Dr. Gershon Hepner.

It was amazing he got his medical license back in 2002. He can thank — in part — his powerful Orthodox friends.

Lou posts: "I suppose the good doctor is as much a predator as the ones that Rabbi Weil bars from Beth Jacob. But he preys on insurance companies, not on vulnerable women or self-deceiving macher investors. Haven’t seen many insurance companies at kiddush lately, bent over the chulent and waiting for a come-on."

Well, Dr. Hepner was accused  of sexual abuse and it apparently played a role in the loss of his medical license. On page 50 of the pdf: "On August 7, 1992, Accusation No. D4867 was filed against petitioner alleging conviction of a crime, acts of dishonesty and corruption with patients, unlawful referral of patients, and sexual abuse and misconduct. In a stipulated Decision, effective March 31, 1995, Petitioner’s [Physican and Surgeon] certificate was revoked."

On Wednesday, Hepner published a poem here about the late painter R. B. Kitaj.

As far as I’m concerned, Dr. Hepner can commit all the frauds he wants. I like his poetry, including this offering:

We need to find the wrong, wrong notes,
regardless what the intellect
declares, and sow our wild, wild oats
inspired by the incorrect.

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

After getting sentenced in 1991 to eight years and four months in prison, ordered psychiatric treatment (he’d pled that mental illness caused him to commit complicated acts of fraud), foreiture of his medical and DEA license, and restitution and fines exceeding $200,000, Dr. Hepner pled guilty on June 6, 2007 to one count of conspiracy and one count of medical fraud. Sentencing is set for July 14, 2008.

From a February 14, 2007 FBI press release:

The two indictments outline a scheme in which the doctors, "cappers" and administrators at board-and-care facilities worked together to provide respiratory treatments on elderly, infirm and mentally ill people that were unnecessary, not performed in accordance with Medicare’s rules, or not performed at all. To facilitate the scheme, the doctors allegedly paid illegal kickbacks to cappers and board-and-care owners and administrators to make the elderly, infirm and mentally ill patients available for respiratory therapy.

From the Orange Country Register: "Administrators at the facilities were typically paid $100 per resident they referred to the recruiter, federal prosecutors said. Residents were lured to the near-daily treatments with soda, candy and doughnuts."

The good doctor posted this wish list to his Amazon.com profile, updated 9/30/007:

  1. Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living by Michael Katz
  2. The Covenanted Self by Walter Brueggemann
  3. How Do We Know This?: Midrash and the Fragmentation of Mdoern Judaism (Suny Series in Judaica : Hermeneutics, Mysticism and Religion) by Jay M. Harris

Dr. Hepner writes this review on Amazon.com: "Jacob Milgrom’s three part commentary of Leviticus cannot be commended highly enough. Not only does not contain Milgrom’s extraordinary insights into this book but it also covers all the literature so comprehensively that the book renders all other commentaries of Leviticus redundant and obsolete. Never before in has a single man been able to revise our opinion regarding a book of the Pentateuch as radically and as convincingly as Jacob Milgrom."

Just sixty nine, Dr. Hepner is wise beyond his years, as evidenced by this poem on Walter Benjamin:

Walter Benjamin became a Marxist only when
he fell in love with one; he chose his path,
as do so many interesting, intellectual men,
because of Cupid—go and do the math.

Dr. Hepner is familiar with the lash of politically-driven prosecutions. As he wrote to the New York Times Dec. 4, 1998:

To the Editor:

Donald C. Smaltz, the independent prosecutor in the case against Mike Espy, the former Agriculture Secretary, has said that although he spent millions of dollars, it was well worthwhile (front page, Dec. 3).

Worthwhile for whom? The Justice Department, perhaps, which is running amok in its prosecutorial zeal?

Might an apology from Mr. Smaltz to Mr. Espy have been more appropriate?

Despite his sufferings, Dr. Hepner finds solace in his art. Here’s his Jan. 27, 2006 poem "Uplifting":

Wrapped in a gorgeous gown that clung
to parts of her that were primordial,
revealing halves of breasts that hung
suspended between chords that cordial
accompaniment enhanced, she played
as though she was the soloist.
No quartet rained on her parade,
with her you merely coexist,
for she’s the diva on which eyes
are focused, while the ears are drifting.
Experiences like these surprise
those men who don’t find breasts uplifting.

Dr. Hepner knows the feeling of the seized fox. How can our society persecute such an artist? He writes:

"Let’s seize foxes that destroy
vineyards," say the ripe young maids,
each one anxious to enjoy
boys they call in serenades.
After grazing among lilies,
when the shadows tend to flee,
loving maidens turn like fillies,
on the mountain fancy free,
but at nighttime they start pining
for the lover they can’t find.
"Is he dining now or wining?"
is the question in their mind.
Round the city they all wander,
watchmen try to look away,
till the one of whom they’re fonder
far more than the king can say
lets them catch him, and then take him
to the house of their conceiver;
he must stay there, for they’ll make him,
Adam sleeping next to Eva.

In prison Dr. Hepner won’t have to run the "gauntlet of festivities."

The people whom I always meet
at weddings and at mitzvah bars
are those with whom it’s not a treat
to be with. I don’t ask for stars
of stage and screen, celebrities
like presidents and CEO’s,
to make to me like Hebrides
an overture, but why must I
spend time at all festivities
with people for whom I don’t care,
to learn about proclivities
that thankfully I do not share.
To run the gauntlet like a cat
that’s lived too long has been my doom;
I won’t have problems like this at
my funeral, I must assume

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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