Ladapo unmasked: Why his former boss didn't think he deserved to be Fla. surgeon general (2024)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CBS12) — We're seeing for the first time a background check performed on Florida's controversial surgeon general, earlier this year. It includes what his former supervisor had to say, which was that Florida should not hire him.

The Florida Senate asked for the background check before confirming Dr. Joseph Abiodun Ladapo as the state surgeon general and secretary of the Department of Health. Per Florida’s Public Records Law, CBS12’s sister-station WGFL in Gainesville simply asked and received it, two weeks later.

The report was completed on Jan. 18 but Ladapo, one of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ favorites, was appointed just seven months ago on Sept. 21, 2021. He has made a big impact in such little time.

Before Florida, he was an associate professor of medicine with the University of California Los Angeles starting in 2016, and associate professor at the New York University School of Medicine starting in 2011.

Dr. Carol Mangione, his supervisor at UCLA, gave mixed answers to questions on an employment verification form.

Question: “Would you rehire the applicant?” Answer: “No. I have recorded new faculty and do not have resources to rehire Dr. Ladapo.”

Question: “Are you aware of any derogatory information concerning the applicant?" Answer: “Yes. Most of this is described in the public press/media.”

She did not give any example. Then, it got personal.

...confidence in his ability, honesty and integrity...

Question: “Would you recommend the applicant for employment as a surgeon general of Florida and confidence in his ability, honesty and integrity to perform related duties?” Answer: “No. In my opinion the people of Florida would be better served by a surgeon general who grounds his policy decisions and recommendations in the best scientific evidence rather than opinions.”

Then, there was a vague prompt called “personal relations (rapport with co-workers, supervisor)." The complete response: “I cannot answer... because Dr. Ladapo’s opinions, published in a number of popular media outlets, were contrary to the best scientific evidence available about the Covid-19 pandemic and caused concern among a large number of his research and clinical colleagues and subordinates who felt that his opinions violated the Hippocratic Oath that physicians do no harm. This situation created stress and acrimony among his co-workers and supervisors during the last year and a half of his employment. It is important to note that during this time at UCLA, he met all of the contractual obligations for the position that he was hired to perform, which is the underpinning of my otherwise satisfactory evaluation.”

UCLA and NYU use “The Work Number” for employment verification. That's an automated, fee-based employment verification system, and the investigation did not include any information from that source.

The investigator had to leave messages to get information from the former supervisors.

From NYU, Dr. R. Scott Braithwaite provided a favorable review. “Mr. [sic] Braithwaite was unaware of any derogatory information concerning the applicant and advised he knew of no disciplinary action taken against the applicant at this employer.”

Ladapo’s medical doctor license from the Florida Department of Health was issued on Sept. 10, 2021, and it will expire on Jan. 31, 2024. Its status is clear and active, and he has no discipline or complaints.

Likewise, he had no discipline nor complaints for his medical licenses in New York or California, both of which have expired.

Ladapo has been called “quack,” “unqualified,” “unprofessional,” “smug,” and “arrogant” — and that's just since he arrived in Florida.

Ladapo came with a history of opposing mask, vaccine mandates and promoting Covid treatments like hydroxychloroquine. In the news conference announcing his appointment, Ladapo echoed DeSantis' Covid policies and pledged the state would make health decisions based on science, rather than opinion and emotion.

One of the first things he did, actually the day after his appointment in September, was sign an emergency rule to give parents more authority to decide whether children go to school with other kids after being exposed to people who have Covid-19, instead of being forced to quarantine.

A month later, after asking to meet with Sen. Tina Polsky (D-Boca Raton), he refused to wear a mask, even after she told him she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Polsky called him unqualified and unprofessional.

"He just wouldn't do it," she said. "And he was smug, arrogant, and smiling. And I think he enjoyed making it difficult on me."

Cancer patients are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, due to their suppressed immune systems.

Later, Ladapo explained he could not communicate clearly “when half of my face is covered.”

In November, Ladapo appeared with Gov. DeSantis when he prevented private employers from requiring Covid vaccine mandates, discussed a new monoclonal treatment, and got political by accusing the Biden Administration of "actively preventing the effective distribution of monoclonal antibody treatments."

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Then, in January, amid a surge in Covid-19 cases driven by the highly contagious omicron variant, he said the DOH would issue guidance that would “unwind the testing psychology” of the federal government.

“We need to unwind this planning and living one’s life around testing,” Ladapo said. “Without it, we’re going to be sort of stuck in the same cycle. So, it’s really time for people to be living, to make the decisions they want regarding vaccination, to enjoy the fact that many people have natural immunity. And to unwind this sort of preoccupation with only Covid as determining the boundaries and constraints and possibilities of life.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz responded by saying, “The governor hired a quack who doesn’t believe in science to be the surgeon general, whose colleagues who overwhelmingly disagree with him. I trust the public health professionals that follow the science and the science says that testing is an important component of our public health approach to defeating Covid.”

Ladapo released guidance telling Floridians who do not have COVID symptoms that they do not need to get tested.

He appeared in a DOH video highlighting the importance of a healthy lifestyle and early treatment to protect against Covid-19 infections but making no mention of wearing a mask.

Later in January, Ladapo criticized the Food and Drug Administration decision to limit the use of two monoclonal antibody treatments for Covid-19, saying laboratory studies show the treatments are likely ineffective against the omicron variant.

He called for an additional clinical study. “We are laser-focused on data. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the importance of looking at data and not necessarily listening and following what other people or people that the media label as 'experts' say.”

As for the FDA, “I’m saying that Florida is going to make decisions about how we treat patients, how we manage patients, how we inform health policy in Florida based on data. That’s what I’m saying. And for this particular case, clinical data is what we’re looking for.”

Meanwhile, Ladapo had to be confirmed as surgeon general by the state Senate. On Jan. 26, he passed Florida Senate Health Policy Committee, but not everybody voted. Some Democrats walked out of his hearing after Sen. Minority Leader Lauren Book asked if he believed vaccines and masks were effective in preventing Covid-19. Ladapo responded indecisively, “Yes or no questions are not that easy to find in science.”

Before the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee voted favorably, Sen. Lori Berman (D-Boynton Beach) said, “We are putting someone in place that is going to be our doctor, our state’s doctor. And I don’t feel any of us can trust him.”

After questions from Sen. Annette Taddeo (D-Miami), a candidate for governor, Ladapo made a point to say he felt opinions such as his have been sidelined over the course of the pandemic. “What concerns me is how some science has been ignored over the past two years when it hasn’t fit an agenda. And, how opinions that are different than the mainstream have been suppressed,” he said.

“He is not fit for this job. He didn’t answer the questions properly. He doesn’t ever want to take a stance on vaccines,” Sen. Polsky told CBS12 News in an interview after the hearing. "He won't answer the questions about the efficacy of vaccines. Of course, he would not answer if he himself had been vaccinated."

On Feb. 23, Ladapo was confirmed by the full Senate along a party-line vote. He said he’s looking forward to focusing on health issues. He described the federal approach to the pandemic as “fear and coercion” and said he didn’t take the job “for the politics. I'm here for health.”

“It just so happens that the governor and I happened to sort of see things similarly amongst some major health issues,” Ladapo said. “And that's good, because I think that's the right way to see it. And I think that's the way that's best for Floridians.”

The very next day, he and DeSantis announced changes to Florida's Covid-19 guidance that went against recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by pushing back on unscientific corporate masking, reducing isolation for all Floridians including those in schools and daycares, and recommending that physicians should exercise their individual clinical judgment and expertise based on their patients’ needs and preferences.

Then, in March, DeSantis and Ladapo pushed for a bill called Free Speech of Health Care Practitioners which the governor wanted to "protect health care workers from having their licensure revoked for simply exercising their right of free speech."

He also made proposals to "ensure that woke corporations cannot prevent a doctor from exercising their sound judgment by prohibiting hospitals from interfering with a doctor’s recommendation for Covid-19 treatment if the patient agrees."

At a news conference, he credited the surgeon general’s alternative stance on issues by saying, "Dr. Ladapo, from the very beginning of Covid, has been basically saying the emperor has no clothes.”

Ladapo approved and continued the mocking, saying, “It would be one thing if you're proven right, people would acknowledge it.” He added, "I mean, you'd think that my colleagues have been taken over by zombies."

Then, he smiled, held up a mask, and joked about suggestions people wear them for protection against Covid, “It’s hard to find these in Florida.”

He insisted masks "are not saving lives."

The Free Speech of Health Care Practitioners bill died in committee.

Days later, he took part in a governor’s roundtable called “The Curtain Close on Covid Theater” with a group of like-minded doctors to discuss what they considered the failure of COVID-19 lockdowns and mandates.

Finally, he ended an event alongside the governor by recommending against healthy kids getting vaccinated for Covid-19, the first for a state and surprising folks in the DOH.

“He’s giving credibility to the people that don’t believe in the science,” said one official. Another said staffers were in “shock” and called the rollout of the new guidance for families “a cluster,” adding that Florida doesn’t typically recommend against taking a certain vaccine unless there are clear negative effects.

One thing that’s not settled for Ladapo in Florida is what he’s doing for the University of Florida.

In early February, WGFL reported that Ladapo had visited Gainesville the week before. It pays Ladapo $260,000, but he hadn’t been teaching, conducting research or treating patients.

"He has been in contact with the College of Medicine and UF Health leadership about the details of his faculty appointment, continuing the onboarding process," said part of a UF Health statement.

At the time, a spokesperson said his job duties with UF were still being finalized.

Lapado is not the first state surgeon to also work for UF. "It is the same arrangement that was in place with Dr. Scott Rivkees during his tenure as surgeon general," a statement from UF Health said, but it didn’t explain why Ladapo was making $19,000 more than Rivkees.

Late Wednesday, we were told he is still onboarding.

Otherwise, Ladapo became a naturalized US citizen in June of 1999, and there is nothing about violations of the law or anything unfavorable in his credit report.

Ladapo unmasked: Why his former boss didn't think he deserved to be Fla. surgeon general (2024)
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