Arizona team physician issued letter of reprimand

Updated: February 8, 2008, 1:59 PM ET
Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The team physician for the University of Arizona women's basketball team has been disciplined by the Arizona Medical Board for failing to spot signs that star player Shawntinice Polk was developing a deadly blood clot.

The board voted Thursday to issue a letter of reprimand to Dr. Don Porter for failing to consider a diagnosis of a lung blood clot and failing to perform an adequate exam on Polk, who was complaining of respiratory symptoms.

Polk, a three-time all-Pac-10 performer from Hanford, Calif., collapsed and died Sept. 26, 2005, from a blood clot that traveled from her leg to her lung.

"I still agonize today asking myself what I could have done differently," Porter, 54, told the board in an interview that lasted nearly an hour.

Board member Dr. Paul Petelin questioned Porter about why he failed to recognize Polk's symptoms as signs of a lung blood clot. Porter, whose patients are typically young, said he hadn't seen a similar case of pulmonary embolism. That did not convince Petelin.

"This is not something mysterious that happens once in a while. [A deep-vein blood clot] and the possibility of P.E. is a real entity and it's common," Petelin said. "The fact that the doctors that cared for this young lady had some degree of tunnel vision and didn't entertain that diagnosis is very disconcerting to me."

Petelin joined the majority of the board in voting 4-2 to discipline Porter, a 1979 graduate of Arizona's medical school. He'll have 35 days to appeal, and the letter of reprimand will appear on his online profile if the decision stands.

Neither Porter nor his lawyer would comment after the hearing.

Polk's mother, Johnny Little, brought the case to the attention of the board. She could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Called "Polkey" by fans and teammates, Polk was among the best players in the program's history.

Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood was unaware of the board's decision but said it will be reviewed. He said he was confident of the university's medical staff.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press