Extended Coverage | Dr. Gronbeck’s license suspended; criminal inquiry on
- Published: February 2, 2022
Editor’s Note: The following article includes details of alleged sexual misconduct that may be disturbing to readers. Please note comments on our site have been disabled for this article.
People who wish to report an incident are encouraged to contact the Greene County Sheriff’s office through this link and are also encouraged to contact the Victim/Witness Division of the Greene County Victim Advocates Team. Services are available 24-hours a day. For assistance during business hours, call 937-562-5087, or Central Communications at 937-376-5111 after hours and on weekends, and request the Victim/Witness Division on-call advocate.
Yellow Springs physician Dr. Donald Gronbeck is currently the subject of a criminal investigation.
After the State Medical Board of Ohio suspended Gronbeck’s medical license on Wednesday, Jan. 19, law enforcement investigators arrived at his Dayton Street medical office, Yellow Springs Primary Care, on Jan. 20 to execute a search warrant.
An ongoing investigation of Gronbeck, led by the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, or BCI, and the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, is related to allegations of sexual misconduct.
Gronbeck, a 2002 graduate of Antioch College, received his medical degree in 2009 from the Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University, and worked for a time with Miami Township Fire-Rescue. Gronbeck opened Yellow Springs Primary Care in 2014 and was also at one time contracted by Antioch College as its campus physician.
In 2018, Dr. Jessica Gallagher joined Yellow Springs Primary Care as its only other physician. Gallagher seems to have left the practice, but the News could not confirm the details of her departure.
In an email to the News on Jan. 20, State Medical Board Communications Officer Jerica Stewart said the board convened a special hearing on Jan. 19 via videoconference and voted to issue a
“Notice of Summary Suspension and Opportunity for Hearing to Donald Gronbeck, M.D., effective immediately.”
Stewart wrote: “A summary suspension suspends a license to practice prior to a hearing based on clear and convincing evidence that continued practice by the licensee poses a danger of immediate and serious harm to the public.”
Gronbeck has 30 days from the date of his suspension to request a hearing and is entitled to a hearing within seven to 15 days of the request. Up until his suspension, Gronbeck was board certified in family and addiction medicine.
The state medical board is prohibited by law from sharing details about individual complaints.
According to investigators, Gronbeck is accused of having sexual relationships and inappropriate contact with patients and illegally distributing prescription drugs.
The News was not able to obtain a copy of the search warrant and has received very little information about the criminal investigation. A public records request was submitted to the BCI on Jan. 20, asking for information about the nature of the investigation, along with a copy of the warrant.
A public records request submitted by the News to the Greene County Sheriff’s Office was forwarded to the BCI by Sheriff’s representative Amy O’Brien on Jan. 21.
In a Jan. 24 letter signed by BCI chief legal counsel Zahid H. Siddiqi, the News was told that, “… any BCI records potentially responsive to your request are investigatory work product in a criminal law enforcement matter that has not concluded and are therefore confidential law enforcement investigatory records … exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act to the extent that their disclosure would create a high probability that investigative work product (and other exempt matters) would be revealed.”
The News also asked the Yellow Springs Police if they were notified that a search warrant would be executed at Gronbeck’s medical practice.
“I wish I could be more helpful, but all inquiries should be directed to the Greene County Sheriff’s Office,” Interim Chief Paige Burge responded in an email.
Patients left with questions
In a News article from 2014, when Yellow Springs Primary Care opened, Gronbeck was quoted as saying that he wanted to treat a range of ages with a focus on wellness care, including osteopathic manipulation, ultrasound testing, small surgical procedures and limited lab testing.
After the warrant was served at the practice on Jan. 20, the News fielded multiple inquiries from YS Primary Care patients who reported that they had received no communication from Gronbeck’s office since then, with some needing information on how to fill prescriptions and address ongoing medical issues.
The News contacted Yellow Springs Primary Care for information, but calls were not returned.
There is currently a sign on the door of the practice stating the office is closed “due to unforeseen circumstances.”
The News has been unable to provide any verifiable updates regarding patient queries from Gronbeck’s office, but will do so as they become available.
Other local medical practices appear to be stepping up to help patients, including Community Physicians, an affiliate of Kettering Health Medical Group, whose offices are located near Yellow Springs Primary Care.
Over the weekend, Katie Blocher, who manages Community Physicians, posted on the Yellow Springs Bulletin Board Facebook page that the practice is prepared to bring on additional providers if needed to meet the needs of patients from Gronbeck’s office seeking care. Patients can call 937-767-7291 for further information on doctors and to schedule appointments.
Editor’s Note: Two women who identified themselves as former patients of Gronbeck spoke to the News last week on the condition that they remain anonymous because of safety concerns. Their narratives — along with the order written by the state medical board that prompted the immediate suspension of Gronbeck — describe details of alleged sexual misconduct. The News warns that some details may be disturbing to readers.
Former patients speak out
The 10-member State Medical Board of Ohio posted the order to suspend Gronbeck’s license on its website last week after taking a vote to approve the suspension. Seven voted in favor of suspension, while three members abstained from voting. Eight patients, identified by number, were mentioned in the order.
According to the order, Gronbeck stands accused of touching or groping six of the eight patients in a sexual manner, and of engaging in sexually explicit conversation with a patient via a messaging app called “Cover Me,” in which messages disappear rapidly and are not saved.
Gronbeck is also accused of engaging in a romantic relationship with an employee, whom he was also treating as a patient, and of prescribing patches of Rivastigmine — a drug authorized to treat dementia — to the same employee. That employee was allegedly instructed to hand the patches out to other office staff, and two of the eight patients referred to in the order, also employed by
Yellow Springs Primary Care, received Rivastigmine patches in this manner.
According to the board, some of the actions Gronbeck is accused of constitute felonies, including sexual battery and misconduct and drug distribution. The board also has the right to authorize a financial penalty of up to $20,000.
Following Gronbeck’s suspension, two village women came forward to describe their own experiences with Gronbeck. While both were candid when speaking to the News, neither wished to be identified.
“I want the community to know that the abuse he’s inflicted has been widespread and an open public secret for many years,” one woman said during a phone call with the News. Her encounter with Gronbeck as a patient occurred in 2017, when she was a 20-year-old Antioch College student, and he was the physician contracted by the college to treat students.
The woman said she visited Gronbeck for a refill of a birth control prescription after her regular doctor was unable to see her.
“I expected an easy process, but he was very insistent on performing a pelvic and breast exam,” the woman said, noting that she was up-to-date on routine gynecological exams at the time.
The woman said that Gronbeck called another Antioch staffer — a member of the college’s kitchen staff — into the examination room while he performed the exam.
“I thought that was strange,” the woman said, and added that the kitchen staffer seemed uncomfortable too.
The woman also said that, during the course of the exam, Gronbeck made inappropriate comments about her body.
“He told me I had very firm, full breasts,” she said. “I felt something weird was going on, but I felt vulnerable and didn’t say anything,” she said.
The woman told the News that she had experienced sexual assault in the past and felt triggered by her experience with Gronbeck.
“It’s very scary to realize that I was trusting someone who I thought had the best intentions but was using their power to do an unnecessary medical procedure,” she said.
According to the woman, other women who were students had filed complaints with Antioch’s public safety officer. The woman is unsure of how many women reported Gronbeck’s behavior, but believes at least 10 women were involved.
According to Antioch’s Sexual Offense Prevention Policy, or SOPP, “Non-consensual sexual behavior, verbal and physical sexual harassment are not tolerated at Antioch College. Antioch College strongly encourages students, faculty and staff and visitors to report any violations of local, state, and federal law or conduct deemed inappropriate under this policy, to the college’s Title IX Coordinators, or when appropriate, to law enforcement officials.”
The woman told the News that when she heard that the reports were not being addressed, she didn’t report her own experience. Instead, she warned as many women as she could about Gronbeck.
The woman also said she feels that Antioch College was not supportive of the women who reported Gronbeck.
“[Antioch] swept it under the rug — no one was doing anything,” she said. “It’s really disgusting. It makes me really sad. It just goes to show how far [our society] will go to not support victims.”
The events reported by the woman occurred during the previous administration under former President Tom Manley. Calls and an email sent by the News to the college before this story was published were not returned, and the News could not verify the circumstances under which Gronbeck left the college nor establish his official separation date as the campus doctor.
(Ed. note: Antioch College President Jane K. Fernandes published a statement regarding the ongoing investigation in the Feb. 3 issue of the News; while the statement did not comment on the circumstances surrounding Gronbeck’s departure as campus doctor, it did specify the years he retained that position as 2015–19. The statement also expressed regret from Fernandes over “any breach of trust in Antioch’s Sexual Offense Prevention Policy that [news of the investigation] may have caused,” and outlined the steps Antioch intends to take to “scrutinize [its] policies, procedures and practices” moving forward. To read the statement in full, click here.)
However, according to an email written on Sept. 16, 2019, by former Antioch dean Susan Lee, and forwarded to the News by the woman, Gronbeck was still affiliated with the college after students reported his alleged conduct.
The email reads: “[An option for medical care] is the Yellow Springs Primary Care office of family practice physicians Donald Gronbeck, MD and Jessica Gallagher MD, located one and a half miles from campus; seven minutes by bike and 20 minutes on foot.” The email goes on to inform students that a medical visit to his practice is not free, and that they will need insurance and any co-pay to cover the visit.
A second woman also spoke to the News and asked not to be identified. The woman, who is in her 50s, said she started going to Gronbeck for treatment at the end of 2014 or early 2015. She decided on Gronbeck because, at that time, he was marketing himself as running a holistically oriented practice.
“I don’t go to the doctor very often but wanted to establish a base,” she said.
The woman said that, in 2017 or 2018, she sustained an injury that resulted in a pinched nerve in her hip.
“The pain was so bad I couldn’t stand up. My mother drove me to the office, and I went in on a walker,” she said.
The woman said that, in the treatment room, Gronbeck asked her to lie down on her stomach so that he could treat her back. Another medical practitioner, whom the woman identified as an intern, was present in the room, and the woman said Gronbeck carted in an “industrial-sized vibrator machine.”
“Without warning, [Gronbeck] began using it on my back, moving it to my hip, and then working his way to my inner thighs,” the woman said. “He told me if this didn’t work, he may have to work on [the hip] vaginally.”
The woman’s mother, who also spoke to the News, was in the treatment room with her daughter and witnessed the incident. She reiterated what the woman had said, stating that Gronbeck “used the vibrator across [her daughter’s] legs and pelvic bones and offered to put it inside” her daughter, whom she said told Gronbeck, “That’s not happening.”
The woman explained that, even though the experience felt “off” to her, she decided to give Gronbeck another try, saying she still trusted him as a medical professional. In 2018, she returned to Gronbeck after twisting her knee, this time going to the office alone.
She said that typically, a nurse would remain in the room with the doctor, but this time left the room after completing the woman’s medical chart, leaving her by herself. According to the woman, during this visit, Gronbeck acted differently. Usually neat and presentable, he appeared rushed and disheveled.
“After examining my knee, without any warning, he reached his hand down my shirt and inside my bra, groping my breast for several moments, mumbling something about there being a pressure point in the vicinity of my breast and it being a way to treat the knee,” she said.
According to the woman, Gronbeck was also pressing his penis against her arm while groping her breast. She said the experience lasted about five minutes.
“I was confused, more horrified, and if it had gone on much longer, I would have pushed him off,” the woman said.
After this experience, the woman stopped seeing Gronbeck, and like the other woman who spoke to the News, warned as many people as she could about his behavior. She’s glad to know that an investigation into his practice is taking place, saying that she wants to make sure “it counts.”
The News will continue to update readers on developments related to this story.
Editor’s Note: This article was edited to correct a reporting error that appeared in the printed version of the Jan. 27 issue of the News.20220119_GronbeckSuspension