As government officials across the nation remove their controversial and questionable mask mandates, an East Texas doctor is speaking out against a “predatory” state government department.

“I have the glorious distinction of being the only physician in the state of Texas to get tagged for [Gov. Greg Abbott’s] mask mandate, because I refuse to wear them. … The Texas Medical Board went after a surgeon who didn’t wear a mask in his own private office, no less,” said Dr. Eric Hensen, an ear, nose, and throat specialist. “I’m an airway doc, so this is my wheelhouse, and I’ve got 45 years of science that absolutely refutes this.”

Target and Punish

Hensen told Texas Scorecard the TMB first sent him a letter last year stating he violated Abbott’s mask order in 2020 (after a patient “turned him in”), and required him to produce medical records and office policies. At his first “hearing” in May 2021, Hensen presented the TMB with scientific studies and data to support his choice to not wear a mask, but they quickly decided to punish him.

“Within about, I’d say four minutes, I was found guilty of breaking their rules in spite of the science. Their comment was, ‘We had a rule. We don’t care about your science, your patients. We had a rule and you didn’t follow it,’” Hensen said.

After going back and forth with Hensen’s lawyer, the TMB penalized the doctor with a “remediation plan” that involved a $500 fine, an “asinine” jurisprudence test, and Continuing Medical Education—or, as Hensen described it in this particular case, lectures to exhort you to “do something you know is wrong.”

Most significantly, however, the TMB flagged Hensen’s website profile and even threatened to report him to the National Practitioner Data Bank, which he said would essentially end his career.

“If anyone looks me up on the Texas Medical Board’s website, I’ve got this glowing thing that I was reprimanded for this. … The problem is a lot of people don’t read it, they just see that something happened to me. I’ve lost business because of it,” he said.

The TMB also went after Hensen for prescribing the FDA-approved and Nobel Prize-winning medication ivermectin to treat the coronavirus (which Hensen said is even within FDA guidelines).

“We know it works. We know it saves lives. We know how it works. … This is the reason why provinces in India have no problem with the virus. Mexico City has no problems. I think it was Nicaragua that was handing out ivermectin like Halloween candy, and they have no problem,” the doctor said. “This is why third-world countries did so well with this, because they just gave it out. It’s cheap. But we didn’t do it here. It didn’t fit the narrative; can’t have that. And yet, we know what happened.”

The “Circus”

Hensen, who previously practiced in Florida and Alabama, came to Texas in 2018 thinking the state would be a better overall environment for medicine, but he says he “apparently moved to the circus.”

“I was warned before I came here to watch out for the Texas Medical Board. People said they’re very predatory toward physicians, and that’s why they can’t get some physicians to come here,” he said. “Even though there’s a lot of docs coming here for the economy part or for the protection part, it’s the medical board that’s so out of control.”

Hensen added, “I’ve been [practicing] 23 years or so, and I’ve never so much as had a hint of anything. I came to Texas, and I’ve been hit three or four times from the Texas Medical Board. There’s something wrong. And, you know, whatever it is, Florida was far better … we never had a complaint.”

This is the most bizarre state. I’ve held 17 different licenses in the country; I’ve never seen this.

Hensen said he wants the TMB’s “bad rule” reprimand cleared off his record, and he’s worked on his case with State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood) as well as former Republican gubernatorial candidates Don Huffines and Allen West. He also brought it to Gov. Abbott’s office, though they haven’t done anything yet.

Hensen said his experience has revealed the reality of Texas’ government—which doesn’t match its “strong and free” persona.

“Believe me, I think it’s great here. I love the state; I love all the people. But you know, I look at what the government is doing and it’s almost as if they’re living on … the Sam Houston legacy,” he said. “Well, sorry, Mr. Politician, Sam Houston’s dead—you’ve now moved on to going after people’s freedoms here.”

“I mean, why is the governor not stepping in on people losing their jobs because they won’t take a shot? Are you kidding me? That’s discrimination,” he added. “Why is the governor not stepping up? Why is the attorney general not stepping up? How is this even possible? This is Texas, for God’s sake.”

The Road Ahead

In the meantime, Hensen has started Hope Clinic USA to help coronavirus patients free of charge, and he has successfully helped countless people across Texas and the country get well and avoid hospitalization.

Though Hensen said he did not want to go public with the TMB situation, he feels that he didn’t have another option and needs to “let everybody know what their state government and this Texas Medical Board agency is doing to physicians.”

“That’s the only way this is going to change. You’ve got to put some light on this,” Hensen said.

Additionally, does he think the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature should investigate the TMB?

“Absolutely, I think they should,” said Hensen. “I also think they need major reform.”

On Monday, Texas Scorecard reached out to the TMB with several questions: how many Texas doctors they have punished for not obeying Abbott’s mask mandate, their most severe punishment for such a “violation,” and their comments on Hensen’s case. As of publication, the TMB has not responded.

“Is it fair to say they’re not following the science? They’re not even close,” Hensen added. “There’s no science behind this. And as we’ve gone further and further out, you can see it.”

Jacob Asmussen

Jacob Asmussen is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard. He attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and in 2017 earned a double major in public relations and piano performance.

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