Background Questions

Harvard, Yale deny connection to controversial Democratic donor under scrutiny

Melgen / AP
February 5, 2013

A controversial donor with ties to prominent Democrats who is under investigation by the FBI may not have the qualifications he claims.

The resume of Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Florida-based ophthalmologist and controversial Democratic donor, boasts medical education and experience at Harvard University, Yale University, and the University of Missouri.

But none of those schools says it can find any record of Melgen, who claims to be a Harvard alumnus, the former chief resident of the University of Missouri’s ophthalmology department, and a former Yale intern.

Melgen is at the center of a Senate panel probing potential ethics violations by Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), who may have used his official position to benefit Melgen, a major campaign contributor.

Menendez is also under scrutiny for failing to disclose his use of Melgen’s private jet to take trips to the Dominican Republic in 2010. Menendez denied wrongdoing but in January of this year wrote Melgen a personal check for $58,500 to cover the cost of the flights.

Additionally, federal agents raided Melgen’s office as part of a Medicare fraud investigation last week.

Questions concerning Melgen’s background are also coming to light. According to his biography, posted on the website of the Melgen Eye Center, he was the University of Missouri’s chief ophthalmology resident. The university, though, says it has no record of any resident by that name.

"We have no record of that resident," Sheri Samp, program coordinator of the university’s ophthalmology department, told the Washington Free Beacon. The university’s records date back to the 1950s.

Melgen also claims that he is an alumnus of Harvard Medical School. His biography says he was a vitreo-retinel fellow at Harvard, and graduated as the medical school’s chief fellow.

However, Harvard’s personnel office has no record of anyone with the last name Melgen ever attending the medical school.

"No one with the last name Melgen appears in our records," a personnel office employee told the Washington Free Beacon. "That would be in our digital library, but I have no record of anyone with that name."

The personnel office’s digital library contains records dating back to 1980. Melgen’s biography says he was at Harvard from 1984 through 1986. The Harvard employee said it was possible but "highly unlikely" that Melgen’s name would not have been entered into the school’s records.

The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, where Melgen claims to have performed his Harvard fellowship, said they could not verify personal information without written authorization.

Contacted for comment, Melgen’s office hung up on the Washington Free Beacon twice.

Melgen’s biography claims he performed an internship at Danbury Hospital through Yale University. His clinic’s website also touts the Yale internship.

However, Yale also has no record of any affiliation with Melgen. A spokesperson with the university’s staff office confirmed that they do keep records of all internships, but "we don’t have any record of [Melgen] doing anything here."

The Danbury Hospital, as well as other institutions that appear on Melgen’s resume—St. Mary’s Hospital and the Miami Heart Institute (now the Mt. Sinai Heart Institute)—did not return requests for comment by press time.

These discrepancies in Melgen’s history will likely fuel an already complex series of questions about Melgen, his past, and his relationship with prominent Democratic politicians.

Melgen has donated to a number of senior Democratic politicians in addition to Menendez, as well as a Super PAC focused on promoting Democratic Senate candidates. He has appeared in photographs with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D).

Update, 10:02 a.m. Wednesday Feb. 6: 

A representative from the University of Kansas City’s School of Medicine said they did not have access to records dating back to the 1980s. Ramona Draffen, a medical staffer at Truman Medical Centers, confirmed Wednesday morning that Dr. Melgen did work with the University of Kansas City, also known as the University of Missouri at Kansas City, in the Ophthalmology Department.

Melgen worked with Truman Medical Centers, the "primary teaching hospital" for the school, between June 1981 and July 1984.