From the time she was 8 years old, Michele Martinho wanted to be a doctor. The daughter of immigrants, she focused single-mindedly on that goal, shaping her education and extracurricular activities toward gaining admission to medical school and then finding a medical residency.
Fate seemed to cooperate. Soon after she finished her training, an opportunity came along to buy a medical practice on the Lower East Side of New York, not far from her childhood home in New Jersey. She borrowed money from her parents and began to set up the career of her dreams.
On Tuesday, she spoke to a small audience at the Georgetown University School of Medicine as both a physician and a felon, her world upended by an aspect of medical practice for which she received no training despite all those years of education.
In 2014, the internist pleaded guilty to one count of accepting a bribe. She accepted monthly payments of $5,000 to refer patients to a New Jersey facility, Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services, for blood tests and other screenings. Such referrals are illegal in medicine because of the potential that doctors will put their financial interests ahead of the needs of their patients.