Health Care

Miami sex-change surgeon fired after sharing photos of patients’ genitals on Instagram

A University of Miami Health System doctor has been fired after sharing on his personal Instagram account graphic photos of patients, including pictures of genitalia of some patients who were having gender reassignment surgery, according to a petition launched by transgender advocates asking the American College of Surgeons to intervene.

Dr. Christopher John Salgado, section chief of UHealth’s LGBTQ Center for Wellness, Gender and Sexual Health, posted the photos as recently as Valentine’s Day, when he shared a photo of the removed penis of a transgender patient and shaped it into a heart, with the comment, “There are many ways to show your LOVE.”

Salgado, 50, could not be reached by phone on Wednesday. Lisa Worley, a spokeswoman for UHealth, issued a written statement that, “Dr. Christopher Salgado is no longer employed by the university.”

“The University of Miami is committed to promoting and supporting diversity in its students, faculty, and staff and finds any transphobic comments unacceptable,” Worley’s statement read.

Salgado’s Instagram account, @sexsurgeon, has been removed from the social media site, but not before it was shared widely among transgender advocates, reported on in TransAdvocate, a news site dedicated to transgender issues, and archived by users of the online forum

Archived photos of the @sexsurgeon Instagram account include a headshot of Salgado and numerous photos of patients, including graphic pictures of male and female genitalia in various stages of surgery.

In one photo posted by @sexsurgeon on Jan. 24, a surgeon in scrubs poses with an adult toy apparently removed from the patient’s rectum, according to the comments accompanying the post. The patient’s legs appear to be in a gurney behind the doctor, whose face is blotted out from the photo.

The photo strongly suggests that someone other than the doctor took the photo in the operating room, though no other people are visible in the photograph.

It’s not clear who started the online petition addressed to the American College of Surgeons, which asks that the organization immediately address Salgado’s violation of patient privacy and his questionable medical ethics.

“Transgender patients are an incredibly vulnerable population as it relates to seeking medical care,” the petition notes. “We experience violence, neglect, misgendering, sexual assault, and more. To see a surgeon who claims to specialize in treating transgender patients using racist, homophobic, and transphobic hashtags ... is beyond unacceptable.”

Among the hashtags on the @sexsurgeon account were #bichogrande — Spanish slang for large penis — and #analfun.

Salgado, however, is not a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and he is not subject to the organization’s disciplinary action, said Dan Hamilton, a spokesman. Hamilton added that the ACS has not received the petition.

Salgado is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, according to its website.

The ASPS’ media office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But an article published in September in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the journal of the ASPS, notes that a small number of plastic surgeons tend towards “disquieting sensationalism” when posting to social media.

The journal article states that the ASPS established a social media task force in 2015 to promote responsible social media use but that the society does not provide practical recommendations. Still, the ASPS’ code of ethics mandates that members always use “respectful language and images,” according to the article.

Salgado has a clear and active medical license, according to the Florida Department of Health’s online profile for physicians. There is no record of disciplinary action on Salgado’s profile.

The Florida Surgeon General has the authority to issue an emergency suspension of a physician’s license when a doctor poses an immediate threat to the public health. But it’s not clear that Salgado’s case rises to that standard, and the health department declined to comment on whether the agency is investigating any complaints about Salgado.

Brad Dalton, a health department spokesman, said the agency does not disclose complaints against physicians unless the agency finds probable cause to take disciplinary action.

Salgado’s unexpected removal from the UHealth program appears to have displaced some patients who had scheduled surgeries with Salgado. A self-published blog post linked to the Instagram account of a Johns Hopkins reconstructive surgeon has advised displaced patients of UHealth to contact the Johns Hopkins Center for Transgender Health. The blog post advises patients to mention that they are a “recent patient of Dr. Salgado at University of Miami.”

However, the UHealth statement noted that, “we continue to have a team of experts dedicated to delivering the full continuum of care for gender reassignment patients.”

Daniel Chang covers health care for the Miami Herald, where he works to untangle the often irrational world of health insurance, hospitals and health policy for readers.