Psychiatry prof forges document

Christopher Aadland

A professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Psychiatry will retire at the end of the month after the University announced last week that he was caught fabricating a document. Ken Winters admitted to forging a document to speed up the approval process for one of his six studies, said Dr. Mark Paller, interim psychiatry department head and senior associate dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School. In May, research staff alerted the University that they suspected the federal document guarantying research subject confidentiality was falsified, he said, adding that Winters soon admitted to the forgery. No patients were harmed as a result, he said. “[Fabricating documents is] a very serious ethical, and sometimes serious legal, violation,” said Minnesota Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles, who earlier this year released two critical audits of the University’s psychiatric drug trial practices. “Within the context of a drug study at the University, it’s a very serious matter.” Winters declined to comment for this story. His coming retirement is the second announced retirement of a psychiatry department faculty member this year after a string of reports criticized the University’s research ethics and how the school protects research participants — especially research housed within the psychiatry department. Former department head Dr. Charles Schulz stepped down from the post in April and will retire at the end of this year as a professor. Some of the reports released this year questioned the department’s leadership during his 15 years as its head. The reports, the first of which was released in February, prompted dozens of changes to the University’s human research participant safeguards, which are expected to be fully implemented within a year. Reviews of Winters’ other studies found no occurrences of falsified paperwork, Paller said. Still, Paller said the swift action by the University, staff and Winters helped avoid a “long and contentious” investigation. “The success part of the story is that it works. The coordinators were not intimidated or afraid to report something to the proper authorities,” he said. “They also felt comfortable discussing it with their supervisor and colleague, Dr. Winters.” Four of Winters’ six studies have been turned over to other researchers within the psychiatry department, according to an emailed statement from the University. One was discontinued, and another was close to completion and has ended. Winters’ employment at the University will end July 31, according the emailed statement.