by Kelsey Hamlin
Mayor Ed Murray’s decision to have a gastroenterologist — who studies internal organs, not external organs or the skin — examine him in an attempt to discredit rape allegations has been the subject of speculation, and is now being called into question through a dermatologist with specialization in mole removal.
“I would say for the average person, it’s very hard,” said a dermatologist from the Advanced Dermatology and Laser Institute of Seattle, Steve Greene, of performing such examinations. “What’s done in a very careful examination of that area is usually done by a dermatologist. It is very uncommon that a gastroenterologist would be asked.”
Greene has examined moles and conducted removal surgeries for more than 30 years. While he works as the medical director of the institute, he also works at the University of Washington.
Allegations against the mayor involve rape and molestation claims, pivoting around the plaintiff knowing Murray’s phone number, his apartment’s interior, and recalling a mole or lump on the mayor’s genitals.
Doctor Craig Pepin was thus requested to conduct a physical exam at the Polyclinic. He specializes in gastroenterology, but was nonetheless chosen as Murray’s mole examiner. The goal was to see if 1) a mole or lump was indeed present, and 2) to see if there was any scarring due to the removal of one. These are matters that the mayor’s very own lawyer, Bob Sulkin, called the “heart of the case” at Tuesday’s press conference.
Be it noted, however, South Seattle Emerald has looked at campaign contribution data, and the doctor did not contribute to either of Murray’s campaign runs.
When asked about Murray’s examination and whether or not gastroenterologists typically perform similar examinations to the mayor’s, Polyclinic senior communications specialist Karen Johnson, responded with:
“We don’t discuss any patient information with the media or general public and so I can’t comment on your questions about Mayor Murray.”
Johnson went on to confirm Pepin’s specialties at the Polyclinic, and listed his credentials in the field.
Greene, however, says that the only practitioner qualified to perform such an exam would be either a dermatologist or family doctor with previous training on the matter.
“It comes up every day in my practice, not just for a mole,” Greene said of examinations. “Sometimes you can see a scar, but to the untrained eye, it’s possible that you may not notice a scar in [the genital] area. It’s an area that heals particularly well because it’s vascular, so, often, there’s not scars in that area. There could be a skin fold there, too, so it’s hard for a non-dermatologist to tell.”
Mole removal can happen for cosmetic reasons, for pain or discomfort, or for biopsies due to melanoma (skin cancer), Greene explained. Proper healing can take up to a year.
“When we remove a mole, because of the wound healing that’s necessary, there can be a scar,” he verified. “It could be influenced by muscles underneath that create tension.”
A scar can manifest in the form of changed skin color, a depression, or an elevation.
“The examination was done by a well-respected doctor at the Polyclinic, which confirmed an examination done on Mayor Murray by his urologist in May of 2015 in which he noted there was no deformity,” Sulkin said in an email. “The doctor who did the exam is his personal doctor who was available at the time given the fast-moving nature of this story.”
A subpoena has since been issued by the plaintiff to question the Mayor on his medical exam and his use of campaign funds during the last case in which he faced similar allegations. Either way, the Public Disclosure Commission said too much time has elapsed for them to investigate the latter.
Kelsey Hamlin is a reporter with South Seattle Emerald, and interned with the publication this summer. She has worked with various Seattle publications. Currently, Hamlin is a University of Washington student, and the President of the UW Chapter’s Society of Professional Journalists. Hamlin is a journalism major at the University of Washington with interdisciplinary Honors, and a minor in Law, Societies & Justice. Find her on Twitter @ItsKelseyHamlin or see her other work on her website
Featured image by Alex Garland