Downstate doctor says state is threatening his medical license over mask issue

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Dr. Jeremy Henrichs

A doctor and member of the Mahomet-Seymour Board of Education says state regulators are threatening his medical license over his criticism of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s school mask mandate.

Dr. Jeremy Henrichs works at Carle Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Champaign, which is division of Carle Hospital in Urbana. He is a sports team physician at the University of Illinois who sits on the Mahomet-Seymour Board of Education.

Emails indicate a state medical investigator from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) requested from Henrichs “a detailed statement on your opinion about masks, and whether you support and will enforce a mask mandate based on your elected position as a school board member?”

In another email, an IDFPR investigator said a complaint filed against Henrichs “appears to be a parent or concerned citizen who did not agree with the doctor’s opinion on the masking motion for schools.”

E-mails from IDPFR to Dr. Jeremy Henrichs. Courtesy: Sen. Chapin Rose

In a provided statement, Henrichs said: “I have considered authoritative medical evidence that questions the necessity of mandatory masking in our schools. As a result, the [Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation] has threatened my medical licensure unless I expressly support and enforce a mask mandate for all students.

“The [IDFPR] has commanded me to ‘toe the line’ or suffer personal and professional consequences,” he added.

The Pritzker administration said the investigation was merely a matter of “due diligence” after someone filed a complaint, and offered assurances that the outcome of the investigation would not lead to the doctor losing his license.

“The Pritzker administration has not and will not seek disciplinary action against the professional licenses of individuals who disagree with the mask mandate,” Governor Pritzker’s spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said.

While Pritzker’s office said state investigators at IDFPR are required to open investigations whenever they receive a complaint about a medical professional, they did not explain why those investigations might also seek to gather information about a doctor’s personal views for their votes as public officials.

The department’s “actions constitute a direct threat from the state to the well-being of my family and all board members to freely and independently exercise the duties of elected office,” Henrichs said in a statement.

“As an elected member of the Mahomet-Seymour Board of Education, I acknowledge and take seriously my duty to acquire and critically appraise all pertinent information, data, and evidence used to inform my decisions regarding the educational environment provided by the school district.”

Before the CDC updated its guidelines to recommend masks for all students, Henrichs voted to approve a mask-optional plan that would re-impose masks if infection rates rose too quickly. At the time, that plan was in line with CDC guidelines. The Mahomet-Seymour School District is now following the governor’s executive order regarding the mask mandate.

Hernrichs’ statement included a prognosis of the situation.

“The health of our student body is something I place first in my public role,” he said. “However, the health of our democratic system is dead if we tolerate the intimidation targeting me and chilling the independence of innumerable other elected public officials.”

Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) has filed, on the advice of the Senate Republican Caucus’ ethics officer, a complaint with the Office of the Executive Inspector General (OEIG) asking for an investigation.

“This is a frightening abuse of power,” said Rose. “Just last week, the Wall Street Journal carried an op-ed from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine professor, Dr. Marty Makary, and Tufts Children’s Hospital chief of pediatric infectious diseases, Dr. H. Cody Meissner, who argued against masking school children due to the numerous adverse medical and physiological conditions that can occur from the masks themselves. Should their state’s medical board investigate them for their learned opinions as academic scholars? Certainly not. But here we are in Illinois and that is exactly what is happening to Dr. Henrichs.”

Rose, a former prosecutor, said attempting to strong-arm an elected official into changing his or her vote is a crime, regardless of how you feel about the merits of the vote itself.

“It is, frankly, un-American that any administration would try to threaten someone’s professional license to force them to vote in a certain way,” said Rose. “I fear this is part of a pattern of abuse of power that the Pritzker administration is undertaking to tamp out any dissent. Who knows how many others will have their licenses threatened unless they vote with the governor? Forget masks, under this line of logic, you could simply threaten any professional who disagrees with you until you get your way – on any issue! How many insurance agents, real estate agents, bankers, and other licensed professionals are on school boards? Are they all going to be threatened?”

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Center Square, WCIA and Sen. Rose’s office all provided information for this report.

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