Dr. Richard Strauss opened a private clinic in Columbus in August 1996 just 12 days after he finished working at Ohio State Student Medical Services.
However, even though Strauss was not regularly treating Ohio State students, he still had access to them. Advertisements for “Men’s Clinics of America” ran in several issues of The Lantern, according to the student newspaper’s archives. He also ran ads over local radio, said Brian Garrett, a former nursing student who worked at Strauss’ clinic.
The advertisement in The Lantern described his clinic as offering “prompt treatment of common genital/urinary problems,” as well as providing examinations for rashes, lumps, pain/burning, checkups, testing, sexually transmitted diseases and “answers to questions.”
It said the clinic had experienced doctors, a male staff and “strict medical confidentiality.”
University Provost Bruce McPheron said during the Audit & Compliance Committee meeting on June 7 that investigators had learned about the clinic and knew there were acts of sexual misconduct alleged to have occurred there.
The independent investigation, led by the Seattle-based law firm Perkins Coie, has been looking into the hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse against Strauss, who died by suicide in 2005, and whether the university knew about the acts and allowed it to happen. McPheron said the Columbus clinic is part of the investigation because Ohio State students were reportedly treated and abused by Strauss while there.
In the advertisement, it said there was a student discount. However, Garrett said when an Ohio State athlete would come in, Strauss would tell Garrett and the other employees that the athlete would receive free treatment and that the treatment was to be kept “off the record.”
Garrett said that through those advertisements, he would not only get students to seek treatment, but also to help to run the clinic.
“The crazy thing was, is he got OSU students — current OSU students — to run it, help him run it,” Garrett said. “But then he, like I said, he had OSU athletes coming in from teams that he was doing freebie exams with them.”
Garrett was recruited by Strauss to work as a “receptionist” for the clinic, and said the office was located at 1350 W. Fifth Ave. The Lantern confirmed Strauss was listed as having owned property at the address from WhitePages.
Garrett, who now resides in Powell, Ohio, told The Lantern one of his friends was approached in Larkins Hall — the old recreational facility at the university — by Strauss and was asked about working for him at the clinic. His friend then informed Garrett and another friend about the offer, all of whom accepted.
While Garrett said he is not certain other students were abused, Garrett said he was abused by Strauss.
He said after complaining of heartburn, Strauss told him to lie down on the exam table. He said Strauss began by pushing on Garrett’s stomach, but then removed his pants and began to closely examine his genitals. After five to 10 minutes, Garrett said he left and never returned to the clinic.
Garrett said this had come the same day he was asked to sit in on one of Strauss’ exams of an Ohio State athlete. He described in graphic detail the abuse he witnessed Strauss commit on the athlete.
“I just asked him if I had heartburn,” Garrett said, referring to the abuse committed against him by Strauss. “And then shortly after that — I never told anybody — I was like I can’t do this anymore.”
The setup of the clinic was unusual compared with most others, Garrett said. The phones were forwarded to the apartments of Garrett and his friends when patients would try to call and schedule appointments, and that “people coming into the office had to be kept secret from the people leaving the office,” Garrett said.
“Anytime the phone would ring, we would have to say, ‘Men’s Clinic of America’ and the person would say, ‘Hey, I’m trying to get an appointment for this,’” Garrett said. “And we would write down the appointments and we would tell him how many people called in.”
According to documents obtained from the Ohio secretary of state’s office, Strauss’ company was officially incorporated on Aug. 19, 1996 and was dissolved two years later on Aug. 27, 1998.
He also said Strauss was a part-time physician in student health services from July 1, 1994 until Aug. 7, 1996, but was a professor emeritus at Ohio State until he retired on July 1, 1998.
Though it is unclear what Ohio State’s policy on outside practice of medicine was at the time Strauss ran his clinic, current policy forbids any faculty members in the College of Medicine to be “employed by other entities for the practice of medicine.”
When asked whether university faculty referred students to Strauss’ clinic, Ohio State spokesman Ben Johnson said the university cannot discuss details of the independent, ongoing investigation. Ohio State is scheduled to provide another update on the Strauss investigation at 10 a.m. during Thursday’s Audit & Compliance Committee meeting.
Athletes from 14 different sports have been interviewed and over 200 former students and staff members have talked with investigators about Strauss, the university said in a release on July 20. There are more than 100 former students and student-athletes believed to have been abused by Strauss while he was at the university, and investigators are also looking into whether he abused high school students.
The university urges anyone with information pertaining to the investigation to contact investigators at firstname.lastname@example.org.