CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Dr. Javaid Perwaiz was the first person to hold Pam Burritt’s baby girl on the day she was born.
“I told him to count her fingers and toes, and make sure she had them all,” Burritt said. “He kissed her on the forehead, then handed her to me.”
Burritt was one of Perwaiz’ earliest patients. She started seeing the obstetrician-gynecologist in 1981, just a year after he became licensed to practice medicine in Virginia. Perwaiz was by her side through a pregnancy loss, several cancer scares, and a hysterectomy.
“All I know is, he was a friend to me from the very beginning,” she said.
Despite her good experience with Perwaiz, the news that her trusted doctor was arrested and accused of performing unnecessary procedures and surgeries on women immediately raised concerns for Burritt.
Her own medical procedures went well in the past, but Pewaiz also treated her daughter, Taylor Leigh, for several years. When Leigh was a teenager, Perwaiz performed a surgical biopsy on her after he said he found abnormal cells during a routine pap smear.
“I assumed since my mom had all the cancer scares that she had had before that he was just trying to look out for me and make sure it wasn’t happening to me, too,” Leigh said.
Leigh went to another OB-GYN shortly after Perwaiz was arrested. She wanted a second opinion on the surgical biopsy he performed on her in 2017. 10 On Your Side investigators Jason Marks and Kevin Romm drove to that appointment with Leigh and waited outside in the parking lot for her while she saw the new doctor. We’ll share the results of Leigh’s appointment in Chapter 6 of “The Patients v. Perwaiz,” which will air on WAVY.com on March 11.
Burritt and Leigh are among thousands of women who saw Perwaiz during his 40-year career in Chesapeake. Perwaiz told investigators with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that he treated between 100 and 110 women each week, and between 4,000 and 5,000 each year.
Listen to Dr. Javaid Perwaiz’ interview with DHHS:
10 On Your Side investigators interviewed nearly two dozen of Perwaiz’ patients and nurses in the year before a federal jury convicted him of performing unnecessary procedures and surgeries on women as part of a health insurance fraud scheme. 10 On Your Side asked those patients to describe Perwaiz as a person. Some had been his patients for decades, but most didn’t know much about his past or personal life.
“He was always very private. He never mentioned anything about his personal life,” said long-time patient Shannon Cohen. To learn more about Cohen and her experience with Perwaiz, watch Chapter 1 of “The Patients v. Perwaiz.”
What patients did know was that, before he was arrested, Perwaiz made them feel like they were in safe hands.
“He was like a family member to me,” Leigh said. “He was always there. If we ever needed anything, we just called him. We texted him. We let him know, and he would try to do whatever he could to help us. He never let us down.”
10 On Your Side requested interviews with Perwaiz multiple times during the course of our investigation, but each attempt was declined. Most of what our investigators learned about his life before he came to the United States came out during his trial.
Perwaiz was born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on March 16, 1950. His father was in the military, and his mother was a homemaker. He lived in a very small town with no electricity or running water.
“All he would say is that he loved growing up over there,” Burritt said.
Perwaiz was never married and never had children. He does have living relatives in Pakistan. Federal prosecutors said he often sent money to them.
Perwaiz testified at trial that he always dreamed of being a doctor, and that he really liked the idea of delivering babies.
He pursued that dream by attending Punjab Medical College at the University of the Punjab in Lahore, Pakistan. He graduated in 1974 as a doctor of medicine with honors.
Two years later, he began a four-year residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Charleston Area Medical Center. He completed that residency in 1980 and began interviewing for jobs in places like New York City and Atlanta. Ultimately, he decided to take a job in Hampton Roads because he enjoyed a slower pace of life.
Perwaiz started his first OB-GYN job on July 1, 1980, working under two former U.S. Navy doctors in Portsmouth. They helped him apply for privileges at Maryview Hospital and Portsmouth General Hospital.
It wasn’t long before Perwaiz decided to venture out on his own. He established his solo practice and opened his first office on Churchland Boulevard on Aug. 27, 1982. A few years later, he opened a second office near Chesapeake Regional Medical Center. Perwaiz briefly hired another doctor to work with him, but the pair split in 1987. Perwaiz remained a solo practitioner for the remainder of his career.
“That’s the way I always wanted it,” Perwaiz told DHHS investigators. “Didn’t want any partners, and I take care of all of my patients, delivered their babies. Haven’t missed a delivery of my patients… I’m there for everybody.”
Perwaiz was successful — and busy. On top of the clients he saw in his office, he also performed surgeries at local hospitals nearly every weekend.
Perwaiz performed surgeries at Bon Secours Health Center at Harbour View in Suffolk every other Friday. He was also a 1% owner of the hospital. His stock in the hospital has an estimated value of $40,000, according to records filed in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia.
Perwaiz also performed surgeries every Saturday at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center. 10 On Your Side spoke with several nurses who worked with him at that hospital. Their experiences with Perwaiz will be highlighted in Chapter 4 of “The Patients v. Perwaiz,” which will air on WAVY.com on Feb. 25.
Perwaiz booked multiple operating rooms at both hospitals on his surgery days. He flitted between operating rooms with very little time between surgeries and procedures, according to nurses who spoke with 10 On Your Side investigators. A nurse who testified against Perwaiz at his criminal trial said that staff at Bon Secours Health Center at Harbour View called his surgery days “Perwaiz-a-thons.”
“They named his surgery days ‘Perwaiz-a-thons’ because it was non-stop, using at least two different operating rooms, and trying to clean and get things ready for him for each surgery as he went back and forth was a bit overwhelming for some of the staff, as was it concerning for some of the staff,” said Beth Yusi, the federal prosecutor who argued the criminal case against Perwaiz during his jury trial.
Nurses who worked with Perwaiz at the hospitals were not the only ones who noticed that the doctor was incredibly busy. Investigators compiled data from insurance companies in preparation for his criminal trial. An analysis of the data provided by Optima Health and Anthem Virginia showed that Perwaiz performed some types of procedures and surgeries about five times as often as other OB-GYNs in the region. They labeled him an outlier.
In addition to being a popular physician, Perwaiz was also a lucrative businessman. The same data analysis that labeled Perwaiz an outlier showed that he made more than $2 million in Optima Health and Anthem Virginia insurance claims in the last decade of his career.
At the time of his arrest, prosecutors said his assets included $1.3 million in homes, five luxury cars, and $200,000 in rare art and gold. Perwaiz also wore nice clothing and drove fancy cars, according to some of his patients. 10 On Your Side investigators will go into detail about the money he made — and how he spent it — in Chapter 8 of “The Patients v. Perwaiz,” which will air on WAVY.com on March 25.
Perwaiz did not act like a shrewd businessman in his operating rooms. Traci Colley, a retired nurse anesthetist who spoke with 10 On Your Side investigators, was in Perwaiz’ operating rooms nearly every Saturday for a decade at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center. She was impressed with his speed and skill.
“He was one of the most desirable doctors to work with,” Colley said. “There are certainly certain doctors that have exceptional skills and, again, are a joy to work with, and I think that comes with confidence … He was definitely one of them.”
Colley said that Perwaiz moved quickly between operating rooms, leaving about six minutes in between cases. Sometimes, between surgeries, he would run to a different floor of the hospital to deliver babies.
“Some are fast. Some are faster than others,” Colley said. “He could get a lot of cases done.”
Colley said that Perwaiz used very little high-tech equipment in his operating rooms and always knew exactly what tools he needed for each procedure. He did not us a laparoscopic monitor during most surgeries, preferring to use a visual laparoscope.
“I don’t believe he was trying to hurt people,” Colley said. “Insurance fraud? I can’t speak on that, because it’s not my purview, but in the operating room, I thought he was an excellent surgeon.”
Despite his reputation for being a skilled and trustworthy surgeon, there was trouble brewing for Perwaiz in 2018. That’s when a nurse gave the FBI a tip that led to their investigation into the doctor and, ultimately, resulted in his arrest. We’ll tell you more about that investigation in Chapter 3 of “The Patients v. Perwaiz.” That episode will launch on Feb. 18. Stay tuned.
The U.S. Attorney’s office is accepting victim impact statements for consideration at Perwaiz’ sentencing from anyone who believes they were hurt by the OB-GYN’s criminal actions. To learn more about how to submit a victim impact statement, click here.