Central Iowa dentist accused again of improper sexual conduct

By: - May 25, 2023 3:41 pm

For the second time in five years, a West Des Moines dentist is facing charges of improper sexual conduct. (Photo by Peter Dazeley/Getty Images)

For the second time in five years, a West Des Moines dentist is facing charges of improper sexual conduct.

The Iowa Dental Board has charged Dr. Phelan R. Thomas, whose practice is located at 4100 University Ave. in West Des Moines, with “improper sexual contact with, or making suggestive, lewd, lascivious or improper remarks or advances to, a patient or a coworker.” The publicly available documents give no indication as to when the alleged conduct took place or whether a patient or employee was involved.

Thomas is also charged with unprofessional or unethical conduct of some kind and with failure to comply with an order of the board.

The specific conduct that is alleged, and which gave rise to the charges, is redacted from the publicly available statement of charges filed by the board.

Under a 2021 Iowa Supreme Court ruling, licensing boards can inform the public of the regulatory violations a licensee is accused of committing, but the conduct that led to the charges being filed must be kept confidential until the case is resolved – a process that can take months or even years.

Thomas’ statement of charges references three separate case numbers that indicate they were initiated in 2021 and 2022, suggesting the charges involve more than one complaint or allegation. A disciplinary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 31.

In 2018, the board alleged Thomas had made lewd remarks and advances to women in his office. At that time, the board said he had demonstrated “a pattern of making improper remarks to and exhibiting inappropriate behavior with female patients and students.”

Specifically, the board alleged Thomas made “improper advances to (dental) rotation students” and had a “relationship” of some kind with a patient.

The board also alleged Thomas did not properly guard against infections, did not wear or change gloves when appropriate, used improperly loaded sterilizers and failed to have the necessary policies in place to dispose of medical waste and expired medication.

The case was settled when Thomas agreed to pay a $1,000 fine and complete educational training in professional boundaries. As part of the settlement agreement, he was barred from having any students working in his office and was prohibited from being alone with female patients at any time.

Thomas also agreed to training in infection control and to have his infection-control practices monitored at his clinic. In addition, his license was placed on probation for five years.

The Iowa Capital Dispatch was unable to reach Thomas’ attorney for comment.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing.