Board probes plastic surgeon's West Hollywood clinic
Staff members said Calayan Surgicentre Corp. was closed, at least temporarily, Tuesday after an investigator from the Medical Board of California’s Operation Safe Medicine posing as a patient caught a female staff member diagnosing a medical condition and performing laser treatments, according to a board statement released Thursday. Investigators served a search warrant on the clinic and referred them the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office on charges of practicing medicine without a license.
Medical board officials have not identified the female staff member. It was not clear whether she had been charged in connection with the sting, according to a district attorney’s office spokeswoman.
Medical board investigators began conducting surveillance at the clinic after they received complaints that unlicensed clinic staff had injured patients by performing cosmetic procedures including laser and Botox treatments at their former Los Angeles location and more recently in West Hollywood.
"The mission of the medical board is public protection, and this action reflects the board's ongoing commitment to that mission," said Linda Whitney, executive director of the medical board.
Staff members at the clinic Thursday said they were unaware of the state investigation. They said clinic owners Manny and Pie Calayan were in the Philippines and unavailable for comment. The Calayans did not return emails or calls to their offices in Makati City and Quezon City on Thursday.
At least one patient apparently showed up for an appointment at the Calayan Clinic in West Hollywood on Wednesday and was turned away.
“Had an appointment and in short we just wasted our two-hour drive going to that clinic and saying that it’s closed (from a police-civilian) reason why, because that clinic doesn’t have a license ... the police felt sorry for us...” wrote the patient, identified only as “desertcoke.”
The Times has previously detailed how state law allows surgery centers to escape regulation.
In 2007, California stopped licensing surgery centers owned at least partly by a licensed doctor. The move came after a doctor successfully challenged the state's regulatory authority in court. According to the state Department of Public Health, only 45 surgical centers are now state licensed, compared with about 480 before the law changed. Hundreds more operate as cash-only businesses that specialize in elective cosmetic procedures, many without accreditation, experts say.
But the Calayans, who call themselves doctors on their website and Facebook pages and market themselves for medical tourism, are not licensed to practice medicine in California, according to medical board records and Christine Valine, a board spokeswoman.
Valine advised prospective plastic surgery patients to do their homework before undergoing even minor procedures.
“Before they go to a doctor or physician they should check them on our website and make sure” they are licensed, she said.
The Calayans posted medical school diplomas on their website (from the Philippines) and certificates of memberships in U.S. medical associations which admit doctors licensed overseas. They also posted many photos and articles showing their association with Filipino celebrities such as talk show host Boy Abunda, actress Valerie "Bangs" Garcia and singer-songwriter Billy Crawford and mostly Asian patients. The couple have appeared on Filipino talk and game shows, including a show called “Don’t Lie to Me.”
Articles posted on their website variously refer to Manny Calayan as a "celebrity doctor" and "doctor to the stars" and to his wife as the "beautiful beauty doctor to the stars" and say they are U.S.-trained. They have advertised a Beverly Hills clinic in the past, but it was not clear if the clinic ever opened.
According to an article posted on the clinic's website, Manny Calayan was trained at the Ploenchit Hi-Tech laser Center for Laser surgery in Los Angeles (which appears to actually be based in Bangkok, Thailand) and “specializes in cosmetic surgery and does nose lift, eye bags removal, dermal fillers for laugh lines, cheeks or chin augmentation, deep wrinkle treatment, deep-setting of the upper eyelids, face lifts, breast enlargement and liposuction.”
Pie Calayan, according to the article, was also trained in Los Angeles and “specializes in skin, hair and nails treatments including slimming (lasers) and skin whitening.” The article notes that, “Calayan Surgicentre Corp. now offers a wide range of dermatological service such as facials with or without collagen injection; Botox treatment for frown lines, crow’s feet and forehead wrinkles; Multiclear laser acne treatment; laser wart mole and syringoma removal; scar and pores removal, body scrubs and peels; and hair and nails treatment."
“Whether Dr. Pie is formulating up her own skin-care products (formulated by Dr. Pie herself to make sure that this is hypoallergenic and suitable for Filipino skin types), or Dr. Manny delicately applies the scalpel to a patient’s body, both believe that beauty should no longer be the private preserve of the rich and the famous but of ordinary Filipino as well,” the article says. “That philosophy earned them trust of both ordinary and famous clientele.”
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske
Photo (top) Manny Calayan, whose West Hollywood clinic was the site of a sting by medical board investigators Tuesday. Credit: Calayan Surgicentre Corp. website
Photo: (bottom) Manny and Pie Calayan have marketed themselves as doctors in the Philippines and Los Angeles, but are not licensed to practice medicine in California, according to state medical board records. Credit: Calayan Surgicentre Corp website