Former Colleagues Say Hasan Was Detached
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Before he was sent to Fort Hood, Major Nidal Hasan trained and worked as a psychiatrist at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. And this morning, we have new details about his troubled career there and what some of his colleagues thought of it. NPR's Daniel Zwerdling is covering this story. He's in our studios. Good morning.
DANIEL ZWERDLING: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: What have you learned?
ZWERDLING: I have been talking over the last few days with several psychiatrists who worked closely with Nidal Hasan. I should stress that none of them will allow me to use their names because they say we're in the middle of a criminal investigation. But here's the picture they paint.
During most of the six years that Hasan was in and out of Walter Reed, they say some colleagues felt very, very troubled by his work. They say he seems detached, he was uninterested, he often didn't show up for work on time. He'd be the psychiatrist on-call - here's an example, Steve - that means he's the go-to guy, right, for urgent psychiatric matters. So, doctors would call him and he would not answer the phone.
There's a key committee at Walter Reed, called the policy committee - this is the one that oversees the residents - and they got reports that Hasan had tried to convert a patient. He reportedly told the patient that Islam would save his soul. And psychiatrists tell me that the supervisors repeatedly warned him that he better shape up.
And they say it had nothing to do with his orthodox Muslim beliefs, they just say he was not doing a good job as a psychiatrist.
INSKEEP: It's easy to point all this out now, in retrospect, but why didn't people at Walter Reed do something at the time?
ZWERDLING: It turns out they actively tried. They tried - some wanted to get rid of him. A couple of years ago, a new director took over the psychiatric residency program. His name is Scott Moran. And an official who was close to this process told me that Moran felt they should kick Hasan out of the program because he so consistently was underperforming.
In fact, Moran was telling his colleagues - and I'm quoting here, secondhand -"I don't think Hasan should carry the Walter Reed name." I called Scott Moran and he wouldn't confirm or deny this, but one of the key officials at Walter Reed says that Moran and his colleagues on the policy committee actually sat around discussing can we get rid of Nidal Hasan?
INSKEEP: They discussed that, but I wonder if it would be just as hard to get rid of a military doctor at Walter Reed as it can be hard sometimes to get rid of a civilian doctor that some people think is incompetent?
ZWERDLING: Absolutely. In fact, see this manual here - this thick manual?
ZWERDLING: I'm not going to read all of it. But this is the National Capital Consortium Psychiatric Residency Handbook and Manual, and on page 62 it tells us that if you want to get rid of a resident at Walter Reed, like Nidal Hasan -I mean, it's almost like going to court - not quite that much, but you have to have a long paper trail, details documenting what he's done wrong.
You have to show that you've tried to remediate his behavior. Two committees have to vote on it. Then the resident can hire a lawyer and appeal, there are hearings. So psychiatrists at Walter Reed tell me that residents are hardly ever kicked out of the program, even when they've done something really egregious.
Plus, one of the key officials at Walter Reed, who's close to the policy committee, told me that they - some of the members sat around saying, and how would it look if we kick out one of the few Muslim residents in our program?
INSKEEP: So, how did they end up resolving this dilemma?
ZWERDLING: Well, the word is that earlier this year they basically read Hasan the riot act and they said, you - this is it, you know, it's now or never. And they say, according to his supervisors, he did improve. He started showing up on time, he was more focused. So, they said, you know, let's let him go to Fort Hood and let's hope he does even better there.
INSKEEP: Daniel Zwerdling, thanks very much.
ZWERDLING: Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Daniel Zwerdling.
We have special coverage of today's memorial service from Fort Hood, beginning at two o'clock Eastern time. It's anchored by NPR's Neal Conan. You can also hear it live at NPR.org as well as many of our member stations.
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