ATLANTA — An Atlanta-area dermatologist is defending her singing and dancing in videos during surgical procedures, saying the videos were recorded with her patients’ permission to chronicle and celebrate their physical transformations.
In one of at least 20 now-deleted videos posted to Dr. Windell Boutte’s public YouTube channel, the board-certified dermatologist is seen dancing with surgical instruments in each hand, but without a surgical mask, leaning over the top of a patient’s half-bare buttocks, rapping her own lyrics to Migos’ “Bad and Boujee.” Sometimes, the doctor’s assistants acted as backup dancers in their scrubs.
HLN, CNN’s sister network, obtained the videos due to several malpractice lawsuits filed against Boutte. Susan Witt, an attorney representing three women in the cases against Boutte, said the videos demonstrate a lack of care and concern for patients taking place in the office.
Boutte said a patient who won a promotional contest for free services first suggested in October 2016 that the doctor make a video of her after the surgery to highlight her work. Then, other patients asked her to shoot videos after their surgeries, she told Mike Galanos with HLN’s “On the Story” on Wednesday in her first public interview.
In most instances, patients chose the tunes for the clips, which lasted 30 to 60 seconds, and gave Boutte direction on when to play certain parts of the songs, Boutte said. The doctor, whose practice is in Lilburn, Georgia, said she also used the music videos as educational tools.
“These were all consented videos. They were staged, they were planned,” Boutte said.
On Thursday, the day after HLN’s interview, the Georgia Composite Medical Board suspended Boutte’s license to practice medicine, citing allegations of malpractice regarding her treatment of seven patients.
Boutte’s “continued practice of medicine poses a threat to the public health, safety and welfare and imperatively requires emergency action,” the board said in its ruling.
Boutte’s team declined to comment when reached by HLN.
Witt said the board should have taken this action a long time ago. “It should not have come to this,” she said.
Boutte told HLN the videos were filmed “for the most part during the recovery period when I thought it was safe.” The doctor said she knew she had a supportive staff in the operating room “monitoring everything that’s going on.”
Some patients wanted the videos filmed during their procedures, Boutte said. And in “a couple” of instances, she agreed to shoot the videos in the operating room, the doctor said.
One patient said she felt ‘ humiliated’
But one patient, Latoyah Rideau, told HLN she did not give consent for a video to be shot during her surgery in February 2017. Rideau confirmed she was the patient in a video showing Boutte with a scalpel in her hand, cutting into a patient’s stomach, in sync with the beat of O.T. Genasis’ song, “Cut It.”
Rideau said Boutte sent her a text message telling her the video was on social media.
“Go see the post. The ‘Cut It’ is you, girlfriend,” she recalled the doctor telling her.
Rideau said she went to look for the video but it buffered, and she didn’t bother waiting to see it because she was still on medicine. Two months later, back in her home in New Orleans, she said she unsuccessfully tried to find the video.
She said she felt “horrible, disrespected, humiliated” that her surgery was posted on social media.
Boutte has earned the nickname the ‘dancing doctor’ because of her videos.
She called Rideau once the story became public and was on TV.
HLN also played a recording of a telephone conversation between Boutte and Rideau that Rideau made at some point after the surgery in which Boutte talked about her fame since she was dubbed the “dancing doctor.”
“They called me the dancing doctor. Now, you know millennials love that. So, my social media follows have grown exponentially since the story broke. because Everybody loves a dancing doctor, right,” Boutte said. “People come to me from everywhere because they know the result.”
Boutte also asked Rideau for a favor: She wanted her to do a testimonial.
“In your video, I wanted you to say something like ‘hey, I’m the girl, in the video, the ‘Cut It’ video for the dancing doctor, Dr. Boutte,’ ” the doctor said, according to the recording.
In the call, Rideau said: “I don’t know … I’m really messed up, Dr. Boutte.”
Boutte said the patient was happy with the procedure.
“Her response was, ‘Dr. Boutte, that was the perfect song and you’re a beast at what you do and you changed my life.'”
When asked about the call by HLN, Boutte said, “That’s where I got confused.”
“Maybe about six or seven months after her first, she said she was very happy, but let’s just say wanted me to do more work. And begged me to do more work,” Boutte said.
Boutte said she received a “plethora” of new patients after posting the videos on social media.
In a statement, Boutte’s public relations team said: She is a known expert in this field with decades of experience and a countless number of clients. She is authorized to perform cosmetic surgery. She is dedicated and committed to giving her clients the utmost professional, masterful surgical expertise and experience.”
Boutte is board-certified by the American Academy of Dermatology, according to the Georgia Composite Medical Board‘s website.
Videos came to light in litigation
At least five malpractice lawsuits are pending against Boutte, although none of those lawsuits was filed because of the videos.
The lawsuits have claimed patients suffered infections, disfigurement and brain damage after Boutte’s procedures. The doctor has reached four settlements since October, HLN found. HLN has not found any judgments decided against Boutte.
The videos came to light during the litigation of two suits, which have since been settled.
In one of those suits, the lawyer for Icilma Cornelius had claimed Boutte’s staff called 911 because she stopped breathing after more than eight hours in surgery two and a half years ago, according to court papers. She survived but sustained permanent brain damage. Her 26-year-old son, Ojay Liburd, is now her 24-hour caretaker.
Boutte’s staff did start CPR but Cornelius was “essentially dead” when first responders arrived, according to Witt, her attorney.
In her interview with HLN, Boutte said the incident with Cornelius changed her life. But, she said, “There are sometimes unpreventable and unpredictable things that can happen in surgery.”
“There is not a day or night that I don’t think about that unpreventable, unpredictable event that changed my life two-and-a-half years ago,” Boutte said. “Not a day or night.”
Witt said Wednesday that “numerous people came forward” claiming they suffered injuries after Boutte’s surgeries.
“A number of clients have come forward and said that they had not authorized that their images be used in the way that they have been used by Dr. Boutte for her profit, which is greatly concerning,” Witt said.
The Georgia Composite Medical Board has had information about Boutte’s alleged unsafe practices at least since March 2016, according to Witt.
In an interview last month with CNN affiliate WSB, board chairman Dr. Dan DeLoach refused to directly comment on Boutte.
“You don’t want to rush to judgment and end up making an error that could be very professionally harmful,” DeLoach said then.
‘I’ve done nothing wrong’
Asked on HLN if she had done “soul searching,” and whether she believed she did anything wrong, Boutte said: “Yes, I’ve done the soul searching, and no, I’ve done nothing wrong.”
Boutte, who graduated from the UCLA School of Medicine and completed her residency at Emory University School of Medicine, defended her medical record, saying she had no legal issues for the first 18 years of her solo practice performing surgery.
“But all it takes sometimes in life is one unfortunate, unpredictable, unpreventable event, and that can turn the tides,” she said.
The doctor said: “I understand that deeply. I reflect on that daily.”
But being the daughter of “two illiterate children of sharecroppers born in the 1920s and raised through the Great Depression,” she said she learned to forge on, regardless of the circumstances.
“You plow on, you push through,” she said. “And that is the matrix from where I came and that is the philosophy that I teach my children.”
Now, looking back, Boutte said she would handle the videos differently.
“Had I had the forethought and the foresight that an entity could take those innocent, consented, educational and celebratory videos, misconstrue them, edit and fabricate the context, and use it for negative agendas, I would not have done it,” she said.