Patterson, the patient said, “is truly an angel and the meaning of what a doctor should be.”
The physician left a much different impression on other patients — and some of her employees — on a rage-filled Wednesday afternoon in February.
The doctor told one employee that she was going to cut her from her “throat to her private parts,” according to a Georgia Composite Medical Board Order of Summary Suspension.
Patterson also warned an employee that she would “cut her head off and roll it down the hallway,” and that she would “call the employee's children so that (they) could see it.”
She punctuated the violent tirade by grabbing her medical degree off the wall, throwing it to the floor and stomping on it.
Last week, Patterson was charged with three counts of making terroristic threats and another charge of false imprisonment, according to the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office and the Associated Press.
The false-imprisonment charge is for allegedly grabbing an employee's arm and refusing to let her leave the office. Patterson is accused of throwing water bottles, prescription containers and “a large potted plant” at her employees while cursing. The medical board's suspension order also says Patterson damaged a wall in her office in Valdosta, Ga., with a hammer used to check patients' reflexes.
When terrified employees said they were calling 911, Patterson warned them that they would be dead before officers arrived, the order says.
Twelve days after that outburst, Patterson was no longer allowed to practice medicine in the state of Georgia, after the medical board said she put her “patients and employees in fear of being (physically) harmed.”
The suspension was an emergency action, the order says, because Patterson “poses a threat to the public health, safety and welfare.”
Patterson has been a licensed doctor for 22 years after graduating from the Medical College of Georgia in 1995, according to the medical board. Last month's suspension was the first disciplinary citation or accusation of misconduct she had received.
No one answered the phone at Patterson's home number or at a number listed for her practice. A message at the practice said the voice mailbox was full. It was unclear whether she had a lawyer.
Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk, who said he has known Patterson since she was a child, told The Washington Post that the doctor had been dealing with “emotional issues” for some time. Recently, he said, a substance abuse problem had also surfaced.
“There's some factors in her life that have brought this about, some emotional problems,” he said.
After the outburst in February, Paulk said, the doctor checked herself into a rehabilitation facility with the blessing of investigators, who were kept apprised of her whereabouts. When she was released last week, she was formally charged with three crimes and booked into jail. She posted bail and is awaiting trial.
During the past few tumultuous weeks, one of the doctors with whom she shared office space stepped in to carry her patient load during Patterson's time away, Paulk said. But on Monday morning, her office phone went straight to voice mail.
Paulk did not specify Patterson's mental or substance abuse issues.
As Nathaniel P. Morris wrote in The Post, a survey of U.S. physicians showed that roughly half believed they had at some point met the criteria for a mental health disorder — but had not sought treatment, worried about being stigmatized or even putting their medical licenses in jeopardy.
Ninety percent of state medical boards have licensing forms that inquire about mental health — questions that can safeguard patients from potentially troubled doctors but may encourage doctors to keep silent.
Paulk said he applauded Patterson for getting help and hoped “that she could come back to being the good doctor she was. ... I hope she can get her life back together. She's done a lot of good.”