Gem State Roundup

Ada County commissioners vote to appoint Dr. Ryan Cole to health board

By: - August 17, 2021 10:03 am
Ada County commissioners meet Tuesday, Aug. 10.

Ada County commissioners (facing camera, left to right) Ryan Davidson, Rod Beck and Kendra Kenyon at an August meeting in their chambers at the county courthouse. (Screenshot from Ada County’s YouTube page)

Ada County Commissioners Rod Beck and Ryan Davidson on Tuesday voted to appoint Dr. Ryan Cole to be the physician member of the Central District Health board.

Ada County Commissioner Kendra Kenyon said she “adamantly” opposed that decision.

Later that day, the leader of an Idaho political organization filed a complaint to the state medical board against Cole, alleging that spreading false information about the COVID-19 vaccine was cause for disciplinary action.

Cole told the Idaho Capital Sun it wasn’t the first time, and that past complaints were “frivolity” that the medical board has dismissed.

Cole’s appointment must be approved not only by Ada County, but also by at least five commissioners in Boise, Elmore and Valley counties. (The appointment requires a simple majority, which is seven total votes across the four counties. Ada County has now supplied two of those votes.)

Central District Health’s board controls the leadership and budget for the regional public health agency. Cole has been criticized by other physicians for spreading false information about COVID-19, vaccines and treatments for the disease.

He has called the COVID-19 vaccine a “clot shot,” “needle rape,” an “experimental” drug and a “poisonous attack on our population” that must be stopped.

In their public interview of candidates for the appointment, none of the county commissioners asked Cole to explain his claims and how they might conflict with the health district’s integral role in COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

Beck and Davidson explained during the commissioners’ meeting Tuesday how their votes were guided by feedback from Ada County constituents, as well as their personal beliefs and experiences.

Davidson and Beck said Cole brings an outsider’s view to the position, while Kenyon said Cole’s conduct “flies in the face of ethics.”

Kenyon said “the majority” of Ada County’s medical community opposes Cole. Davidson said that was a point in Cole’s favor; he said he believes that the medical community is “leading us down a path” toward “force and coercion” on vaccines, and Cole would stand up to them.

After the meeting, Davidson told the Sun in a phone interview that he wanted to appoint someone who was opposed to mandates or government interference of any kind.

Furthermore, he didn’t want a doctor on the board who would advocate for those policies, such as requiring masks in public spaces or restrictions on certain businesses.

Dr. Stan Moss, another candidate, said he firmly believed in personal freedom and liberties, and that he believed with better information, many more Ada County residents would choose to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Davidson said Moss was “really taking the mainstream position.” A certain share of Ada County residents “aren’t going to get the vaccine no matter what … under any circumstances,” Davidson told the Sun.

Davidson sees Cole as someone who “can maybe recommend something else; maybe it’s not recommended, but it can help,” he said.

That “something else” includes ivermectin, Davidson explained. Cole has championed the anti-parasitic drug for use with COVID-19, despite recommendations against its use from U.S. and global health authorities.

Cole, a pathologist who specializes in using lab diagnostics to identify things like skin cancer, told the Sun in a recent interview that he personally prescribes ivermectin to patients in Idaho and elsewhere.

He is one of several health care providers who offer telehealth appointments. The service advertises that its “multi drug protocols include all the controversial safe generic drugs whose names we aren’t supposed to mention … as well as over the counter therapeutics Zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, etc.”

Idaho 97 Project files complaint with Idaho Board of Medicine 

Michael Satz, the executive director of The Idaho 97 Project, submitted a complaint Tuesday afternoon to the Idaho Board of Medicine.

Satz provided the complaint to the Sun, after the Sun learned it was being filed and asked to be sent a copy.

The complaint cited a recent statement from the Federation of State Medical Boards that warned physicians they could lose their license or be subject to discipline if they spread false information about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Doctors “have an ethical and professional responsibility to practice medicine in the best interests of their patients and must share information that is factual, scientifically grounded and consensus-drive for the betterment of public health,” it said. “Spreading inaccurate COVID-19 vaccine information contradicts that responsibility, threatens to further erode public trust in the medical profession and puts all patients at risk.”

Satz’s complaint accused Cole of doing that, in his statements about the vaccine as well as in the promotion of unapproved treatments and other claims about COVID-19. The complaint alleges that Cole’s conduct as a doctor is grounds for discipline under state statute.

In a series of text messages Tuesday evening, Cole told the Sun he hadn’t been informed about the complaint.

“I know of past frivolity, board dismissed,” he wrote.

The Sun gave Cole a summary of the complaint.

“He is as political as it comes,” he wrote of Satz. Cole said complaints like that “only waste time, when we should be pivoting with better solutions, and quit attacking each other from disparate silos. It doesn’t solve anything.”

He wrote that he opted to run for the Central District Health board “so we can look at different solutions and save more lives and bring normalcy back to our community and lives.”

The Ada County Commissioners on Tuesday discussed the email feedback they’d received. Among them: letters from three local mayors in support of Cole. (The Sun identified letters of support from Eagle Mayor Jason Pierce, Garden City Mayor John Evans, Star Mayor Trevor A. Chadwick and Eagle City Council Pro Tem Kenny Pittman.)

“They have to be responsible for the health of their communities as well,” Davidson said. “If CDH makes a bad decision” and residents get sick and die, politicians may have to answer for that, he said.

“If an elected official is going to put their name on the line for a nominee, you have to consider the political ramifications if that nominee does a bad job,” he said.

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Audrey Dutton
Audrey Dutton

Audrey Dutton was a senior investigative reporter with the Idaho Capital Sun after 10 years at the Idaho Statesman. Her favorite topics to cover included health care, business, consumer protection issues and white collar crime. Before coming home to Idaho, Dutton worked as a journalist in Minnesota, New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Dutton's work has earned dozens of state, regional and national awards for investigative reporting, health care and business reporting, data visualization and more.