President Bush's physician nominee to be assistant secretary of health faces questions about whether she padded her resume and refused medical care to immigrants.
Cristina Beato, M.D., a former New Mexico physician, was the focus of a Washington Post article saying titles and experience listed in her resume and biography were denied by officials of some agencies.
But Beato's friends and colleagues in Albuquerque said if Beato didn't hold the title, she did the work reflected in the listings.
R. Philip Eaton, M.D., vice president for health sciences at the University of New Mexico, described Beato as an "outstanding candidate" for the assistant secretary of health position.
"I'm happy she's under consideration because she brings enormous credibility and integrity to the job," he said.
Beato has been serving as acting assistant secretary, but her nomination requires Senate approval.
Some of the positions listed in her biographies that came into question include medical director at All Faiths Receiving Home in Albuquerque and medical attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Turkey. The article also said Beato claimed to have "established" UNM's occupational health clinic.
Officials with All Faiths and the State Department said neither title exists. UNM's occupational health clinic was operating before Beato became involved.
Beato said that, as a nominee, she couldn't comment on the specific allegations. However, she added that English is her third language--she is a native Spanish-speaker and also speaks French--and she sometimes makes mistakes in wording things.
"I've never been one to tout anything," she said, adding that she hasn't paid much attention to the details of her resume.
"This is a tough town. Some people don't want to see me here," she said of Washington.
William Wiese, M.D., director of UNM's Institute for Public Health, said Beato didn't start UNM's occupational health clinic.
"On the other hand, there's no question when she came on to take the job, she was able to move the enterprise forward," he said.
The Post story also highlights two incidents in which Mexican immigrants in need or undergoing treatment were transferred from UNM.
Maribel Miramontes Loya was 16 when UNM tried to transfer her to Chihuahua after she fell into a coma after giving birth. Rafael Paz tried to get dialysis for kidney failure through UNM's emergency department.
"Unfortunately, Christy's position as associated dean for clinical affairs put her square in the front lines," said Paul Roth, M.D., dean of UNM's School of Medicine. He thought the Post story "misrepresented her integrity and her professionalism."
Roth and Easton said Beato was following the law, but some disagree.
"My sense is that she was the one who was the instigator," said Leah Steimel, a New Mexico advocate for immigrants.
Steimel alleged Beato was key in singling out undocumented immigrants from the category of poor people who needed help and portraying them as "people trying to milk the system."
Mark Hauswald, M.D., who assumed Beato's position at UNM, said he's found himself accused of denying care to people.
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) has submitted a series of questions to Beato pending Senate confirmation of her nomination.
Kennedy also questions the funding for Beato's travel to New Mexico during employment by the Health and Human Services Department.
Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) said he stands behind Beato's nomination.