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Ten Women Testify Against Dr. Thomas Tyma

Wexford doctor accused of touching female patients inappropriately.

After hearing two hours of testimony from 10 women who said Dr. Thomas Tyma had inappropriately touched their breasts during appointments, a magistrate ordered him to stand trial.

Magisterial District Judge Regis Welsh Jr. presided over today's preliminary hearing and sent the case on to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. A formal arraignment is scheduled for March 25.

Tyma had been charged with 12 counts each of indecent assault and harassment. The charges stem from allegations made by 12 women who say Tyma touched them inappropriately.

One woman has since decided to withdraw her allegations. Another woman was not able to attend today's hearing; charges in her case were dropped but will be refiled later, according to court officials.

The women are not identified because they are alleged victims of sexual assault. 

Although the women were sequestered so they could not hear each other's testimony, their stories were very similar.

One after another, they said Tyma fondled them when they were left alone in the examination room with him at Allegheny North Arthritis Center in Wexford. 

Several testified that the 53-year-old doctor told them to lie down on the exam table so he could check their heartbeat. Then he would touch, squeeze or massage one or both breasts, they said.

"It was kinda strange," one woman testified. "I've never had my heartbeat taken like that."

Defense attorney Stanton D. Levenson asked the women why they had not reported the alleged incidents immediately to police, a medical board or employees in the practice's front office. They said they trusted Tyma because he was their doctor.

Nearly all of the women expressed shock, disbelief, embarrassment and humiliation over the alleged incidents.

"What the heck just happened to me in there?" one woman recalled. "I'm the grandmother of two kids."

Some expressed concern that they would not be believed if they filed complaints.

"Stuff like that never happened to me," another woman said. "I'm a woman; no one would believe me. I just kept it to myself."

Although many of the women said they never saw Tyma again, one woman said she came back several times to be treated by him because his prescribed medical treatment helped with her painful rheumatoid arthritis.

"I questioned myself many times," she said. "I trusted him. I questioned myself. I'm young. I was in pain. He was very helpful."

The women said Dr. Tyma never explained what he was doing when he touched them in a way they felt was inappropriate. 

Asked by Levenson if they ever questioned Tyma about the alleged incidents, they replied "no."

Levenson asked the judge to dismiss the charges, saying what the women described was "nothing more than a routine physical examination." He also noted that nine of the 10 women had not reported the alleged incidents until last month, even though some of their complaints dated back to 2009.

Citing specific testimony, he said some of the allegations did not meet the legal definition of indecent assault.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Evashavik said it was up to the judge to decide what constitutes a "routine" exam. But reaching under the women's clothing to listen to their heartbeat with a stethoscope and "grabbing these women's breasts ... sometimes squeezing, sometimes massaging" did not sound like a routine exam, she said.

Tyma was arrested Jan. 11 at his office at 150 Lake Drive after a 31-year-old Butler woman reported the initial accusation to the Northern Regional Police Department.  

"I went in to see him and he pulled my shirt up over my chest and stuck his hand inside my bra and squeezed my left breast," she said, then added that he also had rubbed her "sides and behind."

After Pine-Richland Patch and other local media reported the arrest, 11 more women contacted police with similar allegations.

Northern Regional Police Officer Scott Rick is handling the case.

Tyma, a resident of Sewickley, is on a leave of absence from Allegheny North Arthritis Center, an office spokesperson has said.

Grammy February 28, 2011 at 12:38 AM
This is such a tragedy. Dr Thomas Tyma is an excellent Rheumatologist, who has helped me bear the pain of Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoarthritis, and Fybromyalgia. Now, I begin a search for another Rheumatologist with Dr Tyma's knowledge. My prayers are with his family, and with the victims of his alleged assault.

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