Questions Continue to Swirl Around Orange County Health Director’s QualificationsVoice of OC

Questions Continue to Swirl Around Orange County Health Director’s QualificationsVoice of OC

Since Clayton Chau was first appointed as public health director for Orange County, there have been swirling questions about whether he’s qualified to be the top medical doctor protecting the health of the county’s 3 million residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

Chau is overseeing the county’s billion-dollar Health Care Agency while also taking on the job duties of county health officer.

Chau has drawn attention for pulling back the local mask order that his predecessor Dr. Nichole Quick put in place. Chau, who says he co-owned two Rockin’ Crawfish restaurants until 2012 or 2013, also has taken a more relaxed approach to restaurant enforcement than Quick, relying on an attorney opinion that officials are declining to release.

All that attention on Chau recently drew Orange County residents to his resume, with many raising questions on Twitter about the Ph.D degree he lists from an online university that apparently shut down amid accusations of being a fraudulent degree mill.

Voice of OC followed up and confirmed the state of Texas lists the school as a “fraudulent or substandard” institution, and asked Chau about his Ph.D earlier this week during a county news conference.

Dr. Clayton Chau, who is leading OC’s medical response to the coronavirus pandemic, says in his official resume that he earned a Ph.D in clinical psychology from Chelsea University in London in 2004.

The state of Texas has a UK-based university with that name on its list of “fraudulent or substandard” institutions, saying Chelsea University “has never been recognized as a university with UK degree awarding powers.”

And last year, one of Britain’s largest newspapers highlighted Chelsea University as one of hundreds of “bogus institutions flooding the labour market with ‘thousands’ of fake degrees” where students typically “simply buy a degree and do not have to study.”

During a county press call on Tuesday, Chau took questions about it from Voice of OC. He said he took classes online for his degree and didn’t know the school had shut down until years later, while declining an opportunity to elaborate on what the schoolwork entailed.

“So that was an online school that I participated when I was working as a psychiatrist, a licensed physician. And I finished the degree in 2004 and [unbeknownst] to me that the school was closed. And I didn’t even know that until when I worked for CalOptima…in 2012. And that’s when I found out that the school was closed,” Chau said.

“I have never practiced as a licensed psychologist. And I believe that I am hired to work in this role as a physician. I’m a licensed physician [in] the state of California. And so, you can check my license with the state medical board. I have never had any problems with my license, with – as a physician. I worked for health plans – two health plans, CalOptima and L.A. Care health plan, as a senior medical director. There was never an issue,” he continued.

A search of the California Medical Board showed Chau has a license to practice medicine.

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