"I can't say anything bad about Dr. Elias," said the woman, who refused to comment in detail. (The woman's name is not being used because The Sun does not identify people alleging sexual abuse.) "I can't get into people saying he's a great man or that he's wonderful. I don't know. All I know is what happened to me."
Dr. Elias, 60, is a fiercely proud, bulldog of a man who speaks with an Egyptian accent. The son of a criminal lawyer, he was reared in Cairo and earned a medical degree at Cairo University.
Egyptian custom barred him from training in his chosen specialty, obstetrics and gynecology. The field was considered too sensitive for any male doctor who wasn't a Muslim, and he was a Christian. So he immigrated to the United States in 1959, training first at Harlem Hospital in New York and later at Baltimore's Union Memorial.
When his interests turned to cancer surgery, he spent several years in Buffalo, N.Y., training and later practicing in the specialty.
Since 1977, he has held the top clinical and teaching positions in the University of Maryland's program of surgical oncology. He has written two books and 211 articles on cancer. He advises the federal Food and Drug Administration on medical devices, and he is a retired colonel in the U.S. Medical Corps, which awarded him the meritorious service medal.
He specializes in the surgical treatment of solid tumors, including those of the breast, colon and skin. He is widely known for his expertise in melanoma, a form of skin cancer that can spread quickly from a single mole to other parts of the body. It is among the deadliest of cancers.
The morning of Jan. 5, 1993, began like many -- with a 2 1/2 -hour tumor conference, a meeting in which oncologists confer on difficult cases. After that, Dr. Elias walked across the street to see 12 patients in his private office.
The first was a 31-year-old social worker with the hospital's AIDS program. He recognized her as someone who occasionally stopped by his office to chat with a secretary.
Bothered by breast pain, she went to Dr. Elias to determine whether her problem was a malignant tumor. Examining her, Dr. Elias concluded that she had a benign condition that didn't warrant a mammogram.
What happened next is a matter of dispute.
The woman said in court testimony that Dr. Elias noticed a cluster of white spots on her upper thigh. They had been there since childhood. Doctors long ago had diagnosed them as vitiligo, a harmless condition in which skin unaccountably loses pigmentation.
'Out of nowhere'
He asked her to lie down, she said, so that he could finish the breast examination and take a closer look at the spots. Then, she said, he startled her by sliding one hand, and then the other, inside her underpants and touching her vagina.
It happened "out of nowhere" and was over in an instant, she said.
When she asked what he was doing, she said, he explained that he was "checking for melanoma because it had been found in places like that." When she asked why he wasn't wearing gloves, she said, he turned around to wash his hands and made a dismissive remark.
Dr. Elias seethes at the woman's account.
He testified that he completed the breast examination and was leaving the room when "she stood up, and showed me the vitiligo on her thigh and said, 'What do you think of this?' "
Dr. Elias said he examined the spots, then felt the groin to determine whether her lymph nodes were swollen. Melanoma is a killer when it invades other parts of the body, and its first stop would be the closest nodes, which in this case were just inches away.
He explained that the disease is 20 times more common among whites than blacks but is particularly lethal when it does strike blacks. Then it tends to show up in lightly pigmented areas such as the palms, soles of the feet and patches of vitiligo. The woman is black.
All of this, he said in court, was outlined in his book "Handbook of Surgical Oncology." His section on melanoma documented the case of a South Baltimore man whose vitiligo had been casually dismissed until melanoma branched off to invade a large section of his buttocks.
But in this case, his female patient was lucky. The spots and both sides of her groin felt normal.
At no time, he said, did he reach inside her underpants. And there was no need for gloves because the exam didn't include any area that could be a conduit for infection.
The woman waited two months to file a criminal complaint, but in the meantime she discussed the matter with a roommate, a minister and the hospital's risk management office. She testified that she delayed going to the police because she was intimidated by Dr. Elias' high position.
'Against the system'
"I felt like I was going up against the system," she said.
A friend later disputed at least one element of her account -- that she never asked Dr. Elias to examine her thigh.