LOS ANGELES - The death of a black woman after surgery by a black doctor admitted to medical school under a racial preference has added controversy to the affirmative-action debate here.
Dr. Patrick Chavis has been profiled in the New York Times Magazine and touted by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy as an example of affirmative action's benefits. During last year's debate over Proposition 209, recently upheld by an appellate court, the physician was featured on national television.
But after one of his patients died and others were hospitalized following liposuction surgery, Dr. Chavis is drawing attention from opponents of affirmative action.
"The Chavis case shows that admitting people with inferior credentials has real-world consequences," said Larry Elder, a lawyer and popular black radio talk-show host.
"This could affect any physician," said Ward Connerly, the black University of California regent who led Prop 209 to victory. "I won't throw it back at them [supporters of preferences]. However, now that they have pointed to him as a role model, we are duty bound to carefully examine the circumstances."
Dr. Chavis grew up in South Central Los Angeles and in 1973 earned his bachelor's degree in biology at Albion College in Michigan. He applied to medical school at the University of California at Davis, which reserved 16 out of 100 openings for minorities. While his grades were in the 3.2 range, Dr. Chavis concedes he would not have been admitted without the race-preference plan. After interning at USC Medical Center, he set up a gynecology practice not far from where he had grown up.
"He is supposedly the less qualified African-American student who allegedly `displaced' Allan Bakke," Mr. Kennedy said in testimony on affirmative action last year. "Today, Dr. Chavis is a successful ob/gyn in Central Los Angeles, serving a disadvantaged community and making a difference in the lives of scores of poor families."
Allan Bakke, a white applicant whose grades and medical test scores were higher than those of the admitted minorities, sued the school, charging that he had been denied admission because of his race. In 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor.
Dr. Chavis has expanded into liposuction, a low-risk procedure usually performed on an outpatient basis. He is not …