12 Oct 2023
A Sydney woman who falsely claimed she was a medical practitioner was on Wednesday convicted after pleading guilty in the Downing Centre Local Court.
Ms Dalya Karezi pleaded guilty to one count of taking or using a title, name, initial, word or description that indicated she was authorised or qualified to practise in the medical profession under section 116(1)(b)(ii) of the National Law and one count of indicating that she was a medical practitioner under section 116(1)(b)(i).
Ms Karezi did not work as a medical practitioner but sent various emails between July 2019 and April 2021 in which she indicated she was authorised or qualified to practise in the medical profession. Her emails contained a variety of different signature blocks in which she used the title ‘Dr’ (when she held no doctorate qualifications), and included a range of postnominals such as MBBS, M RepMED, OBGYN Intern, RMO and VMO, none of which she was qualified to use.
Ms Karezi also maintained social media accounts on TikTok and Instagram using the handle ‘dr.dalya.s’. Her Instagram profile described her as ‘Dalya [stethoscope emoji] MD Doctor’.
Between 6 May 2020 and 16 September 2021 she posted 56 videos to her TikTok account and 28 posts on Instagram, which been removed as a result of Ahpra’s investigation. The posts frequently depicted Ms Karezi wearing medical scrubs and a stethoscope, talking about topics such as reproductive and sexual health. Her TikTok account had approximately 243,300 followers and had been ‘liked’ by approximately 1.5 million users. Individual videos posted by Ms Karezi had been played up to 15.5 million times.
Ms Karezi has never been registered with the Medical Board of Australia.
On Wednesday she pleaded guilty at the Downing Centre Local Court (Sydney). Deputy Chief Magistrate Tsavdaridis imposed a two-year Community Corrections Order, and ordered that she pay Ahpra’s legal costs of $13,300.
After taking into account Ms Karezi’s personal circumstances his Honour commented on the necessity of recording a conviction to uphold public expectations. He noted in particular that the social media posts were made at a time of lockdown when people were confined to their homes and where most of the information and health advice that people received was through news broadcasts and social media. In relation to the National Law he stated that ‘the objectives are laid bare for all to see, that is for the protection of the public so that only those who are suitably qualified are registered… the protection of the public is not only the main guiding principle that the legislation is geared towards, but its centricity’.
Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher said: ‘Falsely claiming to be a medical practitioner including on social media, puts the public at risk. Today’s outcome is a reminder of how seriously we take this behaviour.’
Chair of the Medical Board of Australia, Dr Anne Tonkin, said: ‘Cases like these are important for public safety but also to uphold trust in the medical profession. Registered medical practitioners have done years of training and must abide by strict professional Codes of conduct. It’s not just putting Dr in your name and wearing a pair of scrubs. Hopefully this outcome is a strong deterrent.’
Ahpra and the Medical Board of Australia work together to protect the public by ensuring that only registered health practitioners who are suitably qualified and fit to practise can use or take a title, name, initial, word or description which indicate that they are qualified or authorised to practice as a medical practitioner.