University of California Irvine
frank hsu

University of California Irvine audit questions medical school professor's spending $400,000 for photography equipment

Nov. 17, 2022
An audit says Frank P.K. Hsu, chair of the neurological surgery department, used "suspicious" or "unauthorized" means to allocate university funds for the equipment.

A medical school professor at the University of California Irvine spent $400,000 in state funds for photography equipment that appeared to be for personal use.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Frank P.K. Hsu, chair of the neurological surgery department, spent more than $400,000 on photography equipment, including 14 cameras and 46 lenses. Following an audit, Hsu repaid $404,000, the university said.

An audit completed in 2020 after a whistleblower complaint said Hsu often used “suspicious” or “unauthorized” means when he used university funds to buy the equipment, over seven years, according to the auditors’ report.

The audit findings were kept under wraps until Yi-hong Zhou, a research scientist who was the whistleblower, contacted The Los Angeles Times to learn about the investigation. It was only after the university provided a copy of the audit to the newspaper that Zhou herself was able to read it.

The auditors discovered that Hsu had a personal website on which he had hundreds of photos for sale, some priced at hundreds of dollars.

The professor told auditors that the photography equipment was meant to be used to create a multimedia center to train residents and for community outreach. In their report, the auditors noted that no media lab ever materialized.

They concluded that Hsu “could not reasonably explain or provide a business purpose for the extraordinary amount of expensive cameras.”

Hsu said when he was hired to lead the neurological surgery department in 2012 he received verbal authorization from the dean to create the media lab. But the dean who hired Hsu, as well as the medical school’s current dean, told the auditors that they “had no knowledge” of a neurosurgery media lab, the report said.

Tom Vasich, a university spokesman, said Hsu has repaid the university $404,000 — the value of purchases questioned by the auditors.

“The university took appropriate corrective measures,” Vasich said.

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