Critical Condition

AIDS researcher of high repute. Proprietor of a glamorous Miami Beach spa. Target of a federal criminal probe. The many sides of Dr. Lionel Resnick.

The next day, the Miami Herald ran a front-page story about Homer's death. The only doctors mentioned in the piece were Frost and Jay Herbst, another physician who worked at the clinic. As might be expected, the television stations, too, descended. One former flack recalls that staffers in Mount Sinai's PR department began referring to Homer's demise as "the crispy critter incident." Still, Resnick's name never came up.

The media furor soon died down, but Detective Scrimshaw continued to investigate. Though Resnick may not have known about the incidents since the victims involved weren't his patients, Scrimshaw found that two additional patients had suffered severe burns from the "benign" UV therapy. Ten-year-old Jenny Bouchard had been treated in September 1989. The next day, she told Scrimshaw, her hands and feet were so heavily blistered she could not walk. Likewise, 93-year-old Marge Zucker had suffered blistering burns serious enough that she had to check into a hospital, where she later died.

In April 1990, Scrimshaw met with Assistant State Attorney Sally Weintraub and turned over his report to her. Weintraub investigated further, filling two boxes with case material, but she eventually submitted a close-out memo noting that she could find no "facts or circumstances which would support the filing of a manslaughter charge against Maria Fajardo-Stewart, the individual doctors, or Mount Sinai Medical Center."

The case file has been subsequently lost. But the tragedy remains a raw subject to Ted Homer and his relatives. They are especially bitter about Resnick's role.

"He was the one that tried to cover everything up," alleges Ted Homer, a retiree who winters in Boca Raton. "Resnick was supposed to be in charge and he did absolutely nothing but lie. He would tell us that Dad was going to be okay, that the burns weren't that bad. Not an honest statement came out of that man's mouth. That's why we're so angry."

Ted Homer's sister-in-law Sandra Homer also came away angry: "My husband was a dentist, so we knew that mistakes sometimes happen in health care. All we wanted was for someone to apologize and level with us about what happened. But Resnick was so unfeeling and pompous. He kept telling us Dad was going to be fine, and refused to have him airlifted to the burn unit at Jackson Hospital. It was obvious he was in terrible shape. For God's sake, the man looked like raw roast beef."

Family members say they eventually reached an out-of-court settlement with the clinic regarding Ted Homer's death, but they decline to discuss the terms. Richard Sharpstein says unequivocally that Resnick's role did not figure in the matter.

Sharpstein believes the family members are misdirecting their rage. "Mr. Homer was not Resnick's patient, and he had nothing to do with his treatment," Sharpstein points out. "I think there's a misperception here, based on emotional trauma. Lionel did everything he could in a difficult situation."

In fact, Sharpstein continues, Resnick was so upset by Homer's death that he broke his relations with Frost and left the clinic. Frost later abandoned medicine and low runs a prosperous drug company.

Within a couple of years, Resnick himself would launch a private business, though one of an entirely different sort.

The item appeared on December 10, 1993, atop Tara Solomon's weekly nightlife column in the Miami Herald's "Weekend" section:

"The week began rather tamely, with the Thursday opening party for Imagen, a luxury medical day spa just off Arthur Godfrey Road in Middle Beach. While harpist Roberto Perera entertained and celeb guest MTV hostess Daisy Fuentes graciously posed with an obscene number of people, local aesthetes mingled, toured and cocktailed. The crowd included entertainer Kitty Meow; Tatiana Packer, Miami correspondent for Woman magazine; fashion photographer Silvio Fittipaldi...among a bevy of Miami Beach old-guard socialites in glittering ensembles with coordinating cocktail hats toasting Imagen founders Dr. Lionel Resnick and Fern Resnick."

To regular readers of Solomon's dispatches, the cast of characters was all too familiar A save for the two proud proprietors. But then, most readers probably were unaware that Solomon is a good friend of the Resnicks, and that eventually she would be the beneficiary of hundreds of dollars' worth of free services from Imagen, according to two former Imagen workers.

The item must have been more jolting still to anyone who knew Lionel Resnick in his previous incarnation as a meek viral researcher.

With the opening of Imagen, Resnick's life entered a new phase. Where previously he had been content to oversee his lab and maintain a private dermatology practice, his new focus was on promotion and glamour. That was the way to attract an upscale crowd to Imagen, people who'd be willing to lay out $95 for a facial or $75 for an aromatherapy massage. After all, he'd put a lot of money into this venture.

Or, as former employees say he liked to joke, his wife Fern had. A former nurse, Fern Resnick had spared no expense in her role as Imagen's aesthetic director, from the golden chandelier that graced the foyer to the handpainted mural in the relaxation lounge. There were also the miscellaneous expenses of running the spa A supplies, plumbers, publicists, the opening-night gala. And Resnick had other financial obligations, as well. The couple had three children, and as Fern boasted to clinicians, they were planning a new family mansion in an exclusive Bal Harbour neighborhood where they'd paid $789,000 for a plot.

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