Here’s a story seemingly from the old days of surgical residency training, but it occurred this year.
A 2014 graduate of Ohio State University’s urology training program is suing the department chairman, the program director, the associate dean for graduate medical education, and the school. He alleges that Ohio State “condoned abusive, harassing and unlawful behavior” by chairman of urology.
The suit refers to the school’s internal investigation that cited numerous problems with the way the chairman ran the department and dealt with the residents. Although he was removed as chairman, he remains on staff.
The story has not appeared in any mainstream media, and the only reference to it on the Internet is what appears to be a press release from the resident’s lawyers published on a website called “Digital Journal.”
The complaint filed in federal court is 91 pages long. I don’t know whether the allegations are true or not, but they are hard to believe. Here are a few and keep in mind, they are only allegations.
Sexism. Male residents who requested paternity leave were sent “please see me” emails by the chairman, who aggressively discouraged them by saying “good surgeons don’t take paternity leave.” He said he would reduce everyone’s vacation from 3 weeks to 2 weeks if too many residents took paternity leave. He also told a male resident to be “celibate for urology” and questioned the resident about his sexual activity.
Family planning was not restricted to males. He told two female urology residents to take birth control to prevent pregnancy. One of the female residents was told to “take birth control, or be fired,” and he warned the residents not to report the incident.
Workplace violence. He struck a nurse in the face with a pair of surgical gloves and kicked another nurse in the leg. Both nurses reported these incidents to their nurse managers and were advised not to pursue further actions. They were later terminated by Ohio State.
Intimidation. He tried to sabotage the career and research of an attending urologist at Ohio State. He once forced that surgeon to stand alone for an entire meeting as a way of embarrassing him in front of the urology department.
A resident said that when he went to the chairman to change the order of presentations in a conference, he was told, “I’m assuming you are here to turn in your resignation; you know more about education than I do.” Another resident said that the chairman threatened to “cut off his balls.” [Not an idle threat from a urologist.]
The chairman physically assaulted a resident by grabbing his arm and swinging him around in anger and while restraining him, asked, “Who’s your Daddy?”
Racism. He was in a room with patients and physicians of eastern Indian descent and said, “There is a toxic level of Indians in this room.” He acknowledged that he has joked that he would like to change the name of the American Urological Association to the American Indian Urological Association because of the number of Indians in the field of urology. When a German student was visiting the urology department, he greet her with “Heil Hitler.”
Defamation. Although the resident who is the plaintiff in this suit had performed more than satisfactorily and the chairman had signed an endorsement that he was qualified to take the urology written board exam, he rescinded this for all three graduating residents a few days before the examination was to take place. He said they should not be allowed to take their boards because of an unspecified “egregious breach of professionalism.” After the resident filed suit, he relented, and they were able to take their boards but not without great angst and inconvenience.
Whew! As someone on Twitter said, he (allegedly) didn’t miss too many human resources hot buttons.
Skeptical Scalpel is a retired surgeon and was a surgical department chairman and residency program director for many years. He is board-certified in general surgery and critical care and has re-certified in both several times. He blogs at SkepticalScalpel.blogspot.com and tweets as @SkepticScalpel.