USC allowed physician to treat students despite nearly 30 years of sexual harassment complaints

Alyssa Rege - Print  | 

Los Angeles-based University of Southern California is under fire for failing to report George Tyndall, MD, a gynecologist at the university's health center, to the state's medical board after receiving scores of complaints from current and former students claiming he regularly directed inappropriate and sexual comments toward them, according to The New York Times.

Here are seven things to know about the situation.

1. Dr. Tyndall continued to see thousands of patients as the university health center's primary gynecologist until he was suspended in 2016 after a nurse's complaint to the campus rape crisis center. He was forced out of USC in 2017 following a university investigation. However, the university reportedly received allegations of sexual harassment against Dr. Tyndall dating back to the 1990s, but did not make the allegations known to the Medical Board of California until after the university was approached by The Los Angeles Times for an investigation published May 16.

2. Hospitals and clinics are required under California state law to notify the medical board if they suspend or terminate physicians. Officials said they did not report the allegations or the findings of their internal investigation into Dr. Tyndall to the medical board because the findings constituted a personnel matter and there is no legal obligation for them to notify the state oversight board, which investigates physicians accused of misconduct, according to The New York Times.

3. USC officials told The New York Times they have received more than 100 complaints regarding Dr. Tyndall since officials notified 350,000-plus students and alumni in an email May 15 of resources they can use to report abuse or complaints regarding Dr. Tyndall. Officials said half the complaints they received were anonymous and involved comments Dr. Tyndall allegedly made during patients' examinations.

4. The New York Times interviewed at least four women who said they were treated by Dr. Tyndall, who claimed he made sexual comments about their bodies that made them feel uncomfortable. One former patient said Dr. Tyndall showed her photographs of other women's genitals, claiming they were part of a research project, according to the report. Another former patient said he pulled out her tampon without explanation and "held it up for a very, very long time," the report states.

5. Several staff members also accused Dr. Tyndall of targeting students from China, many of whom were seeing a gynecologist for the first time. The Consulate General of The People's Republic of China in Los Angeles released a statement May 17 expressing "serious concerns" about the case.

"We ask the USC authorities to deal with the case in a serious manner, conduct an immediate investigation and take concrete measures to protect the Chinese students and scholars on campus from being harmed. The consulate has all along attached great importance to the safety and legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens overseas, including Chinese students and scholars," the statement reads.

6. Following the publication of The Los Angeles Times' investigation earlier this week, USC accused Dr. Tyndall of behavior and comments that "were completely unacceptable and a violation of our values," according to The New York Times. Dr. Tyndall declined to comment to The New York Times, but denied any wrongdoing to The Los Angeles Times.

7. The scandal comes less than a year after The Los Angeles Times published reports about former Keck School of Medicine at USC Dean Carmen Puliafito, MD, who was accused of misusing drugs on campus. He was replaced by Rohit Varma, MD, who stepped down from the position after reports surfaced he had settled a sexual harassment case with a former researcher.

To access The New York Times report, click here.

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