Yale med school faces criticism over 'culture of harassment'

Ongoing gender equity issues at the Yale School of Medicine have created a cause for concern among students, alumni and staff. However, such issues are not exclusive to Yale, according to The Atlantic.

In recent months, the New Haven, Conn.-based medical school has been plagued by issues of gender equity and sexual misconduct. Tensions were brought to a boiling point in September 2018, when more than 1,000 medical school students, trainees, alumni and faculty signed a letter to the university president voicing their "disgust and disappointment" with the medical school's decision to award Michael Simons, MD, an endowed chair position.

Dr. Simons, a renowned cardiologist, was forced to step down as chief of the medical school's cardiology division in 2013 after a university committee found that he had sexually harassed a colleague. The committee called for Dr. Simons to be permanently removed from his leadership role and barred from holding any others for five years. However, Yale's provost reduced the punishment to an 18-month suspension and allowed Dr. Simons to keep his other two leadership roles. Dr. Simons eventually decided not to return to his position as chief of cardiology.

In the summer of 2018, Yale announced Dr. Simons would be awarded an endowed professorship, despite the university committee's findings five years earlier. While Yale initially held its ground, the university ultimately rescinded Dr. Simons' endowed professorship three months after awarding it "out of concern for the community's well-being."

The controversy surrounding Dr. Simons sparked broader conversations about gender equity and sexual misconduct not only at Yale, but at medical schools nationwide in which students and alumni describe cultures that tolerate discrimination and harassment.

Critics argue that such a culture exists, in part, because of a dearth in female leadership. At Yale, executive leadership reportedly did little to alleviate concerns voiced by the school's women in medicine committee. During a meeting with the women's committee, Robert Alpern, MD, dean of the medical school, reportedly sought to justify the university's decision to award Dr. Simons the endowed professorship, describing the cardiologist as "defenseless," the report states. In December, Dr. Alpern announced he would not seek a fourth term as dean of the medical school, and will retire at the end of his term in 2019.

While advocates at the medical school have proposed a number of strategies to elevate female leaders, the success or failure of such reform efforts ultimately depends on the new dean.

"There needs to be a strong moral compass and a group of leaders who not only say they believe that sexual harassment and gender harassment should not happen, but they actually take action. That has to come from the top," Lynn Fiellin, MD, an associate professor of medicine at Yale, told The Atlantic.

To access the full report, click here.

More articles on physician integration issues:
Mitigating patient safety risk when technology malfunctions
Tenet's Detroit Medical Center adds 79 CMS-funded residency spots
20% of physicians will be DOs by 2030, report finds

© Copyright ASC COMMUNICATIONS 2019. Interested in LINKING to or REPRINTING this content? View our policies by clicking here.

 

Top 40 Articles from the Past 6 Months