Former CMO slaps Banner with wrongful termination lawsuit

Mesa, Ariz.-based Banner Heart Hospital's former CMO Mark Starling, MD, has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Phoenix-based Banner Health, claiming he was the subject of age discrimination.

Dr. Starling began serving as Banner Heart Hospital's CMO in 2004, and was fired Dec. 17, 2015. He claims all of his troubles with the system began in March 2015, when he received an annual performance review for 2014.

At the performance review meeting, Marjorie Bessell, MD, who was Dr. Starling's direct supervisor, allegedly asked Dr. Starling when he planned to retire. Dr. Starling, who was approaching 67 years old at the time, said he had no plans to retire.

After that meeting, Dr. Starling alleges Banner management tried to convince him to voluntarily leave his role as CMO. When he refused to step down, Dr. Starling claims he was accused of poor performance, even though he received an overall rating indicating he exceeded expectations in 2014.

Dr. Starling also accuses Banner management of using aggressive tactics, including subjecting him to an allegedly unauthorized drug and alcohol test at an after-hours holiday party, to establish a basis for his termination.

In his lawsuit, Dr. Starling is seeking damages in an amount to be determined at trial and reinstatement as Banner Heart Hospital's CMO.

A Banner spokesman said the health system is unable to comment on pending litigation.

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