UMass med school sued for allegedly not accommodating student allergy

A Worcester-based University of Massachusetts Medical School student filed a lawsuit against the institution Jan. 7, claiming administrators would not accommodate his formaldehyde allergy while he completed coursework, reports.

Six things to know:

1. Court records obtained by state Vishal Saxena, 46, who enrolled at the medical school in 2014, suffers from a severe reaction when handling formaldehyde, experiencing symptoms like difficulty breathing, severe coughing and disorientation.

2. Mr. Saxena alleged that the medical school repeatedly rebuffed him when he asked for accommodation when using the substance, which is typically used to preserve cadavers for educational use. He also claimed the medical school continued to disregard him even after he presented documentation from two physicians diagnosing his allergy.

3. The lawsuit claimed UMass suggested Mr. Saxena wear a hazmat suit to his anatomy classes. However, he said doing so could be dangerous and ultimately ineffective at protecting him from the substance.

4. As a result, Mr. Saxena claimed medical school leadership recommended in 2015 that he discontinue his studies. He also alleged he faced discrimination and mistreatment from officials as he attempted to enroll in a different medical school, and was ultimately unable to do so.

"As a result, Dr. Saxena has lost almost three years of anticipated wages, which continue to grow as he is unemployable until he graduates," the lawsuit states.

5. Mr. Saxena also accused UMass of racial discrimination and retaliation and claimed that the institution failed to protect him from race- and age-based discrimination from his medical school peers, the report states.

6. UMass told in a Jan. 9 statement that it has yet to be served with the complaint and has no comment.

To access the full report, click here.

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