OHSU Faces Investigation By Medical Organization

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Oregon Health & Science University faces an investigation by a national accrediting organization following the sexual abuse lawsuit involving a former resident physician that was filed earlier this month.

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education is looking into allegations that are detailed in the lawsuit, which accuses Dr. Jason Campbell -- an anesthesiology resident who became popular on TikToc for dancing in his scrubs -- of harassing and assaulting a former OHSU employee. The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, accuses OHSU of negligence in failing to protect the victim. The university has denied the allegations.

If the council were to find wrongdoing, it could issue a warning, put OHSU or its anesthesiology program on probation or withdraw accreditation from one or both. The Chicago-based council issues accreditation to institutions and their graduate programs that provide on-the-job training for doctors who’ve finished medical school. Accreditation is required for an institution to receive federal funding and for physicians to become certified by a national medical board.

An email from a manager at the accrediting council that was obtained by The Lund Report said that the organization was aware of the allegations and was investigating. The email said the organization took the matter “very seriously.”

OHSU said Wednesday, a day after it announced that it will hire former Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct a workplace investigation, that it will comply with the council's request for information about its policies, processes and procedures for handling and enforcing accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct.

Investigation Could Take Weeks, Months

The council does not disclose information about its investigations, and the organization maintains an impartial stance until it has completed its process.

“That’s where we are right now,” said Dr. John Combes, chief communications and public policy officer. “We don’t have all the information yet.”

An investigation could take from a few weeks to a few months, he said.

The organization accredits 12,500 programs.

To practice on their own after graduating from medical school, doctors need to go through supervised on-the-job training for three to nine years. Interns are first-year residents. Fellowships are designed for specialities like cardiology, oncology or surgery.

OHSU has 87 accredited programs, including anesthesiology, Campbell’s specialty.

The lawsuit accuses Campbell of sexually assaulting and harassing a former OHSU social worker who is now employed by the Portland Veterans Affairs hospital across the skybridge from OHSU on Marquam Hill in Southwest Portland. The lawsuit says that while Campbell worked for OHSU and the victim worked for the VA, Campbell sent her harassing text messages, social media messages and pornographic photographs, and that he came to the victim’s VA office area and pressed himself into her.

It says 13 OHSU employees, including six in leadership roles, failed to report Campbell’s sexual misconduct as required by OHSU rules. The lawsuit accuses OHSU officials of being negligent and says the university failed to ensure a safe environment for employees. The abuse occurred between January and March last year, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also accuses OHSU of fostering an environment in which victims are retaliated against but abusers in prominent roles are protected. OHSU has been blasted by its black employees as a racist institution. Campbell, who is black, gained national fame through his TikToc videos of dance sequences in scrubs. Sometimes his OHSU colleagues joined him. Several OHSU employees shared the videos on social media.

In its response to the complaint, OHSU said it took took action to protect the victim when officials learned about sexual assault allegations. It said Campbell was removed from clinical duties, barred from campus and told not to contact the victim. It also said OHSU launched an investigation and referred him for dismissal. It said he resigned instead. OHSU said that in a background check, officials warned the University of Florida, which hired him as an anesthesiology resident, that he had broken OHSU’s conduct rules.

Institutions Must Show They Are Safe

The council requires institutions it approves to offer a safe environment for staff and patients and to have a policy to deal with complaints in a non-punitive environment. 

“The sponsoring Institution must ensure that its ACGME-accredited programs provide a professional, respectful and civil environment that is free from unprofessional behavior, including mistreatment, abuse and/or coercion of residents/fellows, other learners, faculty members and staff members.”

The lawsuit accuses several OHSU faculty members and staff of failing to report the alleged abuse and harassment as required by the institution’s own policy. But the council does not require mandatory reporting.

“Our requirement is in place to ensure that ACGME-accredited institutions/programs have confidential mechanisms in place for people to report issues of this nature to the institution for resolution,” said Susan White, a council spokesperson. “This is different than mandatory reporting, which is covered by state and federal law.”

The council takes harassment and abuse very seriously, Combes said.

Last year the council put the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center on probation and withdrew accreditation of their joint cardiology fellowship program following a 2017 sexual abuse lawsuit filed by a medical resident. She accused a fellow in the program of groping her and said the university failed to investigate her complaint.

To get off probation, USC must show it complies with the council’s professional standards. Then it must get a new cardiology program with new staff to become accredited.

Combes said sanctions are serious, impacting not just the program but the residents as well. “You cannot get certified if you do not graduate from an accredited program,” Combes said.

The council put five institutions on probation this academic year, according to its website.

Institutions and their programs are reviewed every academic year, and site visits are performed once a decade. OHSU is not due for a site visit until 2031.

You can reach Lynne Terry at [email protected]rg or on Twitter @LynnePDX.

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