In less than two month, a sexual assault lawsuit against Oregon Health & Science University and one of its former anesthesiology residents is over, with OHSU agreeing to pay $585,000 to settle the case which sparked national headlines and rallies in support of the victim along with a high-profile workplace investigation of OHSU by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
The agreement was announced in a brief statement on Tuesday by OHSU, the plaintiff's attorneys, Michael Fuller and Kim Sordy and the victim, named A.B. in the suit. Her attorneys filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Portland at the end of March, accusing a former OHSU anesthesiology resident, Dr. Jason Campbell, of sending A.B. pornographic messages and photos and of pressing his erection against her in a room at her workplace. The complaint said OHSU was essentially complicit in ignoring complaints against Campbell and of fostering a culture in which abusers were protected and victims were retaliated against.
In the statement, OHSU offered a public apology and promised change:
"OHSU offers sincere apologies to the plaintiff and others who have been harmed," the statement said. "OHSU recognizes the need to address systemic structures that allow inappropriate and damaging behavior to exist, and is committed to creating a safe and inclusive environment that is free of harassment and discrimination."
A.B. also commented: "Plaintiff would like to thank those who supported her during this process."
The suit sparked a few rallies at OHSU, with faculty, students and staff gathering to support the victim and call for OHSU to crack down on abusers.
The complaint garnered national attention: Campbell was well known for his dance videos in scrubs that went viral on TikTok, giving him the name of TikToc doc. He's not responded in the court to the complaint -- OHSU denied the allegations in its response -- and he's not commented publicly. He was about to start work at the University of Florida when news of the complaint broke. The Gainesville-based university has put him on administrative leave.
In the meantime, a lead accrediting body launched an investiation of OHSU's handling of sexual harassment cases. Officials from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education will visit OHSU two times to investigate allegations detailed in the lawsuit. 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.
At the end of March, OHSU announced it had hired Holder's law firm -- Covington & Burling -- to look at the university's handling of sex harassment and racist complaints. OHSU will be paying Holder more than $2,000 an hour, a sum that critics called outrageous. The investigation comes after years of complaints by faculty and staff over OHSU's handling of sexual harassment and racism.
Faculty and staff have told The Lund Report that the university fails to protect victims of high-profile abusers, especially those who are department heads or who bring in lots of money. Instead, victims become sidelined or are forced out, they say. Black employees have also voiced complaints -- internally and to The Lund Report -- following several noose incidents that did not lead to anyone getting fired and in some cases were not resolved. Last year, Black employees accused OHSU of being an "enabler of racism."
Holder's team has begun the process of interviewing employees and others who've complained about OHSU.
"OHSU welcomes the plaintiff’s participation in the independent investigation, while acknowledging that doing so may be re-traumatizing," the statement said. "OHSU thanks all of those who have spoken out and spoken up in support of positive change. OHSU is proud to serve the health and well-being needs of the state of Oregon and understands that a strong, safe and supportive culture is critical to the institution and the people it serves."
You can reach Lynne Terry at [email protected].