Former interim chief compliance officer speaks about discriminatory behavior, malfeasance at AU

 

Graphic by Emily Garcia

By Emily Garcia |
Special to the Bell Ringer

The lawsuit Dr. Sarah Kavianpour filed in the Northern District of Georgia contends that she received disparate treatment from Augusta University (AU) officials while working as a neurosurgery resident. 

Per her complaint, Dr. Kavianpour was subjected to monthly drug tests while her male counterparts were not.

Additionally, the complaint stated that male residents frequently got away with unprofessional workplace behavior at AU. 

Male neurosurgery residents repeatedly admitted to coming to work hungover at times and put the on-call neurosurgery pager status to “at the bar, ” according to the document.

Male residents also allegedly watched sexually explicit videos and visited pornographic websites on university computers in the neurosurgery workroom and the on-call room. 

To Dr. Kavianpour’s knowledge, the only consequence that came of this action was one male resident’s internet access being temporarily blocked. 

Another male resident allegedly changed patient lab finding numbers to include or be some version of “69” and would not stop or correct the number despite being asked to do so.

The complaint stated that the same resident also used the on-call room for sexual activity with women.

Dr. Kavianpour’s complaint also included that despite her extreme discomfort and the requests of  Neurosurgery Residency Director Dr. Samuel Macomson, male residents continued to change their clothes in the workroom in her presence.

According to the document, Dr. Kavianpour and other employees complained about the lack of professionalism in her male colleagues, but no disciplinary action was taken.

Dr. Lesley Williams, a former anesthesiologist resident, spoke of similar unequal treatment in her lawsuit against AU, filed on June 3, 2020.

Dr. Williams said she was made to jump through numerous hoops to prove herself fit for duty while her male colleagues received far less oversight.

In an earlier story published by the Bell Ringer, Dr. Williams explained that after her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis she was required to undergo physical and mental examinations as well as a medical simulation exam to return to her residency. 

In her complaint she compared her situation to that of one of her male colleagues. 

According to the complaint, one of Dr. Williams’ male counterparts had a mental breakdown in the operating room, was placed on a mandatory two week leave and returned to work without having to take any fit-for-duty tests.

John Lott, a third-party contractor from a company called CynergisTek and former interim chief of compliance at AU, investigated Dr. Kavianpour’s case and was familiar with Dr. Williams’ case as well as the cases of other unnamed women that claimed to receive discriminatory treatment from AU officials. Lott said one of these cases involved sexual battery that was not reported to Title IX.

According to Dr. Williams’ complaint, Lott described how senior leaders at AU engaged in campaigns of misinformation to discriminate and retaliate against, primarily, female residents “while using those same structures to protect their male counterparts, even those male counterparts accused of crimes.”

“The evidence that I saw was that female residents [and] female employees were treated with a different standard than the men,” Lott said.

Lott also stated that anytime he would speak with anyone at the university about Title IX he would hear that Title IX program at AU had a multitude of issues. 

In his report to President Brooks Keel, Lott said he recommended that the Title IX program be improved and given more resources. 

“And I still think they need to do that. It was 2019 [when he conducted his compliance investigation] but it felt awfully like 1859,” Lott said.

AU Vice President of Communications Christen Engel declined to comment on accusations that female residents are treated differently than their male counterparts. 

Engel stated, “As a practice, we do not comment on personnel issues.”