November 8, 2017

Medical school dean testifies in whistleblower lawsuit

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On the second day of a whistleblower trial against the state’s flagship university, the dean of the University of New Mexico’s medical school took the stand to testify concerning allegations that the hospital discriminated against a woman who says she was unlawfully fired after telling her superiors a fellow medical student raped her.

UNM School of Medicine Dean Dr. Paul Roth testified that he does not remember being told   resident Dr. Cynthia Herald reported the attack.  When asked by Herald’s attorney Lisa Curtis if he would normally want to be notified of such an instance, Roth answered with two simple words.

“Very likely,” Roth said.

Previously: Whistleblower suit against UNM over rape allegation begins

Roth also confirmed to Curtis that, previously in his career, he reprimanded someone for sexual misconduct that happened off campus and during off hours. UNM’s lawyers have said it’s not fair to expect a school to be responsible for matters off campus.

Earlier in the day, Herald’s other attorney, Randi McGinn, finished questioning Herald’s former supervisor Dr. John Wills.

McGinn asked Wills about a meeting between Herald, Wills and other hospital administrators in May 2009. Earlier, Wills testified that a meeting took place with Herald regarding her work performance. He also said Herald reported a rape that she said occurred months earlier. Wills testified Tuesday that without physical evidence of the assault, he and his colleagues did not investigate.

McGinn hammered Wills with questions about whether he viewed a verbal account of assault as evidence or not.

“There are some countries in the Middle East and Africa where a woman’s testimony isn’t considered evidence,” McGinn began. But Judge Shannon Bacon ordered McGinn’s statements to be struck from the record.

Wills said he did not remember any physical evidence and added that Herald asked him and others to not conduct  an investigation.

“She indicated that she was not consenting to sex,” Wills said when recalling what Herald told him during the 2009 meeting.

When asked what he thought about Herald’s claim, Wills said, “I believed it.”

Wills testified that he never spoke with the male doctor who Herald accused of raping her. According to Herald’s lawsuit, no one in the residency program spoke with the fellow resident  about the allegations until a few months before he graduated.

The man was never charged with rape.

McGinn also asked  Wills about UNM’s policy on reported sexual assaults. McGinn was not allowed, however, to focus on Title IX or a letter written to UNM officials by the U.S. Department of Justice last year. Last month Bacon ruled that both a DOJ letter sent to UNM citing flawed safety policies and the federal law prohibiting discrimination based on gender could not be discussed with the jury present. The DOJ letter said the department found UNM was not doing enough to address and respond to instances of sexual assault and were not in compliance with Title IX. Bacon ruled that both the DOJ findings and Title IX were not pertinent to the case.

When questioned by UNMH attorney Lorna Wiggins, Wills said that the aim of the September 2009 meeting was to offer help to Herald. He later said he and his colleagues encouraged her to enroll in an internal treatment program, but she refused. When McGinn later presented paperwork to Wills showing that Herald did check herself into treatment, Wills said he had never seen it and was not aware Herald sought treatment.

Dr. Samuel Roll, a psychologist who evaluated Herald, will serve as one of the expert witnesses for her lawyers. Roll is expected to return on Thursday morning. Herald is expected to also testify in the trial which is scheduled through next week.

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