Associated Press (AP) – Allegations of racial discrimination in the graduate medical school program at Tulane University’s medical school prompted an accreditation body to put the school on probation.
The decision by the Accreditation Council for Higher Medical Education, which accredits institutions, such as Tulane Medical School, that sponsor residency programs for new physicians, comes months after a faculty member Black has filed a federal complaint alleging cases of bias in recruiting and promotion. She also alleges that retaliatory action was taken against her for complaining about discrimination, which the dean of the medical school denied.
ACGME did not disclose information on the specific allegations of discrimination that led to probation. The school remains accredited.
But probationary status means that an institution “has failed to demonstrate substantial compliance” with ACGME requirements. Current residents and scholars of the school and applicants for positions should be notified of the status in writing, according to the ACGME statement. Loss of accreditation would mean loss of federal grants and the end of Medicaid funding for training.
ACGME officials visited the school in April and another visit and review is expected in January or February, ACGME spokeswoman Susan White said in an email.
Dr Lee Hamm, dean of the medical school, said in a letter to students and faculty on Saturday that the school was notified of probation on July 2.
“On behalf of myself and the entire administration of Tulane School of Medicine, we respect this decision and are committed to doing whatever is necessary to resolve issues in a timely manner,” Hamm wrote.
The steps outlined in the letter include the creation of a task force made up of “a cross-section of faculty, residents, students and staff” tasked with “evaluating our reporting systems and structures to respond to reports of ill-treatment and unprofessionalism of any kind. “
The ACGME statement said the organization became aware of public reports of racial prejudice as part of the Tulane GME program in February. It was the same month that ACGME issued a statement, not specifically targeting Tulane, that it had “become aware of several serious allegations of racial prejudice and discrimination in medical education.”
A faculty member at the medical school, Dr Princess Dennar, filed a federal discrimination complaint in October. Dennar, an assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics, alleges cases of discrimination dating back to 2008 and says there were complaints from seven black residents filed with ACGME in 2018.
The initial lawsuit and subsequent filings from Dennar’s attorneys also allege retaliatory action, including his dismissal earlier this year from his post as director of the school’s medicine and pediatrics program.
“While I deeply sympathize with the students, residents, fellows and many of my colleagues who may be unfairly affected by Tulane’s probationary status – and continue to offer them my support – I believe the action of the ‘ACGME is a positive step in addressing concerns raised by myself and others about racism, sexism and retaliation at Tulane University,’ Dennar said in an emailed statement Thursday.
Hamm has denied Dennar’s specific allegations of racism and retaliation against the New Orleans media. And the medical school is fighting the lawsuit in federal court.
This story has been corrected to clarify that ACGME does not provide residency training. It accredits institutions, such as Tulane Medical School, which sponsor residency programs for new physicians.