International News

Orthodontics Professor Disparaged Resident Doctors

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A prominent, now-retired orthodontics professor at the University of Connecticut subjected Muslim and Arab resident doctors at the school to disparaging remarks about their nationalities and retaliated against them when they cooperated with an inquiry into his conduct, according to a school investigation report obtained by The Associated Press.

Among the allegations in the July 2016 report against Dr. Ravindra Nanda are that he called some resident doctors members of the Islamic State, said the FBI might think he is building an “ISIS cell” because of the large number of Saudis in his program, allowed only North American students and residents to treat Caucasian patients and scuttled a job application for a woman resident doctor.

Nanda, 74, a native of an area of former British India that is now part of Pakistan, denied all the allegations. He retired last fall, more than a year after the report was issued.

The report by an investigator with UConn Health’s Office of Institutional Equity found the testimony of several resident doctors credible and recommended that UConn Health officials consider disciplining Nanda. The resident doctors’ names are blacked out in the report.

It is not clear, however, whether Nanda was disciplined.

Chris Hyers, chief communications officer for UConn Health, said Thursday that leaders of the Farmington campus took “appropriate measures” in response to the investigation findings. He would not elaborate.

“UConn Health does not tolerate discrimination, harassment, or retaliation in the workplace or its learning environments,” he added in a statement.

Nanda did not respond to an email from the AP asking about the report and allegations.

Nanda’s lawyer, Jacques Parenteau, said that Nanda appealed the report’s findings and the process ended with a confidential resolution. Parenteau said Nanda’s retirement had nothing to do with the investigation. He said the complaint that spurred the investigation was by a resident doctor who was upset that Nanda wouldn’t support his application to UConn’s doctorate program.

“Dr. Nanda had served as a distinguished faculty member and chair of the (orthodontics) department for 45 years,” Parenteau said.

Nanda, whose Linkedin page says he has written six orthodontic books and more than 200 scientific articles in major journals, was head of the Department of Craniofacial Sciences and chairman of the Division of Orthodontics at UConn’s School of Dental Medicine. He remains a professor emeritus at UConn Health, working there occasionally and maintaining a school email address.

Ellen Keane, an investigator with the Office of Institutional Equity, wrote in the 26-page report that she and another investigator interviewed 44 witnesses who were affiliated with the orthodontics program.

One allegation said Nanda, in a class discussion about cosmetic dentistry in 2014, told two resident doctors, “I guess you guys don’t care about smiles because your women all wear veils.”

“OIE concludes that the totality of the circumstances supports a finding that Dr. Nanda violated (UConn Health) prohibitions against retaliation as well as religious, race and national origin discrimination as alleged,” Keane wrote.

“”The evidence supports finding that the nine corroborated remarks made by Dr. Nanda, as well as race and accent-based patient assignments over a one year period, were sufficiently severe and pervasive to establish a hostile educational environment,” she wrote.

She recommended that UConn officials consider whether Nanda’s conduct warranted disciplinary action and that immediate measures be taken “to protect residents against further discrimination, harassment and retaliation.”

The report said Nanda told investigators that the resident doctors making the allegations were about to face disciplinary action, possibly dismissal. But investigators said the resident doctors were all in good standing and their most recent performance evaluations did not indicate any discipline.

February 17, 2018

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