Student sues UM claiming failure to discipline specialist who had improper relationship

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

A woman is suing Title IX officials and others affiliated with the University of Michigan, alleging they failed to properly investigate her complaint against a medical professional there she accused of an inappropriate relationship.

According to the lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court, the plaintiff, listed only as Jane Doe, was 19 and attending Michigan State University in early 2013 when connecting with a UM gastroenterologist she hoped would be a mentor.

The filing stated that after a meeting in East Lansing the unnamed doctor tried to kiss her, “offered Jane Doe $500 a month for a mentorship relationship with no intimacy, as well as $1000 a month for a mentorship relationship with intimacy.”

The man soon allegedly gave her herpes and in emails “frequently made sexually suggestive comments and sometimes during work hours in between patient visits,” the woman’s lawyers wrote.

UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said Saturday the university has no comment at this time. 

In 2015, the specialist secured an internship for the student at the UM Taubman Center, but she exited early when he refused to give her a letter of recommendation for medical school “because John Doe did not ‘want his name on a formal document’ with knowledge of a previous sexual relationship,” according to the suit.

The woman cut ties with the physician in 2016, the same year she graduated, the document claims.

Nearly two years later, she contacted the UM Title IX Office and met with coordinators David Baum and Elizabeth Seney to launch a complaint against the man.

Baum told her that year that John Doe had been fired and was the subject of disciplinary action based on her reports, according to the suit.

In a meeting in October 2018, Dr. Chung Owyang, the university gastroenterology chief, also told the woman the man had been terminated.

However, she later learned after the gastroenterologist sought a doctor and professorship position at Stanford School of Medicine that there was “no record of disciplinary action at UM. Furthermore, it was revealed that John Doe was never informed of Jane Doe’s report to the Title IX office.”

The suit accuses Baum, Seney, Owyang and Margaret Gyteko, the UM Director of Faculty Affairs, of violating Title IX of the Education Act Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in educational institutions receiving federal funding.

“... UM was legally required under Title IX to conduct a full and thorough investigation into the illegal actions suffered by Doe,” her attorneys wrote.

The lawsuit also accused the Title IX coordinators of negligence.

“Defendants breached their duty of reasonable care by negligently acting or omitting to act in such a way that resulted in Doe’s emotional harm and withdrawal from UM,” lawyers said.