Oregon

Former OHSU cardiologist sues for gender discrimination

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) -- A former cardiologist at Oregon Health and Science University is suing the university, claiming she was discriminated against because she is female. 

According to the complaint filed Tuesday in Oregon's federal district court, Dr. Rupa Bala says she experienced ongoing sex discrimination, sex stereotyping, and retaliation at the hands of Dr. Charles Henrikson and Dr. Joaquin Cigarroa. Henrikson was the Chief of Electrophysiology at OHSU, while Cigarroa was the Clinical Chief of Cardiology.  

OHSU released this statement Wednesday evening: “While OHSU will not comment on ongoing litigation, we take allegations of discrimination seriously.”

Bala was hired in 2015; the complaint says that Bala soon noticed unsafe practices affecting patients, which she then reported to the university hospital. Six months after she was hired, Bala was reportedly told that problems she saw "were probably caused by [Bala's] personality, which some allegedly perceived as too strong and direct." 

The complaint adds that men on staff were not frequently criticized for being strong and direct.  

In another instance in 2015, a male nurse reportedly introduced Bala to a female physician as a "nurse," and said she liked being called that title – an incident that Bala told the nurse was disrespectful.  

The complaint says Bala was repeatedly told she had too much of an "east coast" communication style and was "overly 'abrupt' and 'abrasive,'" while men with similar communication styles were complimented. The complaint references a 2016 internal survey in which reportedly 23.5 percent of faculty members had observed harassment and 14 percent had experienced discrimination. 

The lawsuit also claims that Bala's race was a factor in her colleague's treatment of her, and that she believes she would not have been "ignored, harassed, retaliated against, and forced to resign in lieu of termination," if she had not been a woman of color.  


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