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Northern Med School resident claims she was suspended for reporting sexual harassment

Dr. Ana Safavi wants a third-party investigator be appointed to probe the situation 
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A Northern Ontario School of Medicine-trained physician said she been suspended for reporting allegations of sexual harassment. (File)

A Northern Ontario School of Medicine-trained physician said she has been suspended for reporting allegations of sexual harassment.

Dr. Ana Safavi said in a press release she was suspended from the Northern Ontario School of Medicine’s (NOSM) Internal Medicine residency program on Feb. 2, after she disclosed that she had been sexually harassed by a faculty leader in her training program.

She contracted Toronto public relations firm Daisy Group to reach out to media.

In a letter she said NOSM sent to her on Feb. 2, Safavi said the document states: “Your return to work is conditional upon you providing, in writing, a list of safe and unsafe workplaces based on where you might reasonably expect to encounter the alleged harasser.” 

Safavi has until midnight on Feb. 15 to provide the list to NOSM’s associate dean of postgraduate education, who also directed Safavi to engage in “reflection and self-care.”

Sudbury.com has reached out to NOSM, but the school has not returned a message.

Safavi maintains that this list of places, when combined with what she has already revealed, would enable NOSM to identify her harasser.

“I want to co-operate, but I’m scared,” Safavi said in the press release. “There is a lot at stake here, and before I name him, I just want to make sure that there is a transparent and fair process for everybody involved." 

She is requesting that an experienced and truly independent third-party investigator be appointed — as NOSM originally agreed to, she said — before trying to impose their own investigator on the process.

“I came here to learn and to treat patients; practising medicine is what I love,” said Safavi. “But when the persistent harassment I have experienced at NOSM escalated to sexual harassment, I knew I had to come forward.”

Safavi was on a work placement in the Emergency Department at Health Sciences North (HSN) in Sudbury, when she was suspended, the release states. The hospital was not consulted in the decision and has no say in her re-instatement, it concludes.

“Ana is beloved by patients, nurses, and physicians alike,” Dr. Chris Bourdon is quoted as saying in the press release.  “She represents the very best of HSN.”

Bourdon was present as a support person to Safavi when she disclosed the nature of the harassment to NOSM. He is also vice-president of medical and academic affairs at HSN and the hospital's former chief of staff. 

Safavi credits her "HSN family" for giving her the courage to speak up, and the #MeToo movement for raising her awareness of how institutional cultures can enable harassment by silencing victims. She said she hopes NOSM will emulate HSN's proactive approach to cultural change.

Safavi expects immediate reinstatement, but she continues to have concerns about the fairness of NOSM’s process — and also possible recrimination for raising her voice.




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