New Lawsuit Targets Cancer Center for Safety Issues, Gender Discrimination, and Retaliation
An oncologist is accusing her former employer of medical safety violations, gender discrimination, and whistleblower retaliation. In a lawsuit filed in January 2023, Anne Grand’Maison alleges that Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, a research and treatment center in Buffalo, New York ignored the concerns she raised over patient safety, underpaid her relative to her male colleagues, and retaliated against her.
According to the complaint, Grand’Maison came to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in 2016 as the first medical oncologist specifically trained in sarcoma, a rare type of bone and tissue cancer. Prior to her time at Roswell Park, Grand’Maison completed a fellowship at MD Anderson Cancer Center, the largest cancer center in the U.S. and widely considered the best hospital worldwide for oncology. However, Grand’Maison was soon troubled by the things she saw at her new job: “sarcoma pathology reports were replete with diagnostic errors, doctors were woefully uneducated in the latest sarcoma research, senior doctors exhibited a steadfast refusal to seek out second opinions in difficult cases and the sarcoma clinic was chronically understaffed, among many other issues.” As the only comprehensive cancer center in upstate New York, Grand’Maison was concerned that these issues at Roswell Park would jeopardize the safety of patients who were dependent on their care.
Compounding the issue of uninformed doctors at Roswell Park was their resistance to listening to the concerns that Grand’Maison brought up. In contrast to the Tumor Board she worked with at MD Anderson, Grand’Maison found the Tumor Board at Roswell Park to be “male-dominated, ego-driven, fraught with defensiveness and rife with a lack of collegiality almost from the very beginning.” For example, when Grand’Maison asked for more information about a medical diagnosis, a powerful senior doctor allegedly “leaned toward her aggressively”, ignored her question, and “condescendingly asked her if she had ever seen a mesenchymal chondrosarcoma, his tone implying that she could not possibly add value to his diagnosis”. Other instances of hostility that Grand’Maison experienced included her denied requests for administrative assistance and outside diagnostic opinions, which made her less available to treat her patients with the levels of attention and care that she was used to.
When Grand’Maison announced her plans to submit nearly twenty cases of misdiagnosis by a senior doctor for review in March 2022, Roswell Park seized on an opportunity to fire her by deliberately misinterpreting her communication about her husband’s potential relocation. In January 2022, Grand’Maison emailed a hospital coordinator about her husband’s planned move to Canada, thus making her last day at the center May 1, 2022. Later on, Grand’Maison found that she was incorrect and that her husband would not be relocating, but she did not feel the need to correct herself because no one replied to her initial email. A day after Grand’Maison notified the Chair of Medicine of her forthcoming misdiagnosis report, Grand’Maison was told that the “resignation” she provided in January was accepted.
Unfortunately, the medical field is not exempt from discrimination. The lawsuit cites six other cases involving Roswell Park, gender discrimination, and retaliation. Grand’Maison pointed to the fact that a male doctor who had similar qualifications as her made had a salary differential of $100,000. Similarly, a lawsuit filed by Jane Zhou, a former pathologist at the clinic, stated pay differentials of nearly $75,000 compared to her male colleagues, in addition to experiences of workplace hostility whenever she challenged diagnoses.
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