Nfld. & Labrador

St. John's prof maltreated, external review finds

A professor was bullied and harassed by employers and colleagues at a St. John's teaching hospital, a new report says.

A Memorial University of Newfoundland medical professor was bullied and harassed by employers and colleagues at a St. John's teaching hospital, according to a report released Wednesday.

An external investigation has vindicated Dr. Cathy Popadiuk's complaints. ((CBC))

Dr. Cathy Popadiuk, a professor of medicine at Memorial as well as an oncologist with the Eastern Health regional authority, complained five years ago that her professional reputation was unfairly damaged by allegations that she was incompetent.

A report released by the Canadian Association of University Teachers, which struck a three-member committee to investigate the case, found that Popadiuk was poorly treated by supervisors at both her university and hospital.

"We concluded that there were incidents of harassment and threats to academic freedom," said Albert Katz, a University of Western Ontario psychology professor who headed the investigation.

In 2002, a visiting colleague criticized the work of Popadiuk.

The CAUT report said that Dr. Gavin Stuart, at the time the head of oncology at the University of Calgary, told Popadiuk's superiors that her research was poor and her clinical treatment of patients was inappropriate.

The report said Popadiuk was described as having had a "negative and disruptive influence" in her department. As well, the report said, Stuart told Popadiuk's superior, Dr. Donald Tennant, that she was damaging the reputation of her department. 

Popadiuk was stripped of her position as associate dean of student affairs. As well, her office was moved away from the clinic where she saw patients and she lost access to support staff.

The report found that Popadiuk had been "placed in an intimidating, hostile environment" and that she had been denied "natural justice."

The report said Popadiuk traced the origin of the dispute to differences in approach of treatment of gynecological cancers. Popadiuk favours the use of chemotherapy before surgery, with the report noting that "her lesser use of surgery is not the preferred mode of treatment by her colleagues."

Katz said the CAUT committee would like to see improvements made in how Memorial professors are dealt with in similar situations.

"This could happen again to somebody else and there is no process in place to ensure a fair adjudication of any complaint," Katz told CBC News.

The 67-page report calls on Memorial University and Eastern Health to issue an apology to Popadiuk.

An internal review at Memorial University has already determined that Popadiuk's work is sound.

Popadiuk declined comment when contacted by CBC News.

She is suing Stuart, now the dean of medicine at the University of British Columbia, for damages.