Nfld. & Labrador

Vindicated by external review, prof says

A St. John's professor says she feels her reputation is secure following a report that found she was bullied on the job.

A St. John's medical school professor says she feels her reputation is secure in the wake of an external review that found she was harassed and bullied on the job.

"I'm very pleased that I'm vindicated," Dr. Cathy Popadiuk told CBC News, after reading a report by a three-member panel assembled by the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

Popadiuk, a gynecological oncologist who is cross-appointed to Memorial University's faculty of medicine, had filed a complaint that her professional reputation was damaged by allegations she was incompetent, did poor research and was difficult to deal with.

The controversy started with remarks made in 2002 by oncologist Dr. Gavin Stuart — then working in Alberta, but now the dean of medicine at the University of British Columbia — who was consulting on a patient being treated in St. John's.

The CAUT report found that Stuart's remarks to Popadiuk's superiors led to her losing her status as an associate dean, losing access to support staff and effectively being shut out of decision-making on her own case.

The CAUT investigation found that both Memorial University as well as the Eastern Health regional authority, which operates the hospital where Popadiuk treats patients, failed to protect her.

Allegations affected physician's work

"It was somewhat difficult to read through it again … They obviously bring back some unpleasant experiences," said Popadiuk, describing her response to reading the report released Wednesday.

"They've vindicated me of the numerous false allegations that were made against me."

Popadiuk said the controversy affected her work.  

"You're sort of left in the dark. You don't know what's happening to you," she said.

"The unknown is really very stressful. I was not productive at all for a number of years … It was extremely difficult to concentrate," said Popadiuk, who said she focused on caring for her patients as best she could.

The CAUT report called on Memorial University and Eastern Health to apologize to Popadiuk.

Popadiuk said many things have already improved for her work, although she applauded the CAUT finding for greater professional protection for professors and physicians.

"Things are much better here," she said. "[But] I don't think any of my colleagues should be put through anything like that."