After Uproar, Ousted Residency Director Offered Job Back

Laura Arenschield

March 04, 2021

The Tulane University School of Medicine, in New Orleans, Louisiana, has extended an offer to reinstate Princess Dennar, MD, the first and only Black woman to lead any of the school's residency programs, after removing her from that position in mid-February. Her ousting had prompted a wave of outrage from current students and residents, alumni, and others.

Tulane removed Dennar from her position as program director of the internal medicine–pediatrics residency program on February 11. Dennar and others have said that her removal was directly connected to a federal lawsuit she filed the previous October, which alleged that Tulane had a history of systemic racism and sexism in how it treated faculty, trainees, and applicants.

In a public letter to the Tulane community obtained by Medscape Medical News, Lee Hamm, MD, now dean of the Tulane School of Medicine, said that the school's Graduate Medical Education Committee "was unanimous and unequivocal in their recommendation" that Dennar be removed as program director. Hamm said in the letter that he had offered to restore Dennar to her position as program director but added that the offer was predicated on her accepting "several support mechanisms."

"These include executive coaching, additional administrative support to help leadership meet all compliance and reporting requirements, and on-going oversight and guidance, all of which will help to ensure that issues raised in the special report do not reoccur," he wrote.

Hamm sent a separate reinstatement offer the evening of March 1, a spokesperson for Dennar confirmed on Wednesday. The next morning, NBC's Today Show aired a national broadcast about Dennar's removal and the lawsuit. Dennar's spokesperson told Medscape Medical News that she was reviewing the terms of the reinstatement offer with her attorney.

"In the letter, Dr Hamm outlined conditions for reinstatement that are based on a flawed and prejudicial internal review process — and are designed to penalize Dr Dennar and shift blame away from Tulane," the spokesperson said. "Any acceptable terms for reinstatement must address the underlying issues at Tulane and promote an equitable and inclusive environment for its faculty, residents, students, and patients."

Dennar's lawsuit and removal have raised significant concerns about discrimination among Tulane's alumni and current trainees, as well as among prospective residents and students.

Dennar's lawsuit alleges that Tulane uses a discriminatory program to match potential residents with the institution. That program, the suit says, ranks traditionally Black accredited medical colleges at the bottommost part of Tulane's match list, "such that doing exceptionally well on standardized tests still would not make graduates of these schools competitive."

Tulane residents and alumni have written letters of support for Dennar, noting that, in their experience, structural racism and bias are "deeply entrenched" within Tulane.

"For many Black medical students and residents at @TulaneMedicine, it's painful right now," tweeted R. J. Ledet, PhD, a third-year medical and MBA student at Tulane, who considers Dennar one of his mentors. "On one hand, we represent and are part of an institution that has/is preparing us for the profession of #medicine. Simultaneously, we are having to fight that institution for #DrDennar."

Laura Arenschield is a Columbus, Ohio–based, award-winning reporter for MDedge who has been writing about science and health for more than a decade.

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