ANN ARBOR, MI -When Dr. Carmen Green was called upon to lead the University of Michigan’s new Office of Health Equity and Inclusion, she got a troubling tip.
Green claims a U-M Health System chaplain told her it appeared staff was calling hospital security on minority patients and their visitors for little or no reason. She began to research if the claim was true.
Green says she presented her preliminary finding to UMHS officials in December 2014. Her findings concluded “UMHS staff disproportionately –2.5 times more often—reach for the phone to call Security when confronted with Black visitors or patients that become emotional in UMHS emergency rooms, intensive care waiting rooms, surgical waiting rooms.”
That’s according to Green’s attorney in a civil lawsuit she has filed against U-M’s Board of Regents now headed to trial. Her attorney claims U-M administrators retaliated for the report they didn’t like by firing Green from her position a month later.
Green is seeking in excess of $500,000 due to the loss of her position, as well as compensation for emotional distress and attorney fees. Green’s attorney Jim Fett said.
In its legal response, U-M says Green’s dismissal had nothing to do with the study.
It claims Green’s firing was the result of findings of a “climate assessment survey” conducted within the Office for Health Equity and Inclusion submitted in November 2014, a month before Green’s report. The assessment survey claims Green yelled at and bullied co-workers and had some leadership deficiencies, according to U-M’s lawsuit response.
“Dr. Green was removed from her administrative appointment as head of the Office of Health Equity and Inclusion effective Jan. 6, 2015, because she repeatedly violated the U-M Health System Code of Conduct and university’s Professional Standards for Faculty in her interactions with team members whom she supervised,” U-M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said in an email to the Ann Arbor News.
Regarding the preliminary findings of Green’s study on discrimination, U-M said in its legal response it “lacks sufficient knowledge or information to form an opinion regarding the truth of the allegations regarding Plaintiff’s data analysis, her conclusions, or plans for follow-up.”
Washtenaw County Trial Court Judge Timothy P. Connors denied U-M’s motion for summary disposition on Sept. 22. The lawsuit is scheduled for trial on Dec. 5, Fett said.
Green remains a professor of anesthesiology, obstetrics and gynecology and health management and policy in U-M’s Schools of Medicine and Public Health. She referred a call seeing comment about the lawsuit to her attorney.
In her research at U-M prior to her appointment as associate vice president for the Office for Health Equity and Inclusion, Green had found unequal treatment of pain and pain care based on factors including race, ethnicity and gender, according to UMHS officials. She found disparities and barriers in access to pain medication for blacks, women and low-income individuals with chronic pain.
In June 2014, the OHEI National Advisory Board –which Green was instrumental in creating in the health system –gave Green positive marks, according to the lawsuit.
Then U-M Medical School Dean James Woolliscroft, who stepped down in late 2015, echoed the board’s sentiments by giving Green positive feedback in her first and only evaluation in September 2014, remarking that “Your understanding of the importance of inclusion for the Office for Health Equity and Inclusion is much appreciated,” Green’s lawsuit contends. The review resulted in Green receiving a raise in pay, the lawsuit states.
Prior to Woolliscoft’s evaluation, though, an OHEI employee engagement survey conducted in the summer of 2014 showed the office ranked “below average” among all departments and workers expressed “moderate readiness for change” within the department, according to U-M’s legal response.
Wayne McCullough is the former managing director of the OHEI who worked directly under Green. In an interview with the Ann Arbor News and MLive.com he said the issues of communication were being addressed following the survey.
“We had hosted a full day off-site to deal with those issues and it was highly successful.” Said McCullough. “(Green) was also removing herself from the day-to-day operations and I was going to take over all of them, which was going to help her taking on more of the big picture stuff.”