‘Can’t Believe That In a Majority Black City’: Doctor Says He Was Punished After Speaking Out On Dangers of a Resident Sending a High-Risk Pregnant Black Woman In Pain Home Without Care

A long-time faculty member at Wayne State University School of Medicine has filed a civil rights lawsuit, alleging he was discriminated against because he spoke out about the dangerous racial bias projected onto Black patients in health care.

Despite serving as the interim chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the institution in Detroit, Michigan, and applying to fill the position full-time, Dr. Stanley Berry, who’d served a combined three decades as part of the Wayne State faculty, says he was skipped over in retaliation for his advocacy for vulnerable communities.

Dr. Stanley Berry (Xuni Website Design/YouTube screenshot)

In the lawsuit obtained by Atlanta Black Star, Berry points to a “retaliatory failure” to hire him when he served as interim chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology after he spoke out about a resident sending a pregnant high-risk patient home who was in severe pain.

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Berry, a Black man, says although in 2021 he stepped in and assumed the interim role when the position was suddenly left vacant, he was passed over by the university’s administration for a white and “less qualified” candidate.

Berry has sued the Wayne State University Board of Governors, School of Medicine Dean Wael Sakr, Dr. Satinder Kaur and Dr. Patricia Wilkerson-Uddyback.

Executive vice chair of the department Dr. Lanetta Coleman told Berry she saw how a resident engaged a Black patient with a history of preterm birth at DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital. Coleman pointed to this incident as an example of how “unrecognized bias can adversely affect patient care and clinical outcomes.”

Berry, in turn, asked Dr. Satinder Kaur, the director of the medical school’s residency program, in a January 2022 memo to send this message to the residents:

“It is not acceptable to send a pregnant woman in the third trimester who is complaining of extreme pain home. (This) does not comport with the humane/compassionate practice of medicine … (or) the safe practice of medicine because there is always a chance that this woman may have been in preterm labor.”

Instead on Jan. 26, 2022, Kaur sent a link to a presentation to the residents titled: “It Starts with You: Examining Implicit Bias in Healthcare Settings” and did not include any of the language that Berry sent.

Berry followed up with another memo that day, and a day later he invited the same group to discuss the hot-button issue, which had become a bubbling topic at that time because of several instances at the medical facility.

“In my 38 years of working with and teaching trainees, I understand that mistakes are made every day by everybody, and when these mistakes pose a real danger to patients, they need to be discussed openly, honestly, and in a timely manner,” Berry wrote. “I am disappointed that some of you consider my urgent effort to end this substandard medical practice (is) in poor taste.”

According to Berry, his meeting was canceled by a higher-up, and a separate meeting was called. This meeting purposely excluded the professor.

The complaint states it was in this meeting that he and Coleman were referred to as “bad apples” and Dr. Coleman had a “history of hostility.”

Berry alleges in his lawsuit that there were other instances that happened that pointed to retaliation and discrimination against him and impeded him from assuming the dean position.

Though Berry contends Wayne State officials did not want to address the issue, the topic has been making medical news headlines for a number of years. In fact, an entire week has been dedicated to Black maternal health.

A 2022 report shows that racism may play a bigger role in Black women dying during and after pregnancy than researchers thought.

According to an 11-year analysis presented at the American Society of Anesthesiologists annual meeting in October, other factors like health-care access, insurance coverage and economic status can’t be the sole causes of the higher mortality rate among Black women.

Amanda Ghannam, one of the attorneys representing Berry, said it is incredible that anyone would take exception to Berry wanting the staff to be made aware of anything that could hinder their work.

“I just can’t believe that in a majority Black city, that it would be considered (wrong) for Dr. Berry to bring this to people’s attention,” Ghannam remarked. “It’s such a serious issue that he was trying to draw attention to. And for that, he was just attacked. People wanted him not to have contact with residents anymore.”

On July 6, 2022, Dean Sakr told Berry that he would not be considered for the permanent chair and his colleagues were not willing to work with him, according to the lawsuit.

“Dean Sakr told Dr. Berry: ‘They don’t love you, and I don’t think they ever will,’” the complaint describes.

Berry is asking to have a trial by jury, whereas if the defendants are found guilty, he will be awarded compensatory and punitive damages, reasonable attorney costs and any other form of relief deemed appropriate by a judge and jury.

Wayne State has declined to publicly address specifics about the lawsuit but submitted an official statement to The Detroit Free Press declaring the institution’s commitment “to the overall health and well-being of Detroit’s diverse population.”

“We are proud of our commitment to diversity and inclusion,” the statement continued. “It is at the core of everything we do.”

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