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Canada University of Toronto to investigate Southlake Hospital after Globe reports of gender-discrimination allegations

The Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ont., is photographed on Dec. 6, 2018. The University of Toronto sends medical students and young doctors to train at Southlake and St. Joseph’s, and did so when Dr. Duic was chief of that emergency department.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The University of Toronto is launching an investigation into how its medical students were treated at Southlake Regional Health Centre in the wake of a Globe and Mail probe that revealed gender-discrimination allegations against the hospital’s former emergency department chief.

Marko Duic, once hailed as a leader in transforming emergency medicine, resigned his position last month, after a Globe investigation revealed allegations from more than 20 doctors relating to questionable billing practices and gender discrimination.

Dr. Duic didn’t hire a single female physician over 16 years as an emergency department chief, first at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto, and then at Southlake hospital in Newmarket, Ont.

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(He continues to have privileges to work as a physician in both emergency departments.)

Read more: Ontario emergency room chief who hired no women for 16 years resigns amid discrimination probe

Scrubbed: Ontario emergency room chief faces questions about failing to hire any female doctors in 16 years

Physicians who had worked with Dr. Duic alleged discriminatory practices filtered down to medical trainees. Dr. Duic was rarely scheduled with female residents. One trainee alleged that he said her training would be a “waste” because she would become pregnant.

The University of Toronto sends medical students and young doctors to train at Southlake and St. Joseph’s, and did so when Dr. Duic was chief of that emergency department.

The university became aware of concerns about Dr. Duic last spring, when lawyer Danny Kastner sent a letter on behalf of a group of anonymous female physicians who detailed gender discrimination allegations and asked both Southlake and the university to launch an independent investigation.

In response, the university conducted an internal investigation that involved examining data and evaluation letters. It told Mr. Kastner that it didn’t find evidence of discrimination.

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The school’s new investigation will be “carried out by an independent investigator” and co-ordinated by Glen Bandiera, associate dean of postgraduate medical education, according to an e-mail from Heidi Singer, communications and media relations specialist at the faculty of medicine at the University of Toronto.

Current and previous trainees, as well as “members of the clinical care team within the Southlake Emergency Department” are invited to come forward with any allegations of gender discrimination at the Southlake emergency, Ms. Singer said.

At the moment, the investigation is focused solely on Southlake, but Ms. Singer noted that "further steps will be determined in consultation with hospital leadership” at St. Joseph’s.

The university investigation comes as Southlake’s own independent investigation into alleged discrimination, harassment and bullying in its emergency department continues. The probe began in the fall after The Globe sent a detailed list of questions to Southlake’s chief executive and its chief of staff.

The hospital has also hired two female emergency doctors since October.

Earlier this month, the advocacy organization Canadian Women in Medicine began circulating an open letter to the faculty of medicine at the University of Toronto, demanding a more thorough investigation into discrimination, in light of The Globe’s probe.

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“It’s possible to conclude that most – if not all – the teaching evaluations assessed by U of T were written by male trainees selected by Dr. Duic. How can this reasonably be considered a sensitive test for gender discrimination in the department?” reads the letter, which has so far been signed by around 450 physicians in Canada and the United States.

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