Cancer specialist Dr. Cathy Popadiuk was bullied and harassed by her superiors, marginalized in her department and had her academic freedom threatened, an external investigation has found. [Photo: Reprinted with permission from the Telegram]
Dr. Cathy Popadiuk, a professor of medicine at Memorial University of Newfoundland and a gynecologic oncologist at the H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre in St. John’s, was systematically harassed for years by her employers and colleagues, an independent committee of inquiry has concluded.
In its report released March 26, the committee also suggests she may not have been the only person in the faculty of medicine to be subjected to such treatment.
“Dr. Popadiuk experienced a pattern of harassment that extended over a period of years: she was placed in an intimidating, hostile environment . . . we heard various other people tell us about events in which they had been marginalized, treated without respect, have had their livelihood threatened and have had their authority undermined or sabotaged by people in authority,” the report says.
CAUT formed the independent inquiry to investigate Popadiuk’s case in November 2004. The three-member inquiry consisted of Dr. Albert Katz, professor and chair of the psychology department at the University of Western Ontario, Dr. Lori West, professor of pediatrics, surgery and immunology at the University of Alberta, and Dr. Philippe DeWals, director of the department of social and preventive medicine at Laval University.
Administrative personnel at both Memorial University and Eastern Health Corp., the regional health authority that operates the cancer centre where Popadiuk works, refused to cooperate with the inquiry and some people only spoke to committee members on condition of anonymity.
According to the report, the controversy started with remarks made to Popadiuk’s superiors in 2002 by Dr. Gavin Stuart — then head of oncology at the University of Calgary and now the dean of medicine at the University of British Columbia — who was consulting on a patient being treated in St. John’s.
The report says the series of events that followed increasingly marginalized Popadiuk, who prior to that time was considered a “productive and contributing colleague in both her teaching and research functions.”
Her mistreatment led to her having to work in a “chilly and uncomfortable work environment, including harassment,” the report says.
The report makes several recommendations, including that Popadiuk receive an apology from her employers and that harassment policies and dispute resolution processes be put in place.
“We urge Memorial and Eastern Health to heed the recommendations of the committee,” said CAUT executive director James Turk.
“If this type of situation can be avoided in future by the university and health authority developing and using policies which ensure faculty the fair treatment and natural justice in the adjudication of disputes, all parties will be better served.”
Popadiuk is still employed by Memorial University and Eastern Health.
The committee’s 69-page report is available at http://www.popadiukinquiry.ca/