A UCLA physician has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the UC Board of Regents, alleging that he was routinely publicly humiliated and once was depicted as a gorilla being sodomized in a slide show presentation during a resident graduation event.
In a 40-page complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday, Dr. Christian Head, a head and neck surgeon, accused the university of failing to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
“I am very discouraged,” Head said in an interview. “I am very disappointed with the behavior.”
The university “has investigated this matter and found that the evidence does not substantiate the claims of unlawful activity,” Phil Hampton, a university spokesman, responded in a statement.
“Dr. Head was directed to take up the issues with the Academic Senate committee charged with resolving faculty allegations of mistreatment, and thus far he has declined to do so,” Hampton continued.
Head said he has made numerous complaints and has “tried every avenue possible within the university to solve this.”
During an event for faculty, staff and graduating medical school residents several years ago, a slide show created by the residents, and typically reviewed by staff, featured a photo in which Head’s face was superimposed on a gorilla that was being sodomized by a department chairman, according to the complaint.
“To hear the groans and laughter, I just thought it was so dehumanizing,” Head said. “I think the purpose of it was to suggest that I was subhuman. It was a very graphic, sexual act, and I think the lack of response afterward was astonishing.”
Though the slide shows at the graduation events are typically a roast of faculty members, Head thought there was a disproportionate number featuring him, he said.
“These are the types of slides prospective grads would not want to show for fear they would not get jobs afterward,” he said. “They were extremely mean-spirited and extremely racist, with no accountability.”
Dr. Marilene Wang and Dr. Gerald Berke, chairman of the David Geffen School of Medicine’s Department of Head and Neck Surgery, are named in the lawsuit and accused of making “inappropriate racial comments and insinuations about blacks” and Head for years, the court document states. Both are UCLA physicians and professors.
Head alleges that Wang, Berke and other employees have retaliated against him for filing complaints and have denied him teaching and other opportunities, according to the complaint.
The complaint requests a jury trial.