A former UCLA physician who says she was forced out of her job as director of the medical school’s lymphoma program because a male-dominated administration ignored her complaints of age and gender discrimination testified Thursday that her protests about her treatment drew little sympathy from her colleagues.
“Your job is not to boss the guys around,” one male doctor said, according to Dr. Lauren Pinter-Brown.
She said conditions for her became nearly intolerable.
“I lived in a state of terror, basically,” she said. “I was anxious all the time.”
The 63-year-old Pinter-Brown, an expert in T-cell lymphoma research, is the plaintiff in trial of a lawsuit against the Regents of the University of California that is being heard by a Los Angeles Superior Court jury. The complaint alleges age and gender discrimination, as well as harassment based on age.
She said she was repeatedly berated for her clinical trial work by a subordinate physician, Dr. Sven De Vos, who also once turned his back to her during a meeting and often interrupted her when she spoke.
“I was trying to establish myself as someone who was respected,” Pinter-Brown said. “It was like the butt of a joke.”
But Jason Mills, a lawyer for the regents, said much of the conflict between Pinter-Brown and De Vos was rooted in their different ideas about how clinical trials should be conducted. In addition, some medical committee members became concerned about how Pinter-Brown’s trials were proceeding, resulting in the suspension of her research privileges in June 2012, Mills said.
The research privileges were reinstated in Oct. 2013, but Pinter-Brown departed for UC Irvine in December 2015, he said.
Asked by her lawyer, Carney Shegerian, if she ever tried to resolve her differences with De Vos, Pinter-Brown replied, “He wasn’t approachable. He’d shut me up pretty quick.”
In contrast, De Vos was “very collegial” with male doctors, Pinter- Brown said.
Pinter-Brown, who was given the lymphoma program directorship in 2005, said at one point she told a supervisor she was ready to quit and concentrate on caring for her patients and T-cell lymphoma research.
“You get somebody else to be the director,” Pinter-Brown said she told the supervisor.
However, the supervising physician said in reply that De Vos was “too crazy” for the job and urged her to stay on, she said.
Pinter-Brown said conducting a clinical trial with the right patients is crucial so that drug companies will trust the physician in charge. But she said that when she successfully obtained FDA approval of a particular drug for lymphoma treatment, a male colleague replied, “Should I care?”
Asked by Shegerian if the drug saved lives, she replied, “Yes, it did.”
Another male colleague said Pinter-Brown should move her practice outside the university and help patients with ovarian cancer, even though her expertise was in the field of lymphoma, she said.
Pinter-Brown said she made as much as $250,000 less than her male counterparts, but was told by one physician that her pay was below what men received because she had a nurse practitioner.
Outside the university setting, Pinter-Brown was praised for her work at medical conferences and doctors and patients from around the world consulted with her, she said.
“It was like night and day,” she said.
–City News Service