The number of current and former USC students suing the university alleging sexual misconduct by former USC men’s health doctor Dennis Kelly stood at 50 Thursday, with attorneys saying 18 more plaintiffs have joined a lawsuit accusing the physician of targeting gay men.
The plaintiffs allege Kelly engaged in inappropriate sexual misconduct and discriminated against patients based on their sexual orientation or gender.
Kelly has denied any wrongdoing, telling the Los Angeles Times in February, when the suit was originally filed, he was blindsided by the lawsuit and calling the allegations “terribly hurtful.”
“I can’t second-guess or question anything I’ve done,” he told the paper. “I know I did it all professionally and without any other motive.”
USC released a statement Thursday saying it is aware of the suit and “concerned by its allegations.”
“We’re working to understand the facts of this matter. We care deeply about our entire Trojan family, including our LGBTQ community, and take this matter very seriously,” according to the university.
One of the new plaintiffs in the lawsuit, USC doctoral student Ali Jalal-Kamali, said Kelly made him uncomfortable by asking “invasively sexual questions,” with inquiries ranging “from my sexual practices all the way to the ethnicity, age, and appearance of my partner at the time.”
“In this process, Dennis Kelly mocked, scolded, guilted and shamed me for everything and anything that he felt like he could based on the information he forced out of me, as if it brought him some sick … satisfaction,” Jalal-Kamali said at a Thursday news conference.
The lawsuit originally included only six plaintiffs, but rose to 21 within a month, rising to 50 as news of the legal action spread.
“Thanks to the efforts of the news media and LGBTQ community, we are seeing more and more men bravely come forward to tell their stories,” attorney Kelly Van Aken said.
The original plaintiffs came forward following news of widespread allegations of misconduct by female patients against former USC student health center gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall.
Among the latest plaintiffs to join the suit is John Keyse, a USC graduate who was active in campus LGBTQ organizations.
“Today, I know that Dr. Kelly performed my rectal exam in a medically unnecessary way that seemed designed to maximize my embarrassment and discomfort,” Keyse said in a statement released by his attorneys. “As we now know, USC not only failed its male students with Dr. Kelly, but also its female students with Dr. (George) Tyndall. By speaking out today, my goal is to ensure that as USC is reforming its student healthcare system, we end up with a system that is not just acceptable, but that is a national model for what a student healthcare system can be,” Keyse said.
The new complaint specifies that:
“Dr. Kelly was targeting the gay and bisexual male student population, all of whom were young adults and some of whom were visiting the doctor without a parent for the first time, by subjecting them to intrusive and medically unnecessary rectal examinations,” Van Aken said. “Kelly did not treat men he knew to be heterosexual or men who were not interested in men … and did not penetrate their anuses or perform rectal examinations.”
Mikayla Kellogg, partner at Kellogg & Van Aken LLP, also blasted USC for opposing California Assembly Bill 1510, legislation which would allow student survivors of sexual assault one year to bring claims that would otherwise be barred by California’s statute of limitations.
“It is outrageous USC is the lone opponent of AB1510,” Kellogg said. “What is even more appalling is USC’s brazen willingness to disregard the well-being of its own students by hiring a powerful San Francisco lobbying firm to try and kill this bill that is supported by a broad coalition of consumer advocacy groups, women’s groups, and civil rights organizations.”
The lawsuit is only the latest controversy to roil the USC community in the last couple years. In addition to the Tyndall case, the former dean of USC’s Keck School of Medicine, Carmen Puliafito, has been accused of using illegal drugs and associating with criminals, and the school has also been implicated in the nationwide college admissions bribery scandal.
USC’s former president, C. L. Max Nikias, resigned last year amid the fallout from the Puliafito and Tyndall stories.
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