Four women, all named as Jane Doe in court documents, have filed suit against the University of Southern California, accusing the college of hiding for years the fact that a staff gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall, has been sexually abusing students.
Tyndall, who is also named as a defendant in the case, denies the claims, maintaining that his gynecological examinations are “appropriate and thorough,” Law and Crime writes.
USC Gynecologist Accused Of Student Sexual Abuse
Dr. George Tyndall served as USC’s only full-time gynecologist for almost 30 years, working mainly from the campus’ Engemann Student Health Center. He resigned, after treating tens of thousands of women, in the summer of 2017 with a significant severance package, following a complaint to the USC rape crisis center. Staff at the health center were not told of Tyndall’s resignation; they just noticed, weeks later, that his possessions had been taken from his office.
USC Concealed Tyndall’s Misconduct, Survivors Claim
But assault survivors and journalists, including Harriet Ryan, Matt Hamilton and Paul Pringle at the Los Angeles Times, say top administrators knew about Tyndall’s alleged abuse for years.
Beginning in the 1990s, nurses at the university’s health center complained that the doctor was taking inappropriate photographs of students’ genitals. Reports of his “creepy behavior” continued to emerge over the years, as complaint after complaint described inappropriate touching and sexual comments during gynecological exams.
Doctors Dispute Tyndall’s Gynecological “Techniques”
Tyndall performed “full body” scans of his patients, other clinic workers say, meticulously scrutinizing every inch of a student’s body while describing their skin as “flawless,” “beautiful” or “creamy,” the LA Times writes.
He commented on students’ breasts and used his fingers at the beginning of exams to “evaluate” whether his speculum would fit inside a student’s vagina. Tyndall says he was checking for vaginismus, a medical condition that can made pelvic exams deeply uncomfortable. Dr. Sangeeta Mahajan, an expert in pelvic pain, told the LA Times that “a gynecologist moving his fingers in and out a patient [was] ‘very odd’ and ‘creepy.’ “
With virgin students, he would comment on their hymens, saying, “Don’t worry about it, your boyfriend’s gonna love it,” former co-workers claim. And, in one of the most bizarre allegations against Tyndall, he even asked to keep a patient’s IUD after removing it.
University Allegedly Retaliates Against Nurse Reporter
In their new legal complaint, the four plaintiffs accuse the University of Southern California of hiding Tyndall’s misconduct for nearly 3 decades, even retaliating against the nurse who reporting the gynecologist’s inappropriate behavior.
Soon after she went to the school’s rape crisis center, the woman, Cindy Gilbert, found that a recent promotion offer had been revoked. Many of Gilbert’s colleagues believe that she lost the opportunity because she’d chosen to speak out.
USC Botched Assault Investigation, Former Patients Say
The school followed up on her report, at least nominally. The complaints against Tyndall were forwarded to the USC Office of Equity and Diversity, where an investigator held interviews with several health clinic employees and one of the doctor’s patients.
But both Gilbert and Tyndall himself say they were never contacted by the investigator. And the investigation’s findings, that Tyndall was “creepy” to some but others had a positive impression of the gynecologist, were inconclusive, not enough to constitute a violation of USC policy.
Health Clinic Director Cracks Down, But Keeps Doc Employed
Lawrence Neinstein, the clinic’s executive director, told Tyndall that he couldn’t lock his office door during examinations anymore. The administrator, who died in 2016, had barred Tyndall from using a camera in the exam room several years earlier. A review of Neinstein’s records discovered 8 complaints filed against Tyndall between 2000 and 2014, including reports of his making “racially insensitive” remarks to black and Latino students.
USC disclosed the reports on Tuesday, May 15, 2018, saying “several of the complaints were concerning enough that it is not clear today why the former health center director [Neinstein] permitted Tyndall to remain in his position.”
Tyndall Allowed To Resign With Hefty Payout
The end finally came for Tyndall in 2016, when employees at the clinic discovered a box in one of the doctor’s cabinets. The box contained images of students’ genitals, dating from 1990 and 1991. The box was confiscated and Tyndall, who was on vacation at the time, was told not to come back to work.
Each of the lawsuit’s four plaintiffs say they were inappropriately touched during gynecological exams in Tyndall’s office. In court records, the women describe horrific scenes of sexual abuse and harassment in graphic terms, recounting repeated violations. And Tyndall’s abrupt “disappearance” from the campus health center has a simple explanation, the plaintiffs claim.
California State law obligates medical facilities to report suspensions and disciplinary actions taken against physicians. By framing Tyndall’s exit as a resignation, the plaintiffs write, the University of Southern California had no duty to inform the State, which would have prompted an investigation.
USC Admits To Error Of Judgment
USC has spoken to this issue, saying that, as a university, it wasn’t obligated to report Tyndall’s “resignation” at the time. But the school has admitted that it made a mistake. “In hindsight,” the university wrote in a statement, “while not legally obligated, USC now believes it should have filed a consumer complaint with the Medical Board earlier in 2017 when Tyndall resigned.” The university no longer believes that Tyndall should be allowed to practice medicine.