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Advocacy Update

Updated: Nov 22, 2021

CWIM joins calls to Memorial University Medical School to protect students who report racism.

CWIM is joining with multiple organizations and hundreds of signatories to call on Memorial University Medical School to clearly state that they won't allow retribution against a group of students who raised concerns about racism. You can read more about this case here and read our original letter here

Dear Dean Dr. Margaret Steele,

We are deeply concerned by reports of retaliation against medical students by the Memorial University Faculty of Medicine for reporting potentially racist and unprofessional behaviour by Dr. Zachary Kuehner.

As previously reported,1–4 Dr. Kuehner is a medical resident who is a self-proclaimed Islamophobe. In one opinion piece, he called Islam a "racket."5 He also posted an inflammatory anti-Muslim cartoon saying that "Islam is dangerous and, as such, deserves our virulent disrespect."6 Dr. Kuehner has called the Indigenous communities he worked with as a medical student 'dysfunctional' and 'hopeless'. In one article, he referred to Indigenous people travelling to Thunder Bay for “entertainment, school, prison, and aimlessness” as its “cross … to bear,” blaming them for many of the social issues there.

Dr. Kuehner's views on Islam, Indigenous health and the Black Lives Matter movement led several courageous medical students at Memorial University to file a complaint with the Faculty of Medicine.6 Subsequently, Dr. Kuehner was sanctioned by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland and Labrador.4

It was recently brought to our attention7 that the courageous medical students who wrote and supported this complaint are now the subject of a complaint by Dr. Kuehner at the medical school. This development is disturbing, since it shows Dr. Kuehner does not appreciate the gravity of his mistakes. Instead of reconciling with the communities he hurt and the students who helped correct him, Dr. Kuehner is taking steps to retaliate against the students who raised concerns about his conduct.

Even more grave is that the Memorial University Faculty of Medicine is allowing this complaint, giving the regrettable impression that the Faculty is participating in this retaliatory effort. A 2018 report commissioned by the Faculty of Medicine on intimidation, bullying, harassment and sexual harassment cited “fear of reprisal or repercussion” as one of the central reasons why harassment continues at the Faculty.8 Allowing this complaint to continue will damage the Faculty's reputation, as well as create a chilling effect on students who would consider raising concerns in the future. This is especially true as the students' original complaint against Dr. Kuehner appears to have been disallowed on a technicality.

We respectfully ask that you, on behalf of the Memorial University Faculty of Medicine, provide the following assurances:

  1. The students who filed the complaint against Dr. Kuehner are not under investigation;

  2. There is no formal or informal active or pending complaint or investigation against them for taking action against Dr. Kuehner; and

  3. The Faculty of Medicine supports in deeds as well as words these courageous students who complained against a person they saw as undermining the profession.

We believe that you are “very committed to a learning and working environment free of racism, bullying, harassment and sexual harassment,"1 as has been cited in the media. We remain hopeful that your and the Faculty's actions can meet this lofty commitment.

Sincerely,

The undersigned 646 physicians, health care workers, organizations and concerned members of the public:

Dr. Samantha Pomroy, MDSean KennedyYahia ZakariaDr. Munsif Bhimani, MD, CCFPAisha Van Der LooDr. Ioulia Napolskikh, MD, CCFPNigel ChampionAreeba SamiShannon Drisc