Enhancing Policies to Protect Patients
To the Campus Community:
Our university’s first and highest obligation is to the communities we serve. Today we write about our solemn responsibility for the safety of our patients. In June of last year, we wrote to you that a former physician had been criminally charged with sexual battery in connection with his practice at UCLA Health. We also shared that Chancellor Block had called for an independent review of how UCLA Health and the Arthur Ashe Student Health & Wellness Center respond to allegations of sexual misconduct by medical professionals.
The review, conducted by a special committee on behalf of the University of California Board of Regents, was also asked to make recommendations on additional policies and procedures to prevent, identify and address sexual misconduct.
As the Regents have directed, and guided by the principles of transparency, accountability, fairness and devotion to our patients, the report resulting from the review has been made publicly available. A copy of the report is available online.
In the course of its review, the special committee looked at how UCLA responded to allegations made against five former physicians, three within the UCLA Health enterprise and two at the Ashe Center. The incidents described in this report are deeply upsetting and reflect alleged conduct that is completely antithetical to our values. Deriving lessons from these incidents, the report recommends further steps to prevent, detect and respond to allegations of sexual misconduct by a clinician. We are grateful to the committee for its work.
The physicians named in the report are Dr. James Heaps, about whom we wrote to you last year; Dr. Mark Weissman, a former internist at Toluca Lake Health Center, a UCLA-owned clinic, who was affiliated with UCLA from 2014 to 2018; Dr. Steven Weinstein, a former surgeon at UCLA’s Northridge Clinic from November 2015 through February 2017; Dr. Edward Wiesmeier, a former OB/GYN affiliated with UCLA (and the Medical Staff) from 1974 until his retirement in 2007, who served as assistant vice chancellor for student health between 1981 and 2006; and Dr. Dennis Kelly, a former part-time associate physician at the Student Health Center specializing in men’s health, from 1980 to 2002.
The report is accompanied by a letter from the special committee chair, the Honorable Carlos Moreno, who submitted the report to UC Board of Regents Chair John Pérez and UC President Janet Napolitano. In it, he notes that UCLA Health, the Ashe Center and the UC system leadership have already taken many steps to address the issues discussed in the report.
We remain committed to rapidly enacting policies and procedures to protect patients. Certain changes, though not all, were underway at UCLA Health and the Ashe Center months before allegations against Dr. James Heaps came to our attention, and when we learned of those allegations, we responded decisively to implement even broader improvements.
Last year, the University of California issued directives and guidance to prevent, detect and address sexual misconduct. UCLA Health and the Ashe Center have already taken actions to incorporate those directives and follow that guidance, such as creating new web-based information resources, which are being implemented this year. As additional best practices have emerged from UC guidance and the special committee’s report, we have and will continue to incorporate them into the policies and procedures we adopt at UCLA.
You understandably may want additional information on changes that have been made at UCLA Health in recent years. Examples of measures UCLA Health implemented before the special committee convened include:
- changing staff reporting structures to further facilitate reporting of suspected misconduct;
- updating and enhancing chaperone policies for sensitive exams and procedures, including the expanded use of chaperones in more clinical settings and the rotation of chaperones between clinicians;
- improving professionalism and incident reporting training for our staff, including 2,717 employees and 848 chaperones;
- enhancing patient education and feedback mechanisms;
- establishing a dedicated UCLA Health Title IX investigator; and
- deploying enhanced due diligence and credentialing processes for trainees, faculty recruits and practice acquisitions.
We also have taken significant actions at the Ashe Center to enhance the ways we protect our patients from sexual harassment, including sexual violence or sexual misconduct. We care deeply about the students and patients who depend on the Ashe Center to deliver high quality care in the safest and most secure environment possible. We are grateful for the special committee’s recommendations that will help guide and build upon the significant changes implemented at the Ashe Center before the special committee convened, which include:
- updating the chaperone policy to require a chaperone for all sensitive exams, annual training for chaperones and rotation of chaperones between clinicians;
- enhancing patient feedback mechanisms and developing new policies and protocols to more quickly assess and respond to patient feedback;
- providing extensive and regular training for all Ashe Center staff on sexual violence and harassment prevention, maintaining professional boundaries, incident reporting and peer review;
- implementing a robust structure for peer review that provides for ongoing and focused professional practice evaluation; and
- requiring all medical and allied health providers working within the Ashe Center to apply for appointment upon hire and reappointment every three years thereafter.
Amidst these changes and recommendations, we make this commitment to you: We will not tolerate sexual violence or harassment in any form. Allegations of sexual misconduct by any health care provider will be promptly investigated, and appropriate actions will be taken to ensure our patients are safe, protected and respected.
Information and resources on preventing and reporting sexual misconduct at UCLA Health can be found on the UCLA Health website, and for the Ashe Center on its website. UCLA has partnered with a trusted third-party resource called Praesidium, which has extensive experience in providing and connecting patients with support services. We encourage any patients with complaints or concerns to contact Praesidium at 888-961-9273. Reports of misconduct will be handled with the utmost care.
We express our gratitude to the brave individuals who shared information that has aided the special committee and the ongoing process of ensuring our patients’ safety. We are deeply sorry that any of our patients were mistreated in the course of care. Our goal is to provide the best patient experience with every patient, every encounter, every time. As we move forward, we remain committed to providing top quality care that respects the dignity of every patient.
Gene D. Block
Monroe Gorden, Jr.
Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs
Vice Chancellor, UCLA Health Sciences
CEO, UCLA Health