August 22, 2000
Seeking justice against sexual harassment
I am an Iranian medical doctor. I began practicing as an MD in 1985
in Iran. Then I left and came to the U.S., where my problem began. I am
writing for help from Iranians who can assist me.
What happened to me at the University of Nebraska Medical Center was
an obvious case of gross discrimination against me as a woman and as an
Iranian. The program director took sexual advantage of me.
Many people, when they hear about sexual harassment, automatically think,
"Oh, she's just trying to make money." I swear to everything
I believe in that I don't want any money. All I want is justice. It has
been four years and the emotional pain is beyond description. If it wasn't
for the values I believe in and for what my parents taught me, I would
have been far gone by now.
On January 6th, 1997 when I received the letter of termination I went
to my apartment. It was freezing cold and snow everywhere. I cried for
three days. I had two choices: Commit suicide or reveal what had happened
to me. Being a woman from Iran, it was so hard for me to reveal to anyone
that I had been sexually harassed. I called my mother in Iran. It was her
voice that prevented me from taking my life. I called an attorney and told
him my story:
I was accepted to the anesthesia residency program. The program director
Dr. Gray Hill made some phone calls to find a program that may train me
for the first year as required by the board. The pediatric program under
the direction of Dr. Terence L. Zack accepted me. It was July 26th 1996.
I was supposed to start August the first. From the beginning the program
the director was chasing me down every where I went. He constantly asked
me to go out with him. He paged me days and nights. I didn't refuse or
reject his requests. I was scared. I didn't know what I should I do.
On one occasion during a closed-door, half-dark exam room he touched
me. It was August 23rd, 1996, around five in the afternoon in the pediatrics
clinic, on 6th floor of St. Joseph Hospital. After that he kept putting
pressure on me. He said if I don't comply with his request I will be in
trouble. He put me on probation. I didn't receive his probation letter
until the first week of October. Again he threatened me several times that
I will be in trouble. Meanwhile he had turned the everyone against me.
No resident would talk to me . The professors looked at me and treated
me differently. I was isolated.
January 6th 1997, I was terminated from my position for unsatisfactory
academic performance. Since then I have been fighting to survive, financially
and emotionally. Then I met some other Iranians who lived in Omaha. They
told me terrible stories. UNMC had a long history of scrutinizing Iranians.
Four other Iranian doctors had not finished their education because of
the negative atmosphere.
After I contacted my first attorney the university held a hearing for
me. Even I had told my attorney to bring up the issue of sexual harassment,
he didn't. I dismissed him and looked for another attorney. Each of them
had an excuse, or they asked me to deposit $50,000. My salary at UNMC was
$1,900 per month which barely covered my expenses. Finally I found an attorney
who said he will accept my case on the base of %40 of whatever he can get
from the hospital. But he looked at this case as a business. What he meant
was that he will do nothing -- if the hospital offered something, he would
then get %40 of it.
A few months later the chancellor of UNMC had an interview with the
local newspaper, World Herald. He admitted that during their internal
investigation the hospital found some cases of sexual harassment and those
involved had been dismissed. Dr. Terence L. Zach lost his job as a program
director, but I was not given my position back nor compensated.
I filed a law suit through my attorney Vincent Power. UNMC attorneys
did every thing they could to cover up. on January 2000 my case was dismissed
by judge William G. Cambridge before even going to a trial or even hearing
what I had to say. I asked for an appeal, however, I have no faith in my
attorney. He is incompetent. But I have no other choice. Only one thing
has kept me alive during these very hard four years and that is justice.
Dr. Zach ruined my reputation to the degree that I have not been able
to get into another residency program. He ruined my life. I sincerely ask
for help from any one who can get me through this unfair battle. The pain
is terrible . There is only one remedy: Justice.