Founding members of Time’s Up Healthcare are fleeing the anti-discrimination organization en masse over the group’s handling of explosive allegations that a co-founder brushed off complaints of sexual harassment by a co-worker.
At least five co-founders of the activist group, part of the larger Time’s Up organization created during the MeToo movement, announced they were stepping down in the last 24 hours.
“Bravery must be demonstrated at all times even when it’s not popular,” tweeted Dr. Pringl Miller, a general surgeon and hospice and palliative care specialist who helped found the subsidiary in 2019. “If survivors exhibit bravery in coming forward we must meet them in bravery by standing with them.”
The resignations followed the publication of an article in The Oregonian on a sexual harassment lawsuit against former Oregon Health and Science University doctor Jason Campbell, best known for his viral TikTok videos of him dancing in the hospital. The complaint alleges that Campbell sent suggestive messages and photos of his erection to the plaintiff, who worked at the neighboring Veteran’s Affairs hospital, and later crept up on her at work and pushed his erection into her backside. “I just want to hug you from behind without you yelling at me,” he allegedly texted her afterward.
The lawsuit also names Dr. Esther Choo, a professor of emergency medicine at OHSU and founding member of Time’s Up Healthcare, as one of several hospital administrators who failed to appropriately respond to the plaintiff’s complaints. The plaintiff claims Choo—whom the hospital touts as an expert on sexual misconduct—failed to escalate her complaint through the proper channels and later posed with Campbell in pictures and tagged him in laudatory tweets.
A spokesperson for Choo told The Daily Beast that if the litigation moved forward, “documentary evidence will be presented that will paint a picture of Esther’s conduct that is completely different from what has been reported in the press.”
“Throughout her life, Dr. Esther Choo has fought for protecting and supporting the voices of survivors, and she has fought for those values in the healthcare industry for many years,” the spokesperson said. “When [the plaintiff], who at the time was a friend, approached her, Esther acted in a way that was 100 percent consistent with those values, offering to do everything that she could to support her friend, while at the same time respecting her friend’s own agency in making decisions about what to do.”
OHSU said in a statement to local news station KGW that it received a report of sexual harassment on April 17 and removed Campbell from his clinical duties soon after. An internal investigation found the doctor had violated the hospital’s code of conduct and he was dismissed in October. Campbell did not immediately respond to calls and emails seeking comment.
The lawsuit against OHSU was filed in February, but founding members of Time’s Up Healthcare say they did not learn of its existence until The Oregonian broke the story last week. In the following days, founders participated in numerous contentious phone calls discussing how to move forward with the allegations against one of their most prominent members.
Several members, including Dr. Monica McLemore, drafted a proposed statement that would have barred Choo from participating in any activities related to Time’s Up until the litigation was resolved and promised that the organization would “commit to using this case as a learning opportunity to help address future cases and incidents within our own ranks.”
Instead, the organization released a statement on Thursday saying it stood with the survivor “in her decision to share her story,” but emphasized that Choo was neither a defendant nor a party to the case and that it would not be appropriate to comment on an issue pending litigation.
The release of the statement was the final straw for McLemore, who announced her resignation that day.
“We can’t say we center survivors while we’re having a public conversation about what our people did and did not do.” she told The Daily Beast. “That’s a distraction from survivors.”
“Why do we have principles saying we stand with survivors and we believe them if we’re not going to operationalize that?” she added.
Miller, the general surgeon, told The Daily Beast that she had grown frustrated with the organization after it failed to provide resources to several women colleagues facing harassment and discrimination. She, too, decided to resign over the group’s handling of the lawsuit.
“I don’t think you can have your cake and eat it too,” she told The Daily Beast. “I don’t think you can be an organization that says, ‘We stand with survivors and we abhor sexual harassment,’ and then not make changes if someone in you organization is tied to a sexual harassment lawsuit.”
A number of other members apparently agreed. In a statement posted to Twitter Thursday night, founding member Dr. Andrea Lawson wrote that she had resigned from the organization earlier that day, saying she “disagree[d] with the narrative that making no meaningful statement helps to center the story on survivors.” She was later joined by Dr. Lynn Fiellin and Dr. Arghavan Salles, a bariatric surgeon and scholar in residence at Stanford University.
“No social movement is perfect,” Salles tweeted. “And every organization is bigger than one person. I know this work will continue—and I will continue doing it, because I believe we all have a right to safety at work. I just will no longer be doing it under the auspices of TIME’S UP Healthcare.”
Time’s Up has attracted criticism in recent months for not supporting several high-profile women who made complaints of sexual misconduct. Just this week, activists took issue with the organization’s statement calling for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration to investigate the sexual harassment allegations against him, with many pointing out that it would be difficult for an administration to investigate itself.
After being dismissed from OHSU, Campbell reportedly moved to Florida and took a job at the University of Florida College of Medicine, where he was recently placed on administrative leave. His TikTok has since been deleted.
A lawyer for the plaintiff said last week that multiple other women had come forward since the suit was filed to say Campbell had sexually harassed them, too.
Approximately 100 people rallied on OHSU’s campus this week to show their support for the plaintiff, according to KGW.
“For people to finally side with her, listen to her, believe her, it’s incredibly powerful,” her lawyer said.