This week, Dr. Natasha Anushri Anandaraja MD, MPH wrote an op-ed that explains her recent departure from Mount Sinai Health System in New York, one of the most respected medical institutions in the world. She’s worked at the hospital for over 18 years, but now she’s resigning from her role as Director of the Office of Well-Being and Resilience over what she sees as “a culture of bullying and impunity.”
She shared her story on the websites Medium and StatNews, and now it’s spreading all over the internet as medical professionals take a stand against gender discrimination, racism, and sexual harassment. Instead of waiting for these charges to play out in court, Dr. Anandaraja is tired of waiting for change, so she’s taking matters into her own hands.
Filing Suit Against Mount Sinai
It all started with a complaint filed against Mount Sinai Health System back in 2019 for sex, age, and racial discrimination. It singles out four men specifically, including Prabhjot Singh, David Berman, Bruno Silva, and Dennis Charney, the dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
You can read the amended complaint online at Equity Now. It was filed by a group of current and former employees, including physicians, public health practitioners, administrative assistants, and project managers. Online, the group says that their attempts to address these issues using institutional mechanisms failed, so they turned to the courts.
Many former employees said they left Mount Sinai “emotionally and psychologically scarred after being demeaned by male leadership, denied promotions, underpaid compared to male colleagues, and systematically gaslit by internal reporting structures that were meant to protect us.”
Ultimately, these talented providers say these experiences sank their careers. “We believed that our hard work and years of service to the institution would protect us and allow us to be measured on our merits. Instead we struck the ‘iceberg of sexual harassment.’”
Tired of Waiting for Change
However, it’s been 20 months since they filed this complaint, and they say these issues still exist on the ground for women and providers of color. For Dr. Anandaraja, enough is enough.
This week, she resigned from her post to take a stand against workplace discrimination. As she wrote online, “I can no longer walk into an institution that has not only failed to apologize for or right the wrongs that I experienced, but has labeled me a liar for calling out pervasive discrimination.”
She says management tried to gaslight her and the hospital’s 42,000 employees into thinking that the complaint was unfounded. However, since the case went public, she says she has been approached by women from all over the hospital that have experienced sexual harassment, racism, and ageism from their colleagues.
With nowhere else to turn, she says women would often whisper to her in the elevator or hallway, considering it was “dangerous for them to speak out.”
In her post online, she also recalls joining dozens of other providers, mostly those of color, to take a knee on the sidewalk outside the hospital after the killing of George Floyd, the unarmed black man that died in June after being pinned down on the street by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
She says the moment weighed heavily on her and her colleagues, but things got even worse once management stepped in.
“The Mount Sinai PR machine quickly turned this event into a YouTube photo montage, reducing a moment of great weight for Sinai’s BIPOC [Black and Indigenous People of Color] community into a shallow PR ploy. The video features employees who are mostly women and mostly people of color — the very people that Mount Sinai marginalizes and mistreats every day.”
She also says some of the hospital’s board members are connected to Jeffery Epstein, the late billionaire who was convicted of trafficking underage girls for sex. It’s likely that she’s referring to the New York billionaire Glenn Durbin, a trustee of the hospital, who had ties to Epstein before his death behind bars.
Giving Credit Where Credit is Due
Dr. Anandaraja talks about how these problems can put providers and patients at risk. She remembers seeing young, idealistic providers arrive at the hospital at the beginning of their careers, only to leave a few years later “disillusioned and depressed.”
This can be particularly damaging to female providers and those of color who feel their accomplishments often go unnoticed. “I will no longer watch my female and minority colleagues struggle to reach their potential when they should have the wind at their backs.”
She calls out this idea that “change takes time” or that this behavior should be seen as an acceptable trade-off considering the men at the top are keeping the healthcare system solvent. “For the millions of dollars our CEO is paid each year is it too much to expect him to deliver both financial stability AND a humane and safe work environment?”
She believes these men are just standing on the backs of hardworking women and BIPOC that often go unnoticed at work.
“I will no longer watch minimally competent men being propped up by the work of women who will never achieve their male counterparts’ salaries or positions. The world desperately needs the brilliance of women, gender minorities and BIPOC, but our energy is wasted constantly fighting a work culture that values money over people, white lives over black, and men over women.”
As one of the top professionals in her field, she’s using her position to pave the way for other providers like herself. It’s not clear where Dr. Anandaraja will go from here, but she will likely continue using her voice to stand up for those that are mistreated in the medical industry.
Signing off online, she writes, “I refuse to be oppressed any longer. I have too much integrity to be silenced, I have too much talent to be overlooked, and I have too much intelligence to be sidelined.”
If you or someone you know has a story about Mount Sinai, you can share it online on Equity Now and speak with one of the group’s lawyers. We commend Dr. Anandaraja for taking a stand against inexcusable behavior like this. Use your platform to shine a light on racism, ageism, and sexism in the medical industry.