The University of Rochester is facing a lawsuit from a physician-scientist who says she was forced out of the institution's medical center for advocating for research time and access to her own grant funds. The federal complaint, filed by Rupal Mehta, says that her former supervisor in pathology promised during the recruitment process that he would honor National Institutes of Health grant conditions requiring protection of 75 percent of Mehta’s time for research. Upon arrival at Rochester, however, Mehta says she was required to spend 50 to 75 percent of her time handling clinical duties because of “gross understaffing in the department and egregious mismanagement and lack of adequate systems to ensure that autopsies and other clinical work” happened on time and efficiently.
Mehta says the medical center also reassigned her grant funding to another financially struggling research center, and that two years of attempts to advocate for herself and her research resulted in retaliation -- including her nonrenewal in 2018. Mehta, who is now an assistant professor at Rush University, is seeking a jury trial, possible reinstatement and damages. She says she was also harassed by her supervisor at Rochester, who allegedly told her multiple times to "suck it" and advised her to date more senior physicians at the medical center.
B. Chip Partner, spokesperson for the medical center, said it will respond to Mehta’s claim through the legal process. The University of Rochester also has “policies and procedures in place to ensure compliance with all grant requirements of the National Institutes of Health and other sources of research funding,” he added. “URMC physician faculty members are “routinely expected to support the patient care needs of our community, in a manner consistent with all grant requirements and their areas of clinical expertise.”