The University of Pittsburgh has been removed from a lawsuit by Norman Wang, a School of Medicine professor who penned a controversial white paper that criticized the effectiveness of affirmative action efforts in the medical field.
The article was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in March 2020. The paper resurfaced in August 2020 to heavy criticism from cardiologists, and the JAHA retracted the paper that month saying that it did not represent the organization's values. In response to the backlash against the paper, UPMC removed Wang from his position as program director of the UPMC Electrophysiology Fellowship in August.
Wang, who filed the lawsuit in December 2020, claimed Pitt, UPMC, the American Heart Association, the University of Pittsburgh Physicians group (UPP), which is owned by UPMC, and three doctors who work for UPMC and teach at Pitt violated his First Amendment rights, and also claimed defamation for statements allegedly claiming Wang misused academic sources. He also sued the American Heart Association and Wiley Publications, which publishes JAHA online.
In December 2021, U.S. District Judge Marylyn J. Horan for the Western District of Pennsylvania dismissed most of the claims from the lawsuit but allowed Wang to file amended complaints on some charges.
In dismissing the allegations against Pitt, the court’s opinion in 2021 said several times that the actions taken by UPP and the doctors were taken under their role as UPMC physicians, not as faculty in the School of Medicine.
Pitt has repeatedly said that the actions taken against Wang were done by UPMC, which has been a separate legal entity from the University of Pittsburgh since 1998.
In this third amended complaint, Wang argued that the adverse employment actions taken against him reflect an official University policy that was directed or approved by a final decision-maker. Pitt argued that it cannot be held vicariously liable for the actions of its employees
In an Aug. 31 ruling, Horan agreed with Pitt and dismissed the University entirely from the case, giving Wang no option to amend his charges again.
The remaining defendants — UPMC and the three doctors, Mark Gladwin, Samir Saba and Kathryn Berlacher — will have an initial case management conference on Oct. 5.
— Susan Jones
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