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A gynecologist who treated students at the University of Southern California for decades has been accused of inappropriately touching patients, making sexual and racially insensitive remarks, and taking pictures of patients’ genitals.
On May 15, USC President C.L. Max Nikias released a letter (PDF) announcing the results of an investigation into Dr. George Tyndall, a former gynecologist at the Engemann Student Health Center, who retired in June 2017, amid reports of concerning behavior since at least the 1990s.
The letter indicates that while the University could find no evidence of criminal conduct, Tyndall’s behavior, as reported through the years, was unacceptable and should not have been tolerated for so long.
The official investigation into reports of the USC gynecologist assaulting students and engaging in inappropriate behavior began in 2016, when a nurse went to the campus rape crisis center about what she witnessed. Following a internal review, Tyndall agreed to retire in June 2017.
In a summary of the investigation (PDF), the university’s investigators reveal that Tyndall’s retirement came following a history of questionable behavior, and that previous health directors had received reports raising concerns about Tyndall’s behavior for decades.
Those reports included inappropriate touching, reports of sexual and racially insensitive remarks, and suggestive remarks he made about his patient’s bodies. However, many of the reports were handled in-house through discussions with Tyndall.
Other reported behaviors, such as digital penetration of patients during pelvic exams, were seen as outdated, but not inappropriate actions by other medical professionals the school consulted, according to the report.
USC also indicates that it received reports of Tyndall inappropriately taking pictures of his patients genitals. However, upon obtaining the pictures from his office, they maintain that the photos were clinical in nature, usually involving various progressions of conditions or diseases, and were labeled in a way that the patient could not be identified. However, those findings led the university to hesitate to take stronger action against Tyndall, who threatened the campus with litigation for age and gender discrimination.
Instead of disclosing the years of potential sexual assault, USC quietly forced Tyndall out and did not report the incidents to the California Medical Board.
“We expect much of people entrusted with the wellbeing of our students. While we have no evidence of criminal conduct, we have no doubt that Dr. Tyndall’s behavior was completely unacceptable,” Nikias said in his letter. “It was a clear violation of our Principles of Community, and a shameful betrayal of our values.”
That changed in March, when Tyndall contacted the university, seeking reinstatement. At that time, the university filed a complaint with the California Medical Board, detailing the reports of Tyndall’s behavior.
“In hindsight, we should have made this report eight months earlier when he separated from the university,” Nikias wrote.
The university has since received information from reporters with the Los Angeles Times that there may be more information about Tyndall’s behavior, and the university contacted the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles Police Department.
It is possible that USC may face lawsuits over the sexual assaults and behavior of their employee, as media reports suggest that large numbers of former students and university officials are stepping forward to provide further information about the inappropriate behavior by a doctor put in a position of trust.