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Black surgeon to get $4.5 million in racial bias suit

Dr. Christian Head of UCLA's medical school alleged that the university failed to prevent discrimination and said he was routinely humiliated.

July 18, 2013|By Stephen Ceasar

Dr. Christian Head, a surgeon at UCLA's medical school, will receive $4.5 million to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit against the UC Board of Regents, the university system announced Thursday.

The agreement settles the lawsuit, filed in April, that accused the university of failing to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation against Head. The head and neck surgeon alleged that he was retaliated against for filing complaints through normal channels and was denied teaching opportunities.

Head, 51, also alleged that he was routinely publicly humiliated and once was depicted as a gorilla being sodomized in a slide show presentation during a resident graduation event.

"The case presented difficult issues of alleged discrimination and retaliation that were strongly contested," the university said in a statement. "…The matter was settled to the mutual satisfaction of the parties."

The regents approved the settlement in a closed-session meeting in San Francisco on Thursday.

During a 2006 event for faculty, staff and graduating medical school residents, a slide show created by the residents — and typically reviewed by staff — included a photo in which Head's face was superimposed on a gorilla that was being sodomized by a department chairman, according to the complaint.

Without admitting fault or liability, the university acknowledged that "an inappropriate slide was shown" and regrets the incident, the statement said.

Dr. Gerald Berke, chairman of the David Geffen School of Medicine's Department of Head and Neck Surgery, and Dr. Marilene Wang were named in the lawsuit and were accused of making "inappropriate racial comments and insinuations about blacks" and Head for years, the court document stated. Both are UCLA physicians and professors.

Neither Berke nor Wang could be reached for comment.

The settlement will be paid through a state general liability fund.

Head, who resigned from his position, could not be reached for comment. His attorneys deferred to the statement released by the university.

Head received his medical degree from Ohio State University in 1993. He joined UCLA's medical school as part of a fellowship in 1994, then worked as an intern in 1996 and began his residency there in 1997.

stephen.ceasar@latimes.com

Times staff writer Larry Gordon contributed to this report.

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