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Medical Students & Survivors Demand Columbia U. Notify All Patients of Jailed OB-GYN Sex Abuse Record

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On Wednesday, hundreds of medical students and sexual assault survivors of former university obstetrician Robert Hadden protested at Columbia University’s campus calling for accountability during the inauguration ceremony of the university’s first woman president. We speak with medical students and survivors demanding Columbia take action to notify all former patients of Hadden about his previous sexual assault convictions by the November 23 deadline of New York’s Adult Survivors Act. “Wouldn’t you want to know if your OB-GYN had sexually assaulted 500 other patients?” asks survivor and activist Evelyn Yang, who has been sharing her experience publicly since 2020.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

Here in New York, as Minouche Shafik made history Wednesday when she became the first woman to be inaugurated president of Columbia University, the ceremony was protested by well over a hundred medical students wearing their white coats, who joined with survivors of sexual abuse by the former Columbia obstetrician-gynecologist Robert Hadden. Dr. Hadden was sentenced to 20 years in prison this year for molesting his patients for over two decades, while Columbia ignored his patients who spoke out, undermined prosecutors, shielded the sexual predator.

SIMRAN CHAND: I’m Simran Chand. I’m a second-year medical student. And we’re here to spread awareness about what’s happened with Dr. Robert Hadden and the cover-up that Columbia has perpetuated for the past several decades. It’s honestly disgusting, and we’re here to demand accountability by our institution and to show that, as future medical professionals, we will not stand for this, and we want to make our voices heard.

PROTESTERS: You protected Robert Hadden! You protected Robert Hadden! You protected Robert Hadden! You protected Robert Hadden! Notify the patients! Notify the patients!

LIZ HALL: Liz Hall. One of the reasons we are here today, to notify the patients, is because after November 23rd, victims of Robert Hadden — and there are thousands — will not be able to get justice or hold Columbia University accountable. They have been silent this entire time. I was a patient from 2002 to 2012, and I had to find other resources and survivors myself. And luckily, some other women have seen me in the news, and that is the only reason why they know of Robert Hadden in jail.

AMY GOODMAN: Another Dr. Hadden survivor who joined the medical students at the protest was Evelyn Yang. She’s the wife of the former presidential candidate Andrew Yang. She has said Hadden sexually abused her during her first pregnancy in 2012.

EVELYN YANG: As soon as I walked through the gates, there were hundreds of medical students in their white lab coats in the aisles, in the walkways, on the lawns. And they were just spreading the word about how Columbia has still failed to notify Dr. Robert Hadden patients that he is a convicted sex felon. So, I was overwhelmed with just, you know, appreciation that they would take on this cause.

And I realize it’s not necessarily for us, for the survivors of Dr. Hadden, although it is very much in support of us, because, you know, we were harmed by him, and we believe that there are still hundreds, if not thousands, of Hadden patients who still do not know that he is a convicted sex offender or sex predator, and they deserve to know. I mean, wouldn’t you want to know if your OB-GYN had sexually assaulted 500 other patients?

But I also think that it’s especially meaningful that these are medical students, because the prosecutors called Dr. Hadden a “predator in a white coat.” So they’re walking around protesting, wearing their white coats, because, you know, they are going to swear an oath of no harm. And the harm in this case wasn’t just perpetrated by Dr. Hadden; it was perpetrated by the university. So, the exposé in ProPublica exposed how they had covered up for him and enabled him for decades. And that’s really, perhaps, an even bigger betrayal. And I came today to really support the students and the community and their call for action.

AMY GOODMAN: Everyone was chanting “Notify the patients.” Why is that so significant in this year?

EVELYN YANG: So, it’s significant because of the Adult Survivors Act, that I, along with other survivors, fought very hard to pass, which opens up a lookback window regardless of the statute of limitations. If you are a sexual assault survivor in the state of New York, you have until November 23rd, 2023, to file a claim. And that window is closing soon. So, Columbia has an an opportunity now, especially with a new president, to turn the page, to show that they care about patients, they care about the community in a meaningful way, backed with action. And if they can notify patients, then patients have a — they have a chance to, you know, take some action.

AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of this being the inauguration of the first woman president of Columbia University?

EVELYN YANG: Well, President Shafik, she has a gynecologist. She knows how vulnerable it is to sit in that chair and to, you know — and she knows — she knows what it’s like to be a woman, to be subjected to that, regularly. And it wouldn’t cross your mind to be violated by a doctor in that way. And she has a chance to reduce the harm that the previous administration perpetrated. And we are very disappointed that, to date, she seems to be taking a page from the old playbook. And she’s giving us a lot of, you know, “We’re sorry that you were hurt. We’re heartbroken for you,” but she has still failed to take any meaningful action to notify the patients or commission a third-party independent investigation into the cover-up that led to Hadden abusing women for over 20, 30 years.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Evelyn Yang, one of the first to speak out against Dr. Hadden. I spoke to Evelyn Yang as the first woman president of Columbia University was being inaugurated.

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300+ More Sex Abuse Survivors Sue Columbia U. & Jailed OB-GYN Robert Hadden

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