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Bruins in Paris

Former UCLA medical student sues UCLA Health, LA County for discrimination

UCLA Health (pictured) is involved in a lawsuit alleging a former UCLA medical student experienced discrimination based on race and gender. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Sharla Steinman

June 8, 2023 12:42 a.m.

A former UCLA medical student filed a lawsuit June 1 against the UC Board of Regents, UCLA Health, the University of Southern California and Los Angeles County alleging she was discriminated against on the grounds of race and disability.

Dr. Melani Cargle, who attended the David Geffen School of Medicine from 2015 to 2020, additionally sued the university and county in the LA Superior Court on the basis of failure to provide reasonable disability accommodations, alleging that she was denied these by USC, the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the county. She also sued on the basis of sexual harassment, claiming in the lawsuit that her supervisor at UCLA made inappropriate comments toward her, colleagues and patients.

Cargle is also suing the regents, USC and the county on the basis of retaliation in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, which is a law that provides employees with protection from discrimination, retaliation and harassment.

According to the complaint, during Cargle’s first year at medical school, a psychiatrist diagnosed her with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In 2020, she became an orthopedic resident at the Keck School of Medicine, which required her to become an LA County employee to work in its facilities.

In the lawsuit, Cargle alleged that while attending USC and working in the county’s hospitals, she experienced discrimination based on her disability.

The lawsuit also alleged that Cargle was denied accommodations for her disability at USC.

For example, she said in the complaint that the chief resident often reprimanded her style of patient charting, even though it helped her manage her ADHD.

USC and LA County terminated Cargle from her residency program in September because of alleged unprofessional and unethical conduct toward patients and co-workers, according to the complaint.

Cargle also alleged that while working in the orthopedic surgery rotation at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance in 2019, her supervisor made inappropriate sexual comments to her and others while in surgery. She also claimed the supervisor carried a firearm around the center.

According to the lawsuit, Cargle filed a whistleblower complaint to the medical center. However, no one followed up with her, and the supervisor never faced any consequences, according to the complaint.

The county notified Cargle in May 2022 that her claims against her supervisor were closed through a notice from the LA County Department of Human Resources, according to the lawsuit.

UCLA Health did not respond in time to a request for comment.

Representatives for Cargle declined a request for comment.

Contributing reports from Matthew Royer, city and crime editor.

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Sharla Steinman | City and Crime Editor
Steinman is the 2023-2024 city and crime editor. She was previously a city and crime contributor. She is also a fourth-year political science student.
Steinman is the 2023-2024 city and crime editor. She was previously a city and crime contributor. She is also a fourth-year political science student.
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