OHSU President Danny Jacobs Asks Medical School Dean to Resign Over Handling of Photo-Snapping Doc

“Numerous” staff are angry that Jacobs acted before a review of the incident is finished.

Oregon Health and Science University. (Brian Burk)

(This story has been updated with details from an email that Jacobs sent to OHSU staff this afternoon, comment from David Jacoby’s lawyer, and comment from one of OHSU’s unions.)

Danny Jacobs, president of Oregon Health & Science University, has asked the respected dean of the medical school to resign his post over the way he handled the case of a doctor who allegedly took surreptitious photos of women in class, stirring the ire of some OHSU employees awaiting a promised inquiry into the matter.

Jacobs is purging medical school dean David Jacoby before a lawyer hired to review OHSU’s response to the incident has finished his work. Jacoby co-teaches the class in which Dr. Daniel Marks allegedly took pictures of female students with his smartphone. As dean of the medical school, he also supervises Marks.

The Oregonian first reported Jacobs’ move earlier today.

“People are shocked,” said one OHSU employee who declined to be named for fear of retribution.

In an email sent to staff this afternoon, Jacobs said he asked Jacoby to resign because “Jacoby’s choices over the past several weeks have undermined a confidential process that OHSU, with our Office of Civil Rights Investigations and Compliance, is devoted and dedicated to building and enhancing, and I have lost confidence in his leadership.”

Jacobs didn’t describe those choices, but in January, Jacoby sent a seven-page letter to select staff explaining his role in the scandal, an account that didn’t mesh in all ways with communications from Jacobs.

“When any individual in a leadership capacity prioritizes self-interest over guiding principles of the organization and its well-being, it not only undermines their integrity, but it also casts a long and dark shadow over the very essence of what we must uphold,” Jacobs wrote today. “Such actions are antithetical to the core values that form the bedrock of our community and erode the trust and respect integral to our success.”

The decision to oust Jacoby, who will remain on the faculty, “is for reasons separate and distinct” from the pending review of the Marks matter, Jacobs wrote.

Paul Buchanan, Jacoby’s attorney, said it was “surprising and worrisome that the OHSU president would take this action before the long-promised investigation into the school’s response to the Dr. Marks matter has even gotten underway. Dr. Jacoby was candid with the OHSU community about what happened at this public institution, while protecting the confidentiality of complaining students. Expressly for this reason, Dr. Jacoby was forced to step out of his leadership role.”

On an earlier video call with OHSU staff today, Jacobs defended his decision, saying, “This is the right thing to do.”

Others on the call were skeptical. “I have been texted by numerous angry faculty,” one of the participants said in the Webex chat. “The faculty can’t understand why the process wouldn’t be allowed to play out.”

Jacobs asked staff to keep Jacoby’s ouster secret, a request that rankled others.

“I know we were asked to keep this confidential,” one OHSU employee said. “But I’m feeling at this point, with many people aware already, we just need a little help and guidance here.”

On the video call, Jacobs said that neurosurgeon Nathan Selden would take over as dean of the medical school. Jacoby, a graduate of Princeton University and New York Medical College, had held the post since 2021, when he was named interim dean. The role became permanent in 2022.

“This is a very heavy time,” Selden said on the video call.

Jacoby has been under fire since The Oregonian broke the news of Marks’ alleged photo-taking.

In his letter, Jacoby said he was the first person to hear about the accusations. He expressed remorse about not acting on them sooner, and for not realizing that the alleged picture-taking was sexual in nature.

“Given that there continues to be a great deal of public discussion and concern about my role in responding to concerns about Dr. Marks’s conduct, including statements that, from my perspective, reveal a misunderstanding of my actions and the larger process of OHSU’s response, I thought it would be beneficial to share this statement now, rather than wait to submit it privately to the investigator whenever that process may begin,” Jacoby wrote.

Jacoby disclaimed any responsibility for paying Marks a $46,000 bonus just before Marks was fired, a development first reported by The Oregonian. Eligibility for President’s Recognition Awards, a program first reported by WW, was determined by “(1) being in an eligible position and (2) being employed as of specified dates,” Jacoby wrote.

“None of the communications that I received or saw from the administration and/or HR indicated that the Presidential Award was discretionary or in any way performance based,” Jacoby wrote. “Rather, the eligibility criteria announced by the president and HR were limited to whether employees held specific roles as of particular dates, including deanship roles such as the one held by Dr. Marks.”

Jacobs and Jacoby were at odds over who was responsible for Marks’ bonus.

In a Jan. 19 email to staff, Jacobs wrote: “I have asked for more information from leaders involved about reporting timeliness and actions taken in response, including the decision to approve the presidential recognition award for Dr. Marks. The information I have received at this point is insufficient.”

In today’s email, Jacobs warned against assuming ill intent in his ouster of Jacoby.

“I want to acknowledge that some members may not agree with this decision, and some may believe I have ulterior motives for taking this action,” Jacobs wrote. “I want it to be clear that I have expectations that every OHSU member, including me, will uphold our values in the vision of the culture we are trying to create.”

A union leader at OHSU scolded the institution for mishandling the Marks matter.

“While there has been ample opportunity to reflect on the importance of mandatory reporting, this basic concept appears foreign to our most senior leadership,” AFSCME Local 328 President Jennie Olson said in a statement. “There needs to be a genuine and dramatic shift toward accountability at OHSU, not just window dressing. This is a step in the right direction, however, these sorts of issues continue to occur, which require real and lasting change in order to address and shift the culture.”

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