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AHMAD v. NASSAU HEALTH CARE CORPORATION

November 12, 2002

SYED T. AHMAD, PLAINTIFF
V.
NASSAU HEALTH CARE CORPORATION, ANTHONY ANGELO AND JACOB SOKOL, DEFENDANT(S).



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas C. Platt, United States District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Before this Court is a motion by defendants Nassau Health Care Corporation, Anthony Angelo, and Jacob Sokol (hereinafter collectively "Defendants") for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, dismissing the Complaint of Syed T. Ahmad in its entirety on the grounds there are no genuine issues of material fact for trial.

For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is GRANTED in full, and Defendants are awarded their costs.

BACKGROUND

The facts are derived from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 Statements and are not in dispute except as noted.

Plaintiff Syed Ahmad, M.D. ("Dr. Ahmad" or "Plaintiff") was terminated from his employment with defendant Nassau Health Care Corporation ("NHCC") on February 16, 2000. In this action, Dr. Ahmad alleges that his termination from NHCC was discriminatory based on his race, national origin (Pakistani), and religion (Muslim) in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII") and the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. L. § 296 ("NYSHRL"). Defendants deny any discriminatory action against Plaintiff and assert that Dr. Ahmad's termination occurred only after a determination by defendants Anthony Angelo ("Dr. Angelo") and Jacob Sokol ("Dr. Sokol") that Plaintiff intentionally withheld material information from his re-credentialing application for medical staff privileges in order to conceal accusations of negative professional conduct.

NHCC is a public benefit corporation with its principal offices located in Nassau County, New York. Effective September 29, 1999, various healthcare facilities and operations previously owned and operated by Nassau County were transferred to NHCC. Among those facilities transferred was the Nassau University Medical Center ("the Medical Center"), formerly the Nassau County Medical Center. From September 29, 1999 until his termination in February 2000, NHCC was Plaintiffs employer.

Plaintiff Dr. Ahmad is originally from Pakistan, is non-white, and is of the Muslim faith. He is a duly licensed physician in the State of New York and has been so licensed since 1993. In or about October 1994, Dr. Ahmad commenced employment as a full-time salaried physician in the Medical Center's Center of Primary Care ("COPC"). COPC is an outpatient primary care clinic that is located within the Medical Center. Plaintiff remained employed as a full-time Attending Internist in COPC during his entire employment at NHCC. His duties included attending to patients on the hospital floor, in nursing homes, and in satellite clinics.

Defendant Dr. Jacob Sokol was born in Germany and is of the Jewish faith. Dr. Sokol was at all relevant times the Chair of Ambulatory Services, of which COPC is a part. Plaintiffs supervisor, Dr. Bella Silecchia ("Dr. Silecchia"), reported directly to Dr. Sokol. There is disagreement between the parties as to whether or not Dr. Sokol was the Medical Center official who hired Plaintiff. Defendants claim Dr. Sokol interviewed Dr. Ahmed and recommended that he be hired. Plaintiff contends he was interviewed by Dr. Silecchia and Dr. Sokol, but it was Dr. Faroque Kahn ("Dr. Kahn") — the Chair of the Department at the time Plaintiff was hired — who made the final decision to hire Plaintiff.

Defendant Dr. Anthony Angelo was born in the United States and considers himself to be a Roman Catholic Caucasian. Dr. Angelo was at all relevant times the Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs at the Medical Center. Dr. Sokol reported directly to Dr. Angelo.

During his tenure at COPC, Plaintiff was a salaried employee of the Medical Center and therefore a credentialed member of the medical staff.*fn1 Pursuant to Section 2805-k of the New York Public Health Law, before granting or renewing medical staff privileges, a hospital is required to request, and the physician is required to provide, certain information. That information includes: the name of any other hospital or facility at which the physician has or had privileges or with which the physician was otherwise associated; the reason for any discontinuation of such association, if applicable; any misconduct proceedings or malpractice actions pending against the physician; and a verification by the physician that the information provided is true and accurate. N.Y. Pub. Heath L. § 2805-k(l)(a)-(c). The hospital must then request from every hospital identified by the physician, information regarding professional misconduct proceedings or malpractice actions, judgments, or settlements or any other incidents of possible professional misconduct. Id. At the Medical Center, physicians applying for medical staff privileges must fill out a Medical Staff Re-Appointment Application. Physicians must be re-credentialed every two years.

On or about October 5, 1999, in accordance with the Medical Center's procedures, Dr. Ahmad submitted to the Medical Staff Office an application for renewal of his medical staff privileges ("1999 Application"). Defendants claims that Plaintiff intentionally misrepresented information on his 1999 Application and these misrepresentations led to Plaintiff's dismissal in February 2000.

The first page of the application states: "list all other hospitals at which you are a member of the Medical Staff or where you were a member within the past ten (10) years." Plaintiff listed only Mercy Medical Center, Island Medical Center, and Franklin Hospital m response to this question.
On the second page of the application, Question No. 7 asks: "Has your association, employment practice or privileges in any hospital or institution ever been relinquished, suspended, diminished, revoked, or modified in any other manner?" Plaintiff originally answered "No" to this question but scratched out his "No" answer and responded "Yes."
The top of the second page of the application states: "If the answers to any of the following questions is `Yes', please provide us with details on separate sheet(s) of paper." Despite answering "Yes" to Question No. 7, Plaintiff did not provide further explanation, as required by the application.

Pursuant to § 2805-k(2), the Medical Staff Office sent letters to the three hospitals Dr. Ahmad had listed on page one of the 1999 Application — Mercy, Island, and Franklin — seeking confirmation of the status of Dr. Ahmed's privileges at those hospitals. All three hospitals provided the Medical Center with information regarding Plaintiff's privileges.

In December 1999, the Medical Staff Office noted that Dr. Ahmad had answered "Yes" to Question 7 but failed to provide the requisite explanation for his answer. On December 7, 1999, Dr. Gerald Mondschein, the Chairman of the Medical Staff Credentials Committee, sent a letter to Dr. Ahmad asking him to explain his response to Question 7. On December 16, 1999, Dr. Ahmad sent a letter to Dr: Mondschein which stated that, as a result of a negative outcome relating to his treatment of a patient at Southside Hospital ("Southside") in October 1998, Plaintiff had been asked to leave the hospital. Dr. Ahmad also stated in his December 16 letter that the Southside incident was reported to and investigated by the New York State Office of Professional Medical Conduct ("OPMC") and that "no action" had been taken against Plaintiff.*fn2 Dr. Ahmad failed to list Southside on the first page of the 1999 Application when asked at which hospitals he had been a member of the medical staff during the past ten (10) years. Plaintiff claims that at the time he believed he was only required to list those hospitals at which he was then active.

Southside had in fact terminated Dr. Ahmad's employment and medical staff privileges effective December 8, 1998, following an October 1998 incident with a patient of Dr. Ahmad's. Shortly thereafter, Southside reported this occurrence to OPMC. In connection with OPMC's investigation of the incident at Southside, Plaintiff received a document from OPMC stating, in boldface: "Licensees should never assume an OPMC investigation is closed because they haven't had recent contact with OPMC." (Defs.' Ex. F.)

On or about February 7, 2000, Dr. Ahmad received a letter from OPMC] stating it had completed its investigation into the incident at Southside and had determined that Plaintiff's involvement merited an Administrative Warning. The February 7 letter instructed Dr. Ahmad to appear before OPMC on March 16, 2000 to receive his Administrative Warning in person.*fn3 This notification from OPMC regarding the results of the Southside investigation was received by Plaintiff approximately four (4) months after Plaintiff filled out the 1999 Application, and only a few weeks before he was fired from NHCC. Plaintiff completed the 1999 Application less than a year after Southside had rescinded his medical privileges. Moreover, although Plaintiff had stated in his December 16, 1999 letter to Dr. Mondschein ...


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