Doctor Continued to Practice for Decades Despite Inappropriate Behavior
For many years, the medical staff at the University of Southern California complained about the fondling of students during pelvic exams and other inappropriate behavior by gynecologist George Tyndall, who agreed to retire under a separation agreement last summer. Dr. Tyndall began working at the student health center in 1989 and was often the only full-time gynecologist on staff to examine the patients. The university admitted it failed to respond to the accusations of the staff in a timely manner or do anything to stop further issues.
It wasn’t until 2016 that the institution conducted an internal investigation and discovered that not only were the doctor’s exams not up to par, but he repeatedly made racially and sexually offensive remarks to his student patients. This was only after a nurse finally turned to the campus rape crisis center, ultimately leading to Tyndall’s suspension. And, it wasn’t until early in 2018 USC personnel decided to report Tyndall to the California Medical Board. By that time, Tyndall had already written a letter asking for reinstatement and had left his position.
“In hindsight, we should have made this report eight months earlier when he separated from the university,” C. L. Max Nikias, the president of U.S.C., wrote. He added that there had been repeated complaints about Dr. Tyndall dating back to 2000, which “were concerning enough that it is not clear today why the former health center director permitted Tyndall to remain in his position.”
For one, medical assistants who worked with Tyndall reported concerns about his practice of a “digital insertion prior to insertion of a speculum,” the complaint summary stated. Gretchen Dahlinger Means, the university official who directed 2016’s internal investigation also said that Dr. Tyndall often made inappropriate remarks to women such as commenting on their “perky breasts,” “flawless skin” or “intact hymen.” Yet, Tyndall “vigorously defended his practices.” Nikias said, “These comments and his behavior were completely unacceptable and a violation of our values.”
The university consulted two separate external criminal law experts to determine whether Tyndall’s alleged conduct could constitute a crime and “both concluded that there was no criminal activity to report.” An investigation focused on the alleged racial comments Tyndall made did not find “conclusive evidence of a policy violation,” according to a summary from university officials.
At the time, “interviews yielded mixed opinions.” One patient said Tyndall “gave me the skeevies,” while another said he made them feel “uncomfortable,” with a third condemning him as “unprofessional.” Yet, some “loved” working with him.
Nikias went on to explain, “While we have no evidence of criminal conduct, we have no doubt that Dr. Tyndall’s behavior was completely unacceptable. It was a clear violation of our Principles of Community, and a shameful betrayal of our values.”
He wrote further, “We understand that any unacceptable behavior by a health professional is a profound breach of trust. On behalf of the university, I sincerely apologize to any student who may have visited the student health center and did not receive the respectful care each individual deserves.”