A medical scandal and landmark legal victory over workplace bullying.

Dr. Gabrielle Horne fell in love with the mechanics of the heart as a student. She trained both as a cardiologist and researcher to help people living with heart muscle problems. She quickly build an innovative heart research program, attracting plenty of grant funding. So how did she end up at the centre of a medical scandal?

An older male colleague wanted his name on her cardiology research. When she declined, he wrote secret letters of complaint about her, and enlisted powerful allies in his campaign. The hospital took emergency action, branding her a dangerous doctor. Her research program shut down. She had to sue the hospital to clear her name. It took her 14 years to get to court. All that time the hospital kept her accusers in charge of her working life.

At trial the hospital ran a misogynistic character assassination as a defence, but the jury found the hospital had acted in bad faith or malice. She won the largest damages award in Canadian history for loss of reputation. Her book explores the complex characters that animate this story, and what it took to win.

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Gabrielle Horne is a cardiologist, researcher and writer

She survived and now thrives after experiencing extreme workplace harassment. In June 2016, following a 33-day jury trial, Gabrielle Horne received the largest non-pecuniary damages award in Canadian history, against the hospital where she still works. The hospital became the first Nova Scotian public body to be found guilty of bad faith or malice in a court of law.

She is an associate professor of medicine and biomedical engineering at Dalhousie University, and an attending cardiologist at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax. Prior to 2002, she did research, and is now returning to that world. Throughout her ordeal she cared for patients and taught resident doctors and students. She also co-founded a clinic for patients and families with genes that cause aneurysms. She still coordinates the Maritime Connective Tissue Clinic, and she and her colleagues have won a number of awards for this work.

She is completing an MFA in creative nonfiction at the University of King’s College, and writing a book about her professional and legal experiences.

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Author and Cardiologist Gabrielle Horne

FAQs

FAQs for Canadian physicians and university faculty experiencing workplace harassment

Could I call you to discuss my situation?

I am so sorry that you find yourself in a distressing work situation. I wish I could offer you personal support, but it is really not possible for me to do this. I find it very difficult to listen to stories of harassment.

We are all different, but I personally got the best support from people in my life who were sympathetic to my situation, willing to be there for me when crises arose and able to offer strategic advice, but not themselves embroiled in a workplace battle. Being in such a battle takes so much out of a person that it is hard to consistently be there for others.

Also, I view it as essential to obtain legal advice from a lawyer who specializes in representing employees (see below). It is my hope that hospitals, universities and other employers will learn from my case and stop sponsoring workplace bullying.

I am being harassed and my hospital privileges have been threatened. Can you recommend a lawyer?

I am afraid I cannot recommend a specific lawyer, but one of my former lawyers, who is highly experienced in physician and faculty workplace issues, can recommend someone for you in your area.

Ron Pizzo in Halifax (rpizzo@pinklarkin.com).

If your hospital privileges have been threatened you should contact CMPA. Some physicians report excellent assistance from CMPA in this situation, but not all. I had to retain my own legal counsel.

Where else can I get help?

If you are a Canadian physician and your hospital privileges have been threatened you should contact CMPA. Your hospital Medical Staff Association may be able to help. If you are a university faculty member or a physician with a university affiliation you can reach out to your faculty association or the Canadian Association of University Teachers. If you are a resident physician you can call your provincial resident physician association.

See also links for physicians in crisis.

General FAQs

Do you intend to use real names in your book?

Yes. They are a matter of public record.

Who paid for the hospital lawyers?

Canadian taxpayers footed part of the bill through health care dollars, and the insurance company Aviva Canada (or rather those who buy insurance from this company) paid for the rest, even though the hospital acted in bad faith or malice.

When is your book coming out?

Thanks for your interest! Please sign up for updates here.

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