Norman Wang, a Pitt cardiologist, has filed a federal lawsuit against the University and the American Heart Association.
Wang authored a scientific article advocating for race-neutral admission and hiring in cardiology. The AHA later retracted the article due to “inaccuracies, misstatements, and selective misreading of source materials” which “void the paper of its scientific validity.” He was removed this summer as program director of the Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology Fellowship.
The lawsuit stated that the University violated Wang’s First Amendment rights and is seeking damages for defamation from UPMC, Pitt, the AHA and several Pitt employees for allegedly claiming Wang misused academic sources. It also asks for Wang to be fully reinstated to his teaching position in the cardiology department.
“As a result of defendants’ actions, a cloud also continues to hang over [Wang’s] reputation and, accordingly, his ability to obtain other employment is constrained,” the lawsuit said.
The Center for Individual Rights, a nonprofit public interest law firm, will represent Wang. Terry Pell, the center’s president, said the actions taken against Wang should concern anybody concerned about academics and free speech regardless of whether it challenges conventional thinking.
“What’s remarkable about this is that he was not punished for an inappropriate joke or an intemperate remark in the classroom, but for publishing a thoroughly researched article in a peer-reviewed journal,” Pell said.
Pitt spokesperson Kevin Zwick said the University is aware of the complaint and will respond appropriately.
“The University of Pittsburgh took no action against Dr. Wang, and we remain fully committed to advancing the value of academic freedom,” Zwick said.
Wang did not respond to a request for comment.
The University is also under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for possibly “improperly targeting … a campaign of denunciation and cancellation” against Wang. The department’s Office of Postsecondary Education sent a letter on Oct. 7 to Chancellor Patrick Gallagher stating that the University’s actions against Wang could have violated Title IV of the Civil Rights Act.
“It did so solely because his academic paper concluded … ‘Ultimately, all who aspire to a profession in medicine and cardiology must be assessed as individuals on the basis of their personal merits, not their racial and ethnic identities,’” the letter said.