Cobb County

Local doctor suing Wellstar over racial discrimination; attorneys say it’s part of a bigger issue

ATLANTA — A metro Atlanta neurosurgeon says he lost his dream job after a major Atlanta area hospital system and high-ranking doctors there undermined him because of his race.

His attorney told Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne that similar things are happening to African American doctors nationwide.

Now, there’s a federal case over this doctor’s claims. Some of the documents, including the suit itself, appear to have been hidden from public view.

But his lawyer says several groups are looking into a systemic issue involving Black doctors, including one headed by the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Dr. Dare Adewumi said that as a neurosurgeon, he operated on the brain and spine. He alleges that less than a year after he went to work at Wellstar Cobb Hospital, insiders in the Wellstar system were operating against him.

“There I was, a young Black man, a young Black neurosurgeon who was doing well, my surgeries were going well, my career was blossoming, my reputation was blooming, and all of a sudden I received all these letters attacking everything from my character to my surgeries,” Adewumi said. “The way I was being treated was very different from the way my white colleagues were being treated.”

One of his attorneys, CK Hoffler, told Winne that Adewumi is suing Wellstar Medical Group and Wellstar Health Systems Inc. for racial discrimination.

“This is happening during a time when we need doctors, we need Black doctors,” Hoffler said.

But she alleges Adewumi is one of many African American doctors across the country who have been similarly victimized through the use of often-anonymous, subjective internal procedures.

“We have seen a pattern,” Hoffler said.

So much so that medical organizations and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson are investigating.

“Even the playing field. Be fair,” Jackson said about the situation. “Jesus was himself a great physician, born in a manger in a stable outdoors in the wintertime. He wasn’t on anybody’s social register. But look at what he did, went from the manger to the mansion.”

It appears several documents in the case have been sealed and hidden from public view. Wellstar has filed a motion to dismiss requests for public viewing.

William Hill, an attorney representing Wellstar, indicated he’s limited in what he can say but emailed Winne a statement, saying:

“Wellstar does not discriminate. Dr. Adewumi has not been the subject of discrimination or unfair treatment. Patient care and safety are Wellstar’s top priorities.”

“For the first 10 months, things went well. I did roughly 100 surgeries,” Adewumi said.

He said suddenly, he was flooded with letters of inquiry, which are often the result of an anonymous peer review process.

“We had an independent doctor, highly skilled top doctor to review all of the inquiries who concluded that there was no deviation of the standard of care,” Hoffler said.

Adewumi said he was put on a 12-month performance plan and after 11 years of medical training culminating in a brain tumor fellowship at Emory University Hospital, a senior Wellstar doctor treated him like an intern.

“I did everything they asked me to do,” Adewumi said.

But he says before the 12 months was up, Wellstar terminated him.

“(They said) I had done nothing wrong and the termination was because the proper relationships were not fostered,” Adewumi said of what an executive told him.

Adewumi said he has had two good neurosurgery job offers since that didn’t pan out because the incomplete action plan creates a credentialling problem for prospective employers.

“Completely paralyzed him and prevented him from getting another job,” Adewumi said.

“We have an obligation to take public what we’re doing right now, take public the concerns because in a real sense everybody hurts,” Jackson said.

“Let me go back to helping sick people,” Adewumi said.

Hoffler said the suit also names Northside Hospital Inc. because despite excelling there as an independent contractor after the Wellstar termination, Adewumi lost out on a full-time job to an allegedly less-qualified Caucasian doctor.

In a document, Northside lawyers say, “All actions taken by this Defendant with respect to Plaintiff were for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons.”

They asked the suit to be dismissed.