Updated: Monday, Nov. 17
Following revelations that he was formally accused of sexual harassment in 2013, former School of Medicine cardiology chief Michael Simons MED ’84 has been removed from his position as director of the Yale Cardiovascular Research Center.
Simons’s removal from his directorship follows his decision not to return as cardiology chief after allegations that he sexually harassed one of his researchers, Annarita di Lorenzo. Although the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, after examining the allegations against Simons, recommended that he be permanently removed from his position at the helm of cardiology, Provost Benjamin Polak chose to suspend Simons for 18 months instead.
However, he remains a tenured professor at Yale, according to School of Medicine Dean Robert Alpern.
According to a Thursday night email addressed to all faculty members of the medical school’s cardiology department, authored by Gary Desir — who is interim chair of the Department of Internal Medicine — Simons’s removal is effective immediately. The email said that the removal came as the result of a prior review of his leadership. It did not mention the sexual harassment charges. However, faculty members interviewed claimed that the process of Simons’s removal did not involve administrative transparency.
Desir’s email also stated that Simons decided in October not to return to his position as chief of cardiology at the end of his suspension in 2015.
According to Desir’s email, Simons’s management of the Cardiovascular Research Center was reviewed from April through August. However, many within the Department of Cardiology said Desir’s email was the first acknowledgement of any investigation into Simons’s conduct and leadership.
Faculty members interviewed expressed frustration with the lack of procedural transparency, claiming the majority of their information regarding the UWC investigation, as well as Simons’s eventual removal, came as the result of widespread news coverage — such as a front-page article in The New York Times on Nov. 1 — and not from University administrators.
“If The New York Times article had not come out, it would just be business as usual,” said an anonymous source from the School of Medicine who wanted their identity protected for fear of retribution. “I find that troubling.”
The source said faculty within the cardiology department had received no official word regarding the UWC investigation or Simons’s subsequent suspension. Rather, the source said faculty were led to believe Simons was taking a leave of absence unrelated to any allegations of misconduct.
“I heard rumors and heard talk of what was going on, but there was never any official explanation,” the source said.
The source noted Desir’s email — the only official communication from the administration — was sent just one day before a second New York Times article reported Simons’s removal.
According to multiple people within the cardiology department interviewed. The two-part independent review of Simons’s leadership included an anonymous online survey sent to department faculty members. Shortly after, select members of the department were brought in for individual interviews conducted by an outside firm.
A source who participated in the online survey and was also brought in for an interview said he was not aware of any particular method used to select faculty members for the interviews, which lasted between 30 minutes and one hour. The source said the survey involved “pretty generic questions about leadership,” such as “does this person have any fatal flaws that would prevent them from holding an effective leadership position?”
Another source, who requested to remain anonymous due to fears of retaliation, expressed relief that recent media coverage exposed what the source described as poor management of the cardiology department under Simons.
According to The New York Times, Desir wrote in an email to medical school administrators earlier this month that he had learned that “[Simons] and a couple of research senior cardiology faculty [had] been pressuring” other faculty to speak in defense of Simons. Desir added that he had already met with some of these faculty who had supposedly been pressured, the Times article stated.
“[The] story is completely untrue,” Simons wrote in an email to the News Friday afternoon. “I never asked anyone to do anything on my behalf.”
Medical school cardiology professor Martin Schwartz said there were a substantial number of Yale and non-Yale faculty who, upon hearing the sexual misconduct allegations, independently contacted Simons, the administration and other members of the research center to show their support for Simons.
Simons became chief of cardiovascular medicine and director of the Yale Cardiovascular Research Center in 2008.