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U of M Staff heard about Anderson’s sexual misconduct with patients as soon as his employment began, but nobody investigated him, allowing him to abuse patients for 37 years.

” Over the course of his thirty-seven years as a University employee, Dr. Anderson engaged in sexual misconduct with patients on countless occasions.”  This is one of WilmerHale’s findings after being hired by the University of Michigan to investigate claims that U of M physician Robert Anderson was sexually abusing patients.  In their report, WilmerHale investigators noted that they used the term “sexual misconduct” to describe Anderson’s conduct, which included
sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and sexual assault.

Robert Anderson, M.D., was employed by U of M from 1966 – 2003.

U of M officials began hearing about Anderson’s sexual misconduct almost as soon as he began working for the UniversityInvestigators found that “almost immediately after Dr. Anderson arrived at the University, rumors about him performing inappropriate and unnecessary examinations of a sensitive nature started circulating on campus.”  The investigators determined that U of M failed to investigate these rumors, which were “persistent and widespread,” and that at least some personnel in UHS and the Athletic Department heard or were aware of jokes, banter and innuendo about Dr. Anderson’s conduct with patients.  Investigators also found that multiple U of M officials were explicitly informed that Anderson was engaging in inappropriate (and sexually abusive) behavior with patients, and that no meaningful action was taken by any U of M staff members or officials.

According to investigators, Anderson’s abuse of patients included genital, prostate, rectal, breast and pelvic exams that were unnecessary or performed inappropriately.  Anderson digitally penetrated numerous male patients’ anuses almost every time they visited him, and medical experts, including those that talked to WilmerHale, have said that anal exams were not the standard of care for the types of exams that Anderson was performing.  In other words, there was no need for Anderson to anally penetrate boys and men, most of the time.  According to experts, there are only very limited instances in which an anal exam is medically indicated.  And they are almost never indicated for college-age boys.  Further, when an anal exam is performed, it must be performed properly, with the doctor explaining the procedure (and the risks and benefits of and alternatives to it), and obtaining the patient’s consent prior to performing the exam.  If a patient is a minor, parental consent must be obtained.  These standards of care and consent issues are true for any medical exam /procedure.  Investigators emphasized that even in the rare instance that an invasive exam was indicated, it was performed in an inappropriate manner.  Investigators reported that Anderson regularly performed examinations in “grossly inappropriate ways,” subjecting patients to forceful and/or prolonged exams of genitalia  and prostates, requiring patients to fully disrobe for exams, and performing exams with no gloves.

Some specific ways that Anderson would abuse patients included using his hands to stimulate patients’ penises – sometimes to erection and ejaculation; pairing forceful stimulation of patients’ genitals with forceful digital anal penetration; inviting patients to stimulate his genitalia to erection and ejaculation; and engaging in implicit or explicit quid pro quo arrangements involving sexual contact, including asking patients to perform oral sex on him in exchange for medication, according to investigators.

Approximately 850 people have come forward, claiming that Anderson sexually abused them.  Anderson’s positions included: associate physician for University Health Services (UHS, hired in 1966); director of UHS from 1968 – 1980; team physician / physician with the Athletic Department from 1966 – 1999; various positions from 1966 – 1980 that included clinical instructor with the medical school and lecturer in the Department of Medical Care Organization at the School of Public Health; and private practice physician in clinics owned by Michigan Medicine from 1995 – 2003.  Anderson also “held a series of clinical faculty appointments at the Medical School until his retirement in early 2003.”

ASSISTANT VICE PRESIDENT OF STUDENT SERVICES, COACHES & OTHER U OF M OFFICIALS IGNORED REPORTS OF SEXUAL ABUSE.

In 1975,  wrestler Tad DeLuca sent a letter to his coach, Bill Johannesen, and assistant coach, Cal Jenkins, that referred to Anderson as “Dr. ‘drop your drawers.'”  DeLuca also wrote this in the letter: “Something is wrong with Dr. Anderson.  Regardless of what you are there for, he asks that you ‘drop your drawers’ and cough.”  Johannesen wrote back to DeLuca and told him he was being removed from the team.  Athletic Director Canham then sent DeLuca a letter that stated,Close-up macro of signing a contract. “Based upon your letter to Coach Bill Johannesen and your decision to ‘no longer want to be an athlete,’ your financial aid from the University of Michigan will not be in effect for the 1975-76 school year.”  Deluca appealed the decision to remove his financial aid to the University’s Board in Control of Intercollegiate Athletics and appeared before this Board in September of 1975.  DeLuca believes that all members of the Board had a copy of his letter to Johannesen and Jenkins, according to investigators.  DeLuca’s scholarship was reinstated.

In late 1978 or 1979, the Assistant Vice President of Student Services with oversight responsibility for UHS, Thomas Easthope, was informed by the University’s Gay Male Advocate, Jim Toy, that Anderson was “fooling around with boys” at UHS, according to investigators.  In an interview with investigators and in sworn deposition testimony, Easthope acknowledged that he heard Toy’s allegations while Anderson was the Director of UHS.  Easthope did not fire Anderson.  Anderson voluntarily resigned in January of 1980, and Easthope signed documentation regarding Anderson’s continued employment at UHS in January of 1980, and approved an increase in salary for Anderson in August of 1980, approximately.

According to investigators, Easthope again received information regarding Anderson’s inappropriate conduct in late 1980 and early 1981 when an undergraduate, Keith Moree, complained to Toy, and then later to Easthope, about an inappropriate examination that Anderson had given him at UHS in May of 1980.  Moree told investigators that he hand-delivered a written complaint addressed to Easthope to an administrative building.  This occurred sometime in mid-1980.  In late 1980, Moree and Toy met with Easthope and told him about Anderson’s sexual misconduct.  Easthope informed Moree that he would investigate the matter and get back with him.  On January 7, 1981, Moree and Toy met with Anderson, and Anderson did not deny Moree’s accusations, and he apologized for causing distress.  That same day, Moree and Toy discussed Anderson with Easthope after Anderson left the room.  Easthope told Moree that it was a “sad situation” and that “professional help” was probably needed for Anderson.  Easthope then told Moree that if Anderson were terminated, “it would cause financial hardship for him and his family.”  Moree told investigators that he recalls Easthope proposing a plan whereby Anderson would be moved to an administrative position and would be “kept away from students until his retirement.”  Moree and Toy accepted this proposition.

Easthope did not remove or ensure removal of Anderson from student-patient care.  Instead, Anderson was transferred to the Athletic Department in July of 1981.

Investigators found that in the fall of 1979, two University psychological counselors reported concerns about Anderson’s conduct with patients to Easthope – and they spoke with him several times, describing, in detail, sexual misconduct that included invasive and prolonged examinations (including rectal exams) and “classes” involving genital exams in Anderson’s office.

NOT ONLY DID U OF M OFFICIALS FAIL TO REMOVE ANDERSON FROM PATIENT CARE, BUT STAFF HELPED – AND EVEN PRAISED – ANDERSON.

Multiple communications among the department officials that funded Anderson’s appointment as team physician show support for Anderson to continue to work with patients at UHS and in a role as team doctor.  In November of 1979, Anderson sent a memo to Vice President of Student Services, Henry Johnson, stating that he would step down as Director of UHS, but would like to continue as a team physician and as a senior physician for UHS.  The following day, Johnson sent a message two men shaking hands and transferring an envelope.to Canham, urging him to agree with Anderson staying on as team physician, stating  “[w]e, of course, are supportive of [Dr. Andersons] remaining in this role[.]”  On January 2, 1980, Canham sent a message to Johnson, stating that Anderson should continue functioning as team physician, adding that the Athletic Department would be in a “bad position” if Anderson did not continue with the Department.

In a communication dated January 10, 1980, to UHS Department Heads, Johnson noted that Anderson would resign as Director of UHS on January 14, 1980, and would stay with UHS as a “senior physician 50% time and Director of Athletic Medicine.”  Johnson praised Anderson, stating that the physician had “high quality administrative and medical leadership” and that “[w]e are pleased that he plans to remain on the staff as a senior physician.”  Mr. Easthope, who by that time had heard multiple complaints of Anderson abusing patients, signed the necessary paperwork that gave Anderson the title of “senior physician” at UHS instead of  “Director of UHS.”

When Anderson resigned as UHS Director, U of M officials praised him in the UHS Annual Report in the University President’s Report for the 1979 – 1980 school year, and they thanked him for his 11 years of leadership.

In 1980 and 1981, Easthope continued to interact with Anderson, helping to resolve issues Anderson had with another U of M physician.  Easthope signed paperwork that would give Anderson an increase in salary effective September, 1980.

FOR 37 YEARS THERE WAS SUSPICION THAT ANDERSON WAS ABUSING PATIENTS – AND NOBODY INVESTIGATED HIM.

In examining Anderson’s entire 37 year career at U of M, investigators concluded that “Dr. Anderson engaged in a prolonged pattern of sexual misconduct involving many members of the University community.”  They also determined that University of Michigan, Ann Arbor there was no reasonable explanation for Easthope’s failure to act on information conveyed to him about Anderson’s sexual misconduct in 1978, 1979 and 1981.  Further, investigators found that “no University personnel took any meaningful action, despite the cloud of rumors, jokes and innuendo that followed Dr. Anderson throughout his University career.”

Investigators determined that multiple U of M officials were explicitly informed of Anderson’s sexual misconduct with patients.  In addition, based on their interviews with U of M employees and former students, investigators determined that there were approximately 16 instances whereby U of M staff members who worked for UHS or the Athletic Department had “potential awareness” of Anderson’s sexual abuse of patients.  Further, investigators noted multiple instances whereby there were detailed rumors of Anderson’s inappropriate behavior discussed among U of M employees.  The investigators also revealed that a number of current and former Athletic Department employees, some of whom worked in the Department for decades, acknowledged that they heard jokes, rumors or other comments about Anderson’s behavior with patients.  These included jokes about athletes having to take their pants down even if they went in for an elbow injury, and students getting their “sack checked” when going in for a broken arm.

In their report, investigators stated that they found that a number of U of M students raised concerns about Anderson, either directly or indirectly with U of M officials.  Further, investigators deduced that the instances described in their report “represent only a small fraction of the hundreds of patients who have come forward now, who may themselves represent only a fraction of the patients with whom Dr. Anderson engaged in sexual misconduct.”  Investigators also noted in their report that many reported survivors of Anderson’s abuse refused to speak to them, either because they had retained counsel or for other reasons.

Young african american student athlete sitting on stairs in stands Although WilmerHale investigators did not speak with a number of survivors of Anderson’s abuse, its report, nonetheless, speaks volumes of the complete – and egregious – disregard that U of M staff members had for the health, welfare and safety of students and other patients being treated by U of M physician Robert Anderson.

SURVIVORS WANT U OF M TO ALLOW THE ATTORNEY GENERAL TO DO A COMPLETE INVESTIGATION INTO ANDERSON’S ABUSE OF PATIENTS.

Many abuse survivors are calling for U of M to allow Attorney General Dana Nessel to do a full and complete investigation into Anderson’s abuse.  They feel that the WilmerHale reports is significantly lacking, and they want answers.  Many types of abuse the patients experienced are not described in the report.  One former football player, for example, wants to know the chain of custody of his sperm that he was “forced to give under the hocus-pocus guise of medical treatment and research.”

Hearing the stories of other survivors and getting answers about what exactly happened at the University of Michigan will help survivors heal.  Hopefully universities around the world increase awareness of sexual abuse, initiate sensitivity training for all employees, and implement strategies for reporting any suspected instances of abuse.  Coaches and other university officials must learn to put the health and safety of students – and all patients – above a university’s reputation and winning record.

See our other articles from this series:

 

University of Michigan: A Story of Sex Abuse and Institutional Negligence

5 Comments

  1. Gravatar for Mr. Lynn E. Patterson
    Mr. Lynn E. Patterson

    Last week I wrote the university president, and with the letter I sent back my diploma (torn in half), a torn picture of the U of M stadium, and two books about Bo Schembechler. I stated that I wanted nothing further to do with the University.

    It has now been one week and I have no regrets of my actions and haven't lost any sleep.

    1. Nolan Erickson

      Thanks for your support of the survivors, Mr. Patterson. We are all very grateful.

  2. Gravatar for Laur Reed
    Laur Reed

    It is unthinkable to me that the University AND the Sports department would CONTINUE to keep Dr. Anderson on, even AFTER KNOWING how violating and abusing patients was his mode of operation. The Hypocratic oath he took states clearly “First DO NO HARM”. How is this compatible with allowing him to indulge himself sexually with innocent patients? Why is the University not standing with their students- whom it is their responsibility to PROTECT- but instead repeatedly and perversely sided with Dr. Anderson? Parents paid the University tens of thousands of dollars in tuition to have this crap go on? No way. In my mind, the University is copiable too and should be included in any lawsuits against the individual doctor. This is just despicable.

    1. Nolan Erickson

      Thank you so much for your comment. We are doing everything we can to hold the University accountable for its tragic disregard of the health and safety of its patients, including its students. We are also trying to increase awareness of just how important it is for any person who suspects sexual abuse to report it in a meaningful way. Our hearts go out to all the survivors of abuse.

  3. Gravatar for Allenthomasbrown
    Allenthomasbrown

    Mich supported the physical abuse of students, now they are supporting Socialism, the mental abuse of their students.

    From there I graduated, best I tell no one.

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