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UCLA faces 'rigorous review' over handling of gynecologist abuse allegations, Napolitano says

Dorany Pineda, Teresa Watanabe and Jaclyn Cosgrove, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- University of California President Janet Napolitano vowed to get to the bottom of how UCLA handled allegations of sexual misconduct by a university gynecologist, saying "there were lessons learned" in the case.

"What UCLA is doing is making sure ... those kinds of issues don't happen again," she said in an interview Tuesday. "We just don't want this happening again. We just don't."

In announcing Monday that a former UCLA staff gynecologist has been charged with sexual battery and exploitation of two patients, the university apologized to the community and said it was reviewing how the case was handled.

"We know we could have done better," a university spokeswoman said.

Exactly how UCLA responded to allegations of misconduct by Dr. James Mason Heaps is now the subject of an internal investigation. But it's clear university officials knew of complaints for more than a year. Heaps has denied the allegations.

Rhonda Curry, a UCLA Health spokeswoman, said the university launched an internal investigation after receiving a patient complaint in December 2017 of inappropriate and medically unnecessary touching and comments.

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During the investigation, the university discovered complaints about Heaps from two other patients, one in 2014 and another in 2015. One of them, Curry said, was a student at the time she saw Heaps. Neither of those complaints was included in the current criminal case.

UCLA notified Heaps in April 2018 that he would not be reappointed, Curry said. In June, he was placed on leave and announced his retirement later that month.

UCLA notified the medical board about Heaps on June 14, 2018 -- about a month after the Los Angeles Times first published its investigation about former University of Southern California gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall. The university submitted a second report to the board in March 2019.

Curry said the university has settled claims made by one of Heaps' former patients but did not provide the settlement amount.

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