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A surgeon’s lawsuit highlights gender disparities and workplace discrimination in medicine

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The surgeon faced a dilemma: continue an operation that could kill an extremely sick patient on the operating table or sew the patient up, extending their life by only a few painful days at most.

Dr. Deborah Keller, a second-year attending colorectal surgeon at the time at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, wanted assurance she was making the right decision.

She asked a nurse to call her boss, Dr. Pokala Ravi Kiran, the division chief of colorectal surgery, for a second opinion. 

“The patient is going to die. Close. What’s the issue?” Kiran barked at her, humiliating her in front of the other medical staff members in the operating room, Keller says.

The brusque remark during the 2019 operation was not out of the ordinary for Kiran, Keller says. She claims he would also comment on her appearance and make her do administrative duties that male colleagues were excused from and that he hired her at a lower starting salary than her male teammates. 

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