Superior Court affirms dismissal of discrimination case against Drexel University

By Carrie Salls | Jul 3, 2017

HARRISBURG – A former Drexel University medical student lost the latest round of a legal battle in which he claimed that several medical school officials breached the student handbook when they allegedly dismissed him from the university because of his race. 

According to a June 15 ruling by the Superior Court, the court upheld the dismissal of the complaint by the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.

Lei Ke received grades of unsatisfactory (U) in four of his second-year medical school classes and received a letter from Dean Richard Homan, “which provided that if (Ke) failed any clinical course, he would be dismissed from the school.”

Ke eventually passed the four classes in question after paying nearly $39,000 to retake them. However, he received a U in his family medicine clinical rotation, failed a required exam taken after the clerkship and failed a Step 1 United States Medical Licensing Examination that he took before beginning the family medicine clerkship.

Ke claimed that his supervisor for the family medicine clerkship failed him because of the supervising physician’s “prejudice against appellant’s ethnicity and because (Dr. Anthony Sahar) misinterpreted a question asked by [the] appellant in front of a patient as a challenge to Dr. Sahar’s authority and medical judgment.”

Following numerous appeals of the failing grade within the university ranks, Ke was allowed to redo the family medicine clinical rotation.

“Appellant was again permitted the opportunity to re-take all of the courses and exams he failed,” the Superior Court said in its ruling.

However, the university also informed Ke before starting his next clinical rotation that a grade of U or marginally unsatisfactory in that rotation “would result in his dismissal from Drexel Medical School.”

Ke subsequently failed the test taken after his OB/GYN rotation and, as a result, was dismissed from the medical school.

After exhausting his all of his avenues of appeal at Drexel, Ke petitioned the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission for reinstatement to the medical school and lodged a complaint with the Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights for the same purpose.

Ke ultimately filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, “alleging a racially motivated breach of contract,” the Superior Court opinion said.

Ke alleged that his dismissal, which he claimed was based on race, did not comply with the 2006 student handbook.

The district court ruled that, regardless of the provisions of the handbook, Ke accepted the dismissal conditions when he repeated his rotation and retook the exams. The district court also said it found no evidence that Ke’s dismissal from the school was racially motivated, and that ruling was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Ke then sued in state court, alleging several violations of the Unfair Trade Practice and Consumer Protection Law. Ke's basic assertion was that Drexel Medicine violated the UTPCPL in fraudulently modifying the terms of the 2006 Student Handbook, the Superior Court said.

The defendant said his claims were barred based on the previous federal court rulings.

The trial court agreed, as did the Superior Court.

"It is clear that all issues have been litigated and determined finally; and Appellant cannot relitigate them in this action," the Superior Court wrote.

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