Engler moves to fire Strampel, Nassar's former boss

William Strampel(Photo: Courtesy / Michigan State University)
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Michigan State University Interim President John Engler is moving to revoke the tenure of  William Strampel, former dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Larry Nassar's former boss. 

Engler submitted a request to the Office of the Provost today to terminate Strampel's employment, according to information released by the university.

“William Strampel did not act with the level of professionalism we expect from individuals who hold senior leadership positions, particularly in a position that involves student and patient safety,” Engler said. “Further, allegations have arisen that question whether his personal conduct over a long period of time met MSU’s standards. We are sending an unmistakable message today that we will remove employees who do not treat students, faculty, staff, or anyone else in our community in an appropriate manner.

“I sincerely hope the courageous survivors of Larry Nassar will see this as an unmistakable indication that things are changing quickly at Michigan State,” Engler said. “I said last week that their efforts would not be in vain. This is just the first step in restoring trust in Michigan State.”

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Strampel served as dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine from 2002 until December, when he stepped down for medical reasons. He remains on the faculty, though he is on medical leave. 

Maria Dwyer, an attorney with Clark Hill PLC representing Strampel, said her client had no comment at this time.

Engler also said in the release that MSU will not cover Strampel’s legal expenses related to the Nassar case.

Strampel has been criticized for his role as the head of the college where Nassar worked for two decades. Strampel led the college during a Title IX investigation undertaken by MSU in 2014 after Nassar was accused of sexually assaulting a female patient. 

That investigation found Nassar had not violated university policy. Relying on the opinions of four medical experts who worked for MSU and had close ties to Nassar  — including one recommended by him — the investigator determined the woman didn't understand the "nuanced difference" between an appropriate osteopathic medical procedure and sexual assault, according to university records. 

Strampel regularly checked in on the status of the investigation when it was ongoing, voiced his support for Nassar and told Nassar he could return to clinical work before the investigation concluded, according to emails. It's not clear whether Nassar did so. 

In addition, the investigators produced two versions of their final report.

The one that went to Amanda Thomashow, the patient who said Nassar had assaulted her, said in its conclusion, "We cannot find that the conduct was of a sexual nature. Thus, it did not violate the Sexual Harassment Policy. However, we find the claim helpful in that it allows us to examine certain practices at the MSU Sports Medicine Clinic."

The one that went to Nassar said far more. 

"We cannot find that the conduct was of a sexual nature. Thus, it did not violate the Sexual Harassment Policy. However, we find the claim helpful in that it brought to light some significant problems that the practice will want to address," it read.

"We find that whether medically sound or not, the failure to adequately explain procedures such as these invasive, sensitive procedures, is opening the practice up to liability and is exposing patients to unnecessary trauma based on the possibility of perceived inappropriate sexual misconduct."

"In addition, we find that the failure to obtain consent from patients prior to the procedure is likewise exposing the practice to liability. If procedures can be performed skin-on-skin or over clothes in the breast or pelvic floor area, it would seem patients should have the choice between the two. Having a resident, nurse or someone in the room during a sensitive procedure protects doctors and provides patients with peace of mind. If 'touching is what DO’s do' and that is not commonly known, perhaps the practice will want to consider a disclaimer or information sheet with that information provided to the patient up front.

"Finally, we believe the practice should consider whether its procedure for intake of complaints about physicians’ behavior is adequate. Ms. Thomashow claims she tried to file a complaint with the front desk receptionist, telling her that she was cancelling her appointment because she felt 'violated.' Whether this triggers a reporting protocol should be examined by the practice."

In a separate move, Suresh Mukherji has been suspended from his role as chairman of the Department of Radiology "pending a review of concerns that have been expressed about your leadership and department communications."