CHARLESTON – A physician who previously had a women’s medicine practice at Charleston Area Medical Center is suing the hospital and West Virginia University Medical Corporation-Charleston Division after she claims she was forced to close her practice due to harassment and discrimination.
Dr. Leila E. Sakhai, who now resides in Florida, claims after completing her residency, she established a medical practice in the geographic area served by CAMC and, from time to time, she would have to refer patients to WVU employees practicing and instructing as part of the joint venture with CAMC, including Dr. Byron Calhoun, who was also one of her instructors during her residency, according to a complaint filed June 16 in Kanawha Circuit Court.
Sakhai claims Calhoun repeatedly singled her out and mocked her due to her national origin and also due to her sex.
Calhoun would mispronounce her name and/or asked what name she was going by that week; made disparaging remarks to her on the basis of her national origin; prohibited her from performing obstetric procedures during her residency, affording those opportunities instead to males; and conducted his instruction in an unprofessional manner, according to the suit.
Sakhai claims Calhoun was one of only two physicians certified in maternal fetal medicine in the area and she would have to refer her OB/GYN patients who required exceptional care to him and he would repeatedly refuse to treat her patients based on his bias against her; her patients’ race; her patients’ insurance status; and whether or not those patients had previously sought legal elective abortion.
As a direct and proximate result of Calhoun’s refusal to treat many of Sakhai’s special needs patients, she was not able to offer a full-service OB/GYN practice in the Charleston/Teays Valley area and she closed her practice in May 2015, according to the suit.
Sakhai claims CAMC and WVU tolerated and condoned all the discriminatory practices of Calhoun, including his refusal to treat her patients, while he was employed by WVU in a joint venture with CAMC.
The defendants violated the West Virginia Human Rights Act by discriminating against Sakhai due to her national origin and sex, according to the suit.
Sakhai claims the defendants’ actions created a work environment that was hostile to women generally and to herself in particular.
The plaintiff felt unsafe and threatened as a result of the harassment and her patients lacked the necessary maternal fetal medicine medical care as a result of the harassment, according to the suit.
Sakhai is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. She is being represented by Elizabeth G. Kavits of Kavitz Law PLLC and P. Rodney Jackson of the Law Office of P. Rodney Jackson. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman.
Calhoun, who was not named as a defendant in Sakhai’s lawsuit, has been criticized because of his anti-abortion advocacy efforts in the past.
Calhoun is the national medical adviser for the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates and in 2013, he wrote a letter to Attorney General Patrick Morrisey about his concerns of the state of abortion clinics in West Virginia.
In 2015, Sakhai was named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by a former patient who claimed Sakhai was responsible for her daughter’s death. That lawsuit, which was filed April 23, 2015, was scheduled for trial to begin in September. In February, a petition for permission to settle was filed and a final order was entered on Feb. 26.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 16-C-908