A jury awarded a Kenyan born American doctor $2.75 (Ksh 300, million) a few weeks ago, finding that he faced racial discrimination while participating in a residency program through AdventHealth, the Altamonte Springs-based health system that’s among Florida’s largest.
However, in a strange twist, citing a lack of evidence, an Orange-Osceola judge reversed a jury’s decision.
A six-person jury’s verdict found that Dr. Baiywo Rop’s race played a motivating factor in AdventHealth’s decision to terminate him.
Rop said, since his termination, he’s applied to more than 100 residency programs and hasn’t even received a phone call.
“Being terminated from a program is the worst thing that could ever happen,’ he said. “I have lived, hiding from people. I am scared of telling people what happened.”
Rop, a Kenyan native, joined the residency program in 2013 as the first African American to be accepted, according to a statement released by the Girley Law Firm, which represented him. He became ill from an autoimmune disease soon after and was diagnosed with pernicious anemia, caused by a vitamin B-12 deficiency, in fall of 2015.
Rop began to display symptoms such as chronic red eyes, memory loss and numbness in his arms and legs, restricting his academic abilities, his lawyers said. After requesting two weeks to address his condition in 2014, he requested additional medical leave and offered to do a rotation in Kenya while he was absent.
In response, his program director Laura Bancroft requested on multiple occasions that he go back to Kenya to finish his residency, according to the lawsuit. As symptoms worsened, faculty members said Rop was lazy and needed to stop smoking marijuana, according to the lawsuit.
When Rop voiced that he felt discriminated against, Dr. Kurt Schere, the deputy program director, told him that the hospital could fire him and that Rop did not have the resources to fight the hospital, according to the lawsuit.
Rop filed a complaint and received a letter from the hospital stating it would develop a solution for him to remain in the residency. During the negotiation, Rop was fired in 2017, according to the lawsuit.
Rop, who lives in Arizona, said he conducts health assessments for an insurance company and has yet to use his medical degree since the termination. He compares the firing’s effect on his reputation to being accused of a crime.
“If you have a dream in this country, and you go for it, then you’re most likely to be successful,” Rop said. “And for me, and many other immigrants that I know have similar problems, that issue is starting to become questionable.”
In a surprising turn of events, a final judgment issued by Circuit Judge Kevin Weiss ruled Rop did not provide reasonable evidence that his race played a role in his firing from AdventHealth. Weiss found AdventHealth provided “legitimate, non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory reasons” for dismissing Rop from the program and that Rop did not provide sufficient evidence of racial discrimination on behalf of AdventHealth.
Weiss ruled Rop will not be awarded the $2.75 million as a result.