Dr. Michelle Herren won’t be teaching medical students anymore. It’s not clear whether she’ll return to taking care of patients.
Herren is a pediatric anesthesiologist at Denver Health who made a racist Facebook post about Michelle Obama. She also has an unpaid faculty appointment with the University of Colorado School of Medicine, as many Denver Health doctors do.
The CU School of Medicine announced Thursday it plans to remove Herren from her faculty position.
“We are beginning the process to terminate Dr. Herren’s faculty appointment,” Dr. John Reilly, dean of the CU School of Medicine, said in a statement. “She has expressed values that are at odds with ours, and she has compromised her ability to meet the teaching and patient care missions of the School of Medicine.”
Denver Health has suspended Herren but not fired her after media coverage of the Facebook post generated outrage. Denver7 was first with this story.
The Denver Post spoke with a number of lawyers and employment experts, and that’s worth a look. What it boils down to is that government employers — and Denver Health is a public entity — have less leeway than private employers to fire someone for speech made on their own time.
“We are bumping up against a First Amendment right,” Kelli Christensen, Denver Health spokeswoman, told the Post. “A lot of people are working very hard to resolve this situation.”
It’s not just a matter of taking offense. The Denver Post obtained the letter sent to Herren by Reilly, and he notes that her first role as a physician is to care for others.
“I am concerned that the attitudes displayed in your posting indicate an inability to effectively teach our diverse group of students and trainees,” Reilly wrote.