The University of Toronto is launching an investigation into the learning environment at Southlake Regional Health Centre, following a report in The Globe and Mail of gender discrimination allegations filed against former emergency department chief Dr. Marko Duic.

The Globe’s investigation in December revealed that Duic, a celebrated doctor known for transforming the field of emergency medicine and reducing wait times in hospitals, had not hired a single female doctor to work in his departments for 16 years. Prior to his time at Southlake in Newmarket, he was the emergency chief at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto from 2002–2011.

“The University takes its shared responsibilities for the learning environment of trainees very seriously,” reads a tweet from U of T’s Faculty of Medicine. “Equity and inclusion are at the heart of our education and research mandates — and we are sympathetic to the women involved in this matter.” U of T sends medical students to train at both of these hospitals.

A female doctor was hired in October 2018, weeks after The Globe had sent questions to the hospital regarding its hiring practices. As of January, two female physicians were working in the emergency department.

Duic resigned as head of Southlake’s emergency department effective January 31, but will continue to work and take up clinical duties in the hospital, said Kathryn Perrier, corporate communications manager at Southlake, to The Globe.

Duic has been a member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario since 1982. His LinkedIn notes that he graduated with an MD from U of T in the same year.

According to The Globe, the newspaper was first tipped off about possible gender discrimination after it received a formal complaint about Duic from Toronto lawyer Danny Kastner, who specializes in employment and labour law, is representing a group of eight female doctors who chose to remain anonymous due to fears of professional backlash. The complaint was sent to Southlake and U of T.

Heidi Singer, a spokesperson for the Faculty of Medicine, says that the university will aim to speak with people who have been involved with the hospital.

“Through an external investigator, we will invite current and previous trainees as well as members of the clinical care team within the Emergency Department to participate in interviews,” said Singer.

“The investigation will be conducted in a manner that is confidential, that protects individuals from reprisals if they come forward with concerns or allegations, and that is procedurally fair to all participants. It’s important that we let that work take place before we determine any future actions.”

Southlake replied to the faculty’s announcement on social media, saying that it will work with the faculty in the investigation. “As a partner with @uoftmedicine we want our Emergency Department to be a healthy environment for everyone — including learners from the University of Toronto. We will cooperate with the Faculty to make sure they can successfully conduct their investigation.”