Teaching hospitals teach discrimination. Here’s how we stop it.

Meet Dr. Svetlana Kleyman, a powerhouse chief surgery resident with a heart of gold, who works 16-hour days and runs marathons in her free time. Just 18 months before she was to graduate from SUNY Downstate, she developed a spinal infection that left her paralyzed from the waist down. After months of rehab, she was cleared by her doctors to resume work (with proper accommodations surgeons continue to operate successfully). Svetlana was ready to return to the operating room. Her surgery residency told her not to come back.


Her story was published in the New York Post. I shared her plight on Facebook. The response: Outrage.

“This goes against the Americans with Disability Act. Completely unethical and I feel goes against the oath that all doctors must take to first do no harm!” ~ Renea Turner Clark

“The obvious, nauseating irony is that teaching hospitals, of all institutions, should take an exemplary approach and lead the way in cases like Dr. Kleyman’s.” ~ Bradford Harriman

“And she was probably exposed while on shift as chief resident. What a shame. It’s going to be an expensive payout by SUNY.”  ~ Daniel Ojala

“Wow—isn’t that illegal?” ~ Shanthi Madireddi

“I don’t see why the ACLU can’t help her get an immediate judicial injunction to mandate her immediate re-instatement as she pursues what should be a multi-million dollar lawsuit with an additional 100 million in punitive damages. The medical training establishment needs to be taught a memorable lesson. As a state university, Governor Cuomo’s office should be contacted to alert him to the multi-million dollar liability this has exposed his state to. Since she has already filed a lawsuit, I would imagine something like this has already be pursued. But it needs national exposure on morning news shows. Under ADA, an employer is required to make ‘reasonable accommodations’ just like physicians’ offices and hospitals are required to make reasonable accommodations for the disabled what with wheelchair access and roomy bathrooms with rails and whatnot. Where is the ACLU on this, or is all their time taken up with transgendered issues?’’ ~ Lawrence M. Slocki

“This is straight up bull.”  ~ Carolyn Smith 

“If this is in the U.S. I don’t think they will get away with it. I’m paralyzed also and that’s ridiculous.” ~ Darby 

It is ridiculous. Our hospitals. In the USA. Breaking the Americans with Disabilities Act. Shameful.

Want to help Dr. Kleyman be the amazing surgeon she was born to be?  Please sign this petition and then call Dr. Lisa Dresner (program director) via Natasha Sagal (program coordinator) at 718-270-3302 and Dr. Antonio Alfonso (department chair) at 718-270-1421. Demand that Dr. Kleyman be reinstated in her residency program. Afterwards feel free to contact the ACLU, Governor Cuomo, and the TV networks.


Pamela Wible, M.D

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15 comments on “Teaching hospitals teach discrimination. Here’s how we stop it.
  1. James says:

    It would be nice if SUNY would make a statement explaining themselves but there will probably be no new info until they settle the lawsuit. It’s so sad things have to get to that point. Please keep us updated, I would like to know how this turns out and so far it doesn’t seem like anyone but the New York Post (and you) have picked up the story.

  2. Steve Cripe RN says:

    Pam, so glad you picked this story up and elaborated on the story. I tweeted the NY Post story but obviously more needs to be done!

  3. Oh Ugh says:

    I hope this doc is allowed to rightfully finish surgery residency. Heaven forbid a resident be off cycle and inconvenience the residency program after said resident likely sacrificed a lot of her own personal life conveniences for the program in order to get as far as she was in training–later to be put to the roadside like trash for pickup. What a crock, just terrible.

  4. Steven T says:

    Nice job getting this story out there!

  5. Joyce says:

    I called the 1421 # and the person answering it tried to tell me I had the wrong #after having answered the phone “Surgery” I said my piece and got out of her hair. My question is, is it going to be effective calling that number if it’s answered by some poor clerk who’s doing 30 other things?

  6. Pamela Wible MD says:

    Here’s the NYC evening newscast from yesterday on Svetlana’s case.

  7. Donna Riley-Lein says:

    If you think this is just medicine, think again.

    I was an award-winning journalist. Then I had a stroke.

    I returned to a job I loved. But things were different, and I was fired. Naturally it wasn’t because of my illness.

    I found a job at another publication. Won awards, got promoted and was forging a new life.

    Then came the mammogram. The needle biopsy. Breast cancer. Early, thank God. My surgeon suggested breast conserving surgery, but I opted for a mastectomy. I begged my doctor to say nothing to my employer, and I’m sure he didn’t, but insurance companies get records for payment which has DX.

    You see, breast conserving surgery relies on after care like radiation. I feared that once “human resources” learned of my condition, I’d be out of a job. That means no insurance and no means to pay for treatment.

    Well, I was right.

    Got another job, and insurance didn’t come in in for six months. Sure enough, once it kicked in, I was out.

    Yes, there are laws. But any employee can be fired for anything, and companies are good at finding the “anything.”

    Making accommodations is expensive. Employees are relatively easy to replace.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Call me an optimist. With enough public outrage we can create change. Hope you’ll sign the petition for Svetlana.

  8. Bill Janssen says:

    The article would be more compelling if written with some awareness of the job requirements of a general surgeon. Sterility cannot be maintained in a sitting position unless the doctor’s hands are always held in the air. Every part of a sterile environment is contaminated at the level of the table surface and below. Her story is tragic- but would you accept a greater risk of spinal infection in your child having surgery, to protect this doctor’s rights?

    So many other considerations… just getting in position to do a proper examination, getting a look into a deep wound…. I don’t get to be a professional basketball player, even thought that’s always been my dream.

    • Svetlana Kleyman, MD says:

      Dear Bill-
      Your ignorance is exactly what is wrong with so many people in this country. My own story aside- there are paraplegic surgeons all over the country, if you were to do some research ( example: Dr. Karin Muraszko – the chief of neurosurgery at University of Michigan, Dr. Ted Rummel- an orthopedic surgeon, and etc).

      You are ignorant to the fact that in the year 2017, there is equipment that lets us get gowned and gloved like every one else, and operate from a standing position. Not to mention that OR tables, and examination tables are adjustable in height and etc.

      I have a strong suspicion that you don’t have the skills required to be a professional basketball player, however these people DO have the skills required to be surgeons ( a medical education, surgical training, and dexterity in their hands that is needed to operate-that are not influenced by the function in their LOWER EXTREMITIES ).

  9. Eric says:

    From my quick web search, it appears that Dr. Kleyman is (as of 2019) a practicing surgeon in Carmel, Indiana. I don’t know if she went back to finish her residency at SUNY or elsewhere, or if she just “hung up her shingle” and started practicing without completing residency (and without board certification, I would guess). Either way, she apparently was tenacious about achieving her dream.

  10. Guy says:

    I am finding it very difficult to get my spine fixed I have a burst fracture at my T-10 -11, and pressure fractures at the L-3-4-5 due to a accident I was in 45 years ago and 30 years driving truck helped destroy my spine.docters refuse to fix it to much of a risk but I would be happy if they did minimum invasive and just do the T-10

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