September 19, 2011

The following letter was sent to Gunner Scott, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, by President Monaco, Dean Harris Berman, and Professor Paul Summergrad

Dear Mr. Scott:

Thank you for your letter noting the comments of Dr. Keith Ablow about Chaz Bono and the transgender population to the national and local media. We want to assure you that we take your concerns very seriously and are deeply committed to uphold our nondiscriminatory policies and practices. Dr. Ablow’s comments are his own personal views and should not be attributed to Tufts University or Tufts University School of Medicine.

First, we would like to clarify Dr. Ablow’s affiliation with Tufts University and Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM). Dr. Ablow is not an employee of either Tufts University or Tufts University School of Medicine. He is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry, which is a voluntary, unpaid appointment. More than 4,000 individuals hold voluntary, unpaid appointments at the school. Over the years, Dr. Ablow has given occasional lectures in forensic psychiatry to residents, who have already received the M.D. degree. He did not discuss gender identity or sexual expression in those lectures and he has not given any lectures for the past five years. He does not teach medical students.

Furthermore, Dr. Ablow does not hold any position at Tufts Medical Center, which is a separate organization from Tufts University and Tufts University School of Medicine. We understand that Tufts Medical Center has requested that Dr. Ablow remove the reference from his website.

We also want to assure you that TUSM medical students do receive extensive teaching on LGBT issues. Our curriculum in this area is consistent with the position of the APA, AMA, ApA, AACAP and other mainstream medical organizations. Dr. Ablow’s views are not included in the curriculum that is taught to our medical students at any point. Highly regarded faculty who teach our medical students include:

• Christopher Bellonci, M.D., a child psychiatrist at Tufts Medical Center and an assistant professor of psychiatry at TUSM. Dr. Bellonci is a national leader on LGBT issues. He is a member of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and serves on LGBT panels of AACAP and the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). He will be teaching a class on LGBT youth for the child psychiatry fellows in the spring.

• Derek Polonsky, M.D., assistant clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry. He teaches “Talking with Patients about Issues of Sexuality”, “Development of Gender identity and Sexual Orientation” and “Sexual Development through the Life Cycle” as well as other courses addressing LGBT issues to the medical students.

The views that Dr. Ablow expressed in his commentary piece are his own personal views and should not be attributed to Tufts University or the curriculum we offer our students. At the same time, however, as an institution of higher learning, Tufts supports the freedom to express and test ideas through vigorous debate and criticism. Such freedom is fundamental not only to academic institutions but to our society as a whole.

We are deeply committed to ensure that all members of our community are protected from discrimination in a learning environment that is free of discrimination and harassment. Diversity—living, working and serving in a diverse local, national, and global community—is one of the core values of Tufts University and TUSM. The Tufts non-discrimination policy is very explicit and includes members of any sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. The policy states:

Tufts University is committed to employment practices and a learning environment that are free of discrimination and harassment. We seek to promote a diverse and inclusive university community. At Tufts University, equal opportunity and affirmative action is not only a legal commitment; it is a moral commitment as well.

Dr. Summergrad will be meeting with LGBT students of Tufts University and Tufts University School of Medicine this week to provide an opportunity to exchange viewpoints on these issues. We strongly value an educational environment that allows for the vigorous exchange of ideas while ensuring that no member of our community is subject to discrimination.

Anthony P. Monaco, M.D., Ph.D., President, Tufts University

Harris Berman, M.D., Dean, Tufts University School of Medicine

Paul Summergrad, M.D., Dr. Frances S. Arkin Professor and Chairman, Department of Psychiatry, Tufts University School of Medicine

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