Hajjar-Nejad v. George Wash. Univ., Civil Action No. 10–626 CKK

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtCOLLEEN KOLLAR–KOTELLY, United States District Judge
Citation37 F.Supp.3d 90
PartiesMohammad Javad Hajjar–Nejad, Plaintiff, v. George Washington University, Defendant.
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 10–626 CKK
Decision Date31 March 2014

37 F.Supp.3d 90

Mohammad Javad Hajjar–Nejad, Plaintiff
George Washington University, Defendant.

Civil Action No. 10–626 CKK

United States District Court, District of Columbia.

Signed March 31, 2014

37 F.Supp.3d 96

Mohammad Javad Hajjar–Nejad, Gaithersburg, MD, pro se.

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Henry Morris, Jr., Savalle C. Sims, Jackson David Toof, Arent Fox, LLP, Washington, DC, for Defendant.


COLLEEN KOLLAR–KOTELLY, United States District Judge

Plaintiff Mohammad Javad Hajjar–Nejad brings this action pro se against the George Washington University, principally challenging his dismissal as a medical student from GW's School of Medicine and Health Sciences in July 2007. Presently before the Court is Defendant's [154] Motion for Summary Judgment.1 Upon consideration of the pleadings2 , the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court GRANTS Defendant's [154] Motion for Summary Judgment. Accordingly, this action is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE in its entirety.


A. Factual Background

Defendant the George Washington University (“GW” or “Defendant”) is a private, not-for-profit, university located in Washington, D.C. Def.'s Ex. 1 (Goldberg Decl.) ¶ 3. It offers an M.D. degree through its School of Medicine and Health Sciences (“Medical School”). Id. ¶ 4. Plaintiff Mohammed Javad Hajjar–Nejad (“Hajjar–Nejad” or “Plaintiff”) was an M.D student in Defendant's Medical School from August 18, 2004 until July 26, 2007. Pl.'s Facts ¶ 5. On November 7, 2003, Plaintiff signed an Offer of Acceptance form provided by Defendant confirming his decision to attend GW's Medical School. Def.'s Ex. 3 (Hajjar–Nejad Dep. Exhibits), Ex. 36 (Offer of Acceptance). Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint presents his race as “Arabic or Middle Eastern,” his religion as “Muslim,” and his national origin as “Iranian” (the nationality of his parents). TAC ¶ 7.

The standard curriculum for M.D. students at GW's Medical School spans four years, with the first two years focused on classroom instruction in the basic sciences and the final two focused on clinical clerkships and electives. Def.'s Ex. 4 (Schroth Decl.) ¶¶ 3–5. When Plaintiff was an M.D. student, GW also ran an alternative curriculum for third-year students—referred to as the “third year honors curriculum.” Id. ¶ 6. This Honors curriculum varied from the standard curriculum in the distribution of time spent in the inpatient and outpatient clinical settings. Id. ¶ 7. Honors curriculum students also had to perform a

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special project, which could include such things as basic science research, clinical research, community service, medical humanities research, health policy research, and international health research. Id . ¶¶ 8–9. During the 2006–2007 academic year, W. Scott Schroth, M.D., M.P.H., Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, (“Dean Schroth”) ran the Honors curriculum. Id. ¶ 1, 13. Plaintiff applied to the Honors curriculum for his third year, and on April 22, 2006, Dean Schroth notified Plaintiff that he had been selected for the program after a review of applications by a committee of nine faculty members. Pl.'s Ex. 12 (Honors Curriculum Acceptance E-mail). Plaintiff's special project as part of the Honors curriculum involved research into cardiovascular disease. Pl.'s Ex. 8 (Plaintiff's MSEC Statement) at 147–52.

Plaintiff's first rotation, or “clerkship,” in the Honors curriculum was internal medicine, which was headed by Dr. Robert Jablonover and ran from July 7, 2006 to August 11, 2006. Def.'s Ex. 3, Ex. 14 (Subcommittee Minutes of May 30, 2007) at 1. On July 25, 2006, during this clerkship, Plaintiff sent an e-mail to Dr. Jablonover, reporting an alleged “recent difficulty” Plaintiff was experiencing with a resident who supervised his work. Def.'s Ex. 3, Ex. 4 (July 25, 2006 E-mail) at 1. Plaintiff complained the “tone, manner, and actions” of this resident were “very unprofessional and coercive.” Id. at 1. Plaintiff also detailed several disagreements with this resident, whom he felt was interfering with his education. Id. at 1–2 (“[A] learning environment should be positive and conducive to student learning. This resident has become an obstacle to this.”). Dr. Jablonover replied to Plaintiff's e-mail the same day stating “thank you for your message and for bringing this to my attention. It would be difficult for me to meet today at 1:30; would 4:30 be okay today?” Def.'s Ex. 3, Ex. 8 (Jablonover–Schroth E-mail Exchange) at 2. Based on e-mails in the record, Dr. Jablonover apparently met with Plaintiff regarding his concerns with this resident and e-mailed other doctors asking them to “meet with [this resident] to anonymously discuss [Plaintiff's concerns] ... and to help provide her with some feedback and guidance re: her interactions with students and her role as a teacher.” Id.

On August 23, 2006, Dr. Jablonover sent an e-mail to Dean Schroth which set out the details of Plaintiff's evaluation for the internal medicine clerkship. Id. at 1–2. This e-mail states that Plaintiff's “overall performance grade was 2 (low pass)” and identifies the following issues with Plaintiff's performance: “[d]id not always seem to complete reading assignments; average knowledge base; sometimes focuses on basic sciences without necessarily applying the information clinically to the patient”; “[s]ometimes had difficulty generating differential diagnosis; did not always focus on/prioritize clinical duties”; “[s]ometimes not prepared with his patients' information; now [sic] always present on rounds (intermittent); did not seem to appreciate opportunities inherent in hands-on learning; resistant to feedback sometimes; sometimes defensive when given constructive feedback”; “[s]ometimes seemed uncomfortable talking with patients, which sometimes made therapeutic relationships difficult; sometimes gowned and gloved when not appropriate clinically.”Id. This evaluation did also note positive aspects of Plaintiff's performance in the rotation, with Dr. Jablonover stating “he did present in student conference with me an excellent resident-level Powerpoint presentation.” Dr. Jablonover also specifies in this e-mail that he met with Plaintiff about his grade and “explained to [Plaintiff] that [he] was presenting information given to [him] second-hand [by other doctors supervising

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Plaintiff] and that there are always two or more sides or perspectives to an issue.” Id. In response, Dr. Jablonover notes that during this discussion “he seemed to counter each point and was defensive throughout.” Dr. Jablonover concluded his e-mail to Dean Schroth by noting, “I don't think the problem is one of academics but more one of attitude. I'm concerned that [Plaintiff], while being very motivated, is often seems [sic] quite resistant and closed to constructive feedback. I encouraged him to be more open to suggestions given to him by others who are farther along in their training and to discuss with them in a constructive manner any disagreements that might arise.” Id. Dr. Jablonover also noted that Plaintiff would likely be interested in challenging his grade. Id. Dean Schroth replied to this e-mail stating that he was scheduled to meet with Plaintiff that Friday. Id. at 1. He also provided background on the process for student complaints regarding grading. Id. Neither party cites evidence in the record of any e-mail communication between Dean Schroth and Dr. Jablonover regarding Plaintiff that occurred prior to this exchange.

On August 25, 2006, Dean Schroth sent an e-mail to Dr. Jablonover and another physician, Dr. Samantha McIntosh, summarizing his August 25, 2006 meeting with Plaintiff:

[H]ad a very interesting discussion with [Plaintiff] today. [A]lthough I think his agenda all along related to his concerns about his evaluation, he spent the first 10 minutes explaining how he wanted to work with me on the medical center strategic plan to improve teaching at the medical school. [H]e has some good points and I appreciate his interest in quality improvement.
[H]owever, all of this obviously came out of his experience in medicine. I'll reflect back to you what he was concerned about. [F]irst, he sees his weak evaluation as a ‘grudge’ by the department because he did not get along with the resident and leveled criticisms at the department and the clerkship director. [H]e felt like rounds were too long, not focused much on education per se (more on just getting clinical tasks done) and had little bedside teaching. [H]e was concerned that he was rarely observed taking a history or physical exam (he's probably right on this one, to which [I] agreed). [H]e denied being difficult at times, ascribing this to one misunderstanding with his resident who paged him to come perform a rectal exam and then was not there when he showed up. [H]e went off to do something else and then got ‘yelled’ at for not being there. [H]e implied that he'd had little feedback about his performance during the 6 weeks. [H]e was fairly dismissive of his meetings with [R]obert, implying that you were contradictory in your advice

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