More Than 60 Mazzoni Staffers Walk Out, Call on CEO Nurit Shein to Resign

After an organization-wide PCHR training session on racial bias, staff members confronted Shein over recent turmoil at the nonprofit.

Mazzoni Center staff members during a walkout. Photo by Ernest Owens

Mazzoni Center staff members during a walkout. Photo by Ernest Owens

A week after Dr. Robert Winn resigned as Mazzoni Center’s medical director following reports that he was the subject of an investigation, more than 60 full-time staffers of the nonprofit are now calling for executive director/CEO Nurit Shein to step down.

“Nurit Shein, resign!” said Anthony Leon, a youth education manager at Mazzoni, at the conclusion of a PCHR-mandated organization-wide training session on racial bias on Thursday morning. Staff members began to confront Shein over what they claimed was her lack of transparency surrounding the allegations against Dr. Winn and other internal issues. Former Mazzoni staff members were also present during the confrontation.

G Philly filmed the demonstration, which began at a Thomas Jefferson medical building at 1020 Locust Street:

Roughly 60 of the staff members (who were noticeably dressed in all black) who attending the training session then headed to Mazzoni’s medical office, at 809 Locust Street, following the release of a public statement by Mazzoni’s medical staff:

Subject: Message to patients

We are clinicians and medical staff at Mazzoni Center. As medical providers and members of the community, we remain committed to serving our patients and are fully dedicated to the mission of Mazzoni Center. We strive to comply with the highest ethical and clinical standards in providing patient care and will continue to do so during this difficult time for Mazzoni Center and for our patients.

We are deeply disturbed by the allegations reported by the press and fully support the transparent and thorough investigation which is currently in progress. Any and all unlawful or illegal activity will immediately be turned over to the proper legal authority.

During this time, Mazzoni Center must remain a fully-functioning medical office to continue to provide the best care possible for our patients. The mission of Mazzoni Center and our calling as professionals to provide the highest standards of medical care to a community in need is greater than any one person. We will not let allegations or an investigation of the actions of one person within our organization deter us from carrying out our mission and continuing to provide excellent care to our patients.

As a result of the recent allegations, we wish to speak directly to our patients, who may doubt our practice’s commitment to their wellbeing. Know that we stand with you as advocates for rebuilding trust through consistent adherence to the highest ethical standards. We hope that going forward you will feel comfortable addressing any doubts or concerns with us, your medical providers.

We, the clinicians of Mazzoni Center, plan on coming in every day and doing what we do best, providing quality comprehensive health and wellness services in an LGBTQ-focused environment, while preserving the dignity and improving the quality of life of the individuals we serve.

Nancy Brisbon, MD, Matthew Fellows, MD, Lin-Fan Wang, MD, Becky Altman, CRNP, Caroline Cylkowski, CRNP, Dustin Latimer, PA-C, Maxwell Parrish, CRNP, Charles Grove, LCSW, Ryan Liberty, RN

Protest organizers passed around a formal petition affirming “no confidence” in Shein:

Statement of No Confidence

It is unacceptable that it took this many years for senior management and the board to conduct their due diligence and bring in a third party to investigate serious allegations of wrongdoing by Robert Winn. Accounts of sexual misconduct and medical negligence that former and current staff brought to the attention of the administration should have raised red flags a long time ago but were instead dismissed as baseless, even when evidence to support the claims was presented to Nurit Shein.

The staff of Mazzoni Center refused to ignore this failure of leadership. In fact, we won’t stand for it anymore.

Current leadership represents a culture of secrecy, poor oversight and complicity — which has allowed institutional racism and abuse of power and authority to flourish. We must embrace a culture of transparency and accountability that helps reestablish trust with the community we serve. The health of our agency and its future success demand nothing less.

For the sake of our clients and patients, who must always be out top priority, CEO Nurit Shein and Board President/Compliance Officer Jimmy Ruiz must immediately resign. Gross incompetence simply cannot be tolerated for one more day.

Moving forward, we insist that any qualified candidates selected to replace the board president, the CEO, and the medical director must be chosen using a rigorous open process that includes feedback from the community and staff. This process will require national searches for the two executive level positions, which must be conducted with significant involvement of a staff committee comprised of representatives from all agency departments and seniority levels and members of the race and diversity task force. Additionally, interim and permanent replacements should not come from the ranks of management or the board because none of the individuals who hold those positions have the necessary skills and credibility to head this organization during our current crisis.

As new leadership takes shape, fundamental change has to occur at the board level that fully addresses lack of diversity and inadequate oversight. A board that fundraises but does not govern is one that shirks its core responsibilities and true purpose and puts the heath and wellbeing of our staff, patients, and clients in danger. No current or future senior management should be allowed to have unchecked power ever again.

As of Thursday afternoon, organizers said 68 full-time employees, out of a full-time staff of 138, had signed the petition. Michelle Lindstrom, a medical case manager of Mazzoni, spoke on the reasoning behind the walkout and why she signed the petition:

On Wednesday, prior to the petition and walkout, Shein had sent the following staff-wide email:

Good afternoon all –

We have heard from many staff that they would value help in communicating with patients. Working with a team that include communications, leadership, medical clinicians and others, the following guidance was developed. We hope this can serve as a tool to assist you in your communications with clients and others. Please put this information in your own words.

In the case of recent allegations, the follow steps were taken:

– Mazzoni Center immediately initiated a third-party investigation that is currently underway.

– Dr. Winn was placed on leave.

– Dr. Winn subsequently tendered, and the board accepted, his resignation as the medical director of Mazzoni Center; Dr. Shanin Gross was named acting medical director.

– Arrangements were made to ensure all patients and clients experience a continuity of care.

– Information was provided to staff and is being provided to constituents on who to confidentially contact with information or concerns regarding the investigation.

– The board issued a statement which was communicated to appropriate media and is on our social media outlets.

– Information that could be communicated, was shared internally.

– The staff of Mazzoni Center reaffirmed its commitment to providing quality comprehensive health and wellness services for every patient or client, while preserving the dignity and improving the quality of life.

Thoughts you may wish to share with patients/clients:

– Caring for our patients is paramount.

– We strive to comply with the highest ethical and clinical standards in providing patient care and will continue to do so at Mazzoni Center.

– There is zero tolerance at Mazzoni for anything but best practices and appropriate care.

– The mission of the Mazzoni Center and our calling as professionals to provide the highest standards of medical care to a community in need is shared by every Center employee.

– Mazzoni Center is committed to turning over any and all information from our third-party investigation regarding unlawful or illegal conduct to the proper legal authorities.

– If you have concerns about your own care, or have information regarding the recent allegations you wish to share, please know that your concerns will be handled confidentially and with dignity. You can share any concerns with Gina Ameci of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney at 215-665-3804.

Nurit Shein, Chief Executive Officer
Mazzoni Center

Neither Shein nor Mazzoni Center’s communications office has responded to requests for comment.

UPDATE: On Thursday at 3:30 p.m., a Mazzoni spokesperson sent G Philly the following statement from Shein:

“I understand that some individuals have expressed concerns, and I plan to meet with them in small groups over the next few days so that we can continue the conversation.”

Following the update, Councilwoman Helen Gym responded on Twitter to the news:

On Friday afternoon, Mazzoni’s Board of Directors sent a statement to the press affirming their support of Shein:

The Board of Directors of the Mazzoni Center met on Thursday April 20, 2017 to discuss and address recent inaccuracies and accusations, from both anonymous and named sources, that have been perpetuated and highlighted in the press.

The Board would like to address the issues raised regarding transparency and leadership. Prior allegations were fully investigated by Mazzoni and appropriate state agencies. State law prohibited us from sharing the details, but be assured these were taken seriously. We will endeavor to increase transparency to the extent permitted by law.

Toward that end, we would remind all Mazzoni Staff of the multiple meetings Nurit Shein and senior management have held with staff collectively and in small groups. Additionally, we continue to listen to concerns from all staff regarding any personnel issues. A Task Force for employee concerns was constituted in February and has had multiple individual and group meetings to present the concerns of diversity and inclusion in personnel and promotion policies and help resolve them.

The Board of Directors will be urgently meeting individually and in groups with staff members to listen to concerns, address them and improve communication at all levels of the organization.

The Board of Directors reaffirms its confidence in its CEO, Nurit Shein and the Board President, Jimmy Ruiz, MD. Nurit Shein, Jimmy Ruiz MD and Mazzoni continue their commitment to our patients and clients, the LGBT Community and those with HIV/AIDS whom we have served for over 30 years.

Dr. Jimmy Ruiz, MD, Anthony Verdi, Ph.D, Mark H. Blecher, MD, Kelly A. Harris, Russell H. Harris, MD, Dorothy Mann, Anthony R. Rodriguez, MD, Michael J. Wolf, MD, Richard Lee, Christopher Pope