PAUL MC DONALD, M.D. Plaintiff-Appellant
CANTON MEDICAL EDUCATION FOUNDATION, INC. Defendant-Appellee
Appeal from the Stark County Court of Common Pleas, 2012CV00513
For Plaintiff-Appellant: STEPHEN P. GRIFFIN, MICHAEL J. KAHLENBERG
For Defendant-Appellee: RICHARD S. MILLIGAN, PAUL J. PUSATERI, AMANDA L. WALLS
JUDGES: Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J. Hon. William B. Hoffman, J. Hon. Patricia A. Delaney, J.
(¶1} Plaintiff-Appellant Paul McDonald, M.D. appeals the December 10, 2012 judgment entry of the Stark County Court of Common Pleas granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant-Appellee Canton Medical Education Foundation, Inc.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
(¶2} Plaintiff-Appellant Paul McDonald, M.D. graduated from Chicago Medical School in 1998. Dr. McDonald completed one year of residency at the Martin Luther King Medical Center in Los Angeles in 2000. Not satisfied with the residency program at Martin Luther King Medical Center, Dr. McDonald transferred to the internal medicine residency program provided by Defendant-Appellee Canton Medical Education Foundation, Inc. ("CMEF").
(¶3} On March 26, 2001, Dr. McDonald entered the CMEF residency program for his second post-graduate year ("PGY2"). A doctor entering the residency program at CMEF does so under contract for each year the doctor attends the program. The contract is entitled the "Canton Medical Education Foundation Resident Agreement." For Dr. McDonald's PGY2, the contract term was from July 1, 2001 to June 30, 2002. The resident's general responsibilities under the contract are outlined in the Resident Physician Manual, attached as Exhibit A to the contract and incorporated by reference. During the contract period, the resident conducts clinical rotations under the supervision of the program.
(¶4} On February 27, 2002, Dr. McDonald entered into a Resident Agreement with CMEF for Dr. McDonald's third post-graduate year ("PGY3"). The term of the contract was from July 1, 2002 to July 1, 2003. The contract stated Dr. McDonald received an annual stipend in the amount of $42, 129.00. Dr. McDonald's duties under the contract again included clinical rotations. The contract incorporated the Resident Physician Manual by reference. Pertinent to this appeal, the Resident Physician Manual states as follows:
PROMOTION AND REAPPOINTMENT
Residents are promoted on the basis of acceptable periodic clinical evaluations, which may be supplemented by other evaluation methods.
In most instances, contractual appointment is equated with academic promotion. Under some circumstances, a resident may be reappointed to repeat an academic year.
The decision to reappoint at the same level or promote a resident to the next level of post-graduate training shall be done annually. The decision will be made after review of the resident's performance.
The following factors are used in the decision to promote:
1.All evaluations of the resident's performance
2. Pass the USMLE [United States Medical Licensing Exam] II to be promoted to a PGY-2 (excluding Transitional)
3.Pass the USMLE III to complete the residency program
4.Any other criteria deemed appropriate by the Program Director
The Program Director will communicate reappointment and promotional decisions to the GMERC [Graduate Medical Education and Research Committee]. All appointments (same and next academic year) are restricted to a maximum period of 12 months with no implied promise of extension. Each resident is required to sign a contract, signifying acceptance of the appointment.
If significant deficiencies in the resident's performance are identified, a decision may be made not to promote. As much advance written notice as possible will be given to this resident. When remediation is decided upon rather than promotion, the resident's Residency Program Director, when appropriate, will arrange a plan, which includes monitoring performance. The Program Director may choose to extend the existing contract for the length of time necessary to complete the remediation process. The resident may use the grievance procedure to appeal the decision not to promote.
(¶5} On January 14, 2003, during the term of Dr. McDonald's PGY3 contract with CMEF, Dr. McDonald entered into another Resident Agreement with CMEF that extended the term of the PGY3 contract by six months. The contract term was from July 1, 2003 to December 31, 2003. The annual stipend was $42, 972.00.
(¶6} The resident generally takes the USMLE III exam during the third post-graduate year. Upon passage of the USMLE III exam and a certificate of completion of a residency program, a doctor is eligible to sit for the internal medicine boards. If the doctor passes the internal medicine boards, the doctor will be an internal medicine board certified physician.
(¶7} Dr. McDonald took the USMLE III exam on November 25, 2003. He did not pass the exam.
(¶8} The term of Dr. McDonald's Resident Agreement was to expire on December 31, 2003. Dr. McDonald met with Dr. Richard Ziegler, Program Director of the CMEF residency program to discuss Dr. McDonald's status with the residency program. Pursuant to their discussion, Dr. Zeigler sent Dr. McDonald the following letter on December 30, 2003:
Re: Certificate of Completion of Training, Internal Medicine Residency Program
Thank you very much for meeting with me today, 12/30/2003, to discuss your status with the residency program. I am sorry that the news from USMLE Step 3 [USMLE III] was not favorable. The faculty and staff of the residency program are pulling for you as you work and study to get by this next hurdle.
As we discussed at the meeting, the residency steering committee/program evaluation committee has decided that you will receive a certificate of completion of training in internal medicine from the residency when you pass Step 3. The committee also decided that you have one year (until 12/31/04) to pass Step 3. If you do not pass Step 3 by 12/31/04, the residency program will not be able to grant you a certificate of completion of training and you will probably have to repeat at least a part of your residency training program. As you know, a passing grade on Step 3 is a requirement for completion of all Canton residency programs.
(¶9} After December 31, 2003, Dr. McDonald was no longer performing duties, including clinical rotations, as outlined by the Resident Agreement.
(¶10} Dr. McDonald took the USMLE III exam on June 3, 2004. He did not pass the exam.
(¶11} Dr. John McGreevey, Jr., the current Program Director of the CMEF Residency Program sent the following letter to Dr. McDonald on June 29, 2004:
I hope this letter finds you well and enjoying the summer. I am writing as a reminder for you to inform us once you have passed your USMLE Step III exam so that we can release your diploma and plaque. Per the Steering Committee decision, if you do not pass USMLE Step III by December 31, 2004, we will be unable to grant you a certificate of completion of training and you will likely need to repeat at least a portion of your residency training.
(¶12} On November 24, 2004, Dr. McGreevey sent Dr. McDonald the following letter:
As we discussed last week, I am allowing you to extend the deadline for taking your Step 3 exam into January 2005 because of the current scheduling problems. However, this does not in anyway change any of the other aspects of the letters you have received from the program regarding Step 3.
Please let me know as soon as possible the results of your Step 3 exam.
(¶13} Dr. McDonald took the USMLE III exam on January 20, 2005. He ...