March 14, 2016 2:09 pm
Updated: March 14, 2016 4:30 pm

Ontario university apologizes to victims of psychiatrist at school

Western University/Handout

An Ontario university issued an apology Monday for the part it may have played in the “trauma and hurt” suffered by former students allegedly abused by a psychiatrist employed at the school more than two decades ago.

Western University’s apology concerned former London, Ont., psychiatrist Stanley Dobrowolski, who is currently in prison.

The university explained it was making the apology after information involving three former students came to its attention earlier this year.

“We apologize for the trauma and pain his victims endured as a result of Dr. Dobrowolski’s conduct while at Western, and we apologize for any role that Western may have played in contributing to that trauma and pain,” university president Amit Chakma said in a written apology.

“We continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding Dr. Dobrowolski’s tenure at Western in order to ensure, as best as possible, that such a situation could not occur today.”

Dobrowolski is serving a four-year sentence for sexual assault and voyeurism stemming from incidents that happened after 1995 and involved his private practice.

In 2014, the Ontario Court of Justice found him guilty of sexual assaulting 16 people, breaching a court order by conducting physical exams on 12 people and also found him guilty of voyeurism through surreptitiously making visual recordings of nine people.

Western University’s apology, however, focused on the time he was employed at the school’s Student Health Services, between 1985 and 1994 – a period during which the university said concerns were raised about his “inappropriate actions” with some of the female students he was treating.

“Dr. Dobrowolski used his position of power and trust to manipulate and sexually abuse some of the young women in his care,” Chakma said.

“Western’s senior administration and I know that an apology cannot undo what happened to young women who trusted a psychiatrist working in Western’s Student Health Services who, in turn, violated that trust. We do hope they can take some comfort knowing Western recognizes the harm that was caused.”

Chakma said the university also wanted to apologize to any staff who were affected by Dobrowolski’s behaviour.

The apology involving Dobrowolski was issued on Monday because the university only recently became aware of further details about Dobrowolski’s time at the school, said Western Provost Janice Deakin.

Part of that information came from a CBC Fifth Estate report involving Dobrowolski, she said.

“The perfect time for an apology would have been when these abuses took place 20 to 30 years ago, but in the absence of that and with the information we gained from the CBC piece, Western felt it was our responsibility to take responsibility for how the university responded,” Deakin told The Canadian Press.

“We felt that it was important that we acknowledge that these young women were put at risk and had their lives damaged.”

Dobrowolski was stripped of his licence to practice by the College of Physicians and Surgeons in late 2015.

The college’s discipline committee found that Dobrowolski engaged in the sexual abuse of patients, engaged in disgraceful conduct and failed to maintain the standard of practice of the profession.

It said it found his behaviour to be “repugnant” and “one of the worst cases of egregious misconduct” that has ever come before it.

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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