Of Child Porn and Men: U-M Hospital has double-whammy crisis

Not every organization can control what its employees do. There’s crises that involve the actions of a sole person, and there’s crises that involve the actions (or lack thereof) of the organization.

Then there’s the crisis at the University of Michigan hospital.

Last May, a resident physician at U-M hospital found a thumb drive left in an employee lobby computer. She wanted to make sure to return it to whichever co-worker it belonged to, so she clicked through folders to find whose it might have been. Instead of finding a name, she found graphic images of nude children.

Stephen Jensen

Stephen Jensen, also a resident physician, was found (six months later) to have child porn not only on his left-behind thumb drive, but also at this house and on his computer. Read the details here:

U-M resident physician had child porn at hospital and home, police say

Enter crisis one: A U-M hospital physician (who is also in pediatrics, but police say there’s no foul play there) is charged with having copious amounts of child pornography.
It doesn’t end there, however. The original report, which was submitted by the resident physician who found the flash drive in May, was swept under the rug within a week. She was told there wasn’t enough evidence to continue with an investigation, and the hospital DID NOT notify police.

Jensen continued to see patients, including children, for over six months.

Read the below article to get a sense of what exactly happened:

University of Michigan officials didn’t report child porn to police for 6 months

Check out a TV report from WXYZ Detroit here. (Having trouble embedding the video!)

So, we have a physician accused of having child pornography, which went six months without being exposed, then the hospital finally reports the claim to police. And it’s still not over.

Enter crisis two: The six-month lapse in reporting the issue to police.

It was later reported, after the hospital released the time frame of the events, that over ten people, including administrators and a regent, knew about the thumb drive’s images and who was logged in at the time (Jensen).

Please read the timeline: http://www.annarbor.com/news/crime/timeline/

Also see the administration’s reaction to the six-month time lapse:

University of Michigan regent calls six-month lapse in reporting child porn ‘extraordinarily disappointing’

U-M Health System CEO calls delay in reporting child porn ‘painful moment in our history’

As if this wasn’t enough bad news for the hospital, there was another report about the internal confusion with security and their relationship with police officials. Security officers were identifying themselves as law enforcement and even routing 911 calls to their own offices, not to an outside agency.

Security or police? Unclear role at University of Michigan hospital contributed to child porn reporting delay

Here is where you, as one of the PR practitioners for U-M hospital, must step in. There’s two major things to consider: the crisis of having a pediatric physician found with child pornography, and the lack of urgency on the administration’s side with reporting coupled with the security debacle.

How can you regain the trust of the citizens of Ann Arbor, and the nation, after this ordeal?

Did hospital administration seem transparent?

Were there any prodromes for either crisis? If so, what could they have done to prevent this?

What changes could be made to have a more clear role of hospital security and how they interact with police?

How do you think the U-M hospital admin SHOULD have acted? Was there anything you think they did correctly?

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16 thoughts on “Of Child Porn and Men: U-M Hospital has double-whammy crisis

  1. What a serious topic that so many people like you said, sweep under the rug. I am embarassed for U of M hospitals, because this not only looks bad on the hospitals front but also the school and surrounding areas. This creates havoc that could have been fixed right away if an administrator had went right to the source. Instead, they wait for someone else to find out the issue or worse yet, disregard it altogether. Small, innocent children for the following six months could have been molested by him and have serious psycholigical issues now because this man was not questioned or reprimanded immediately. I think in this case they didn’t do anything correctly and this may cost them their great reputation.

    • Yes, it could cause U of M’s good medical practice and hospital great grief! However, do you think U of M had serveral prodromes prior to this incident even before the staff got a hold of the thumb drive?

  2. Great commentary on a not-so-great issue. It makes you wonder how many other people entrusted to the care of our youth have hidden agenda’s that aren’t so easily caught through carelessness. ALSO, from the moment an administrator makes such a decision, the entire force loses credibility, and there is no amount of ‘sorry!’ after the fact that will change that opinion, either. Too little too late for a system that large is a scary dilemma, but I will forever be asking ‘why’ as to the decision NOT to say anything ‘at that moment’. Mind boggling, to say the least.

    • That is so true, but do you think U of M could ever regain their trust back with those people that look up to U of M to be one of the best medical practice and research hospital’s (and school) for MD’s across the nation?

  3. Sigh….what a PR disaster for U of M hospital. I am disappointed that more of an investigation wasn’t done initially. How the administration could sweep this under the rug is almost unforgivable. It appears that there was an obvious cover up, and when cover ups are exposed they are usually more damaging to an organization than the initial act itself. An obvious prodrome is the recent Penn State scandal. This led to an overhaul of the football program and the administration. I wouldn’t be surprised if that same type of sweeping organizational change is implemented in this situation. In my opinion it’s absolutely needed. Much like Joe Paterno getting fired because of what he knew, any U of M administrator that knew anything about this and didn’t go to police should be fired immediately. Although the actions of one person can evolve into an organizational crisis, it can usually be dealt with and even avoided if steps are in place to deal with the individual properly. In this case, the crisis wasn’t handled the right way initially, and now the cover up has exploded into a crisis that involves the entire U of M name.

    • Well said, Sam! The administration did just sweep this crisis under the rug and now they are regretting being so careless. As you said, this tiny problem has turned into a large crisis for the organization as a whole. The people who participated in the cover up should be fired. I want to know why they didn’t deal with the issue when it first came to light. Is there something behined the scenes that the public doesn’t know about? I suppose, time will only tell…

  4. Sam, I like how you brought up Penn State scandal, which would have been a red flag to U of M if they paid close attention. However, i think the reason why U of M chose not to see warning signs because they didnt know how to deal with the possibility of a crisis like this happening, and didnt know what plan to execute it with.

    • Penn State is in obvious prodrome to any organization, especially to college campuses. But there’s also another Ann Arbor pediatrician within the EXACT same timeframe involved with child pornography. This issue is mainstream and high-profile in the U.S. right now. Why aren’t organizations taking the correct precautions? Perhaps this issue should be added into everyone’s crisis plan?

      Ann Arbor pediatrician pleads no contest to felony peeping charge:
      http://www.annarbor.com/news/crime/ann-arbor-pediatrician-pleads-no-contest-to-surveilling-an-unclothed-person/

      • Wow. That’s a nice prodrome to smack them across the face. I’m thinking this type of situation should be added to everyone’s crisis plan. As disturbing as it is, this is becoming a common occurrence and organizations need to take the proper steps to ensure that their patients are safe and most importantly, feel safe so they will return. I don’t think organizations are not being cautious, I just think they don’t know what the precautions are. How do you pick out possible offenders without being presumptuous? Really, there isn’t a guaranteed way to prevent these types of situations because it involves their employees’ activities outside of the organization. The organizations can, however, do a thorough enough background check to decrease their chances of being unpleasantly surprised.

        – Cherese

  5. I feel that this is a very unfortunate situation that occurred within U of M’s Medical Program. At the same time I feel that this brings awareness to the reality we face within our community. It is hard to identify who a lot of these sex offenders because there is no specific stereotype and characteristics of a person like this; they range from doctors to priest to football coaches. In the medical field it is imperative that people such as this are not taken lightly. U of M is an outstandingly prestigious school therefore there reputation will take a minor hit but it ultimately will not damage the school substantially. There should be extensive background checks on these people and there should be prodromal in place that makes it easier to weave out the people who are violating children. It would be a disaster to find out that there are several physicians like this and the medical field would be tarnished and people would start to lose their trust in physicians. This idea may seem extreme but it would lead to more sickness and health issues for everyone. Once U of M heard of such possible allegations they should have immediately investigated the situation. They should also reassure the public that they are a secure hospital that delivers some of the best care in the nation. They also should be apologetic and move on with regular hospital business as usual.
    -Kyle Smith

    • Kyle, you’re right about not being able to spot these offenders. You can’t look at anyone and know what they do when they’re not in your presence and that’s hard when you’re dealing with people’s children. I think more thorough background checks would be a good way to somewhat regain the trust with parents. While it still won’t allow U of M to point out all of the ‘shady’ individuals, it might bring some of the red flags to the forefront. I also think reassuring the public of their years of top of the line medical care is a good way to bring more positive light to the organization.

      – Cherese

  6. Looking from a parent’s point of view, it would take A LOT for me to feel like my child was safe and as a PR practitioner that makes my job so much more difficult. Once innocent children are put at risk, the situation becomes that much more sensitive. This is a bad look for U of M because it almost seems like they weighed their image with children’s safety and decided that their image won out. There’s no way to know what these physicians do on their own time, but when they’re careless enough to let it come to light, the organization needs to put their public’s safety and trust first. While I don’t blame U of M for one of their physicians having ‘questionable’ interest, I do believe they should take the heat for not reacting more effectively.

    In order to show everyone that they are serious about this incident being ‘extraordinarily disappointing,’ I think U of M needs to get rid of everyone who knew of the situation for the six months it was hidden. They let a pediatric physician see kids for SIX MONTHS after finding his child pornography stash. Even if they didn’t have tons of evidence to arrest Jensen, he should have been suspended pending investigation. Then, the proper authorities should have been notified. This way they’re not alarming the public but they’re also not putting people’s children in possible danger.

    From the moment U of M decided to try and hide this discovery, they’ve done nothing correctly.

    – Cherese

  7. This story really sickens me. U of M hospital was ranked #1 hospital for the metro Detroit area for the 17th year. As a parent, I know I wouldn’t want to take my child to a hospital with this going on.
    U of M will always be U of M. They’re well-known and recognized for the work that they do. I don’t think this will harm them as a hospital but I think parents might be hesitant to taking their children there. To regain the trust of the citizens of Ann Arbor and the nation they need to be honest and own up to their mistake, which they seem to be doing. That resident, in my opinion, needs to be fired. This incident has tainted the reputation of the hospital. He’s considered a liability. The hospital should send out a release on him being fired and explain how this incident will never happen again as well as what procedures the hospital is doing to make sure it doesn’t. The computers at the hospital should also block any inappropriate sites, which should also be in the release. I think it will take time but I’m sure that trust can be regained back.

    The hospital administration should of been doing their job and when the incident occurred they should of investigated. It’s their fault this wasn’t reported for six months and that’s a big deal.

    The first prodrome for this case is that there was the thumb drive found and the issue should of been addressed. If they addressed the issue right there and then, this wouldn’t of escalated the way that it has. Having computers monitor sites used on the hospitals computer would of helped prevent this crisis.

    If any suspicious activity occurs the hospital security should IMMEDIATELY be in contact with the police.

    The only thing in my opinion that they did correctly was actually reporting the incident. They SHOULD have investigated this immediately, no excuses. He’s a Physician, he treats children, what he did was unacceptable in his line of profession.

    • I completely agree with what you wrote about the press release, Kaitlyn! UofM needs to put a release out after they let that doctor go. WIthin it, they need to outline the steps they are taking to prevent this from happening again; they need to show the public that they have learned from this crisis and they are taking action to prevent it from happening again. They need to show that they care more about the safety of their patients then that of their image.

  8. Well, to be honest, I think that it is going to be some time before this hospital will gain back the trust they have lost through this ordeal. The administration was definitely not transparent or else the right government officials would have been notified. The PR team needs to stress the importance of transparency within the organization (that includes releasing information (or evidence) when a case like this occurs) and they can now reference this crisis as a prodrome for the future. The administration should have taken the original report seriously and they should have taken the right actions (such as notifying the police). Not notifying the authorities makes the hospital look extremely bad (it seems like they cared more about their image than the safety of the patients of that perverted doctor). The PR team has to act like a moral compass of a company and I feel as though they failed at doing that in this case. When the company is doing something wrong and you know about it, you must stand up and say something. Staying quiet about it will only lead to a crisis, such as this.
    ~
    Laura

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