Disabled veteran and medical student says she’s being targeted by university over pro-life stance

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TAMPA, FL – The Supreme Court recently made the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that paved the way for the murder of millions of unborn babies in the US.

The recent ruling did not make all abortions illegal as many people claim it did. It simply sent the decision about the legalities of abortion back to the states to decide.

Some states had trigger laws in effect, meaning that if Roe was ever set aside, that state law made abortion illegal in most instances.

The decision was seen by most people of faith in US as a victory for their pro-life stance. But for some, being vocal of their beliefs and celebration of what the Roe and Dobbs ruling meant came with a price.

Many became the target of online comments. Others have had their homes and families harassed by having protestors gather at their homes.

Others have faced a backlash at work or school.

This is the story of one of those individuals. This is part one of two parts to this story.

We would like to introduce you to Gabriela Ryan, or Gabby as she introduced herself to us.

First, we need to give you some background on Ms. Ryan.

She is a first-generation American, her parents are from Afghanistan. She served in the United States Army for nearly 12 years before being medically retired in late 2020.  She is also a person of deep-rooted faith and a firm believer that abortion is murder.

She is currently enrolled at Nova Southeastern University, studying to be a doctor.

And it is here, at the NSU Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine (KPCOM), that she finds herself just hours away from a Student Progress committee meeting that will determine her fate as a student doctor in this program.

She received a letter from Janet Hamstra, alerting her to this hearing. That letter, which misspelled her name, outlined the pages of the KPCOM handbook that would direct the meeting.

Disabled veteran and medical student says she's being targeted by university over pro-life stance
Letter from KPCOM, shared with permission of Gabriela Ryan

“You have been referred to the KPCOM Student Progress Committee for social media posts in which you identify yourself as an NSU KPCOM student that could be interpreted as harassment.

It is the function of the Student Progress Committee to review all such matters as outlined in the 2021-22 KPCOM Student Handbook in the following sections…”

Those sections identified include:

  • Conduct Standards-Harassment or Harm to Others
  • Conduct Standards-Online/Internet Social Networking Usage
  • Conduct Standards-Retaliation
  • Code of Behavioral Conduct- Professional Conduct
  • Code of Behavioral Conduct- Social Media Guidelines

https://fundourpolice.com/

That letter outlined the pages of the KPCOM handbook that would direct the meeting.

It is important to note that the letter from Dr. Hamstra did not identify the posts in question, nor did she identify the platforms on which they were made.

Interestingly enough, Ryan only has three social media platforms, and on none of them does she use her name.

In fact, her LinkedIn profile is the only place where we were able to identify any mention of her being in medical school, but she did not list which school she was in.

At least, not before this letter showed up.

The letter details that at approximately 2:20 pm (EST) on Thursday, July 21, Ryan will be logging into a Zoom call with a panel comprised of roughly 7 people.

Those people will listen to her make a statement regarding the student misconduct allegations against her. She can make a statement on her own behalf.

She can call witnesses but cannot listen to those witnesses or the questions the panel asks them.

After examining the information provided by Ms. Ryan, the panel will convene for discussion and make recommendations. Dr. Elaine Wallace, Dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, will then render a decision, which Ms. Ryan will learn of via certified mail.

That decision could be as simple as probation and as severe as expulsion form the program.

When we first learned of this situation, we reached out to the school’s Public Relations and Communications Director, Scott Colton, along with all members of the Student Progress Committee requesting information.

That email went without reply (more on that later), save one out of office response.

We also included Marjorie Bell, the Director of Student Affairs, as well as the Director of Public Safety, Larry Massey.

Upon receipt of this letter, Ryan reached out to her network of friends to see what her best course of action would be. Through those conversations, she obtained legal representation.

The panel, as part of the guidelines they have in place for such actions, does not allow any type of representation, legal or otherwise.

She doesn’t get to see any of the items they are using to weigh against her. She doesn’t know what the actual allegations are, nor who made them. She will not face her accuser(s) during this Zoom call hearing.

It is just Ryan against seven members of the KPCOM staff and faculty.

Which, as we will lay out later in this piece, seem to have already made up their mind, being the fair and impartial group they seem to be.

Shortly after receiving that letter, she received an email from Dr. Benjamin O. Johnson.

Disabled veteran and medical student says she's being targeted by university over pro-life stance
Email from Dr. Johnson, shared with permission from Gabriela Ryan

In that email, Dr. Johnson alludes to a claim initiated by a faculty member through the university’s Department of Public Safety.

It was this email that led us to include DPS Director Massey in that email. We requested a copy of any incident reports that may have been filled out as part of their investigation. That request has gone unanswered.

Of note in Johnson’s email, he alludes to the idea that there may be several people involved in the alleged harassment of a faculty member. Johnson then makes an odd request.

“If you have influence over the individuals who are allegedly harassing a faculty member, I recommend that you use it.”

Ok, it was less of a request and more of a threat.

Ironically, the student handbook says of harassment:

“Harassment is defined as any conduct (words or acts)—whether intentional or unintentional—or a product of disregard for the safety, rights, or welfare of others, which causes physical, verbal, or emotional harm.

It is any conduct that intimidates, degrades, demeans, threatens, hazes, or otherwise interferes with another person’s right to participate in their education and be free from a hostile environment.

This includes, but is not limited to, loud or aggressive behavior; behavior that disrupts the orderly functioning of the university; behavior that disturbs the peace and/or comfort of person(s) on the campus of the university; and behavior that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.

It also includes any conduct (words or acts) in which the university can determine a threat exists to the educational process or to the health or safety of a member of the NSU community.”

We added the italics to identify specific areas of this paragraph.

Students are prohibited from doing this, but we cannot find any documentation on the college’s website that prohibits staff and faculty from engaging in such behavior.

Since the receipt of these two items, the KPCOM faculty, specifically Dr. Mark Sandhouse has taken the time to rewrite policies that are in place in the handbook and issuing them out to the students via email.

In particular, he updated the policy around leaves of absence and readmissions, two items of particular interest to Ryan, as they are potentially going to come into play, depending on the outcome of the hearing and the decision handed down by Dr. Wallace (more on Wallace shortly).

Sandhouse is one of the individuals that will be sitting on the committee on Thursday that hears the “evidence” against Ryan.

Another member of that committee is Dr, Darren Cohen.

It is of special interest that Dr. Cohen is a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). Ryan was previously also a member of that group.

After the Roe decision, she sent an email to the group, with the permission of the ACEP governing body.

In part, she wrote:

“…for those of you in this group who are equally appalled by the divisive statement made by ACEP leadership yesterday [pertaining to the Roe decision], I would prayerfully encourage you to consider redirecting your annual dues to an organization that morally and ethically remains in line with the Hippocratic Oath.”

Again, Ryan is decidedly pro-life. Turns out, few, if any, of the individuals on the panel share her compassion and belief in the sanctity of life.

So, while they make claims as to the reason behind Ryan’s appearance before to committee, it is reasonable to assume that she may be targeted because she dares to stand proudly in the belief of the sanctity of life.

In fact, one of the members, Aubrey Paffenroth, the Committee’s Administrative Assistant, has numerous social media post regarding her support of Planned Parenthood.

Ryan said that she has never met or interacted with Paffenroth, but recent social media activity shows that the committee member has been stalking Ryan on social media.

Dr. Wallace, who is alleged to have met her wife when she was an instructor and her wife was still a med student, issued a follow-up email.

Disabled veteran and medical student says she's being targeted by university over pro-life stance
Email from Dr. Wallace, used with permission from Gabriela Ryan.

OK. So, now it is a threatening post made via social media towards two other students on Health Professions Scholarship Program scholarships.

We must pause to remind our readers, that she was initially told that she was harassing someone via social media.

Then it was stated that she was part of a group that was harassing a faculty member. Now, she is targeting HPSP recipients with threats via social media.

Hey, NOVA. Which is it?

This is a program that armed services branches pick up the tab for individuals going into medical and dental fields, typically with the understanding that they enter the branch that paid for their education for a specific period of time.

Ryan provided the social media post in question.

Disabled veteran and medical student says she's being targeted by university over pro-life stance
Social media screenshot, used with permission.

When these individuals enter into the agreement with the branches of the armed services, they enter school as a cadet. As such, they are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

This is something that Ryan, a retired Army officer, took the time to remind them of.

What we see in the post makes no threat toward any member of her class, it doesn’t identify anyone by name, nor does it create the allusion that she personally will be looking to have their scholarships revoked.

While it is far-fetched to believe that any former officer would actually file UCMJ charges themselves, there are provisions within that military legal charter that carves out pathways for former military members to be charged under articles of the UCMJ.

It is reasonable to believe that should improper actions be made by medical school students (cadets), they would be subject to both federal military jurisdiction.

Speaking of the federal side of this conversation, should Ryan be cleared of any “wrongdoing,” and faces continued backlash, it would be safe to assert that said backlash was coming her way because of her beliefs as a Christian.

Should that actually be made evident, it stands to reason that the federal government, specifically the Veteran’s Administration, would take special interest in a medical school that, while receiving federal funding and accepts the GI Bill, was violating the constitutional rights of a disabled, female, minority veteran that was enrolled in the school.

We will provide more information regarding the powers that be at Nova KPCOM, to include allegations of disability discrimination, as well as the outcome of the hearing and potential next steps of Ms. Ryan in her fight to stand firmly in her beliefs while pursuing he medical degree.

Before we close, we also want to point out that we provided the members of the committee, the public relations department and the public safety team at Nova Southeastern University an opportunity to respond and make any statement that they deemed necessary.

Instead, they chose not to respond.

We sent a follow up email to that same group of people.

This time, we received an interesting response from their email server.

Disabled veteran and medical student says she's being targeted by university over pro-life stance
Error message from Nova Southern University email server

When we researched the error code, it was determined that no one in the “To:” and “CC:” sections with a nova.edu address received our second email.

That was not the case with the first submission, as we received an ‘out of office’ reply from one of the individuals in the Student Affairs office.

It appears as though our email address was blacklisted in the Nova email server.

Between this writing and our second part follow-up, we will attempt to communicate with them via telephone and/or social media and will provide any response that we receive from the college.

Stay tuned.

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