The Harvard Medical School (HMS) professor who discovered that aspirin may help prevent heart attacks faces allegations that he sexually harassed more than a dozen women who worked under him, according to an article in the Boston Globe yesterday.
Charles H. Hennekens resigned from his posts at HMS and Brigham and Women's Hospital, where he was the chief of the Division of Preventive Medicine, effective on March 31.
Both organizations confirmed Hennekens' resignation but said in a joint statement that "due to issues of employee confidentiality, no further information is available at this time."
Hennekens lawyer, Joel A. Kozol, told reporters that Hennekens had left the posts to be near his ill mother in Florida, according to the Globe.
But his departure also came six weeks after employees in his division told lawyers for Harvard and the hospital that Hennekens had harassed several female members of the department, the Globe said.
According to the Globe, lawyers from Harvard and the hospital investigated the complaints against Hennekens and confronted him with the allegations.
Hennekens issued a statement through his lawyer to the Globe denying the accusations.
"In today's world, allegations of sexual harassment are easily made and difficult to disprove. When they are made by people who are unwilling to be identified, they are not worthy of response, much less publication," read the statement which was printed in the Globe.
"...I have never in my life sexually harassed anyone in the division or anywhere else. Those who know me know this to be true," the statement continued.
The women said Hennekens made unwanted sexual advances, and some claimed that their careers suffered after they rejected his propositions, according to the Globe.
Others said that while sexual advances were made, their professional careers were not threatened when they rejected them.
The Globe's sources for the story--three people who worked under Hennekens' supervision--spoke to the newspaper about the allegations on condition of anonymity.
"He would make a sexual advance to someone or in some cases, like in my situation it was an explicit sexual proposition in which the sexual nature of his request was completely clear" one of the sources told the Globe. "I was extremely fearful of the consequences of rejecting his. From that point forward my work suffered. He blocked whatever I tried to do."
During his career Hennekens has co-authorized more that 500 publications and three textbooks.
As the principal investigator in the physician's Health Study, he also made discoveries that were widely noted in the media, including the aspirin study.
He also served as founding editor-in-chief of the Annals of Epidemiology and the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Hennekens earned his M.D. from Cornell University and a masters of public health from Harvard.
He was Brawnwald professor of medicine and ambulatory care and prevention at HMS and a professor in the department of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, a post which he has also resigned from.
Neither Hennekens nor his lawyer could be reached for comment yesterday.
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