Mayo Clinic Retaliates Against Professor Who Strayed From ‘Prescribed Messaging’ On COVID, Trans Athletes

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Laurel Duggan Social Issues and Culture Reporter
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The Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science (MCCMS) banned Dr. Michael Joyner, an anesthesiology professor, from speaking with journalists without the institution’s approval and denied his annual raise after he made public comments on COVID-19 and gender that strayed from the institution’s “prescribed messaging,” according to a letter from the Mayo Clinic published by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE).

Joyner discussed the physiological advantages male athletes have over females in The New York Times in May 2022 and criticized the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for discouraging convalescent blood plasma treatments for COVID-19 in January 2023. The Mayo Clinic referenced both of these interviews in its March 5 letter to Joyner forbidding him from “offline conversations with reporters” and requiring him to get institutional approval for all future media appearances. (RELATED: ‘Chilling Effect’: States Are Cracking Down On Therapists Who Don’t Affirm Kids’ Trans Identities)

In addition to restrictions on his speech, MCCMS imposed a one-week unpaid suspension and denial of any salary increase at his next contract renewal, according to the Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA).

“Failure to fully comply with the expectations outlined above or any additional validated complaints from any staff … will result in termination of employment,” the letter warned. The Mayo Clinic also mentioned the need to protect its “brand and reputation” by restricting Joyner’s public comments multiple times.

The letter said Joyner’s comments to the NYT about the differences between males and females in sports competitions were “problematic” for the LGBT community at the Mayo Clinic.

“You see the divergence immediately as the testosterone surges into the boy. There are dramatic differences in performances” he told the outlet. “There are social aspects to sport, but physiology and biology underpin it. Testosterone is the 800-pound gorilla.”

“Members of the Personnel Executive Committee met with you on November 28, 2022, to discuss several concerns, including your use of language viewed as inflammatory in this context. The fact that your selection of idiomatic expressions continues has caused the institution to question whether you are able to appropriately represent Mayo Clinic in media interactions,” the letter read, referencing language that was critical of the NIH.

The MCCMS previously claimed to protect academic freedom for faculty in a Freedom of Expression and Academic Freedom Policy published by FIRE. These protections included “freedom of expression, which includes the right to discuss and present scholarly opinions and conclusions without fear of retribution or retaliation if those opinions and conclusions conflict with those of the faculty or institution.” 

“This expansive gag order violates the free speech promises Mayo Clinic makes to its faculty,” FIRE argued in a public statement Wednesday. “Private institutions are not bound by the First Amendment, but they must adhere to their own promises, including commitments to uphold free speech and academic freedom.”

The Mayo Clinic did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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