Student Alleges Officials Violated Protocol


FUEMS ram archives
The student accused FUEMS of violating medical confidentiality protocol. Fordham Ram Archives

By Laura Sanicola

A Fordham University student has accused Fordham Public Safety and Fordham University Emergency Medical Services (FUEMS) of mishandling an alleged sexual assault and violating medical protocol in an article released Sunday evening on Slant News, a digital news website consisting of crowdsourced content.

Marissa Marcinelli, FCRH ’17, penned “An Open Letter To The Fordham University Emergency Services Who Failed Me” on the news site. She described a Nov. 11 incident in which FUEMS questioned her and two of her female friends after they requested that Public Safety pay off the taxi driver who allegedly attempted to sexually assault her friend.

Marcinelli accused FUEMS of treating her friends with both apathy and aggression, while also violating medical confidential protocol, when questioning her about her medical history in front of her friends as well as FUEMS and Public Safety officers.

“The FUEMS personnel violated HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) laws,” Marcinelli told The Fordham Ram. “Not only that, but they treated our situation in which we as the victims were blamed for the incident.”

HIPAA includes a privacy rule, which establishes national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information. This applies to health plans, health care clearing houses and those health care providers that conduct certain health care transactions electronically. However, information volunteered by an individuals in the presence of others who are not pertinent health care providers is not explicitly deemed confidential by HIPAA.

Marcinelli also objected to being questioned by FUEMS as to why she took Prozac and Xanax. “I felt violated talking about my personal struggles with generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder; [it] is something I choose to disclose to few people, under terms I am comfortable with,” she wrote in the article.

According to protocol, FUEMS staff must gather all health information that may be relevant to the individual, including medications, prior medical history and diagnoses, in order to submit a complete health report, or PCR, to the hospital.

Marcinelli alleged that the driver was supposed to take the girls from Chelsea to their off-campus apartments in the Bronx at 2 a.m. but stopped on Fordham Road. After the group paid the driver, Marcinelli recalled that the taxi driver wanted more than the cash fare they had paid him, and “proceeded to get in the back of the cab and grope, kiss and attempt to rape my friend on the basis that we ‘still owed him,’” she wrote in the article.

She recounted that Public Safety officers repaid the alleged assailant in the lobby of the office and allowed him to leave without taking down his license plate or cab number.

Neither Marcinelli nor her friends had taken down that information or called out for help to bystanders, she reported.

“The event happened so quickly that we were only able to deal with it as we did in that moment of panic,” she told The Fordham Ram on Monday morning. “Upon arrival at Public Safety, we assumed and trusted that prosecution of the perpetrator would be handled, however he was allowed to leave.”

Director of Public Safety John Carroll asserted that Public Safety serves students at all times. “I hope that every student here knows that we’re only here to help,” Carroll said. “That’s our only role.”

Marcinelli believed that Public Safety was biased in their line of questioning to her and her friends about the incident because she and her friends had been intoxicated.

“[The questions] were asked in a way that would suggest that my friends and I were the ones at fault for being intoxicated and taking a cab,” she wrote in the article.

She also addressed the university: “I am embarrassed and disgusted that an institution which prides itself in being established in Jesuit ideals treats their students in such a condemning way, especially in an hour of need.”

Bob Howe, senior director of communications at Fordham, released the following statement about the incident: “University officials read Ms. Marcinelli’s open letter this morning. The allegations are very grave: we are taking her taking her account of the incident seriously, and are investigating the actions of the University personnel and students involved.”

Nishant Sahoo, GSB ’16 and chief of medical operations of Fordham University Emergency Medical Services (FUEMS) declined comment on legal grounds.

Katie Meyer contributed reporting