|Phoenix New Times 2014.|
Dr. Sue Sisley was about to conduct some of the most important cannabis research in the United States when she was abruptly fired from her job at the University of Arizona this past June for what she says (and what clearly appears to be) purely political reasons.
Our cohorts at the Phoenix New Times have done an amazing job looking into what happened and, more importantly, what is in store for Sisley’s study that looks at how military veterans can use cannabis to help treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sue Sisley, M.D., is nearly blind.
She can’t see out of her left eye and has minimal vision in her right, resulting from amblyopia, a condition she’s had since birth. Her remaining eyesight “doesn’t seem to be deteriorating further,” she says. But in recent months, Sisley’s been trying to train Penny, a rescue dog from the Humane Society, for her potentially to use someday. It’s not really working out. Cute but undisciplined, Penny — wearing a blue vest — greets a visitor excitedly at the Arizona Telemedicine Program’s Phoenix office.
On this Tuesday afternoon, 45-year-old Sisley is the only person working in the facility. She’s got back-to-back video meetings with patients but takes a break to meet with a reporter, after a weeks-long stampede of attention from the news media.
Sisley’s served on the telemedicine program’s executive committee as associate director of interprofessional education, a part-time position, since 2007. The facility, in a wing of the University of Arizona’s Phoenix campus at 550 East Van Buren, is one of the regional hubs for the high-tech program and one of the most highly touted divisions of the Tucson-based university’s College of Medicine. From the center, as with other hubs in Flagstaff and Tucson, physicians such as Sisley consult with patients using video cameras and such high-tech instruments as digital stethoscopes, and they conduct various doctor-education programs.
Using equipment at the facility and at her Scottsdale home, she’s one of the most prolific “virtual” doctors in the program, conducting thousands of patient consultataions yearly in her part-time U of A job and private telemedicine practice. It’s a good match for her because it limits how much driving she has to do. She treats many rural mentally ill patients, some of whom have conditions that make them fearful of leaving their homes. She’s won accolades for her work from patients and from her bosses at the U of A. Yet at 5 p.m. on June 27, she was told in an e-mailed letter from the university that her contract wouldn’t be renewed and that she had until September 29 to vacate the Phoenix facility.
A July 9 follow-up letter from Joe “Skip” Garcia, senior vice president of health services for the College of Medicine, and Stuart Flynn, her direct boss and dean of the College of Medicine’s Phoenix branch, informed her that a “strategic decision” regarding the structure of the telemedicine program contributed to the non-renewal of her contract.
The letter also mentioned that her U of A role as coordinator for a physician-education program on medical marijuana no longer would be funded by a state grant; therefore, she no longer could be supported in the position — even though the three-year program was in its first year, with two-thirds of its money still in the bank.
No one outside the U of A knows for sure why Sisley was fired, not even Sisley.
Head over to the Phoenix New Times for the rest of the story.