A pharmacist has been censured and ordered to pay NZ$18,000, after he sent 48 pages of intimate information about a former romantic interest to her classmates
While the woman was in her third year studying pharmacy at the University of Otago, she worked as a pharmacy assistant at a Palmerston North Unichem and was supervised by John Ing Joon Tiong as well as two other pharmacists.
At the time, he was 25, and she was 23.
During this time, the two developed a personal relationship, which the Tribunal described as “spending time together outside of the workplace, overnight stays and, on occasion, physical contact such as kissing”.
After the woman left Palmerston North in January 2015 to take a holiday before returning to university in Dunedin, the pair kept in touch, and Mr Tiong sought to pursue a relationship with her.
But by March, she told Mr Tiong that she had a boyfriend, and had been in that relationship throughout her time in Palmerston North. She had previously denied having a boyfriend when Mr Tiong asked her.
That month, Mr Tiong contacted the woman’s brother on social media and told him about the woman’s denial of having a boyfriend.
“You should have a good talk to her,” he wrote.
The Tribunal noted that in March or April 2015, Mr Tiong Googled the woman’s parents’ shop to obtain their email address, and copied her parents into two emails he sent her about their relationship.
In August, he obtained a list of the woman’s pharmacy student classmates, logged into the University of Otago website and using his password from the time he had studied there, obtained the classmates’ email addresses.
He then sent the 48-page email, detailing his relationship with the woman, to the now fourth-year students (excluding her).
“The email comprised Mr Tiong’s day by day account of his personal relationship with [the woman], and included intimate details about their interactions (including intimate (but non-sexual) physical contact between them). The email also accused [her] of being a liar,” the Tribunal noted.
One of the students forwarded the email to the deputy Dean of the School of Pharmacy, Natalie Medlicott, raising concerns that it was “extremely inappropriate for a pharmacist”.
The next day Mr Tiong sent another email asking the students to delete the first.
That day, the woman went to Dunedin police and told them about the email, her embarrassment at having it sent to her classmates, and the fact that she now felt frightened of Mr Tiong.
Mr Tiong was given a formal written caution and issued a trespass notice for the woman’s home address.
Professor Stephen Duffull, the Dean of the School of Pharmacy, then wrote to the Pharmacy Council to express his concerns about Mr Tiong’s conduct and advising that the School would not send any more students for placement at any site where the pharmacist worked.
Mr Tiong responded to the Council saying he accepted that sending the email to the students, as well as copying her family members into communications with the woman, was inappropriate. He apologised to the Dean as well as the woman in writing.
The Tribunal found that Mr Tiong’s actions, in breaching the trainee pharmacist’s privacy in communications with her classmates, accessing the University’s computer system for inappropriate purposes and communicating in the terms he did with the students “unquestionably brought or were likely to bring disrepute to the profession”.
It said that while it was satisfied Mr Tiong did not represent a danger to the public, his condemnation via censure sent the appropriate message to the public and the profession that this was not acceptable behaviour for a pharmacist.
It also imposed conditions on his practising certificate which preclude him from acting as a preceptor for two years. He is expected to obtain an independent mentor, approved by New Zealand’s Pharmacy Council and who will report to the Council on his progress.
Mr Tiong was ordered to pay NZ$11,000 (AUD$9992) to the Council and an additional NZ$7113 (AUD$6461) towards the Tribunal’s costs.