UCLA positions itself as a victim in cadaver scandal

LOS ANGELES: Reeling from intense media and law enforcement scrutiny, UCLA was working last week to position itself as a victim in the recent scandal involving the surreptitious sale of cadaver parts donated to the school?s Willed Body program.

LOS ANGELES: Reeling from intense media and law enforcement scrutiny, UCLA was working last week to position itself as a victim in the recent scandal involving the surreptitious sale of cadaver parts donated to the school?s Willed Body program.

?We rely on the integrity of our faculty and staff, and we felt betrayed by the allegations,? said Roxanne Moster, director of UCLA health sciences media relations. ?We trusted in this employee?s integrity, and this in no way reflects on the amazing work that our researchers and faculty are doing.?

That message has been told to the general media through both interviews and press releases, as well as internally to university employees through e-mail and other means.

The university?s media relations staff, which is handling all crisis communications in-house, has been working on a number of other key messages, as well. These include stressing that the university was unaware of the potentially illegal activity and that it is working quickly to fix any problems.

?As soon as we found out that there may have been some inappropriate actions, UCLA took immediate internal actions,? said Moster. ?We never wanted to hide anything. We wanted to be open and up front.?

Moster said the university is committed to keeping a flow of information to all concerned parties and will offer ?as much information as we are allowed to give out without compromising the police investigation.?

Moster added that the situation is ?very fluid,? and that the communications department is trying to stay in front of the evolving situation.

The university has announced several internal steps, including the establishment of an independent audit lead by former California Gov. George Deukmejian. The university posted news releases on the main page of its website and has designated three spokespeople to handle media surrounding the incident: the chancellor and vice chancellor of the school of medicine, and the lawyer handling the associated lawsuits for UCLA. The university also has suspended the donation program for now, sending bodies instead to UC-Irvine.

The health sciences division, which includes the medical school and its body donor program, has seven media relations staff. A different UCLA media relations department is handling communications for the university chancellor.

Other messages were directed to family members of the donors, said Moster. The school is trying to reach those victims to make them aware of a toll-free number to help families determine if their relatives are impacted by the events.

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