Professor reprimanded over selfie with severed heads

A top University of Connecticut dental school professor was reprimanded over a selfie showing him and several students with two severed heads used for medical research, according to a document obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

The November letter by R. Lamont MacNeil, dean of the UConn School of Dental Medicine, reprimands orthodontics professor Flavio Uribe for inappropriate and disrespectful conduct. UConn Health released the letter in response to a request by the AP under the state's public records law.

The selfie was taken in June at the Yale School of Medicine during a surgical workshop and shared in a private group chat. Both Yale and UConn officials said they took appropriate actions in response to the photo. A UConn Health spokesman declined to say whether anyone was disciplined when the AP first reported about the selfie Monday.

The reprimand is among the lowest forms of punishment and is less serious than a suspension.

In the photo, Uribe and several graduate students are looking at the camera. All are wearing surgical masks. The two severed heads are on tables, face up.

"The taking and the posting of this photo trespasses certain basic principles we have as health care learners," MacNeil wrote to Uribe. "This action was in very poor judgment and in very poor taste and was disrespectful not only to the body donors but potentially their families."

MacNeil wrote that Uribe said that he could not remember the photo being taken and that "things like this happen rapidly and can be easily overlooked or forgotten in a busy session."

MacNeil wrote, "In your leadership position, you must have an increased awareness of such situations and be ready to intervene and correct such serious drifts in judgment. You need to make these 'teachable moments.'"

Uribe, who did not take the photo, did not return messages Wednesday. A UConn staff member said in an email that Uribe would not be available for comment.

Uribe is an assistant professor and orthodontics program director at UConn Health and a visiting associate professor at the Yale School of Medicine. He previously told the AP the photo was an "unfortunate circumstance" and he was surprised when it was taken.

The AP recently obtained a copy of the photo from a person who received it through the private group chat.

Yale officials said they are improving oversight at such training events and making participants agree in writing to ethical standards of conduct. They also said there is clear signage forbidding photography at each entrance to the laboratory.

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