Philly Fighting Covid founder files lawsuit against Drexel University

File photo: Philly Fighting COVID CEO Andrei Doroshin (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

File photo: Philly Fighting COVID CEO Andrei Doroshin (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

This story originally appeared in the Philadelphia Business Journal

The founder of Philly Fighting Covid, the organization contracted by the City of Philadelphia to run mass Covid-19 vaccination clinics before dissolving in a cloud of scandal, is suing Drexel University over his expulsion from the school.

Following the startup’s collapse, founder Andrei Doroshin, an undergraduate alumnus of Drexel, was expelled from his psychology graduate studies at the school in March 2021. He was subsequently banned from doing government or health work in Pennsylvania and agreed to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines as part of a settlement with the state Attorney General’s Office earlier this year.

Doroshin’s lawsuit, filed Tuesday at U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, alleges Drexel violated FERPA laws by discussing his educational records during investigations into Philly Fighting Covid and denied him due process during its disciplinary hearings. Other claims include breach of contract, defamation and infliction of emotional distress.

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In addition to the university, the suit also names Drexel President John Fry and Dean Norma Bouchard as defendants.

Doroshin’s expulsion came shortly after reports surfaced that Philly Fighting Covid had quietly converted to a for-profit company and diverted resources from some of its Covid-19 testing sites in parts of the city with large minority populations. Doroshin also came under fire for taking vaccine doses from a city clinic.

The lawsuit calls Drexel’s investigation into Doroshin’s conduct and resulting disciplinary process “deeply flawed.”

“The university found plaintiff responsible for theft and vague violations of the Code of Conduct, expelled from the college, ejected from the campus, and very publicly branded a racist, classist elitist, leaving his entire future in ruins,” the suit claims.

Doroshin is seeking compensatory damages to be determined at trial, restoration of his good standing at Drexel, removal of any record of the expulsion from his file, and the expungement of all negative references from his disciplinary record.

Doroshin, who had no prior health care experience, was 22 years old in 2020 when Philly Fighting Covid was approved by the city to conduct Covid-19 testing under a six-month contract valued at $194,324 and open its first mass testing site. It was then selected to run Philadelphia’s first mass vaccination clinics in January 2021.

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Shortly thereafter, it was revealed that the organization had quietly switched from nonprofit status to a for-profit model and abandoned testing operations in many underserved communities. Doroshin also reportedly took vaccine doses from the Pennsylvania Convention Center mass vaccination site to administer to friends at a time when vaccine demand was at its height and doses were in relatively short supply.

A subsequent investigation by the city’s Office of the Inspector General found “procedural deficiencies” and lack of transparency in its initial assessment of the relationship between Philly Fighting Covid and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

The debacle made national headlines and resulted in the resignation of Dr. Caroline Johnson, the city’s deputy health commissioner who was in charge of vaccine distribution.

A spokesperson for Drexel said Wednesday that the university has not yet been served with the complaint and does not comment on litigation.

In a February 2021 letter to the Drexel community, Fry used the words “disappointed,” “concerned,” and “frustrated” to describe the university’s reaction to the controversy and said that “the connection to Drexel makes this all the more painful.”

“The lesson from this experience must not be to withdraw from community involvement or the worthwhile efforts of our students, faculty and alumni in helping to meet societal challenges. But we have to insist, above all, that our engagement is respectful, measured and grounded in the service of others,” Fry wrote in the letter.

Doroshin now resides in New York and is a managing director at Brooklyn-based Popularis Health Technologies, according to his LinkedIn profile.

He is being represented by William Rush of Reading-based Rush Law Group.

Shortly thereafter, it was revealed that the organization had quietly switched from nonprofit status to a for-profit model and abandoned testing operations in many underserved communities. Doroshin also reportedly took vaccine doses from the Pennsylvania Convention Center mass vaccination site to administer to friends at a time when vaccine demand was at its height and doses were in relatively short supply.

A subsequent investigation by the city’s Office of the Inspector General found “procedural deficiencies” and lack of transparency in its initial assessment of the relationship between Philly Fighting Covid and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

The debacle made national headlines and resulted in the resignation of Dr. Caroline Johnson, the city’s deputy health commissioner who was in charge of vaccine distribution.

A spokesperson for Drexel said Wednesday that the university has not yet been served with the complaint and does not comment on litigation.

In a February 2021 letter to the Drexel community, Fry used the words “disappointed,” “concerned,” and “frustrated” to describe the university’s reaction to the controversy and said that “the connection to Drexel makes this all the more painful.”

“The lesson from this experience must not be to withdraw from community involvement or the worthwhile efforts of our students, faculty and alumni in helping to meet societal challenges. But we have to insist, above all, that our engagement is respectful, measured and grounded in the service of others,” Fry wrote in the letter.

Doroshin now resides in New York and is a managing director at Brooklyn-based Popularis Health Technologies, according to his LinkedIn profile.

He is being represented by William Rush of Reading-based Rush Law Group.

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