Former MSU athlete, Nassar patient pens letter to MSU on handling of allegations
When she finally booked her first appointment with renowned and well-respected doctor Larry Nassar to help with her chronic pain, the first thing MSU alumna Catherine Hannum did was call her mom.
“I was like, ‘Mom, you’re not going to believe it, they’re finally letting me see this guy, he works with the U.S. Gymnastics team,’” she said. “I remember being so excited because it was built up to me by everyone in the Athletics Medical Department that he was brilliant and that he could help me.”
Hannum said it meant the world to her that she was able to have an appointment with Nassar as an MSU student-athlete on the rowing team.
But Nassar, now a former MSU employee and physician, has been accused of sexually abusing his patients throughout his employment with the university.
After learning about the allegations of sexual abuse against Nassar, Hannum sent an email to MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon detailing her interactions with Nassar. She was a patient of Nassar’s for four years and saw him about once a week.
“I was left alone with Nassar on a number of occasions,” Hannum said in the email. “It is increasingly clear to me that some of the treatments I received walked a very fine line between what was and was not medically necessary.”
Hannum said while she was not digitally penetrated by Nassar like some of his other victims have described, he did not respect her modesty or personal space and never used gloves or explained what he was doing during procedure.
"I often had to get my ribs readjusted, they would come out of place sometimes. ... He would have to manipulate that area, which makes sense, but he would sometimes put his hand under my bra without any warning or explanation," she said. "I had also some back and leg pain that he treated and there was definitely an odd incident when he was taping the muscles on my rear end and lower back."
Hannum said her other doctors always explained exactly what they were going to be doing and why, especially when the procedure involved "a hyper-personal area." Nassar's treatment style "was always very abrasive," she said.
MSU has not reached out to past Nassar patients, according to Hannum’s letter.
MSU spokesperson Jason Cody said he could not confirm whether the university had or had not reached out to Nassar's previous patients.
"Since this investigation began, we have encouraged anyone who has information or was a victim of Nassar's to come forward to police," Cody said. "We've been saying that through public statements, public forums, on the web we've been doing statements — I've been saying that for six months — and media interviews, the president's letter to the community, the statement we've been posting on our key issues site for several months — there's been multiple ways we've been trying to push that message out."
Hannum said she wouldn't have known about the allegations against Nassar "for months" if a friend hadn't reached out to her, and her former teammates are still learning of the charges.
"One of my teammates found out last week from the media," Hannum said. "And this has been going on for how long? And last week, she found out.”
Hannum said she believes MSU has an obligation to contact Nassar's former patients.
“It’s the school’s responsibility to have reached out to us and to ask us if we could provide information, if we were comfortable and did we need anything and could they provide us support, and nobody has done that," Hannum said.
Hannum said many other former patients of Nassar’s have contacted her to say they haven’t heard from MSU either.
“I know that (MSU is) probably scared of litigations and lawsuits, but I think we deserve more than their silence,” she said.
Hannum said her relationship with Nassar is complicated because he was able to help her and manage her pain.
"I live in very severe pain every day, and to this day, I have not met another doctor who has been able to treat me and solve my pain problems the way he (had),” Hannum said. “Which is part of what is so traumatic for me, I think, because he did improve the quality of my life at the time.”
Hannum said she’s disturbed that MSU representatives might have been made aware of concerns about Nassar’s conduct on multiple occasions during the course of his employment.
“It is painful to live with the knowledge that a predator was enabled by silent bystanders to have access to my body for 4 years, and to know that many of my teammates and athletic peers were put at risk and may have suffered at his hands,” Hannum wrote in the email to Simon. “It is most painful to me that my University has not had the integrity to reach out to Dr. Nassar’s former patients, apologize and offer its support to them.”
MSU women’s gymnastics coach Kathie Klages retired from her position Tuesday after facing allegations that she was aware of Nassar’s alleged abuse as early as 1997 or 1998.
“I don’t know where in the line of people things got so mixed up. I know that Coach Klages vehemently defended him when the claims came out and even encouraged her athletes not to speak to the press,” Hannum said. “But I don’t know who else she worked with or who else in the athletic department really had heard these claims.”
Nassar was investigated by MSU in 2014, but continued to see patients at the university until September 2016.
Cody said he was aware of Hannum’s letter and her concerns, and said a member of MSU's administration had responded to her. Hannum disputes his statement.
“I did not hear from the administration,” she said in an email. “My coach, Matt Weise, called me this morning. While it was wonderful to hear from him and have his support, his call does not qualify as the school addressing my concerns.”