Rachel Wellner is the 43 year old New York City surgeon who was arrested three years ago after striking a police officer with her car. Wellner has won a $1.2 million lawsuit against the city after she charged that the arresting officer used excessive force against her. Wellner was seeking $30 million in damages but said she was “happy” with the outcome of the case.
Before her arrest, Wellner was considered to be one of the country’s top breast surgical oncologists. She earned her MD from the University of Connecticut and spent over a decade working with breast cancer patients, eventually becoming the top breast surgeon at Montefiore Hospital in The Bronx, New York. Wellner is a native of Connecticut and earned her BA from Dartmouth.
Here’s what you need to know about Rachel Wellner:
1. She Says a Police Officer Punched Her in the Chest & Grabbed Her by the Breasts After Writing Her a Parking Ticket
In 2016, Wellner was working as the senior breast surgeon at Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care in The Bronx. Her trouble with the police started on February 18, 2016, when she parked illegally in midtown Manhattan and hurried into a store to buy some vitamins. When she came out of the store, Wellner spotted a couple of police officers writing her a parking ticket. Wellner apparently asked the officers to hurry up so that she could get back to work.
At that point, according to a police report, Wellner said, “I’m a doctor. I have patients that are dying. I’m the hero, the cops are not. I don’t accept the summons. I have to go.” Wellner said that in fact, what she said was, “I don’t consider myself a hero. You guys are heroes, but I do have patient emergencies.” Wellner does admit that she yelled insults at the police and that she said that all female police officers were “dykes.” Wellner says that one of the officers then “cocked his arm back and punched me with all his might in my chest. He grabbed me right along my rib cage, by the breasts, and started squeezing my body as hard as he could.” She says she was afraid, so she jumped into her car and drove off. That’s when the police officer says she struck him in the leg with her car. Wellner was arrested a few blocks away by another officer.
Officer Niguel Vega Vega said he had “come into contact” with Wellner during the arrest but said he hadn’t used excessive force.
2. After Her Arrest, Wellner Penned an Erotic Novel Which She Said Was Loosely Based on Her Own Life
Wellner was fired from her job as the senior breast surgeon at Montefiore Hospital shortly after her arrest. At a loose end, Wellner turned to writing. “I’m discovering my best self, my happiest self by finding my creative voice,” she told the New York Post, describing her new life as a writer. Wellner wrote what she called a “semi-autobiographical erotic novel” starring a Jewish female protagonist named Rory who has an Arabic love interest called Amir. “She falls in love with him and it becomes an explosive interracial relationship,” Wellner told the Post.
3. Wellner Is Suing Montefiore Hospital for Firing Her After the Arrest
Not long after her arrest in February 2016, Wellner was fired from her job as the senior breast surgeon at the Montefiore Einstein Center for cancer care. Wellner is now suing the hospital, saying that they were just looking for an excuse to fire her. In her lawsuit, she writes that the hospital administration had ‘manufactured a false pretextual reason to terminate’ her. She says that in fact, the hospital wanted to fire her because she had taken too much time off of work, due to a Lyme disease flare up.
4. Wellner Started a Career in Stand-Up Comedy After Her Arrest
After she was fired from Montefiore, Wellner moved to Florida and started a career as a stand-up comedian and an erotic novelist. You can read excerpts form her “semi-autobiographical” erotic novel here. She also performs her stand-up routine at comedy clubs in South Beach, Florida.
“I’m a breast doctor,” she joked at a performance inside a Miami comedy club. “I know we changed from the Sunshine State to the Silicon State.”
5. Wellner Says that After the Arrest, She Considered Suicide & Couldn’t Leave Her Apartment for Weeks
Wellner says that the time following her arrest was a dark period for her. She told the New York Post that she felt so humiliated that she couldn’t even leave her apartment in midtown Manhattan for weeks. She confessed to the Post that she’d thought about suicide. “I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t think about ending my life that year. I had no purpose to go on, and I felt so hated,” she said.
Wellner looked for work at one hospital after another but, she said, she kept being turned down once the hospital staff Googled her. Wellner said that she was so distraught, she couldn’t even bear to get on a plane. Finally, she left Manhattan and moved to South Beach, Miami, to live with her 65-year-old mother, Susan, in a condo overlooking Biscayne Bay. Wellner has turned her hand to writing erotic literature and performing stand-up comedy.