Cleveland Clinic Open Letter Unanswered

Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove has not replied to an open letter written by eight Case Western Reserve University medical students working at the Clinic.  In response to President Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven predominantly-Muslim countries, the letter asks Cosgrove to condemn the ban and relocate a Florida fundraiser scheduled to be held at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club later this month.


“Far from publicly condemning these actions, the Cleveland Clinic silently continues to promote ties with the Trump administration,” the letter states.


Case PhD student Gloria Tavera says she and her co-authors were inspired by their concern over several Cleveland Clinic patients and a colleague who are affected by the immigration ban. 


In the first weekend of the executive order, a Clinic medicine resident returning from overseas was deported to Saudi Arabia.  Dr. Suha Abushamma, who holds a Sudanese passport, had been working in Cleveland under an H-1B visa.


Tavera says universities including Case Western have released statements of concern about the executive order.


“If [Case Western Reserve University President] Barbara Snyder and the Princeton University president, and several other university presidents of major prestigious universities are decrying this executive order, Cleveland Clinic needs to stand up and do the same as well,” says Tavera.


In a written statement to ideastream, a Clinic spokesperson says “we are fully committed to the safe return of our employee who was denied entry into the United States.  We are incredibly proud of our highly diverse workforce and patient population, a core part of our culture and history.”


The spokesperson, Eileen Sheil, says the Clinic is reaching out to its nine patients affected by the ban “to determine next steps and how to help them.  Hopefully, this can be worked out soon.”


In regard to the fundraiser, she adds, “Please know that the sole purpose of our event in Florida is to raise funds for important research to advance cardiovascular medicine that improves patient care.  In no way, is this connected to anything else but helping patients. The event has been held there for years, well before the election.”


Sheil says there will be no future events scheduled at the Mar-a-Lago resort after the February fundraiser.


As of Friday, the letter had more than 1,000 signatures – the majority are Ohio medical professionals and students.


Among those who signed -- 10 family members of the founder of the Cleveland Clinic, George Washington Crile -- as well as Cleveland native and Pulitzer Prize recipient, Kathryn Schulz.


This weekend, the medical students contacted the Clinic again asking for a meeting with Cosgrove.  So far, he has not replied.  They are also in contact with Harvard students who wrote an open letter to their administration about the university’s fundraiser to be held next week at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club.

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