The head of one of the most venerated health systems in the world is coming under fire for a perceived closeness to President Donald Trump.
Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove, who met with Trump on Friday alongside the chief executives of companies like GM, IBM, Tesla, Walmart, and many others as part of the president’s Strategic and Policy Forum, is facing fierce criticism from doctors, nurses, and medical students across America who feel Cosgrove’s ties to Trump signal tacit support for his controversial policies – especially his recent immigration and refugee ban targeting Muslims.
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An open letter to Cosgrove from medical professionals launched just three days ago has already gathered more than 1,100 signatures, including from Stanford, USC, Case Western Reserve, and the Cleveland Clinic itself.
Most of the political tension involves the immigration ban and Cleveland Clinic’s planned fundraiser at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Signatories to the letter are demanding that Cosgrove relocate the fundraiser and publicly condemn the immigration ban.
“Through this [fundraiser] you are supporting a president who has, in his first ten days in office, reinstated the global gag rule, weakened the Affordable Care Act, fast-tracked construction of both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines through legally protected native lands, and banned legal U.S. residents from majority-Muslim countries,” they wrote.
“All of these actions directly harm human health and well-being in the United States and abroad. Your willingness to hold your fundraiser at a Trump resort is an unconscionable prioritization of profit over people. It is impossible for the Cleveland Clinic to reconcile supporting its employees and patients while simultaneously financially and publicly aiding an individual who directly harms them.”
For Clinic doctors, the issue’s gotten personal. Several dozen physicians held a silent protest at the facilities Thursday in support of their colleague Dr. Suha Abushamma, a resident physician who was detained at New York’s JFK airport and eventually forced to return to Saudi Arabia. Abushamma is a Muslim woman with Sudanese nationality; she says that customs officials barred her from speaking to her attorney and misled her into signing away her visa.
Cosgrove is far from the only prominent executive facing the heat for having a relationship with Trump, who also considered him as a potential nominee to run the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Uber CEO Travis Kalanick eventually dropped out of the business advisory council that met Friday morning after outrage over his perceived connection to Trump led to more than 200,000 customers ditching the ride-sharing service. Tesla’s Elon Musk has been at pains to explain he doesn’t necessarily agree with Trump’s actions but feels he can do good by having a seat at the president’s table.
The scientific community has also expressed outrage over the Trump administration’s attitude towards science, including skepticism surrounding climate change and vaccine safety. Activist groups are planning a scientists’ protest march akin to the Women’s March that occurred over Inauguration weekend for Earth Day, and a new nonprofit called 314 Action is urging scientists to run for political office in order to sway policy.