Cleveland Clinic is proceeding with a fundraising gala at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, despite one or more of its doctors being barred from the US due to the president’s executive order on immigration.
Dr. Suha Abushamma, a first-year resident at the clinic, was diverted back to Saudi Arabia because her passport is from Sudan, one of the seven Muslim-majority nations covered in the executive order, ProPublica reports. She’s unable to return to the US despite holding a visa, her career now on indefinite hold.
In a brief statement Sunday, the Cleveland Clinic said it is “fully committed and actively working toward the safe return of any of our employees who have been affected by this action.”
Dr. Abushamma released this statement: “I want to personally thank everyone for their support and well wishes. Although this has been a difficult experience, I am grateful to be safe with my family in Saudi Arabia. Please know that I am deeply committed to my medical career and to helping patients at Cleveland Clinic.”
Meanwhile, the clinic fundraiser, called “Reflections of Versailles: A Night in the Hall of Mirrors,” is scheduled for Feb. 25 at Trump’s lavish Mar-a-Lago resort, in Palm Beach, Fla. The Saturday night event will begin with cocktails, followed by dinner and dancing. Tickets start at $1,250 and go up to $100,000.
The Mar-a-Lago, which Trump recently described as “the winter White House,” has hosted the Cleveland Clinic’s winter fundraiser each year since at least 2011. Trump was a chairman of the event in 2014, posing for pictures with his wife, Melania, in front of the Mar-a-Lago’s signature tiled walls. Past themes include “The Wizard of Oz,” “La Dolce Vita,” and “Dare to Dazzle.” The latest is a reference to the opulent palace of Louis XVI, the king of France who was beheaded during the French Revolution. Clinic spokeswoman Eileen Sheil said this year’s event will continue as planned but did not immediately answer questions about whether it would relocate in 2018.
Cleveland Clinic CEO Dr. Toby Cosgrove has entered into Trump’s orbit since the election, meeting with the president at least twice and turning down an offer to become secretary of Veterans Affairs. Trump name-checked Cosgrove this month in his first post-election press conference, and the doctor is a member of a presidential advisory council that also includes the CEOs of Wal-Mart, JPMorgan Chase, and General Electric.
In the aftermath of Trump’s executive order, which sparked protests across the country, Cosgrove has come under fire on Twitter, facing demands to speak out against the immigration ban. As of Sunday afternoon, he had posted only the Cleveland Clinic’s statement on safeguarding its employees.
The American Cancer Society and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute also have upcoming events planned at Mar-a-Lago.
The American Cancer Society has held a gala at Mar-a-Lago for 11 years, said Ashley Engelman, director of media relations. She said that she has “no indication” that Trump will attend this year’s party, though he chaired the event in 2011, was “an honoree” in 2012, and was one of three co-chairs in 2013.
Dana-Farber came under scrutiny in the fall for its relationship with Trump. The hospital hosted a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago in 2008 and each year since 2011. A STAT investigation found that Dana-Farber gave Trump honorary titles in exchange for donations from Trump’s foundation, which has not included any of his own money since 2008.