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.

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  • I’m so ashamed that the Clinic would still hold their gala at a Trump establishment. Where is your integrity? Cleveland is known for (and boasts about) the amazing reputation of the Cleve Clinic. This degrades YOU and all of us in Cleveland, not to mention your staff who deserve better!! Make the right statement by doing the moral thing! Reschedule at an establishment worthy of the Cleveland Clinic name!

  • Hello “think again”, and thank you for the information you provided regarding residency selection – it has been 20 years since I experienced this process. However, I was speaking of entry into medical school and undergraduate education, not residencies. I did re-read my post, and I thought I had made it clear, so I am sorry if I gave you the impression I was speaking of residencies.

  • I am very troubled to hear of any connection between Cleveland Clinic and Trump. I have been a long time patient at the Clinic, but should that entity become entangled with Trump, I would, regretfully, transfer my BUSINESS.

  • Mr Garde: Are you aware that thousands of qualified American medical graduates have careers put on hold indefinitely because of foreign doctors like Abushamma? There are only a limited of number of residency slots in this country and when one attends medical school in the USA there are invariably several hundred thousand dollars in debt. Yet the graduates are not placed in front of the line for consideration for residency. Abushamma can continue her medical training in her home country. The American graduates I know that are $400k in debt and for whom their education is wasted because Abushamma has taken their spot, are the real people my heart goes out to. They cannot continue their career in Sudan! They cannot become physician assistant or even assistant physicians. You people still don’t understand why Trump won-this case of the medical residents stuck abroad, while American graduates are left outside demonstrates his case that American need to be first for jobs! We don’t hate. We love all people and don’t discriminate-but we cannot be happy when we cannot pursue our careers while watching people from other countries steal our place!

    • American medical students are not placed at the front of the line, nor are they banished to the end of the line. Graduates earn their residencies based upon relevant, objective factors; place of birth is not among those factors. Likewise, a graduate’s debt should not entitle him or her preferential treatment. Should any citizen who is in debt be hired for a job over a citizen who is in a better financial situation? Ridiculous.

    • There is a doctor shortage right now. Immigrants working in the medical industry here in the U.S. are fulfilling a need, no American med student or resident is being passed over unless they are not qualified. There are more than enough spots for everyone studying medicine right now. With an aging baby boomer population and increase in obesity, diabetes, and all the diseases that come with age we need more doctors, foreign, domestic or otherwise.

    • I would like to respond to the comment made by Denis. As the family member of a medical professional, and as a mother of college-age children who would like to go to medical school, I can tell you with certainty that many qualified American students are denied entry to medical school. These students have achieved high honors in college, are active in volunteering and research as undergrads, and are qualified in every way to attend medical school. It is true that there are only a certain number of slots, and these well-qualified American students can’t get into them. I base thes comments on actual observation and experience. Not only is this happening in professional school, it is also happening at the undergraduate level. When I went on an official college visit to Carnegie-Mellon University with my child, the presenter stated that they were trying to grow heir international population. It doesn’t take a lot to figure out that, given the limited number of slots, if two students are basically equivalent, the international student will be chosen over the student from the US. One of my children had perfect scores on both the ACT and SAT, played a sport in high school, received an award for volunteering, was a leader on the school robotics team, and completed the International Baccalaureate diploma, and he wasn’t even even deferred or wait-listed there. I am not trying to brag about my child, my point is to illustrate how serious the problem is with international students taking limited slots both at the undergraduate and graduate levels at universities in our countries. This forces well-qualified American students to attend schools that are not top-tier, or to pursue other fields, when international students are given preference. My peers and I are living through this right now and have to see our children experience the heartbreak of finding out they can’t attend the same school as their parents. It all boils down to money – the schools make more on international students than those from he US, which in essence, gives preference to them over equally-qualified or even in some cases, more highly-qualified students from our own country.

    • It is clear that neither you or “concernedforamericans” have a good grasp on how selection for residency works in the United States. It is not like the selection process for undergraduate university at all. As an American grad who recently matched into residency I know the process very well. Foreign grads (IMGs) who wish to match into American residencies are at a significant disadvantage compared to American grads. In order to even be considered at most programs their grades and USMLE scores have to be SIGNIFICANTLY higher than their american counterparts. If a program were looking at two “equal” candidates with identical grades and board scores, they would choose the american student, hands down. Suffice it to say that any IMG that matches into a residency program in the US is far more qualified than any of their american grad counterparts and definitely deserves a spot. They are not stealing our jobs. They are qualified candidates who have impressive applications that show that they can contribute to and improve the quality of our healthcare system.

      And to “concernedforamericans” point about it all boiling down to money – it is far more expensive to hire an IMG for a residency spot than it is to hire an american grad. They have to sponsor your visa. Which is part of why it is so difficult for an IMG to match here in the US.

    • There are far more residency spots than can be filled by US medical school graduates. Also, in many parts of this country, we heavily rely on doctors who have come from other countries to care for people, especially in rural areas, often because they are the only ones willing to take those jobs. The bottleneck is at the medical school level, not at the residency level. There are too few medical school spots, which has nothing to do with the current situation that is being discussed. As someone said, a US medical school graduate will nearly always be chosen over an international graduate for residency unless the international graduate is significantly more qualified, and in many circumstances, not even then. If you graduate from a U.S. medical school, you will be able to match into a U.S. residency unless you are facing major legal issues or some other extreme situation. No one’s career gets put on hold indefinitely. Lastly, while I appreciate a sense of nationalism, we all need to recognize that those of us who were born in this country were born here by pure LUCK. We could have just as easily been born in a country where we would live in profound fear every moment of every day and/or where there are far fewer opportunities for advancement. Think of it as soul roulette– your “soul” could have very easily been connected with a body in Sudan.

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