LEVELAND — Hundreds of medical students and doctors have signed an open letter urging Cleveland Clinic to cancel a February fundraiser at the Florida resort owned by President Trump, after his executive order on immigration blocked one of the clinic’s doctors from reentering the US.
The letter, with more than 400 signatures, also calls on the clinic to publicly condemn Trump’s order, protect the clinic’s employees from deportation, and reaffirm its commitment to diversity. Dozens of the signers are medical students at Case Western Reserve University, which operates the Lerner College of Medicine in partnership with the clinic.
“Your willingness to hold your fundraiser at a Trump resort is an unconscionable prioritization of profit over people,” the letter states. “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.”
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However, Cleveland Clinic spokeswoman Eileen Sheil said the hospital system intends to proceed with the event at Mar-a-Lago, where it has held fundraisers for several years. She said the Feb. 25 fundraiser, titled “Reflections of Versailles: A Night in the Hall of Mirrors,” was planned months ago and “raises money to advance cardiovascular medicine.”
Following a recent STAT report, pressure on the clinic to call off the fundraiser has been mounting. Dr. Suha Abushamma, one of the hospital system’s residents, was carrying a passport from Sudan, one of the seven majority-Muslim nations affected by the order. She was refused entry in New York and flown to Saudi Arabia. She is now suing President Trump.
The clinic issued a statement vowing to secure the safe return of Abushamma and any other employees affected by the order, but it stopped short of directly criticizing the order or Trump. The clinic’s CEO, Dr. Toby Cosgrove, has since received a flood of phone calls, tweets, and emails urging him to condemn Trump’s action and cancel the Mar-a-Lago event. Cosgrove serves in an advisory capacity to the president on business matters.
The controversy led to a dustup between Cosgrove and New Yorker writer Kathryn Schulz, who tweeted Cosgrove’s office number to her followers and urged them to call him directly to voice their concerns about the Mar-a-Lago event.
Schulz wrote Cosgrove a personal email criticizing Trump’s order and warning him that the clinic will “lose the respect of millions of Americans” if it proceeds with the event. Schulz’s email, obtained by STAT, referenced that her late father received excellent care from doctors there, some of it delivered by a Syrian immigrant. “Please don’t dishonor him or your heretofore outstanding reputation,” the email said.
Schulz later tweeted that she received an “irate & dismissive” reply from Cosgrove. She has also signed the petition.
Follow up: got an irate & dismissive note back from Cleveland Clinic CEO blaming me—not the upcoming fundraiser—for the calls he's getting.
— Kathryn Schulz (@kathrynschulz) January 31, 2017
Cosgrove’s reply, also obtained by STAT says, in part: “I also appreciate you expressing your concern about our forthcoming gala at Mar-a-Lago. I do not however appreciate you having your colleagues inundate my office with emails and phone calls which is very disruptive to our main activity of putting patient’s first. I would ask you to please refrain from this activity because it is counter-productive to that which we are all trying to accomplish.”