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This morning I was alarmed to learn of first lady Melania Trump’s visit to Boston Medical Center. Like my nearby hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance, BMC opens its doors to everyone, including the most vulnerable in our population. New immigrants to Boston have a medical home in these hospitals because we provide not only care, but also comfort and community. Trump’s visit puts that all at risk.

Illness in this country is political. Access to care in this country is political. Access to insurance in this country is political. Access to government assistance is political. Melania Trump’s presence is political. 

The first lady’s visit is meant to be a nonpartisan event, but it falls in line with the lack of care and consideration this administration has given to the health and well-being of all immigrants, patients and medical professionals alike. From the travel bans that affected immigrant physicians and scientists to restrictions on asylum for refugees, the Trump administration is systematically barring people of color from everything our country is morally obligated to offer. The net effect cripples the health care workforce and discriminates against people who need the care. 

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BMC staffers protesting Trump’s visit worry that their work and their hospital will be painted with the same anti-immigrant brush, sparking fear in patients whose status is threatened. I see this every day in my work.

I’ve had very sick patients refuse care because they are worried about how it may impact their ability to become legal permanent residents. 

The public charge rule attempted to exclude immigrants from the safety net and government assistance programs they need to survive, including food and housing subsidies as well as certain Medicaid benefits. Even though federal judges have blocked the rule, the fact that this was in the air has had a chilling effect. I’ve had very sick patients refuse care because they are worried about how it may impact their ability to become legal permanent residents. 

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Melania Trump is trying to learn more about the impact of opioid abuse as part of her “Be Best” initiative, which focuses on “the major issues facing children today, with the goal of encouraging children to BE BEST in their individual paths, while also teaching them the importance of social, emotional, and physical health.” Her agenda at BMC included a stop to highlight the Cuddling Assists in Lowering Maternal and Infant Stress Program developed to treat babies born dependent on opioids

While this may seem like a good deed on the surface, it renders invisible the ways in which the Trump administration has been structurally cruel toward immigrant communities. I fear Melania Trump’s presence is antithetical to that Be Best mission, and her presence will jeopardize the social, emotional, and physical health of the type of families I serve. 

When working with patients, I often conduct a risk-benefit analysis by outlining the pros and cons of each treatment option, which includes a discussion of the risk of harm by receiving no treatment at all. How will I ease their very real concerns and offer care and comfort when a high-profile symbol of the Trump administration is knocking on the doors of our community hospitals? Why can’t Melania Trump learn about BMC’s substance use disorder programs and promote its methods from a safe distance? Wouldn’t that Be Best? She is here for only a few hours, but the legacy of her visit will last a long time. 

I stand in solidarity with the medical professionals at BMC non-violently protesting today’s visit. I urge BMC’s leadership to consider how this tacit endorsement not only harms our common patients, but also undercuts the hospital system’s employees who give everything to care for the most vulnerable members of our community. 

The risk-benefit is clear: You lose nothing and risk everything by having her visit.

  • I couldn’t agree more. It is sad that “Be Best” can exist within this administration and more importantly that it can have a negative effect on our immigrants. Yes, I did say OUR immigrants because they become a vital part of society and should be respected for their invaluable contributions to it. Why would the so-called Christian party fail to love every human being?

  • “It is not a physician’s job to tell patients how to live according to the physician’s personal code of ethics, whether religious or secular. Nor should a physician withhold treatment from patients simply because they fail to adhere to his or her personal standards of morality. Rather, a physician’s duty is to promote patients’ wellness and flourishing through the application of evidence-based medicine to the best of his or her professional ability. Personal beliefs, religious or otherwise, must not interfere with that.”

    — Sarah C. Hull, M.D. is a cardiologist at Yale School of Medicine and associate director of its Program for Biomedical Ethics

    https://www.statnews.com/2019/11/08/conscientious-objection-doctors-refuse-treatment

  • The walk out was shameful. Ms Trump did nothing wrong, and cares about all little children. To disrespect her is a poor example “to serve all”. Political views should be on one’s own time; hospitals should be neutral and not put up with a display of poor judgement. Everyone has a right to their own opinion, but off the clock, in the right place. The problem today is their is no respect if you do not agree with the other’s opinions and policies. If this continues we will no longer be a “free thinking/free opinion” country but a socialist government telling us what and when to do it!

  • One can only assume Ms. Okwerekwu’s bizarre comments are based on misinformation, not misogyny concerning the 1st Lady’s efforts on behalf of children.

  • First of all, the author works at CHA which has the worst patient care, especially when it comes to addiction. Second, if health care is partisan, as she says, does that mean my doctor will change their treatment of me based on my political beliefs? That’s a scary thing to consider.
    This was an opportunity to highlight a great program at an inner city hospital and maybe inspire other hospitals to create similar programs. Instead all the coverage is of the protesters, rather than the dedicated doctors, nurses and volunteers doing difficult work everyday.

  • What a crazy world we live in when the people we trust to provide medical care now has political bias, to protest Trump visiting drug addicted sick babies and raising awareness to this great program. What a crock article written by a loon trying to defend this crazy mentality of these medical si called professionals. Good thing we dont put our political party on our medical cards, anyone w an R would get the cop killer treatment. Total loss of respect

  • I have been stunned at the response to this single physician expressing her opinions about something that affects her patients.
    It’s fine to disagree with her, but the personal attacks on her and the attacks on STAT make me think I am reading some far right website, not a newsletter for medical professionals. She has been called racist, heartless, atrocious, crazy person, coarse; told to leave the country; told she will not be a good doctor, and that what she wrote is libel.

    And then someone says she is all wrong and we need more dialogue.

    How can you have dialogue when you share your opinion and you are shredded as a person. It’s one thing to say I totally disagree with your opinions or your opinions are wrong. You are crazy, heartless and will be a bad doctor — those are called personal attacks. THAT IS NOT DIALOGUE.

    If you are examples of what “dialogue” means to people who appear to all be defending the Trumps and their administration . . . . . . . then I don’t know how any of us have any hope.

    I am not a clinician but I guess I expected better of medical caregivers.

    • What you may have missed is that this isn’t a solitary article. Instead, this article is yet another in a recurring pattern from a resident new to the practice of medicine. This explains the resentment you’re reading from others on this site.

      As clinicians, we agree to treat our patients to the absolute best of our abilities, regardless of their personal beliefs and practices and even if we find these practices objectionable. Dr. Okwerekwu would do well to remember this in her practice and her writings.

    • This is not fake news it is an opinion piece. Did you fact check this article to know that it is fake news?

  • Yet another example of anti-Trump biases from the media. Were this the Obamas visiting your hospital, this opinion-laded “article” would have been rife with praise for their concern and their time taken to visit.

    • This has nothing to do with “media” bias. It is an opinion piece written by a physician.

      And unless your want the First Amendment repealed (and if you do, start the process — it is spelled out in the Constitution if you have read it), this physician has a RIGHT to express her opinion.

    • This is an opinion piece, not a fact checked article. I do think you are right about the difference in receiving the Trumps or Obamas, President Obama fought for the right of people to have healthcare and Trump has fought hard against it!

  • I could not disagree more and this is a perfect example of liberal, anti-Trump bias. She was doing the right thing, for the right reasons and you choose to criticize. If Michelle Obama had done the same thing and I wrote your opinion, I would be labeled racist and heartless. Why shouldn’t you?

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