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Say You’re Sorry, Donald

I’ve never met Dr. Suha Abushamma or Dr. Kamal Fadlalla. 

But of all the frustrating stories circulating since President Trump issued an executive order barring immigrants from several predominantly Muslim countries, their travails hit closest to home. 

Both Suha and Kamal are internal medicine resident physicians. From Cleveland Clinic and Brooklyn Interfaith Medical Center, respectively. Like me, they have endured the rigorous calling that is American medical training, including not only graduation from medical school, but also the completion of four board exams, a vigorous interview process, acceptance to a medical residency and ultimately working long hours caring for very sick patients.

In fact, they must have excelled – only the best foreign medical graduates gain entry to medicine residency in America.

Yet what was their reward for such hard work? After President Trump’s travel ban last month, Dr. Abushamma was physically deported to Sudan from John F. Kennedy airport in New York and her work visa was withdrawn. On the same day, Dr. Fadlalla was barred reentry to America after visiting family in Sudan, despite having an active specialty occupation visa.

After several courts challenged the executive order last weekend, both Dr. Abushamma and Dr. Fadlalla were able to return home during the interregnum while the ban is lifted. 

The doctors’ exclusion from the United States was not only an atrocity from a moral perspective, but also from a practical and functional standpoint. When a resident physician is unable to work, there are broader ramifications outside of their immediate absence. 

Who takes care of their clinic patients? Who fills in for them during in-patient rotations on the hospital wards? A rising physician’s personal medical education is not only disturbed, but the residency program may be stretched thin, forcing some physicians to work overtime and potentially violate hour restrictions. 

What’s even more ironic is that since the federal government pays all medical residents’ salaries, President Trump’s administration actually continued to compensate both doctors during their “banishment” despite not permitting them to work. 

Ultimately, the greatest harm falls on the most vulnerable – American patients. A medical resident’s absence creates a domino effect that harms the whole community. 

Luckily, there are fail-safes such as coverage schemes and “sick-pull” lists built into residency programs in order to deal with a resident’s absence, which their hospitals surely utilized.

But despite the heavy publicity received by the two physicians’ cases, the Trump administration was silent and likely ignorant of the potential aftermath of a medical resident’s absence.

At the very least, while the legal details of the travel ban reversal and the justice department’s rebuttals are elucidated, the Trump administration ought to apologize to the doctors and their respective medicine programs for their unjust exclusion from the country. Ideally, the government would go one step further and retroactively pay for their travel expenses.

By its nature, medicine is an inclusive, ecumenical and optimistic calling, the central mission of which is a humane desire to help and heal. Physicians are also lifelong students. The Trump administration ought to bear in mind the sage-like writings of Sir William Osler, a father of modern medicine – “The true student is a citizen of the world, the allegiance of whose soul, at any rate, is too precious to be restricted to any one country.”

Geoffrey Rubin is a cardiology fellow in New York. His commentaries have appeared New England Journal of Medicine, Pulse, JAMA Cardiology and The New York Times.

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PeterBobbyGvegasJohn IrvineAllan Recent comment authors
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Allan
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Allan

Do you know anyone that died from 9/11? I think their friends and families were inconvenienced to the extreme. It makes what you say seem trivial and wanting. I too would feel bad if colleagues weren’t admitted to the country because of such an order, but I would be happy to know that someone is out there trying to protect our lives. The order was for a limited time frame, 90 days, to provide time for a better plan to assure that people entering our shores weren’t doing so to hurt Americans or the nation. Individuals from those 7 nations… Read more »

Peter
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Peter

“President Obama rightfully singled out those 7 nations that were included in Trump’s order. We have seen the results of terrorism here and abroad. It is the responsibility of our government to secure our borders from terrorism.” First you have not learned yet that Trump is a liar or you have chosen to use his lies to advance your own agenda. Second, not one of the people who were turned away at the border was a terrorists. “When given a chance, the Obama administration specifically rejected the citizenship-based restrictions that Trump has now ordered. So while the names are the… Read more »

Allan
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Allan

Peter, you don’t know what you are talking about. First let’s deal with the stupidity often mimicked by others like yourself. You say “ not one of the people who were turned away at the border was a terrorists.” You don’t know if someone is a terrorist until the bomb goes off or a threat is revealed. Additionally it is doubtful that terrorists at the border will automatically reveal themselves. There are methods to better verify who people are, but those methods don’t work as well from those 7 countries and that was recognized by the Obama administration. We have… Read more »

Peter
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Peter

Yes, methods can be improved, but any idiot like Trump (and yourself) can just blindly shut the border to people who have already been vetted (many for about 2 years) to get green cards, to get refuge status, to get visas.

“So far Trump hasn’t shown the qualities you suggest.”

Are you blind or just stupid?

Allan
Member
Allan

” but any idiot like Trump (and yourself) ” Nice insulting language, the type of which is the last resort of fools. The point is the President has the legal authority to determine which aliens can come into this country. But , the President quickly recognized that perhaps denial of entry shouldn’t be extended to certain people. I quickly agreed with the point that the executive order should have been written better, but apparently you can’t remember the earlier dialogue. The important thing is that President Trump is responding to legitimate American fears and will protect Americans even if some… Read more »