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Leaders from Mass General, Johns Hopkins, University of Pennsylvania blast Trump's travel ban as 'step backward'

'It is well known that a large proportion of the most talented and productive research trainees come from abroad,' physician leaders wrote.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

Brigham and Women's Hospital's academic chair is one of seven who added his name to a NEJM post rejecting Trump's travel ban.

Physicians from some of the most prestigious hospitals and academic centers in the country joined together to blast President Donald Trump's travel ban in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, calling the executive order a "step backward" for its potentially damaging effect on the practice of medicine and innovation.

The authors include seven chairs of major academic departments of medicine including Katrina Armstrong from Massachusetts General Hospital, Mark L. Zeidel from Beth Israel Deaconess and Joseph Loscalzo from Brigham and Women's Hospital, all major Boston hospitals, as well as Mark E. Anderson from Johns Hopkins, John M. Carethers from University of Michigan Health System, Michael S. Parmacek from University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and Robert M. Wachter from University of California San Francisco.

The authors argued that the "free exchange of ideas, experience, and perspectives" is a keystone of patient care, medical training, and research and innovation. Throwing up a wall to medical professionals who travel and work internationally, not to mention medical students, is "far reaching and damaging," they said.

[Also: Cleveland Clinic doctor turned away at airport due to Trump's travel ban]

"There is little controversy that the greatest hope of preventing and curing human disease has long depended on bringing together the best ideas and talent to take on complex problems," they said.

Referred to as the "medical exchange," this sharing of ideas, experience, and medical professionals has extended beyond borders, to the benefit of all areas of medicine, especially research, calling these international collaborations the "bedrock" of many important scientific projects.

"It is well known that a large proportion of the most talented and productive research trainees come from abroad."

The impact to U.S. hospitals right now is not to be underestimated, the authors stressed, with internal medicine faculty in the top U.S. departments hailing from all over the globe and making huge contributions to research, education and patient care. Specifically, of the 46 faculty members promoted to associate or full professor at Harvard Medical School in the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Medicine over the past 3 years, 40 percent were born outside the United States, a ratio that is not uncommon. Beyond their immediate academic and medical institutions, these professionals also contribute to global health and disaster-relief work, sending "important messages to the world about American values," authors wrote.

[Also: Trump's '1 in, 2 out' order sparks uncertainty among healthcare advocates]

Additionally, residency training in internal medicine is also caught in the crosshairs of Trump's executive order. In 2016, over half of the 7,024 internal medicine positions in the U.S. residency match were filled by international medical graduates. Authors said that despite the fact that most of these trainees came from countries not included in the 90-day ban, and cited a recent report from the Association of American Medical Colleges showing that 260 international medical graduates are currently applying to U.S. residency training from the countries that are included.

The countries named in the travel ban are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

[Also: Trump travel ban affects hospitals hiring medical school grads]

Finally, within Partners Healthcare, primarily Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital, more than 100 personnel are affected. At least 20 were either applying for a visa at a U.S. consulate abroad or preparing to travel to the United States, and two were not allowed to board their flights on the day the executive order was issued. Moreover, 78 people with active visas from the seven countries have been identified so far, authors said. The numbers climb higher when green-card holders who are citizens of the designated countries, and foreign graduates of U.S. schools holding student-visa work permits are included.

"... Immigration policy that blocks the best from coming to train and work in the United States and blocks our trainees and faculty from safely traveling to other countries is a step backward, one that will harm our patients, colleagues, and America's position as a world leader in healthcare and innovation," the authors said.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn