The Massachusetts Medical Society said it was “angered” over the recent neo-Nazi protest outside Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston that targeted two doctors whose work focuses on health equity.
“Not only was the demonstration built on a false narrative and dangerous misinformation, but the act also threatened to interfere with delivery of health care, putting patients at risk,” said Massachusetts Medical Society President Carole Allen, MD, MBA, in a statement released on Thursday.
The January 22 protest saw about two dozen white nationalists outside the hospital holding a makeshift banner that read, “B and W Hospital Kills Whites,” GBH News reported. The protest specifically targeted Michelle Morse, MD, MPH, the chief medical officer for the New York City Health Department who was formerly on staff at the Boston hospital, as well as Bram Wispelwey, MD, MS, MPH, an internal medicine and public health doctor at Brigham and Women’s.
Both Morse, a Black woman, and Wispelwey, a white man, teach at Harvard Medical School. They have continued to work toward greater equity in healthcare, including publishing an article last year in Boston Review that, “laid out their approach to health care based on a medical model of critical race theory, and calling for ‘medical restitution’ for Black people, who have long been excluded from first rate care,” GBH News reported.
The targeting of Morse and Wispelwey drew the Massachusetts Medical Society’s ire.
“The 25,000 physicians and students that comprise the Massachusetts Medical Society are angered over the recent incident in Boston that saw an extremist group target physicians whose commitment is to care for patients and to facilitate conversations and actions that will make our health care system more just and equitable for communities of color,” said Allen. “The medical society is opposed to direct confrontational racist acts and stands equally against damaging microaggressions directed at health care workers.”
In an interview with MedPage Today, Allen called what happened outside Brigham and Women’s Hospital “appalling” and “frightening,” and said that the medical society “absolutely had to speak out.”
Allen said that the racist protest was a threat to patients as well as healthcare workers, who were just trying to do their jobs and take care of patients, and that it was so disruptive that it “could endanger healthcare in general.” She added that it could contribute to eroding trust in the medical community, and that trust is the most important component of optimal care.
Furthermore, it’s important for physicians and other healthcare professionals to feel that the medical society is on their side and supports them, Allen said.
Allen said she is encouraged that institutions and medical schools have stepped up to really try to address racism, including when it comes to improving their workforce and the health of underrepresented populations. However, the recent racist protest in Boston seems like a “stab in the back to those efforts,” she said.
“We do need to rally together and stand up against it so it doesn’t continue,” said Allen.
The medical community has rallied around the two doctors targeted during the racist protest, GBH News reported. That has included hundreds of physicians signing on to an open letter published on Medium under the heading “Massachusetts Coalition for Health Equity.”
In the Massachusetts Medical Society statement, the society added that it “stands with health care workers, patients, and all who endure disgusting acts of racism and will continue undaunted with our work to eliminate inequities in health care.”