Hundreds of Harvard Medical School affiliates have signed a petition calling on the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to relocate a Feb. 18 fundraiser away from President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
Since 2011, Dana-Farber, a Harvard-affiliated teaching hospital, has hosted its annual “Discovery Celebration” fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, paying the Trump foundation $150,000 each year. After Trump's executive order on immigrants and refugees, however, a group of Medical School students sent an email Sunday night to Dana-Farber President Laurie H. Glimcher and Senior Vice President for Development Susan S. Paresky urging them to “immediately relocate” the fundraiser.
After initially receiving no response, students started a petition on Monday, which has gathered over 1,000 signatures from doctors, Medical School students, and Dana-Farber affiliates opposed to the event’s venue.
“It takes work to do this well and to do this thoughtfully, but it did not take much convincing at all to ask people to sign on to this,” Colleen M. Farrell, an organizer, said. “It was really quite easy to mobilize concern and get people involved.”
The petition describes Trump’s executive order as a threat to refugees, patients, and healthcare professionals, pointing to at least two Med School affiliates’ recent inability to enter the United States as a result of the order. Trump's order suspends immigration from seven predominantly majority Muslim countries, among other measures.
The Medical School petition argues that as an “integral institution of the Harvard Community and a global leader in cancer care and research,” Dana-Farber should fundraise in a way that reflects its commitment to diversity.
“By relocating the Discovery Celebration fundraiser, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute will demonstrate its core values to the nation, to the medical community, and most importantly, to patients.” the petition adds.
On Tuesday afternoon, Glimcher responded to the petition's organizers, writing that the fundraiser will go on as planned.
"Cancer knows no national boundaries, and we share your concern about the effect of the new executive order on immigration on our staff and patients," Gimcher wrote. But Glimcher noted that a “large number of people have committed to attend the event."
“Cancelling the event outright would only deny much-needed resources for research and care,” she added.
George Karandinos, one of the petition's organizers, said he and other students plan to continue petitioning and communicating with Dana-Farber in the hopes of relocating the event.
“We’re obviously incredibly disappointed with [Glimcher’s] response, but we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to initiate a respectful dialogue with her and work towards a happy conclusion,” Karandinos said.
Farrell also said she respects Dana-Farber’s efforts in cancer research and stressed that the petition’s purpose “is not at all to decrease the funds” of the organization.
“We don’t want Dana-Farber to lose fundraising money because of this, but we also feel strongly that the way they go about fundraising has to be in line with their core values and our core values as a medical community and as a democracy,” Farrell said.
The Cleveland Clinic made a similar decision to keep a February fundraising event at Mar-a-Lago, but said it will not commit to using the same location for next year’s event.
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