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Trump Makes Surprise Appearance at Dana-Farber Fundraiser

HMS Protest
Dozens of Medical School affiliates urged the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to relocate a fundraiser from President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort earlier this month.
President Donald Trump made a surprise appearance at the Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. on Saturday.

The event raised $2.2 million and drew hundreds of guests, including Medical School professor Stephen E. Sallan and Dana-Farber Senior Vice President for Communications Steven R. Singer, according to science news site STAT.

Trump’s attendance, however, drew particular attention and fanned the flames of an ongoing controversy over Dana-Farber’s choice of venue.

Colleen M. Farrell, a Medical School student who organized protests against this year’s Mar-a-Lago fundraiser, said she was “disappointed” the event occurred despite heavy student opposition. Farrell said Trump’s surprise appearance “further proves the point that there is no staying out of politics with this decision from Dana-Farber.”

“You can either take a stand against the president’s policies, which are Islamophobic and harmful to immigrants, or you can be silent and let those policies become a fabric of our society,” Farrell said.

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Dana-Farber spokesperson Ellen Berlin did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Since 2011, Dana-Farber, a Medical School teaching hospital, has paid the Mar-a-Lago $150,000 per year to host its “Discovery Celebration” event at the resort. After Trump’s presidential immigration order barring immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, however, Medical School students petitioned for the event's relocation.

In a statement earlier this month, President of Dana-Farber Laurie H. Glimcher and Board of Trustees Chairman Joshua Bekenstein wrote that Dana-Farber’s hosting the fundraiser at Trump’s resort did not constitute a political endorsement, but that the hospital would work to “avoid controversial venues” in the future.

“Our decision last year to continue to rent that facility for this long-standing fundraiser was never meant to be, and does not now intend to be, any type of political statement or endorsement of any political figure or policy position,” Glimcher and Bekenstein wrote.

In response to the decision, Medical School affiliates held a protest on Feb. 11 calling for the fundraiser’s relocation.

On Monday, Farrell said students will seek assurances from administrators that no future events will be held at Trump’s “winter White House.” Farrell said she respected Dana-Farber but hoped that its leadership will “put more of their resources behind the people whose countries have been targeted by these recent policies.”

“We would like to see the Dana Farber leadership take a stronger moral stand in its public communication regarding the executive order,” Farrell said. “Banning certain people from certain countries which can have patients and researchers is against the core values of medicine and Dana Farber.”

—Staff writer Alexis J. Ross can be reached at alexis.ross@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @aross125.

—Staff writer William L. Wang can be reached at william.wang@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @wlwang20

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