Leaders of Cardiologists, Oncologists Decry Travel Ban

The American College of Cardiology is set to hold its annual meeting in the nation's capital March 17-20, 2017.

Leaders from the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) said that the Trump administration’s restrictions on travel from 7 Middle Eastern countries will limit the exchange of ideas. The president of the ACC said the ban would make existing shortages of providers worse when heart disease remains the nation's top killer.

ACC President Richard A. Chazal, MD, FACC, said in a statement that the group is the “professional home” for more than 52,000 scientists, educators and healthcare professionals around the world.

“This diverse group of scientists, teachers and health care professionals are united around the common mission of transforming cardiovascular care and improving heart health with the ultimate goal of curbing the global epidemic of cardiovascular disease," he said.

The travel ban causes an uproar at the nation's major international airpors this weekend, as customs officials trying to interpret the president's executive order detained travelers who had approved visas and even green cards. At least some of the detainees are physicians, researchers, or medical students who had been visting family in the affected countries or arriving for new posts.

His statement was e-mailed in response to an inquiry from The American Journal of Managed Care.

Chazal, whose is set to lead the ACC’s Scientific Session March 17-20, 2017, said restricting travel will “impede the free flow of ideas and have a detrimental impact on scientific discovery, as well as the lives of patients around the world.”

“If we are to realize a future where cardiovascular disease is no longer the #1 killer of men and women worldwide we must ensure that our system of scientific exchange allows for health care professionals to learn from each other regardless of their nationality,” said Chazal, who is the medical director of the Heart and Vascular Institute for Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, Florida.

Medical graduates who hail from affected countries, including naturalized citizens and legal residents, make up a large share of the workforce in the nation’s hospitals and practices. More than 25% of the current practicing physicians are international medical graduates, and cardiology is one of their leading specialties.

“Policies that bring the immigration status of those already here into question, while also limiting the ability of others to legally train in the U.S. going forward, will only serve to exacerbate the already existing cardiovascular workforce shortage, especially in rural America,” Chazal said. “Such policies also threaten the care continuum of patients who rely on these providers for their medical care.”

Chazal quoted the modern-day Hippocratic Oath, saying, “I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow."

The oath continues, “I will prevent disease whenever I can ... and I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings."

Chazal concluded, “The ACC is committed to supporting all of its members—no matter where they live and work, and no matter where they are from—in fulfilling this promise.”

In a press release, ASCO said that more than 10,000 people from around the world participate in its scientific meetings, the largest of which is held annually in Chicago in late May to early June. "Millions of cancer survivors are alive today because of the progress made possible by scientific collaboration. Progress against this disease will falter if the close-knit global community of cancer care providers is divided by policies that bar members of certain nationalities form entering the US to conduct research, care for people with cancer, or participate in scientific and medical conferences."

ASCO called for an end to "unjustified barriers to scientific exchange and medical education," and said the organization was working with public officials so they understand the executive order's impact.