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From Cambridge, A Fast-Spreading 'This I Believe' For Practicing Medicine In Trump Era

President Obama and President-elect Trump shake hands following their meeting in the Oval Office Thursday. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
President Obama and President-elect Trump shake hands following their meeting in the Oval Office Thursday. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
This article is more than 2 years old.

The morning after the presidential election, Cambridge Health Alliance psychiatry resident Dr. Nikhil "Sunny" Patel, up before dawn for an early hospital shift, couldn't shake his dazed sense that he had woken to an alternate reality, he says.

He was puzzling over what the results meant for him as an immigrant, a person of color and, most of all, a doctor. If he could be feeling so much angst despite his "enormous privilege," he recalls thinking, how must his patients from among the least privileged populations be reacting?

By afternoon, he and his colleagues in a nascent group, the Social Justice Coalition at Cambridge Health Alliance, were brainstorming intensively. They needed to figure out how to respond to the election, Patel says, "but first, we needed something even more basic, which was: What do we believe in?"

The result: a post on Medium titled "From America's Healers: A Letter To Our Patients In The Trump Era." Published this week, it has spread quickly, gathering over 3,500 co-signatures by Thursday afternoon.

The post — a bit reminiscent of the old NPR series "This I Believe" — lays out eight basic principles, including that health is a basic human right, that medicine and public policy should be based on evidence, and that women's health must be protected.

"We felt like we had a duty to say something," Patel says. "And not in a vitriolic way but in a firm way, that this is what we believe, and that's not going to change regardless of the political administration."

The post reflects several central concerns, he says, including: the fate of Obamacare, which expanded Medicaid coverage for millions of poor patients who lacked it; possible changes in abortion law and other elements of women's health care; and President-elect Trump's tweets linking autism to vaccines despite the lack of scientific evidence.

But most of all, Patel says, it's a way to say to patients, "we will take care of them, whatever their immigration status, whatever the color of their skin, whoever they are."

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Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.

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