Doctors seeking health equity undeterred by neo-Nazi protest

Feb 2, 2022, 1:56 PM | Updated: 2:49 pm

BOSTON (AP) — Two doctors who teach at Harvard Medical School and have been working to establish greater equity in health care for people of color say they are undeterred by a recent protest outside Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston by a group of neo-Nazis who claimed they are “anti-white.”

Dr. Michelle Morse, who was formerly on staff at Brigham and Women’s, is now the chief medical officer for the New York City Health Department.

Dr. Bram Wispelwey is an internal medicine and public health doctor at Brigham and Women’s.

Morse and Wispelwey told GBH News for a story published online Wednesday that their approach to medicine addresses the health concerns of those who have consistently been left behind by modern medicine.

“What I’m trying to do is hold the medical industrial complex accountable for the harms that it’s caused to communities of color and to other communities and push for racial justice and health equity in all of the institutions that I’m involved in and in partnership with the many communities that I serve,” Morse said.

Wispelwey said his team found it was hard to address institutional racism in medicine — such as disparities in how patients are admitted for heart surgery — using racially blind methods.

“And so we wanted to take a race-explicit approach,” he said. “We can’t wait until these predominantly white institutions sort of come around … we want to actually make sure our patients are taken care of in the best way possible right now.”

About two dozen protesters dressed similarly in khaki pants and dark hoodies, and wearing face coverings, held up a banner outside the hospital on Jan. 22 that said “B and W Hospital Kills Whites.”

They also passed out flyers with pictures of Morse and Wispelwey claiming the doctors promoted “anti-white genocidal policy.”

The protest was apparently spurred by an article Morse and Wispelwey published in the March 2021 Boston Review, titled “An Anti-racist Agenda for Medicine” 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.

That created a backlash, Morse said.

The GBH News Center for Investigative Reporting traced the email address on the flyer passed out at Jan. 22’s protest to the Nationalist Social Club, which is described by the Anti-Defamation League as “a neo-Nazi group with small, autonomous regional chapters in the United States and abroad.”

Morse and Wispelwey said they are not intimidated.

“The fact that you have an avowed white nationalist neo-Nazi group show up at a hospital really speaks to the work that still remains to be done,” Wispelwey said.

“We should be doing a bajillion times more than this, even more actively and more directly and with bigger and more resources,” Morse said.

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Doctors seeking health equity undeterred by neo-Nazi protest