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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

‘Neo-Nazis’ Threaten Docs Researching Systemic Racism

By Gary Evans, Medical Writer

“The recent neo-Nazi protest against leading anti-racist physicians at a Boston-area hospital is yet another sad chapter in the long history of threats and intimidation of health care workers for simply carrying out the duties of our profession,” said Gerald Harmon, MD, president of the American Medical Association, calling for violence and racism against healthcare workers to end in a strongly worded piece on the AMA website.

The Jan. 22 incident included some 20 white nationalists standing in front of Brigham and Women’s Hospital holding a long makeshift sign that said, “B and W Hospital Kills Whites.”

Uniformly clad in brown kakis, black coats, with faces covered, they passed out flyers with photographs of two of the principal physician researchers. The flyers accused the researchers of “anti-white policies,” and warned that “we will not tolerate the genocide of the people who founded this city.”

Those targeted were Michelle Morse, MD, chief medical officer for the New York City Health Department, and Bram Wispelwey, MD, a physician at Brigham and Women's. They are working on research to create more equity in healthcare delivery and treatment. The pandemic has exposed major inequities and systemic racism in the level of care provided for people of color. Both Morse and Wispelwey declined to comment for this report.

Joane Moceri, PhD, RN, racism researcher and associate dean of the University of Portland school of nursing, gave her opinion on the incident with the caveat that she did not know the full details.

“It sounds like the protesters were confusing equity with equality because of their racist lens,” she says. “If Black and brown people need additional care to ensure health equity, they should receive it, even if it appears to be more than a white counterpart, who may actually need less care. White power, privilege, and supremacy are at the heart of racism. Racism could not exist without it.”

The Boston incident and similar events are “too often decontextualized and classified as ‘disruptive’ rather than racial violence,” Harmon wrote.

Saying racism is violence, Moceri tells Hospital Employee Health that “people who experience racism also experience physical and mental health issues related to the chronic stress racism causes.”

Gary Evans, BA, MA, has written numerous articles on infectious disease threats to both patients and healthcare workers. These include stories on HIV, SARS, SARS-CoV-2, pandemic influenza, MERS, and Ebola. He has been honored for excellence in analytical reporting five times by the National Press Club in Washington, DC.