Physicians make presence known at March for Science

Physicians were well-represented among the throngs at this weekend’s March for Science, which was recognized in 600 cities worldwide in a pushback against policies that cut funding for scientific research and promote anti-science rhetoric.

Marchers represented people from all walks of science, and its organizers pushed for continued support and funding of science despite negative messages they see coming from the Trump administration.

Georges Benjamin, M.D., executive director of the American Public Health Association, spoke at the Washington march and said that the science behind public health initiatives is “the heart of so many successes” that have saved lives. Examples, he said, include seatbelt law enforcement and vaccines.

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"A nation that ignores science, that denies science, that underfunds science, does so at its own peril. We cannot allow this to happen. We need to ensure that data and evidence drive policy-making, not uniformed ideology," he said.

A number of physicians who marched had personal experiences with derailed research or distrust in medical advances like vaccines, reported (reg. req.) Medscape Medical News. Eugene Gu, M.D., a general surgery resident at Vanderbilt University, told the publication that in April 2016 he was researching fetal tissue treatments when U.S. marshals served him a congressional subpoena as part of a panel investigating Planned Parenthood.

The political climate has made doctors and other researchers scared to continue such study, he said.

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The March was planned to coincide with Earth Day, and although the District of Columbia hosted the largest event, satellite marches across the world attracted thousands as well.

Peter Slavin, M.D., president of Massachusetts General Hospital, was among the organizers for the march held in Boston, and he told MedPage Today that he was spurred by proposed funding cuts to the National Institutes of Health.

The cuts “run contrary” to the hospital’s mission, Slavin said.

Also on hand at the Boston march was Chris Worsham, M.D., Boston Medical Center’s chief internal medicine resident, who said he hopes President Donald Trump and his team “see doctors in white coats out here saying we need science for our patients.”

“We have people [in government] who technically are physicians but who don’t represent us in any way,” he said in reference to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, M.D., and the congressional Republicans’ Doctors Caucus. “We need to be vocal on days like today.”