Each morning, I read a framed Hippocratic Oath on my office wall. My parents presented this to me over 25 years ago.
Professionally, I am driven by the precept in the Oath - “I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.”
Personally, I am driven by my Pakistani Muslim heritage. The framed Hippocratic Oath – written in Urdu – was a gift from my parents when I emigrated from Pakistan to complete my medical education. Over nearly three decades, I am unable to put a precise number on the cardiac catheterizations, angioplasties and lifesaving invasive cardiac procedures I have performed. However, with certainty, I can say that I have upheld the Hippocratic Oath.
In a given month, I serve Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Hindu and atheist patients. It would be the height of professional malpractice to question the faith of my patients before providing care. I realize that politics does not have a Hippocratic Oath, but it is the responsibility of leaders to fight for all people, regardless of background and circumstance. Leaders like President Obama have taken this responsibility very seriously, especially during trying times like we face today. His reaction to terrorist attacks and gun violence has been to pursue policies that will keep us safe from harm, and his approach is shared by Democrats across the country. But the default reaction from the Republican Party seems to be the exact opposite. Instead of offering strong solutions to keep us safe, Donald Trump has turned to hateful rhetoric and policies that ostracize the Muslim-American community. The “warmth, sympathy and understanding” professed by the Hippocratic Oath is missing completely from the Republican Party.
Here's what the Republican Party doesn't seem to understand.
Muslim-Americans are strong, valuable, and productive members of society. We are doctors, lawyers, veterans, and small business owners. We are an essential part of this country. To think of us as terrorists, or give the impression that our entire faith is anything but driven by a commitment to peace, is irresponsible and wrong. But that's what we've seen from Republicans in response to the recent terror attacks. Muslims abroad are also critical to keeping America safe. We are on the front lines in the Middle East, and can serve as allies and partners in the global fight against terrorism. To ostracize all Muslims is to ignore the fact that we are partners in the fight against terror, and frankly, that we too are threatened by these radicals.
“Can you imagine what would happen if we chose to ban patients of a certain religion from our practices, just as Donald Trump wants to ban Muslims from traveling to America?”
Every act of terrorism committed in the name of our religion inflicts pain on every Muslim and sets back all of the progress which has been made by the contributions of so many true Muslims. To that effect, true Muslims clearly and openly denounce these heinous acts in a unified voice.
Over the last few months, around the dinner table, in the hospital exam room, and at the Mosque, family, patients and friends are dumbfounded as to how America can allow its politicians to question the faith and commitment of Muslim and immigrant professionals like me. I have spent my entire professional life in the United States. I had the honor of serving as National President of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America, an organization whose goal is one of education, community service and humanitarian acts. There are over 15,000 Pakistani-American physicians. We practice all across this beautiful country and in every medical specialty. We pay taxes. We vote. We save the lives of patients of every political party and faith. Can you imagine what would happen if we chose to ban patients of a certain religion from our practices, just as Donald Trump wants to ban Muslims from traveling to America?
No one understands social responsibility more than Muslims do. Just like every immigrant population that has helped build this country, we contribute to this great society by serving our communities, volunteering, serving in the military, contributing to the arts and sciences, and offering leadership. It is essential for the future of our children that we pave the way for a safe and just environment.
As the rhetoric from Donald Trump and the Republican Party this election season continues to push the limits of civility, evil and ignorant sentiments will not triumph if we all remember the precepts of the Hippocratic Oath. I can only hope one day Republicans will do exactly that, for safety's sake.
Dr. Asif Rehman is the former National President of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America. He lives in Long Island.