Biomedicine depends on the free flow of people and ideas, Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of Stanford’s medical school, wrote in a commentary appearing today on Quartz. Collaborations between people with different backgrounds and viewpoints produces out-of-the-box ideas, he says — the type of ideas that can advance research and directly help patients.
For decades, top researchers from all over the world have met in the United States. They gather at places like Stanford University, where their contributions are key. But, Minor writes:
This unique dynamism is now at risk. The crisis generated by the White House administration’s immigration executive order doesn’t just affect physicians, researchers, students, and trainees from the listed countries. It also threatens to have an enduring effect on the willingness of our scientific colleagues from around the world to bring their intellect and creativity to our labs. If international researchers do not feel confident that they can travel freely with their families to and from the US, they will take their talents elsewhere.
And if the US shuts itself off from the world, the consequences could mean slowing the pace of all biomedical research…
This is, of course, completely counter to the principles embraced by academic institutions like ours, where breaking down barriers — between disciplines and between people of different backgrounds — fuels progress.
That needs to be reflected in the current debate, Minor says, writing:
There are many considerations involved in developing immigration policies. But as the debate goes forward, my hope is that our lawmakers will remember the lives at stake. We need policies that make medical breakthroughs more likely, not immigration bans that could stifle innovative science and put the health of all Americans — and people around the world — at risk.