DPM Operation o2
Desi PHYSICIAN Moms Foundation 501(c)3
July 23, 2021
We are Desi Physician Moms Foundation (DPMF), a 501(c)3 not-for-profit US/Canadian organization of close to 7,000 licensed women physicians with connections to the Southeast Asian diaspora. Our group includes members with roots to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal, Bhutan, the Caribbean, and those with an appreciation for their Desi Women Physician colleagues. We are from all 50 United States and Canada, of all religious backgrounds, and come together with our four pillars of Unity, Selflessness, Sisterhood, and Community. In the US and Canada alone, there are well over 200,000 physicians of Desi origin who have been tirelessly working to combat the ongoing COVID pandemic in North America.
Tennessee is undergoing an unrelenting Covid-19 crisis largely driven by the new Delta variant, with an infection rate much higher than previous strains. TN currently ranks Number 1 in the nation for the velocity of spread of infection at 680.5%, according to Johns Hopkins University. It is disheartening to see a resurgence in hospital admission rates to adult and pediatric COVID wards and ICUs, especially when we had successfully lowered admission rates after COVID vaccines first became available.
We are deeply disturbed by the abrupt firing of Dr. Michelle Fiscus, TN’s vaccine lead at the Dept. of Health. Dr. Fiscus and other public health officials have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep Americans safe and healthy. The fact that over 181 public health officials have been fired, have resigned, or retired since April 2020 is more than concerning. This is politics rearing its unwelcome head in the realm of science and research.
One must not forget that vaccine programs have provided and continue to provide tremendous protection to the world from the scourges of smallpox and other deadly infections. However, the fact that vaccines are now available for COVID-19 and that they are safe and effective is a scientific marvel. Science has spoken. The vaccines work. They are safe. They are saving lives. When the safe COVID-19 vaccines became available, physicians and lawmakers alike in Tennessee as in the rest of the United States started to line up quickly to get their shots. However, the messaging by some lawmakers contradicts their own vaccination status.
Getting this pandemic under control, our kids back in school safely, our economy reopening, and life back to a sense of normalcy are only achieved through vaccinations and public health outreach. State sponsored community campaigns with evidence-based guidance led by state employed physicians have worked hard to come up with effective and quality messaging to cities, towns, and rural areas across the US, and Dr. Fiscus was especially effective at this in Tennessee.
Unfortunately, their jobs have been made difficult by the political climate in our country which has led to vaccine hesitancy through misinformation spread online and through social media. The Mature Minor Doctrine is TN law since 1987. However, some Tennessee legislators along with Governor Bill Lee have misconstrued this and are propagating misinformation.
The TN Department of Health at the urging of Governor Lee has halted all vaccine education programs. Gov Lee stated at a press conference on 7/22/21 that this decision was made by TDH, but agrees it was the right decision, indicating his political pressure on the TDH. This includes ending all reminders to parents, TDH-supported child and adolescent vaccination events held at schools and with other community partners, and even the cessation of the simple and harmless acknowledgment of August being Vaccine Awareness Month. While it is true that vaccines are available at health departments, the lack of effective messaging and actually negative messaging by some misinformed TN legislators have harmed Tennessee families and especially children. At a statement read at the TN legislature on 7/21/21, false claims of bribery, coercion, and other lies regarding physicians’ vaccination outreach were propagated without allowing discussion with their legislative colleagues. This inflammatory statement leads to fear-mongering among Tennessee voters and is insulting to physicians throughout the United States, Canada, and the world.
This is politics impinging on the rights of Tennesseans and preventing access to appropriate medical information and care. This behavior is creating barriers to vaccine access. It is hindering physicians and public health experts at the TDH from doing their jobs. They took an oath to “do no harm”. These physician standards and oaths are upheld by the TN Board of Medical Licensure. We denounce this negligent and reckless behavior by the leadership of the TDH and the TN lawmakers to conspire with the TDH to fire Dr. Fiscus and abort all vaccination outreach programs. These are politically motivated moves, regardless of who ultimately made the official decisions.
We call for the immediate reinstatement of all vaccine related messaging and outreach programs in Tennessee. We as a group of fellow women physicians are also calling on the Dept. of Health and the TN state legislature to immediately set the record straight as to the disparaging comments about Dr. Fiscus’s leadership.
We would like to voice the DPM Foundation’s strong support for Dr. Michelle Fiscus and her selfless work both during her time with the TDH and after. Though no longer with TDH, she has continued to save lives by advocating for Tennessee children on her personal time. Her recent political dismissal is dangerous to the health of Tennesseans and ultimately to all Americans. Let us doctors treat our patients and continue the hard work of keeping Americans alive and healthy, especially during an unprecedented deadly pandemic.
In solidarity with TN healthcare workers, Dr. Fiscus, and the health of all Tennesseans, we are Desi Physician Moms Foundation.
Vidya R. Bansal MD, FAAP Pediatrician, Nashville, TN
Executive Director/Founder of Desi Physician Moms Foundation
Board Members/TN COVID Response Team
- Dr. Sheena Kandaiah MD, MPH Infectious Disease, Atlanta, GA
- Dr. Preeti Singh, MD Neonatologist, Tupelo, MS
- Dr. Zaira Jorai-Khan DO, FACOOG OB/GYN, Gainesville, TX
- Dr. Katrina Green MD Emergency Medicine, Nashville, TN
- Dr. Meenakshi Pande MD Endocrinologist, Florence, SC
- Dr. Milli Jain Gupta MD Endocrinologist, Munster, IN
- Dr. Neha Shah Saraiya MD, FAAP Pediatrician, Princeton, NJ
- Dr. Ravinder Kaur Machra MD Internal Medicine, Dyersburg, TN