Meeting Mentor Magazine

April 2017

Medical Conference Leaders Address
Consequences of Travel Restrictions

A growing number of medical and scientific conference organizers are voicing concern about the adverse effects of the Trump administration’s travel ban and tighter visa restrictions, saying they affect conference attendance and research exchange.

“These restrictions threaten to interrupt the exchange of scientific research that is vital to the global response to health threats such as HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Zika, and many other infectious diseases,” said Susan Buchbinder, MD, Chair of the 2017 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, in a statement issued before the group’s recent meeting in Seattle.

Other associations that have spoken out include the American Academy of Neurology, the American Academy of Cardiologists, the International Astronomical Union and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, among others.

International members account for a growing (and in some cases majority) percentage of membership for many U.S.-based medical societies. The Endocrine Society, for example, reports that nearly 40 percent of its members live outside of the U.S. ENDO 2017, held in Orlando, Florida, last week, reported a spike in international cancellations, according to Medscape.

Moreover, thousands of academics from around the world, including physicians, researchers and professors, have vowed to boycott U.S.-based conferences in light of the Trump administration policy. A Google Docs petition started shortly after the original ban was announced in January has garnered more than 6,000 signatures. In addition, more than 42,000 scientists and academics have also signed a letter denouncing the ban.

Conference organizers worry that the the travel ban, which has been temporarily halted (see below), is just the tip of the iceburg when it comes to pulling out the welcome mat for international travelers to the United States.

Indeed, travel experts are expecting international travel to the U.S. to plummet this year, according to a report in USA Today. One example: NYC & Co., the tourism and marketing group for New York City, forecast 300,000 fewer international visitors this year compared to last year. The drop would be the first since the recession of 2008-2009.

“We’re hearing concern,” U.S. Travel Association’s Roger Dow said in the USA Today article. “Our message to the Trump administration is real simple: ‘We’re real good at America being closed for terrorism and open for business.’ What we need them to do is say that.”

Update on Travel Ban
Trump’s first executive order on immigration and refugees, issued seven days after he took office, was blocked by a series of court rulings. On March 6, Trump signed a redrafted order that exempted existing visa holders and removed Iraq from the original list of seven Muslim-majority countries whose nationals would be denied visas.The revised executive order was quickly challenged in the courts and currently is halted until further judicial review.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration ordered tougher security checks for visa applicants hoping to travel to the United States. The new rules generally do not apply to citizens of 38 countries — including most of Europe and Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea — who can be speedily admitted into the United States under the visa waiver program. The visa waiver program does not cover citizens from any country in the Middle East or Africa. — Regina McGee

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