Lawsuit claims fellowship for minorities is illegal for banning White applicants: ‘Blatant discrimination’

EXCLUSIVE — Nonprofit organization Do No Harm filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Health Affairs and Project Hope, claiming a fellowship for minorities is illegal because of “blatant discrimination” against White applicants. 

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that Health Affairs, a prominent health policy journal and its parent company Project Hope are “running a race-segregated health journal fellowship” called Health Equity Fellowship for Trainees. 

Do No Harm chairman Dr. Stanley Goldfarb said his organization is “opposed to discrimination in all of its manifestations,” including a fellowship program solely for non-White applicants.

“To propose a fellowship program whose key requirement is skin color is blatant discrimination. If the goal is to promote students with less opportunity, then promote such students without racial stipulations. We have civil rights laws in this nation to prevent this sort of racialism and this lawsuit helps promote those laws,” Dr. Goldfarb told Fox News Digital. 

Do No Harm, which bills itself as a “diverse group of physicians, healthcare professionals, medical students, patients, and policymakers united by a moral mission: Protect healthcare from a radical, divisive, and discriminatory ideology, has been outspoken against what it considers undermining healthcare in pursuit of a political agenda.”

The complaint alleges that applicants must identify as “American/Alaskan Indian, African American, Asian American, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, or Hispanic/Latino” to be eligible for a wide range of benefits including mentorship with published researchers

“According to Defendants, however, white applicants need not apply,” the complaint said. 

Do No Harm maintains that this is simply illegal according to both federal and local laws. 

“Because Defendants receive millions of dollars in federal funds every year and are primarily engaged in health services, all their operations—including the Fellowship—are covered by the federal prohibitions on racial discrimination in Title VI and Section 1557. All racial classifications, much less outright segregation, are subject to strict scrutiny under federal law, which Defendants cannot come close to satisfying,” the complaint said. “Defendants’ race-segregated Fellowship is also illegal under D.C. law, which prohibits professional associations from engaging in racial discrimination, or publishing racially discriminatory advertisements, in connection with any training programs.” 

The complaint indicates that Do No Harm has “at least one member who is being harmed by Defendants’ race segregated Fellowship and who is ready and able to apply for the 2023 class” if the opportunity was available to White students. 

Health Affairs editor-in-chief Alan Weil believes the fellowship is perfectly legal. 

“Health Affairs is confident that our Health Equity Fellowship for Trainees program complies with all federal and District of Columbia laws. Given that the matter is now in litigation I don’t think additional comment would be appropriate,” Weil told Fox News Digital. 

According to Health Affair’s website, the Health Equity Fellowship for Trainees is designed to “increase the quantity and quality of manuscripts published by researchers of color, while cultivating future health equity research leaders.”

In order to be eligible, you must “Identify as American Indian/Alaskan Native, African American/Black, Asian American, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, and Hispanic/Latino,” according to the website that also notes “applications from minority-serving institutions such as Tribal Colleges and Universities, Non-tribal American Indian/Alaskan Native-Serving Institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and Asian American and Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions with programs related to public health and health policy are strongly encouraged.” 

The deadline to apply for the fellowship is September 19. 

Do No Harm “respectfully requests that this Court enter judgment in its favor” and asked for a “declaratory judgment that Defendants’ Health Equity Fellowship for Trainees violates Title VI, Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, and the D.C. Human Rights Law,” a “temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction barring Defendants from selecting the 2023 class of the Fellowship until further order of the Court,” “a permanent injunction barring Defendants from maintaining racially discriminatory eligibility criteria for the Fellowship and ordering Defendants to formulate new eligibility criteria that are race neutral” and nominal damages of $1. 

Do No Harm also seeks “costs and expenses of this action, including attorneys’ fees,” and anything else the court deems just and proper. 

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