Dear colleagues and friends of the SIOP community,
The International Society of Pediatric Oncology (SIOP) is deeply concerned that the U.S. president’s recent executive order limiting travel for foreign nationals will adversely impact childhood cancer research, child welfare, and international scientific collaboration in pediatric oncology. We echo the sentiments of other global societies who have come together to highlight the impact that travel restrictions are having on the health of children with cancer in the US and abroad, and on its negative repercussions for scientific progress, which depends on research conducted in many countries by colleagues from many countries.
With over a 1,000 members, SIOP is the only global multidisciplinary society entirely devoted to pediatric and adolescent cancer. This year’s 49th Congress, scheduled in October, is to take place in Washington D.C., USA. As such, the restrictions currently applied by the U.S. authorities against individuals coming from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen will directly impact SIOP’s work by preventing certain members from attending. The Board has received numerous messages from around the world on this issue from individuals impacted, as well as from their colleagues, expressing their joint concern.
As doctors, nurses, researchers, clinicians, and patient advocates, we all took, as we entered our career, a vow to help and to heal without exclusion. We became members of a community whose conversations, debates and joint projects were borderless, and fueled scientific progress around the world by adapting the practice of medicine to the needs of the individual at the center of our work: our patient. In the face of this executive order, we find these values of non-discrimination and global information sharing challenged.
At this point, the location of the Congress cannot be changed, as many of us had wished. To boycott the event, as suggested by some members, would be to only further interfere with the exchange of ideas, advocacy and advancement of science that we hope to achieve.
Rather, SIOP will take the following actions:
Make every effort to support the participation of those individuals affected by the executive order.
Late registrations will be accommodated for those members whose visas are delayed.
Local advocacy activities directed to the White House will be encouraged and supported by SIOP.
A letter of protest from SIOP and all the continental branches will be directed to the White House.
Furthermore, SIOP encourages its members to exchange with the Board on ways to engage with public officials and the media, both before and during the Congress. Our aim is to ensure that the threat of such policies to scientific progress is understood by the US government and widely disseminated to citizens of the US and all countries. We reiterate that our meeting in October constitutes the single greatest convention of the pediatric oncology community, allowing individuals from around the world to bring their unique expertise to the practice of medicine and conduct of child cancer research and we ask that all SIOP members and pediatric oncology stakeholders join us in Washington in October to make our voice heard and to show solidarity with our colleagues from affected countries.
SIOP urges the U.S. government leaders to consider the potential repercussions of this recent executive order, and the added pain to children with cancer and their families, at home and abroad. We regret that a political decision could place our work and our community at such a great risk. However, we are firm in our statement of solidarity, and our continued commitment to the advancement of medical science, and SIOP’s vision that no child, regardless of their country of origin, their passport or immigration status, should die of cancer.
Eric Bouffet on behalf of the SIOP Board