A Statement from UVM Health Network President and CEO, Sunny Eappen, MD, MBA
As a physician and health care administrator, I am devastated by the violence and loss of life in the Middle East. I am also heartbroken and frustrated by violence at home in our community. This past weekend, when three Palestinian-American students were shot in Burlington, it made national and global news, and the shooting has had a significant impact on me personally after sitting for weeks with the weight of what is happening across the world.
While authorities are still investigating this tragic incident, it is never too soon to say, unequivocally, that no one should be targeted for their ethnicity or appearance, and nobody should be the victim of gun violence. Our clinicians provided expert, life-saving care as we would for anyone in our community, and I am so proud of their work – but I am angry that they are seeing victim after victim of senseless violence.
As I mentioned, I am a health care administrator, not (to my kids’ chagrin) an activist. I am committed to fostering a community at the UVM Health Network that is neither antisemitic nor Islamophobic – a community where all are welcome and valued. I understand that Arabs, Muslims, Jews, Israelis and Palestinians each have endured hardship, hatred and violence for generations. I condemn the October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel, which killed more than 1,200 civilians and led to hundreds more being held hostage. Nobody should ever face such violence. I also condemn the staggering loss of innocent lives in Gaza, where an estimated 14,000 (many of them children) have died since this war began. More violence – regardless of where it occurs – will not resolve this conflict.
As a physician, I must add my voice in advocating for humanitarian aid to reach the ill and injured as well as denouncing the targeting of hospitals and health infrastructure in Gaza. Despite the complexities, we must call for an immediate release of all civilians as well as a permanent end to the conflict. Our elected officials should be speaking with one voice as they push for the permanent cessation of violence in the region and accelerated distribution of humanitarian aid, knowing these measures will further protect our Israeli and Palestinian community members here at home.
Again, I am incredibly proud of our people who have provided excellent care to the victims of the violence that took place in Burlington on Saturday – a need, sadly, that has become all too frequent. Let their compassion and respect for the sanctity of life be a lesson for all of us as we navigate through these difficult times together. I am grateful that the person suspected of carrying out this hateful act has been arrested, and I am hopeful that our legal process will result in justice. I know all of us are hoping for the full recovery of the individuals in our care, and also for the healing of our community and all communities that have been impacted by violence.