Health care journal sued for excluding White candidates from fellowship

A health care advocacy group has filed a federal lawsuit against the journal Health Affairs, alleging it violated the Civil Rights Act by excluding White candidates from a racial equity fellowship.

Do No Harm filed the lawsuit last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It alleges that the monthly journal’s Health Equity Fellowship for Trainees defies the law’s color-blind definition of racial discrimination under Title VI because publisher Project HOPE accepts government funding.

The complaint cites Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which extended the race neutrality requirement of the 1964 law to private entities that accept federal funds as a matter of “simple justice.”

“Defendants’ no-whites-allowed fellowship is illegal,” states the complaint, which asserts it also violates D.C. law.

The lawsuit seeks a declaration of the fellowship’s illegality and an injunction overturning its prohibition on White candidates.

Alan Weil, editor-in-chief of Health Affairs, says the journal isn’t breaking any laws.

“Health Affairs is confident that our Health Equity Fellowship for Trainees program is administered in compliance with all federal and District of Columbia laws,” Mr. Weil said in an email.

Health Affairs has posted the requirements for the fellowship on its website. They state that eligible applicants are those who identify “as American Indian/Alaskan Native, African American/Black, Asian American, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, and Hispanic/Latino.”

Do No Harm board chair Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, a former associate dean for curriculum at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, says the application language is “clearly discriminatory.”

“To be eligible, one must not be White,” Dr. Goldfarb said in an email. “While this is proposed to increase equity in health research, it is not equity that is needed, it is quality. To achieve quality, merit must be the basis of achievement.”

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