Hospitals and Schools Must Ensure That No Medical Professional Ever Uses Their Position to Harm Jews
On July 4, 1975, a deadly refrigerator bomb exploded in Jerusalem, killing 14 people and injuring 62 more. Standing approximately 15 meters away from the blast was a young American woman, in Israel to visit her grandmother during the summer before entering college, who had just stood next to the deadly refrigerator. She had planned to take a pre-medicine curriculum in college.
Whatever doubts that young lady may have had about becoming a physician disappeared when she realized that the best she could do in the bloody aftermath of the attack was to remove herself from the scene so that the professionals could help the victims; the experience made her resolve to attain and use medical skills and credentials so that she could help sick and injured people.
That American teenager (who is now my wife) continues to practice medicine after more than three decades, and still uses her skills to save the lives of patients of diverse backgrounds. Her intention to become a physician to help others stands in stark contrast to that of a pre-medical student named Lara Kollab, who in 2012 publicly stated an intent to abuse her prospective medical credentials by mis-prescribing medication to Jewish patients who would be unfortunate enough to be treated by her.
Kollab’s social media postings were brought to the attention of the Cleveland Clinic, the medical institution where she had been employed. By late December 2018, Kollab’s cyber misdeeds gained worldwide notoriety, and the Cleveland Clinic then issued a statement confirming that Kollab had been separated from the Clinic in September 2018.
The Clinic’s statement was subsequently updated to confirm that Kollab’s departure from the Clinic was related to her social media postings. In each public statement, the Clinic’s public relations staff took pains to specifically note that Kollab’s activities as a medical resident were “supervised,” an obvious damage-control measure.
In January 2019, Kollab issued a public apology, claiming that her social media postings occurred “before [she] was accepted into medical school, when [she] was a naïve and impressionable girl barely out of high school.”
Many (myself included) question the sincerity of this apology. Her most egregious post that she would “purposely give all the yahood [Jews] the wrong meds” occurred after she had begun her undergraduate curriculum. Many objectionable postings subsequent to January 2012 have been documented by Canary Mission, and there seems to be no indication of rehabilitation prior to her separation from the Cleveland Clinic.
An outside interloper can cause harm to a hospital patient and drag the hospital into unwanted litigation; a malicious hospital insider can wreak harm all the greater. Any healthcare institution would be taking on a great risk in employing Dr. Kollab. Her menacing social media postings cannot be dismissed as frivolous utterances of “a naïve and impressionable girl barely out of high school,” because she had already set herself on an academic track specifically directed towards a medical degree. Furthermore, her tweet specifically evinced an intent to abuse that medical degree once she obtained it; her tweet was nothing short of a terrorist threat.
The damage in the wake of the Kollab affair is not confined to the Cleveland Clinic or its patients. Now, all healthcare institutions must exercise greater scrutiny of their current and prospective employees. Medical schools — including the ingloriously humiliated Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, which gave Dr. Kollab her medical degree — must now likewise vet and monitor their students more keenly.
John Cheney-Lippold, the University of Michigan professor who reneged on his commitment to write a recommendation letter to a student who sought admission to an Israeli academic institution, takes the attitude that his professional responsibilities are shaped by his political commitments. Many, myself included, have shuddered at the prospect of a similar attitude infecting the healthcare sector, to the potentially lethal detriment of the patient. Dr. Kollab has single-handedly validated those concerns.
There will be pressures on the Cleveland Clinic to reinstate Dr. Kollab. Buckling to such pressures would betray the Clinic’s commitment to “adhere to high moral principles and professional standards by a commitment to honesty, confidentiality, trust, respect and transparency.” If Cleveland becomes the next stop for those like Kollab, then no city in America will be able to provide safe healthcare to its patients.
Kenneth H. Ryesky is an attorney and writer currently based in Israel. He taught for more than 20 years at Queens College CUNY and Yeshiva University.