WI Physicians Demand Rep. Vos Resign as Speaker of WI Legislature

As physicians, we are concerned by Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ medically incorrect remarks about immigrants, blaming their “difference in culture” for high rates of COVID-19 infections in several Wisconsin counties, including his own. The comments made by Speaker Vos in this private conversation highlight the beliefs and basic misunderstanding of public health crises.

Because he clearly doesn’t understand why COVID-19 has sickened millions of Americans and killed more than 115,000 people -- including more than 670 in Wisconsin -- and continues to spread in communities across our state, Speaker Vos can no longer be trusted to lead policymaking and must resign as Assembly speaker. His ignorance of the medical realities of this virus has and will continue to put millions of Wisconsinites in harm’s way.

Not only do Speaker Vos’ remarks drive a wedge down the fault lines of race, ethnicity and religion in our state, he is also communicating medically incorrect information about COVID-19 transmission to people in desperate need of accurate and timely information to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.

Here are some facts: Of the 670-plus deaths in Wisconsin, one-third of them are Latinos and Hispanic people, even though they are only 15 percent of Wisconsin’s population. Meanwhile, black people in Wisconsin make up nearly 30 percent of all deaths in Wisconsin, even though they are less than 10 percent of the population.  

Latinos and Hispanics are far less likely to have health insurance compared with the total Wisconsin population. Latinos and Hispanics are far less likely than white people to have their diabetes -- increasingly linked to severe COVID-19 infections -- under control. Black people are far less likely compared with white people to manage their blood pressure, another underlying condition connected to severe COVID-19 infections.

While Speaker Vos was quick to blame “culture” for the suffering and deaths of people of color in Wisconsin, he fails to acknowledge the deep health inequities and systemic racism that have contributed to poor health outcomes and inadequate management of chronic conditions among Latinos, Hispanic people and black Wisconsinites.

His remarks reveal a complete lack of understanding of how to effectively confront a pandemic with facts, science and medical best-practices. As physicians, we are alarmed at Speaker Vos’ ignorance and concerned that his naiveté is shaping policies that directly affect people’s lives.

At a time when more Americans recognize the impact of systemic racism and health inequities on people of color, especially during this pandemic, Speaker Vos’ callous statement is all the more offensive, out of touch and counterproductive to our shared goal of building a healthier, more equitable Wisconsin.

As physicians, it is clear to us that Speaker Vos is unfit to lead policymaking, especially during a public health crisis. We believe this moment gives us an opportunity to recommit ourselves toward a stronger future for Wisconsin, and we can begin with Speaker Vos’ resignation from his leadership position.

Allen Babbitz, MD; OB/GYN (Milwaukee, WI)

Rebecca Beach, MD; Family Medicine (Madison, WI)

Yogendra Bharat, MD; Pain Medicine (Franksville, WI)

Joyce Brehm, MD; Internal Medicine (Stoughton, WI)

Jeff Brown, MD; Ophthalmologist (Chippewa Falls, WI)

Joseph Budovec, MD; Radiologist (Brookfield, WI)

Karen Chao, MD; Pediatric Hematology Oncology (Milwaukee, WI)

Christopher Christian, MD; Psychiatry/Addiction Medicine (Brookfield, WI)

Roger Cohen, MD; Pediatric Surgeon (Milwaukee, WI)

Jill Cousino, DO; OB/GYN (Janesville, WI)

Michelle Douglas, DO; OB/GYN (Milwaukee, WI)

John H. Edwards, MD; Neuropsychiatry (Madison, WI)

Jonathan Fliegel, MD; Pediatrician (Madison, WI)

Jonathon Forncrook, DO; Pediatric and Internal Medicine (Marshfield, WI)

Robert Freedland, MD; Ophthalmologist (La Crosse, WI)

Badri Ganju, MD; General Surgeon (Sheboygan, WI)

Shirley Godiwalla, MD; General Practice (Pewaukee, WI)

Ada Hall, MD; Ophthalmologist (Neenah, WI)

Kent Hartung, MD; Family Medicine (Sun Prairie, WI)

Ann Helms, MD; Neurologist (Brookfield, WI)

William Hocking, MD; Oncology-Hematology (Marshfield, WI)

Jeff Huebner, MD; Family Medicine (Madison, WI)

Rimas Janusonis, MD; Family Medicine (Omro, WI)

Kathy Kostic, MD; OB/GYN (Mequon, WI)

Kathlene Kusiv, DO; OB/GYN (New London, WI)

David Lang, MD; Family Practice (Couderay, WI)

Michael Lutes, MD; Emergency Medicine (Waunakee, WI)

Paul Mariskanish, MD; Family Practice (Platteville, WI)

Laurel Mark, MD; Internal Medicine (Madison, WI)

Robert Matthew, MD; Family Medicine (Bellmead, WI)

Brady Mcintosh, MD; Emergency Medicine (Milwaukee, WI)

Raul Mendoza, MD; Pulmonologist (Oneida, WI)

Robert Molloy, MD; Gastroenterologist (Milwaukee, WI)

Mark Neumann, MD; Pediatric Critical Care (La Crosse, WI)

Steve Ohly, NP; Family Practice (Milwaukee, WI)

Eve Paretsky, MD; Family Medicine (Waunakee, WI)

Jo F Johnston Pasiuk, MD; General Surgeon (Fond du Lac, WI)

Navtej Purewal, MD; Interventional Pain Management (Brookfield, WI)

Elena Roukhadze, MD and PhD; Pathologist (Milwaukee, WI)

Jonathan Rubin, MD; Emergency Medicine (Mequon, WI)

Patricia Safavi, MD; Pediatrician (Milwaukee, WI)

Shekhar Sane, MD; Interventional Radiology (Mequon, WI)

Kristine Strickland, MD; Maternal Fetal Medicine (Oconomowoc, WI)

Trent Taylor, Medical Student; Family Medicine (Milwaukee, WI)

Madelaine Tully, MD; Family Medicine (Milwaukee, WI)

Deborah Turski, MD; Pathology and Laboratory Medicine (Madison, WI)

Scott Walker, MD; Family Medicine (Prairie Du Chien, WI)