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100th Birthday

By June 25, 2017August 20th, 2017Advocate, Family man

We celebrated a 100th birthday around my Aunt Kikke, born during WWI in the Netherlands. She interrupted medical school and then emigrated to the US when the Nazi’s invaded.  She couldn’t get into medical school here because she was a refugee, a woman, and a Jew. She was finally accepted to Johns Hopkins Medical School on Albert Einstein’s recommendation. Yes, that Albert Einstein. Aunt Kikke, Kato van Leeuwen, practiced as a psychoanalyst through her 90’s. The US has thrived throughout its history from the inspirational careers of refugees and immigrants such as my Aunt.

According to Forbes, currently, more than one-quarter of physicians and surgeons in the United States are foreign-born. In addition to physicians, roughly one-fifth of nurses and home health and psychiatric aides, and more than one-sixth of dentists, pharmacists and clinical technicians in the United States were foreign born in 2010. When foreign-born professionals account for 16% of all civilians employed in healthcare occupations and one-fourth of practicing physicians, the system really does depend on a functioning immigration system. Scientific American reports that the reasons such doctors are in the U.S. in the first place is that America does not produce enough physicians to keep up with demand. A current deficit of 8,200 primary care doctors and 2,800 psychiatrists is expected to worsen as the population grows and ages, according to a report published in 2016 by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). It estimates the U.S. will face a shortage of up to 94,700 doctors by 2025. Almost a third of the crunch will be primary care physicians.

A Health Affairs blog post says that physicians from banned countries provide an important contribution to the health care workforce of the United States. There are more than 7,000 physicians trained in countries targeted by the executive order working in the United States. Together, they see an estimated 14 million visits from patients each year. Furthermore, their analysis finds that these physicians make up a larger share of the workforce in several Rust Belt and Appalachian states, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The five cities in America with the highest share of doctors from these countries are Detroit, Michigan; Toledo, Ohio; Los Angeles, California; Cleveland, Ohio; and Dayton, Ohio. See an interactive map here.

As a first-generation American and the child of refugees, I’m proud of my family’s contribution to this country.  We need these contributions to continue. Aunt Kikke, you inspire me.


  • Danny, this is a wonderful piece. Personal, full of facts and concerns over banning individuals who are actively working to better health opportunities through providing care in the US, having immigrated here in the process. Thanks to your Aunt and you!

  • This is beautiful, Danny. Thank you so much for posting it. I have always been awed by aunt Kato and she has always taken time to reach out to me through the years and to treat me kindly. If ever there was an argument for the blessings that compassion towards immigrants and refugees bring, she is it. Well done.

    • Danny says:

      Tx Lisa. Had a great time with Andrea. We will be collaborating with Noga on internet marketing

  • This is beautiful and timely, Danny. Thank you so much for posting it. I have always been in awe of aunt Kato, and she has always treated me kindly. Love to your family.

  • Danny says:

    Thanks Sue. I’d like to interview some day about storytelling. You’re a master

  • Kate Gleeson says:

    Thank you for writing the best thing I’ve read in a while! Could you post it as a letter to the editor in the New York Times or someplace, please??

  • Talya Miron-Shatz says:

    Inspiring, personal, thoughtful and touching. Dare I see this is every bit the opposite of `ban all XXX (fill in the blanks)`?
    Interestingly, a film about Stefan Zweig, and the Tony award winning show Indecent, have both touched upon the topic of eminent authors, scientists etc., who were fortunate to be free while their friends, relatives, countrymen, suffered under the Nazi regimen. Those people strived relentlessly, often pointlessly, to change that cruel fate for those who were left behind. May we be so lucky to help others, and make a difference in this world.
    Many happy returns to your aunt, Danny.

    • Danny says:

      Thanks Talya. Yes inspiring. My mother, a holocaust survivor, said the heros were the people who hid her. They had a choice

  • Susan Spivack says:

    wonderful post. Thank you Danny.