National News

Vanderbilt surgeon receives death threats over social media post

Posted November 7, 2017 11:35 a.m. EST

— A Vanderbilt University Medical Center surgeon says he's afraid for his own safety.

It all began with a picture that was tweeted back in September. He said he has had death threats since then.

A picture of Dr. Eugene Gu in medical scrubs taking a knee in support of NFL players went viral after he posted the picture on his Twitter account. Since then, Dr. Gu's email and Twitter accounts have been full of threats of physical harm.

It was an encounter in January, 2016, in one of the parking lots at Vanderbilt that led up to that picture months later. According to Dr. Gu, two men began shouting racial slurs against his Asian heritage. He said he was also physically assaulted during the incident.

"My own place of work, my own hospital. I wasn't at Vanderbilt hospital to have fun or party, I'm here to do my work, take care of patients. I'm racially attacked," Gu said.

That incident became the primary motive for his knee picture on his Twitter account. The picture was posted on Sept. 24, 2017, and it quickly went viral.

"After that experience, it opened my eyes to the type of discrimination that minorities can experience," Gu said.

It also opened the door to hundreds of threats on his email and Twitter accounts, both ugly and terrifying.

"'I'm going to find you at the hospital and beat you up you (racial slur).' One person said, 'I'm going to shoot you into the carpet.' I reported that to Vanderbilt police," Gu said.

While making his medical rounds recently, he was angrily confronted by the mother of one of his patients.

"She kicked me out of the room, because she had seen that photo circulate around," Gu said.

A tweet that put this Vanderbilt surgeon front and center of a controversy.

"It does put me at increased risk, but if everyone stays silent, then everyone is at increased risk," Gu said.

That risk is not lost on Dr. Gu.

"After that parking garage incident, I don't ever drive in a parking garage. I take a different route walking to work every day. I change it up," he said.

Fear and anger aside, it has made an impact on him, personally and professionally.

"It makes me feel like, how can I ever be a doctor if people view me as this other? They don't even want to be associated with me, and they even feel the need to attack me," Gu said.