Darren Klugman is a pediatric cardiologist, critical care provider, and associate professor at Johns Hopkins University. In the immediate aftermath of Hamas’s slaughter of more than 1,200 Jews on October 7th, Klugman issued a series of intemperate tweets attacking Palestinians. He has since apologized for them, but Johns Hopkins has suspended him. If the university moves to terminate Klugman and shows an unwillingness to forgive, their students and patients will pay the price. I say this with certainty because Dr. Klugman is in part the reason my daughter is alive today.
When my daughter was born with congenital heart defects, I was immediately transferred with her to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) at Children’s National Hospital in Washington. My wife, who had given birth hours earlier at the closest hospital to our home that had a maternity ward, had given me clear instructions: Don’t leave our newborn alone.
We had known about the disease since my wife’s 20-week prenatal appointment. An irregular heartbeat sent us to a different pediatric cardiologist. The initial diagnosis was so grim that our first cardiologist pushed us to consider abortion. We did not, but the nervousness in both of us had been building for months by the time our child was born.
I met Klugman on my daughter’s date of birth in August 2015. He was the first doctor I met when we arrived in the unit. I was not at ease—quite the opposite. But Klugman’s smile and his bedside manner helped me understand my daughter’s heart disease. And he, more than anyone else on that team in those first few months, helped put my family at ease—and treat my daughter’s evolving diagnosis.
He was approachable and kind. Always willing to explain the steps ahead with gentle ease and clarity. And he saved my daughter’s life. It turned out, her diagnosis was not quite as bad as initially believed. She would need only one surgery, which she had at two weeks. But there were scary moments in the hospital—and we always felt better when Klugman was on call.
Today, eight years later, if you didn’t see the scar running down my daughter’s chest, you would never know she has heart disease. In the last year alone, she’s participated in gymnastics, running club, and swim team. I credit Klugman, among others, for his help then.
Which is why Klugman has always, in my mind, been exactly what I would want in an attending physician. And while I cannot speak for all his patients, over the month we stayed in the CICU with our newborn daughter, he certainly appeared to give the same attention and care to everyone on that floor, no matter the ethnicity, nationality, or religion.
I share my firsthand experience because I am disappointed that his new employer, Johns Hopkins, suspended him over his decision to post his views on the war between Hamas and Israel on his personal X account.
Klugman’s tweets reveal a man who has dedicated his career to saving lives reacting with understandable rage and overheated rhetoric to the Hamas slaughter of 1,200 Israelis on October 7. In them, he calls Palestinians “savage animals,” suggesting that there can be no peace partner for the Israelis with them, and seemingly endorsing Palestinians being forced into Egypt and enduring severe retribution.
The tweets are dated October 8, when Hamas terrorists were still infiltrating Israel and hunting down innocent civilians to murder. And just as the true horrors of the brutal massacre—the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust—was first becoming clear.
Klugman has since apologized for his “regrettable, hurtful messages.” In a letter to his Hopkins colleagues, Klugman added, “These messages in no way reflect my beliefs, me as a person, a physician, a friend, or colleague. I cannot undo the harm and hurt … and I am devastated by the impact it has had on my Hopkins family and others.”
His apology should be accepted. As the father of a Klugman patient, I know he means it. Why? Because I witnessed with my own eyes how he delivered medical care. And because my daughter’s ability to live a healthy and meaningful life is in part due to him.
Johns Hopkins, where Klugman is the director of pediatric cardiac critical care, is lucky to have such a doctor. I know Children’s National was as well during for the time he was there. There’s no doubt in my mind that his patients all benefited from his medical care —and that Hopkins would be a worse hospital if he were not part of it.