Doctor at center of political scandal faces repercussions in Minnesota

A Latvian-American physician’s comments about ethnic Russians in his homeland have apparently resulted in professional repercussions, but no details are available.

Dr. Aivars Slucis, a radiologist with the Albert Lea Medical Center in southern Minnesota, has become the focus of debate in Latvia, Russia and the United States following publication on the investigative journalism website of an e-mail exchange between him and Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis, who became Latvia’s new foreign minister on Nov. 3.

A spokesperson for the clinic, which is part of Minnesota-based Mayo Health System, said in a statement that the clinic has “taken appropriate actions” in the case.

“We have completed our internal review of the situation involving Dr. Slucis, which included an analysis of the e-mail communication, a meeting with Dr. Slucis and a review of comments and data posted within this discussion,” the statement reads. “We have taken appropriate actions based on this review. Out of respect for Dr. Slucis and in accordance with our procedures, we will not share the results of this review or the actions taken.”

Patricia Hareid, director of community relations for the clinic, confirmed for Latvians Online on Nov. 10 that Slucis remains employed by the healthcare facility.

Slucis has not responded to requests for comment.

The e-mail exchange took place in October 2009. In an e-mail sent to members of the Pilsoniskā savienība (Civic Union, or PS) party in Latvia, Slucis questioned the party’s commitment to defending the interests of ethnic Latvians. Slucis, who was born in Latvia and escaped to the west with his parents during World War II, has been a vocal critic of Russian influence in his homeland.

In the e-mail, Slucis wrote that as a doctor he would find it difficult to treat Russians equally to Latvians.

Kristovskis, head of the PS party, replied to Slucis and other PS members. While agreeing with the doctor’s sentiments, he warned against hysterical responses and cautioned party members to avoid discussions that would be counterproductive to the party’s political goals.

Kristovskis won a Nov. 9 vote of no confidence in the Saeima that had been called for by representatives from the center-left and pro-Russian Saskaņas Centrs (Harmony Centre) and the conservative Par labu Latviju! (For a Good Latvia!).

While Kristovskis may have escaped the scandal, the debate about Slucis and his comments continues.

The day before the Saeima vote, leaders of Pilsoniskā savienība ousted Slucis from their party and decided to return LVL 11,665 in contributions from the doctor.

In a scathing commentary posted on Russia’s website, Vadim Trukhachev criticized Kristovskis but aimed his final words at Slucis.

“As for Dr. Slucis, his attitude to Russian patients are very similar to [the] worst forms of Nazi punitive medicine, and we say ‘worst’ because even Nazis provided medical assistance to concentration camp prisoners,” Trukhachev wrote. “Slucis should have worked in Salaspils concentration camp on the outskirts of Rīga, where Nazis conducted medical experiments on Russian, Belarusian and Jewish children.”

Meanwhile, the Mayo Clinic’s Facebook page in the past week has received hundreds of comments about Slucis. While many are negative, including messages describing the doctor as racist and calling for Mayo to fire him, some offer their support for Slucis.

“Does this mean that people with Russian surnames should avoid Mayo Clinic at all costs?,” one visitor to the page asked.

Defending the doctor, another visitor wrote: “Aivars Slucis has obviously appeared in the middle of Latvian political fights. Russian opposition party wants to get into government for any price, even if they have to make up a stupid story like this.”

In Latvia, an official of the Vītols Fund—an organization that provides scholarships to students in Latvia—voiced her personal support for Slucis, according to local media reports. The doctor has funded a scholarship in his name that this year supported 20 students.

Vita Diķe, chairwoman of the fund’s board of directors, called the decision by Pilsoniskā savienība to drop Slucis “treason against a person who has done no harm to Latvia.”

The Albert Lea Medical Center’s statement in the case also closed with supportive words.

“Dr. Slucis has provided care in Albert Lea for the past three years,” according to the statement. “During that time, he has treated every patient with respect and has been professional in his interactions with all patients.”

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

8 thoughts on “Doctor at center of political scandal faces repercussions in Minnesota

  1. After decades of persecuting Latvians the Russians are now demanding – not asking for rights. Their argument exudes a very familiar smell.

  2. Rebeka, Where in this article do you see anything about RUs demanding rights? This article seems to be about a doctor writing some unacceptably xenophobic things and being held to account for it. Yes, we have some really big RU mouths in LV (I live in Riga) demanding rights, but if you look carefully, you fill find that many of them are citizens of the republic. Shouldn’t they have the rights afforded to all citizens?

  3. Rebeka is right! You can play fool, but we know prehistory – OCCUPATION of Latvia! Many Jewish docs also can not treat Germans! So? Germans and Russians are guilty themselves! And Slucis said, that it is unacceptable! Russians have citizenship, but they are 5. column, therefore their demands will not be heard or fulfilled!

  4. If the doctor was a Jew, a black or any other monitory nothing would of be said about the comment. Political correctness is only for the white race and it will destroy us. Like it or not we do have free speech or do we????

  5. Tom – During the war and communist times decent housing, goods and services (including medical care) were always kept out of reach for Latvians. This is not new information! Latvians were treated as non-persons, as less than human. Many Russians have experienced amnesia and regard this era as well of those of Imperial Rule as of great generosity to Latvians and proclaim this point of view. My point is that now it seems to be “do as we want – not as we have done to you!” Slucis comment can well be born out of these circumstances and is understandable while not “PC.”

  6. “During the war and communist times decent housing, goods and services (including medical care) were always kept out of reach for Latvians.” I’m sorry Rebeka, but this statement is only partially true. My wife (Birzniece) grew up in padomes laiks and they lived on a farm that most people (RU or LV) did not have. Her father was not a party member (in fact he was imprisoned for refusing to participate in deportations when he was a soviet army conscript). They had to fight and scrape like everyone but they did not lack for food, housing or medical care. LVs were not treated as non-persons. My wife (and both of her sisters) attended university in LV and, in fact, studied in Latvian. I am not saying that there were not status differences, but they were not as stark as you want to see them as.

  7. This is very late in the game – but I just read the various comments. The fact that Dr Slucis’s family was forced to emmigrate because of Russian occupation certainly gives him the right to express views that might seem hostile towards Russians. Tom ignores the “russification” of the Soviet Republics. He ignores the fact that all Latvians had to learn Russian to survive during the Soviet era. Many, if not most, Russians do not want to learn Latvian in order to obtain rights of citizenship. They could! So, in my opinion “status differences” as Tom puts it can be appropriate today. A belief that there shoud be absolute equality between Latvians and Russians in Latvia is an ideal, but not practical or desireable. If the Soviet Union would have existed 25-50 more years, Latvian culture and language would be near extinct. Distinctions are appropriate. I know plenty of Latvians in Latvia that question American Latvian opinions re Russians. This surprised me. But, what would the consequences be if every Russian in Latvia were provided Latvian citizenship, no questions asked. Riga would look more like the pre-independent city it was with Russian signs, etc. Latvian culture must be saved. Sorry about the convoluted post, but many issues have been raised.

  8. The Wikileaks statements about Russia said it all – ‘a virtual mafia state.’ Just because a criminal protests his innocence and your guilt does not mean he is not guilty himself many times over. Latvia is a postage stamp of land compared to the Russian empire, just like Chechnya, and the Kuril Islands in the East, and yet Russia has to keep them all, and for what? Democracy? Or just more exploitation for the enrichment of more undeserving thieves. Russian elites are not the only extortionists in the world, but they are definitely in the top cream of that group.

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