Executive Committee Chair, American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Immigrant Child and Family Health
Pediatrician and advocate
Industry: Health care
Key previous position: Associate professor, Wake Forest
Education: Duke; U of Pennsylvania
Notable fact: Studied in Panama
During a March hearing in front of a House Homeland Security subcommittee, Dr. Julie Linton recounted to lawmakers a conversation she had with an immigrant 8-year-old boy and his pregnant mother during President Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. She asked the pair if they had been separated at the border.
“With my question, a chilling silence arose,” Linton told lawmakers. “The boy began to breathe quickly and his mother tearfully whispered, ‘Seven days.’”
Linton, a pediatrician by trade, often speaks at the national level representing the pediatric-health and child-welfare perspective in the contentious immigration-policy debates.
Linton says the summer of 2018 was a difficult time as she ping-ponged from interview to interview on TV. But she added that the experience forced her “to step back and say, ‘I chose this because of the potential opportunity to use this voice.’
“When you’re talking about child separation, it disrupts the sanctity of the parent-child relationship, which is so fundamental to everything I do in primary-care pediatrics,” she said. “It really was not a decision of whether I should speak up; it was how to get through the time.”
In her work, Linton draws inspiration from her grandparents’ immigration story. Both Jewish and living in Belgium, they fled in the late 1930s, reconnected in Mexico, and were later married.
“My family is no different than so many of the other families that I see that are oftentimes fleeing harrowing conditions and seeking safety and hope for their children,” she said.
The AAP created the council that Linton chairs in July, and with its creation comes an “investment of resources” to focus on issues impacting immigrant children, she said. With the council, she hopes to strategize with other partners in different lines of work, such as lawyers and teachers. “The onslaught of policies has really forced us to step back and say, OK, time to really be thoughtful about how we’re going to respond and use our different expertise to really make the case for why this is so important for the future of the health of children and families here in the United States,” she said.