Physician's Delta flight experience spurs black female physicians to declare 'What A Doctor Looks Like'

When she raised her hand to help a man during a medical emergency on a flight from Houston to Detroit, Tamika Cross, MD, a resident at University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, was asked by a Delta Air Lines flight attendant to put her hand down because, "[They were] looking for actual physicians or nurses or some type of medical personnel," Dr. Cross recounted on Facebook.

In the now-viral Facebook post, which has spurred a Delta investigation and a social media campaign, the Houston Ob/Gyn wrote, "I'm sure many of my fellow young, corporate America working women of color can all understand my frustration when I say I'm sick of being disrespected." According to Dr. Cross, the flight attendant deferred to a "'seasoned' white male" to address the emergency instead.

Dr. Cross' post, which has been shared more than 48,000 times, illustrates an experience many black physicians face. "After a decade of schooling, after finishing medical school and starting my residency, it's maddening when people misunderstand the role I play in the clinical setting — even when I've introduced myself, I'm wearing my credentials, and I'm wearing my long white coat," Jennifer Adaeze Okwerekwu, MD, wrote in a response column for STAT, sharing her experience as a black female physician.

Dr. Cross' experience has also erupted on Twitter as other black female physicians Tweet their support.

Delta issued a statement Friday that it is investigating the occurrence. "We are troubled by any accusations of discrimination and take them very seriously. The experience Dr. Cross has described is not reflective of Delta's culture or of the values our employees live out every day. We are in the process of conducting a full investigation. We've reached out to Dr. Cross to speak with her directly, talked with our crew members and we're reaching out to customers who were onboard to gather as much information as we can," the statement reads.

 

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